Graduate students’ motivations for participating in development workshops


Despite a clear interest in and demand for professional development opportunities, attendance is consistently poor for many development workshops. The aim of this project was to gain a better understanding of PGRs’ motivation for attending or not attending professional development workshops in order to explore potential areas for action which may improve future attendance rates. Initial evidence was gathered through a survey circulated to a large number of PGRs. Themes emerging form the survey were explored further through a pair of focus group interviews. PGRs are motivated to register for workshops seen as relating specifically to the process of completing a PhD such as viva preparation, thesis writing or research methodologies. Despite being relevant, the consequence of attending is sometimes seen as too high and other commitments such as PhD research, teaching responsibilities and other work, take priority at the last minute. This unpredictability is leading not only to low workshop attendance, but also high stress levels among PGRs. Based on these findings three key areas for action are proposed. Firstly, ensuring that specific benefits of participation are clear and relevant to individual participants. Secondly, ensuring our programmes are flexible enough to be accessible in light of the very unpredictable and diverse PGR contexts. This means diversifying our delivery modes to include on-line and remote access as well as asynchronous engagement opportunities. Finally, addressing the need for mental health support by recognizing and expanding how we can use our programmes to build resilient communities and peer support networks.



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