The ‘creative-minded supervisor’: Gatekeeping and boundary breaking when supervising creative doctorates

Gina Wisker, Gillian Robinson

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


Research into what examiners value in a PhD (Kiley & Mullins 2002) identified some characteristics which might surprise supervisors ensuring that as well as contributing to knowledge, our students undertake manageable research projects, use familiar (enough) methodologies and methods and conform (enough) to acceptable formats in the finished thesis. In their research, risk-taking and creativity emerged as both highly valued in successful PhD theses. Creativity and risk-taking might be expected essentials in a PhD which centres on an artistic production, and very familiar to those taking experimental approaches or challenging fixed ideas, however for those of us supervising a much broader range of research it could be challenging to find ways to work with students or negotiate routes both risky and creative, and also sound, safe, familiar , and likely to pass. This raises an exciting set of opportunities, located in supervisors' roles , and in supervisor-student interactions, in context. Supervisors are gatekeepers, boundary brokers, and boundary breakers, particularly when working with creative doctorates. Creative postgraduate students engaged in creative doctorates, whether in the creative arts, or taking creative approaches to problems and questions in a range of disciplines, might take us out of our own comfort zones, but we would like to argue that, as supervisors, we need to be ‘creative-minded' enough (a comment from one of our respondents, Wisker & Robinson 2014) to encourage and reward the creative approaches and work, while also ensuring that the breaking of boundaries in new knowledge also fulfils expectations of a rigorous research project and well communicated thesis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPostgraduate Supervision: future foci for the knowledge society
EditorsM. Fourie-Malherbe, R. Albertyn, C. Aitchison
PublisherSun Media Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)978-1-928357-21-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


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