Researcher Development Assessment
Completion of a Researcher Development Assessment is compulsory for all new PhD students and its completion is a condition of the probation review. This initiative was introduced at Kent in 2009/10.
The Researcher Development Assessment is an online self-assessment tool and is for the benefit of both research students and supervisors. In completing the assessment, all new research students are encouraged to consider their existing portfolio of skills, as well as the skills that they hope to acquire while doing their doctoral research. Researchers are also actively encouraged to consider a range of career options and the particular skills that they might need for their chosen career. The identification of their training and development needs at an early stage will help students to complete their research and writing using the most effective means to avoid situations in which they fail to progress because they lack a particular skill.
The Researcher Development Assessment is organised under the following four headings:A. Knowledge and Intellectual Abilities B. Personal Effectiveness C. Research Governance and Organisation D. Engagement, Influence and Imapct These headings encompass, among other factors, research and career management, communication skills, networking and teamworking.
Opportunities for developing these skills are available through participation in the Researcher Development Programme run by the Graduate School, and students will also acquire some of these skills independently during the course of their doctorate.
Background to the introduction of the Researcher Development Assessment
The Researcher Development Assessment was put together by the Graduate School during late summer 2009 in consultation with Jenny Wade, an external trainer who has been delivering skills training to our research students for several years, as well as PGRs at other HEIs across the UK.
Ensuring that postgraduate researchers receive comprehensive skills training integrated within the PhD programme is now an essential requirement for Research Council accreditation. In June 2009, the University agreed that from 2009/10, all research students registered on a PhD programme would be required to complete a Researcher Development Assessment by the end of their first year of registration. Completion of this assessment became compulsory for all new first-year research students starting a PhD at the University of Kent after September 2009 and from September 2011 the completion of it is a condition of the probation review.
Click on this link for the criteria of the Researcher Development Assessment (for reference only).
How can I undertake a Researcher Development Assessment?
The Researcher Development Assessment is an online document which can be filled in via the online booking system. Access to the the assessment is granted after attendance at one of the 'Kickstart your PhD: Guidance, Skills and the Researcher Development Assessment' workshops for all new students, delivered as part of the Researcher Development Programme through the Graduate School by Dr Jo Collins (the Postgraduate Development Advisor). All first year PhD students are expected to participate in the workshops in order to learn about the Researcher Development Assessment, what it means, why they should do it, and how to complete it. These four hour workshops are run in the Autumn term. Anyone joining after these sessions have run should contact the Postgraduate Development Coordinator. The Graduate School will ensure that there are sufficient workshops available for all first years to attend. All new first year research students are informed of the workshops at induction and the dates and times for future workshops can be found on the Skills Booking System.
What is the purpose of the Researcher Development Assessment?
The Researcher Development Assessment has a dual purpose and is for the benefit of both research students and supervisors. In completing the assessment, all new research students are encouraged to consider their existing portfolio of skills, as well as the skills that they hope to acquire while doing their doctoral research. They are also actively encouraged to consider a range of career options and the particular skills that they might need for their chosen career.
For supervisors, ensuring that students can identify their training and development needs early on will help students to complete their research and writing more effectively to avoid situations where students fail to progress because they lack a particular skill.
From the University’s perspective, the provision of skills training will ensure that Kent postgraduates are well qualified, highly skilled individuals who are able to succeed in a variety of careers, both within academia and beyond.
The role of the Graduate School
The Graduate School co-ordinates the programme of Researcher Development Programme which provides research students with the opportunity to develop skills. The Graduate School will monitor attendance at 'Kickstart your PhD' workshops and the Postgraduate Development Coordinator will contact each school at the end of the autumn term to notify them of which students have attended a workshop. This will enable schools to flag up those students who may still need to attend a workshop in order to complete their Researcher Development Assessment.
The role of the research student
Completion of a Researcher Development Assessment became compulsory for all new first-year research students starting a PhD at the University of Kent after September 2009 and from September 2011 the completion of it is a condition of the probation review. Both full time and part time students will need to complete an assessment as part of the probation process this will need to be within 6 months for full time students and within 8 months for part time students.
At the 'Kickstart your PhD' workshops the purpose of the assessment is explained fully to students and they are encouraged to reflect on the skills that they already have, as well as considering those skills which they might need to develop over the course of their PhD, either through attending a training course, or in a less formal way. They are asked to begin to think about their own 'competence' level, to identify evidence of their competency, and to complete their assessment accordingly. As students will not have a chance to complete the assessment in full at the workshop, they will be asked to do so before arranging a meeting with their supervisor to discuss it. The onus is on the student to complete the assessment, arrange the meeting with their supervisor and to consider how they wish to develop the skills identified during their first year. It is important to remember that skills development can take place organically during the course of research, and not just as a result of attending a training course.
The Researcher Development Assessment was introduced in 2009/10 as a core element of the training programme, and the skills review integrated into training for second year research students from 2010/11. Students should continue to consider the development of their skills as their research progresses beyond the first year. This will enable students to keep the Researcher Development Assessment in mind throughout their PhD as a framework for their own development. Postgraduate researchers will be able to review and update their assessments online through the booking system.
The role of the supervisor
The supervisor’s role will be to discuss the completed Researcher Development Assessment with the student at a supervision meeting to be arranged by the student after attending the 'Kickstart your PhD' workshop. This will enable supervisor and student to have a comprehensive discussion about the student’s training needs, including those which are subject specific, and to identify opportunities to develop those skills, whether through attendance at workshops run as part of the Researcher Development Programme, through departmental research methods training, or through the course of their research. This should ensure that students do not have to attend workshops relating to skills that they already possess and it will help them to build a personalised training programme. This approach aims to encourage postgraduate researchers and their supervisors to take ownership of skills training through a PDP approach to reviewing and action planning.
The role of the School
Schools should keep a record on each student's file that they have completed a Researcher Development Assessment, to use in support of the probation process. If a student reaches the end of probation without having completed a Researcher Development Assessment, their completing probation should be conditional upon them completing the assessment at the earliest opportunity.
Schools should record completion of the Researcher Development Assessment on the probation review form. The completion of the Researcher Development Assessment can also be recorded on the student data system please see this link (page 3 onwards)