Supervision as mentoring: the role of power and boundary crossing
Studies in Continuing Education
There is a current consensus in the literature and policy documents on postgraduate supervision that positions mentoring as the most effective supervision strategy. Authors suggest that this approach to supervision overcomes some of the problematic, hierarchical aspects embedded in supervision as a pedagogical practice. They portray supervision as an innocent and collegial pedagogy between autonomous, rational supervisors and students. However, mentoring is a powerful form of normalization and
... normalization and a site of governmentality. Therefore, I argue that rather than removing issues of power from the supervision relationship, describing effective supervision as mentoring only serves to mask the significant role played by power in supervision pedagogy. I have applied Devos' investigation of mentoring to postgraduate supervision to highlight the work that mentoring does as a form of academic and disciplinary self-reproduction that can have paternalistic impulses located within it. In particular, I argue that supervisors need to be conscious of the operations of power in postgraduate supervision despite their best intentions. I have also begun to explore what implications this more nuanced understanding of supervision might have for people such as me, who are charged with the responsibility of providing academic development programs on supervision.