Finding solutions to overcome barriers to effective dissertation supervision / Symposium B

The criteria used by heads of department to select dissertation examiners are both objective (being an osteopath) and subjective (theoretical or empirical expertise). Most osteopathic institutions have limited or no training provided in dissertation methods for supervisors. There is some literature about the supervision of thesis at PhD level but to our knowledge, there is no body of objective knowledge available for potential supervisors to access. This is not an osteopathic exception, as universities rarely provide training for supervisors, may it be at master or PhD level.  
In recent decades, osteopathic studies have undergone many changes, such as universitarisation, master level diploma and compulsory IMRaD-structure dissertation.  In osteopathy, a student may have higher qualifications than their supervisor; therefore tensions may arise between final year students and the supervisors.
Following an internal survey completed by most dissertation supervisors at our institution, it was found that supervisors identified two types of barriers in the effective supervision of dissertations: student interaction and research methods (including statistics). With the rise of academic standards, osteopathic teaching institutions could provide and promote specific CPD for osteopath-supervisors as new methods have been introduced to an existing curriculum. However, this is costly, time consuming and difficult to implement.
Specific tools to improve the interaction between students and supervisors were put into place over a one year period, the objective of this study was to find out whether the internal and external examiner’s marking would be altered.
Method: The development of methods to increase the interaction between students and supervisors. The change would be measured by comparing the marking difference between internal and external markers.
Results: Within one year, there was a decrease in the difference between the two marks (>3 points from 37,8% to 18%) and an increase in the small difference between two marks (<2 points from 28,9% to 61,2%).
Conclusion: Simple, cost-effective changes may help increase the quality of undergraduate dissertations in osteopathy.
The next step would be to develop specific CPD to decrease the knowledge gap in research methods for the supervisors.