What is it?
Postgraduate students are expected to take a high level of responsibility for their own progress. Research students are allocated a research supervisor (usually more than one) and will be expected to attend regular supervision meetings where they will receive feedback from their supervisor. Supervisors should give students regular, prompt and constructive feedback on their written work as well as point out any training events or research seminars which will be helpful to students as part of their research training and professional development. At the end of each year they registered, students have to demonstrate satisfactory progress by successfully completing modules and assignments for example. It is also often the case that supervisors will provide feedback on the whole year, including progress on research, training and development activities, by completing an annual report, or equivalent.
Similarly, if postgraduate students teach alongside their studies, they will also receive detailed feedback from their academic colleagues within their department as to how they are performing. This can be particularly relevant for PhD students interesting in a career in academia, as many posts involve teaching as well as research.
How can students make the most of it?
Postgraduate students are often more likely to engage in a feedback dialogue with their supervisor as this is made easier by having scheduled meetings in place. It is important for them to point out any issues as they arise and not wait until the last few months.
Since research can feel very personal to postgraduate students, one of their biggest challenges is to avoid taking feedback too personally and remember that its main purpose is to make them progress on their way to becoming a professional researcher. Feedback is at the heart of academic life and it is important to be able to take any comments thrown at one’s work and develop strategies to deal with them as best as possible.