Can a thesis ring help our chairgroup to be more efficient in supervising thesis students?

By: Marca Gresnigt · 30 January 2017
Category: Didactics

Do you also have the feeling that often you give the same feedback to each of your thesis students? Some things about scientific writing you have to explain over and over again? And with increasing numbers of students, you spend more of your time on supervising students?

By using a system of peer reviewing and group meetings, you can increase the efficiency in your chair group. Since peer reviewing is an important skill in the world of science, which is often underrepresented in the thesis phase of students, this system is a solution for both efficiency and the peer feedback skill!

What is a thesis ring?

A thesis ring is a group (8-12) thesis students that meet on a regular basis to discuss (parts) of their thesis writings (both proposals and thesis reports). The ring is usually organised at the chair group. Some groups have mixed rings where both BSc and MSc students join, others have separate rings. Here I will focus on the most common aspects of the mixed and MSc rings.

  • a staff member chairs the meeting; the chair often changes after each education period
  • in most chair groups there is a one hour meeting, every week
  • 2 students submit written parts of their thesis or proposal, a few days before the meeting
  • the other students read the work and prepare feedback, using a checklist with criteria for writing research papers
  • the feedback is shared during the ring meeting
  • Blackboard is used to provide information, share documents and structure the workflow.
  • Supervision of the content (and grading) of the thesis, is still done by the thesis supervisor.

How is a ring meeting structured?

  • The meeting starts with a quick round in which students give a short update of their past week [ 5 min]
  • Document 1 is discussed [20 min]:
    • The chair asks 1 of the students to give feedback, on the first criteria. This student gives both ‘tops and tips’. Other students can add, if they have new feedback. The student who wrote the text summarizes the feedback
    • The next student gives feedback on the second criteria, etc.
  • Document 2 is discussed in the same way [20 min]
  • At the end of the meeting two students are selected who submit their work for the next meeting

 

What is the role of the ring supervisor?

A staff member is present at each meeting to chair the meeting, to supervise the process and the quality of given feedback. The chair provides a safe learning environment:

  • making sure that every student gets both positive feedback and criticism for each criterion
  • involving every student in giving feedback on the documents discussed
  • helping students to clarify the feedback they give
  • giving additional info on scientific writing practices, if necessary
  • observing non-verbal behaviour of students and doing interventions

 

In short, you can use thesis rings for:

  • training writing skills
  • training feedback skills
  • efficient use of teacher time

And some nice side effects are:

  • students become really part of the chair group
  • students know how to find each other when they need help

 

If you are interested in setting up a thesis ring at your chairgroup, Marca.Gresnigt@wur.nl or Sanne.Mirck@wur.nl can help you get started.

You can find more details, formats and tips on: www.ThesisRings.wur.nl

You think this format is a bit too structured? With too much focus on writing? Or not suitable for BSc thesis? Check out my next blogpost on this topic soon!

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Marca Gresnigt

Educational Staff Development

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