Support for our postgraduates
Our program has been designed specifically to assist postgraduate students facing the special challenges of working in the inherently transdisciplinary field of sustainable futures. These challenges include the need for project specific methodological frameworks and the need to learn skills in areas beyond their current expertise. The program aims to build a sense of community between our students so they can learn from one another. Some of the main elements include:
- Postgraduate retreats
- A roundtable and workshop program
- Groups for Accountability and Support (GAS).
A reflective paper on the Institute's postgraduate program is available here.
We held our first postgraduate retreat in 2002 to encourage a stronger bond between individual students working in diverse fields. Since then, the annual residential retreats have become a focal point of our program. The retreats are usually held outside of Sydney and run for two days so that we can avoid any distractions. They involve all students and supervisors and focus on a particular research theme. For example:
- 'Research in the information age: Transdisciplinarity and quality' where we explored the difficult question of how to assess the quality of transdisciplinary research; and
- 'From Research to Reality' where we explored the journey from developing, using and defending methodological frameworks in transdisciplinary postgraduate research, to creating and influencing change in the 'real world'.
The retreats are an opportunity to get to know fellow students and their research and a chance to take an intellectual leap, collectively and individually.
Roundtables are an ongoing series of weekly gatherings providing a regular space in which staff and students come together to present ideas and discuss them with a view to building a strong learning community. At Roundtables, staff and students can practice presenting their conference papers, invite guest speakers to give an informal talk, or set up discussions on topical issues.
In addition to Roundtables, we run special research training workshops, using internal and external experts, covering topics like epistemology and theoretical frameworks, validity frameworks in the social sciences, research writing and focusing on specific methodologies such as Actor Network Theory. Topics for special workshops are usually identified by the students through the annual retreat and regular postgraduate meetings.
We encourage our students to form small Groups for Accountability and Support (GAS groups) with their peers. This idea came from the experiences of Kath Fisher and her colleagues (see http://ultibase.rmit.edu.au/Articles/nov03/fisher1.htm (opens an external site)). The students have mostly decided the size and constitution of GAS groups, based on congruent research areas, personalities and stages in the research process. Each group then articulates the structure and focus of their activities. They also consider how to build reflection into their practice, how their meetings will be facilitated and when to stop and review their outcomes and processes.