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The paradox and fog of supervision: Site for the encounters and growth of praxis, persons and voices

Nita Cherry (Faculty of Business and Enterprise, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Australia)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 27 January 2012



Several paradoxes have been presented in the literature as inherent in supervision of doctoral students. The purpose of this paper is to explore these paradoxes and offer the concept of praxis as a way of effectively engaging with complex and paradoxical dimensions of supervision, rather than denying or avoiding them.


Drawing on sometimes provocative offerings of others, and the seminal work of Grant, views are presented that problematise supervision, challenging its representation as something to be transparently understood, planned and managed. Sophisticated theories of supervision have been offered in literature to hold its inherent paradoxes while opening up its practice for inquiry. It is suggested that supervision is usefully understood as the development of praxis: challenging supervisor and student to understand their practice journey as one of interwoven, often tacit, dimensions of knowing, doing, being and becoming (that are personally and therefore distinctively resolved.


Generative metaphors drawn from other complex domains of human experience suggest useful ways of engaging with the intensity, individuality and murkiness of supervision. Such metaphors draw attention to the identities and authorities that are in play and offer markers that can be identified even through the fog.


Voice work is explored as a metaphor for supervision, suggesting reflective practices that ask supervisor and candidate to pay deep attention to the sounds of their voices as well as to the nuances of the dialogue they create together.



Cherry, N. (2012), "The paradox and fog of supervision: Site for the encounters and growth of praxis, persons and voices", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 6-19.



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