Friday, 8 February 2013

Seven secrets of successful students - report on training event

This post is a short report on a training event at which postgraduate research students and research supervisors at Teagasc attended a training day provided by Dr Hugh Kearns of Flinders University, Australia.  Hugh is an expert on procrastination (!), an internationally renowned speaker for his motivational seminars, and an accomplished educational researcher.

Here, I want to give an overview of some of the main messages from the day, and also provide further links to some of the resources that Hugh referred to. I aim to have a follow up post with some examples of practical lessons that I took from the event.

Hugh's consultancy provides a number of resources for PhD students and supervisors, and are well worth exploring.

The training focused on 'The Seven Secrets of Highly Successful Students'. A central focus of the day was the supervisory relationship, and the importance for students to write early and often. Whilst students and supervisors are often told this, there was a lot of practical advice on how to better ensure that this aspiration is realised. The table of contents of the accompanying book outlines the seven secrets:

  • Care and maintenance of your supervisor
  • Write and show as you go: This is show and tell not hide and seek
  • Be realistic: It's not a Nobel Prize
  • Say no to distractions: Even the fun ones and the ones you think you must do
  • It's a job: That means working nine to five but you get holidays
  • Get help: You are not an owner-operator single person business
  • You can do it: A PhD is 90% persistence and 10% intelligence

Hugh's presentation is peppered with evidence-based analysis, relevant anecdotes and large doses of practical actions for both students and supervisors.
In the session for supervisors, the following questionnaire generated quite a deal of interest as a means of investigating the underlying beliefs of supervisors and students about the student-supervisor relationship:
Expectations in supervision questionnaire


Selected publications by Hugh Kearns
Gardiner, M. & Kearns, H. (2012). The ABCDE of Writing: Coaching high-quality high-quantity writing. International Coaching Psychology Review, 237-249.

Kearns, H. & Gardiner, M.L. (2011). Waiting for the motivation fairy. Nature, 472, 127.

Gardiner, M. & Kearns, H. (2011). Turbocharge your writing today. Nature, 475, 129.

Kearns, H. & Gardiner, M.L., (2011). The care and maintenance of your adviser. Nature, 469(7331), 570-570.


PhD Skill: learn how to improve your quantity and quality of writing and eliminate procrastination.

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