Gina Wisker

  • Improving postgraduate student learning for sustainable social development, research capaity building and personal growth

    Gina Wisker
    University of Brighton

    Gillian Robinson
    Anglia Ruskin University

    Session 5e

    Wednesday 5 September 2007, 09.30-10.30

    Research seminar

    Themes: Global citizenship, Lifelong learning, Employability, Skills development

    PhD and masters graduates are both a 'hidden cohort in the labour market'(What do PhDs Do? UKGrad 2006)and uniquely placed to effect change in society, and the workplace. An increased focus on broad skills and research methods development, and employability , can be seen to lead to sustainable social development and research capacity building, two outcomes answering the question 'for what?' in relation to improving postgraduate student learning.

    Research in progress reported here is set in the context of the HEA and QAA interest in the quality and experience of research development programmes and increased expectations of postgraduate student outcomes (Winter et al 2000). Building on ten years of research with international cohort based PhDs (Wisker, Robinson, Trafford et all 2003, 2005 Wisker 2001, 2005) , seven years work with UK PHDs and masters students, this recent and ongoing research focuses on the outcomes and achievements of PHD and masters students, including students awareness of their own learning leaps (Wisker, Kiley Aiston 2006) . Case studies have been developed from interviews with graduates from both UK and international masters and doctoral programmes exploring their awareness and experiences of

    the development of metalearning (Flavell, 1979;Vermetten, Y J, Vermunt, J D, and Lodewijks, H G 1999; Gourgey, A F, 2001;Hartman, 2001; Veenman, M V J and Verheij, J, 2003)) and conceptual threshold crossing (Meyer, Land, Cousin et al 2006) leading to lifelong learning changes

    the impact their research achievements have had on their professional lives and their practice

    the impact their research achievement has had on their society or social context in terms of change, sustainable development and research capacity building.

    Early results indicate that graduates have made an impact on their societies . Examples include raising the profile of widening participation oriented regional colleges; bringing emotional intelligence into policing, enhancing therapeutic processes for elderly abused women; raising awareness of legislation in practice in local government employees’ experiences of ‘coming out’ in the workplace; development of sensitive specific management skills for the management of geriatric hospitals; informing and enhancing the processes of group learning among GP practitioners . In line with the theorising of threshold concepts developed by Meyer, Land and Cousin et al , graduates also report a continued fascination with learning, their own learning and the ways in which learning transforms experience.

    The session hopes to share the theorising behind the research, the findings themselves, thoughts about research capacity building, sustainable development and lifelong learning among postgraduates and ways of enhancing such developments and achievements.


    • What do PhDs Do? UKGrad 2006
    • Flavell J H (1979) ‘Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive developmental inquiry’. American Psychologist, 34, Part 10, 906-911.
    • Gourgey, A F (2001) ‘Metacognition in Basic Skills Instruction’, in Hartman, H J (ed), Metacognition in Learning and Instruction: Theory, Research and Practice, Kluwer Academic Publishers, The Netherlands.
    • Hartman H J (2001) Developing Students’ Meta-cognitive Knowledge and Skills in
    • Hartman H J (ed), Metacognition in Learning and Instruction: Theory, Research and Practice, Kluwer Academic Publishers, The Netherlands.
    • Kiley,M, Aiston,S, Wisker, G ‘Learning Leaps supporting postgraduate stuetn learning’ paper from the Quality in Postgraduate research conference Adelaide 2006
    • Meyer, JHF, Land, R, Cousin,G et al (2006)
    • Vermetten, Y J, Vermunt, J D, and Lodewijks, H G (1999) ‘A longitudinal perspective on learning strategies in higher education – different view-points towards development’, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 69, Part 2, 221-242.
    • Veenman, M V J and Verheij, J (2003) Technical students’ meta-cognitive skills: relating general vs. specific meta cognitive skills to study success, Learning and Individual Differences, 13, 259-272.
    • Winter, R, Griffiths, M & Green, K (2000) The ‘academic’ qualities of practice: what are the criteria for a practice-based PhD? Studies in Higher Education, 25(1), pp.25-37.
    • Wisker, G (2001) The Postgraduate Research Handbook, Macmillan
    • Wisker, G (2005) The Good Supervisor, London, Palgrave Macmillan
    • Wisker, Robinson, Shacham. Lilly (2005) Communities of Practice in PhD, paper delivered to the EARLI conference Nicosia Cyprus August 2005-08-29
    • Wisker, Robinson, Trafford, Lilly, Warnes. (2003)Achieving a Doctorate: Meta-learning and Research Development Programmes Supporting Success for International Distance students. EARLI conference Padua, 2003