The Agile Approach with Doctoral Dissertation Supervision

  •  Lars Tengberg    


Several research findings conclude that many doctoral students fail to complete their studies within the allowable time frame, in part because of problems related to the research and supervision process. Surveys show that most doctoral students are generally satisfied with their dissertation supervision. However, these surveys also reveal some students think their supervisors meet with them too infrequently, lack interest in their dissertation topics, and provide insufficient practical assistance. Furthermore, many countries will soon witness a large turnover in the labour market as people near retirement. Because this is also the case at many universities and colleges, the expectation is that there will be many teaching and research vacancies. Therefore, many new doctoral students who plan to enter academia after earning their doctoral degrees are needed. In responding to these complaints, this conceptual paper examines the use of the agile approach–which has achieved recognition and approval in software development–in the doctoral dissertation process. In the teaching/learning sphere, the agile approach can be used in iterative meetings between doctoral student and supervisor for dissertation planning, direction, and evaluation. The focus of the iterations, the so-called Sprints, is on communication and feedback throughout the entire process. The paper is based in theories on teaching/learning and on the author’s personal experience with the agile approach. Use of the agile approach, which can decrease the time required for doctoral studies, may thus increase the number of graduates with doctoral degrees. The paper makes suggestions for practical implementation of the agile approach.

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