Impact Blog

Excellence in Graduate Research Supervision

June 2021

Last month we announced the 2021 ACGR Awards for Excellence in Graduate Research Education.

The full list of 2021 winners and special commendation recipients can be found here but here we want to highlight the winners of the 2021 Awards to tell you a bit more about how they have demonstrated outstanding performance in higher degree research Leadership, Supervision, and Industry Engagement.

2021 Excellence in Graduate Research Supervision – Professor Kay Crossley

Professor Kay Crossley is the Director of the La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre (LASEM), a world-leading collaborative centre for sport and exercise medicine research. While her own research focuses on the prevention and management of patellofemoral pain and early-onset osteoarthritis after sports-related injuries, the Centre’s broader research program is having impacts on policy, clinical practice, activity participation, and health and well-being, both in Australia and internationally. An important part of this success, no doubt, is Professor Crossley’s innovative supervisory practice which she has promulgated in the Centre through her creation of an Enrichment Program for research graduates, and her mentoring of early career supervisors.

The 2021 ACGR Award recognises her excellence in Graduate Research Supervision.

High quality and innovative research supervision practice

First trained as a physiotherapist, Professor Crossley had a successful career as a sports physiotherapist and was the Australian team physiotherapist at the Sydney Olympics and a Clinic Director at Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre before moving into academia. Professor Crossley now has 13 years of supervision experience, with 57 HDR completions (27 as principal), across a range of disciplines (physiotherapy, medicine, podiatry, engineering) and she is currently supervising 11 PhDs (5 as principal supervisor).

Her experience working across different disciplinary and professional domains has resulted in a model of supervision practice that revolves around nurturing a rigorous intellectual climate, enabling graduate researchers to develop research skills while being both challenged and supported. Professor Crossley’s supervision practice has the following key features:

  1. Diverse supervisory teams, including early career researchers, methodological and clinical experts. This multi-disciplinary team-based approach ensures that graduate researchers are exposed to a range of perspectives, which encourages them to in turn develop independent judgement.
  2. Monthly HDR student meetings, directed by the candidates and facilitated by team leaders. These meetings ensure that graduate researchers become familiar with each other, as part of a scholarly community, and develop leadership skills.
  3. Monthly inter-disciplinary meetings, facilitating rigorous intellectual discussion about methods and research studies results, incorporating visiting speakers. These meetings extend the community to include external partners, enabling graduate researchers to understand how their doctoral research projects might also connect to a wider context.

Supervision that pays close attention to the details

In addition to these features, for each of the graduate research projects within her research centre, Professor Crossley also pays close attention to the details. Specifically, this means:

  1. Explicit early planning of the PhD experience together with co-supervisors and candidates. This includes discussing expectations, roles, and responsibilities, collaborations, team dynamics, and projected publication co-authorship arrangements.
  2. Engaging with university-level support for candidate training and learning, such as ethics and data management training; fortnightly meetings to discuss progress and opportunities and provide pastoral care; and providing induction to LASEM’s operating guidelines, resources, and technical expertise.
  3. Committing to prompt and critical review of written work and involving students in deciding how to provide feedback. This extends to review of conference abstracts and presentations.

Structured development through the LASEM Enrichment Program

Exemplifying her innovative supervisory practice, Professor Crossley has built structures to support graduate researcher development across the Centre. Designed to provide candidates with skills and support beyond standard project supervision, the LASEM Enrichment Program provides graduate researchers in the Centre access to:

  1. A tailored Knowledge Translation Accelerator Program, provided from the very beginning of candidature, where candidates attend tutorials on topics including knowledge translation, using social media for impact, and designing infographics for disseminating knowledge.
  2. Individual PhD mentors, separate from the supervisory team.
  3. Annual writing retreats where candidates and supervisors work together, with support from guests who have extensive publishing experience (including some who have been senior editors in key journals).
  4. Travel bursaries/awards for conferences and laboratory visits.
  5. Opportunities for gaining industry or teaching experience, as appropriate.
  6. A Women (and carers) in Research Support Group which: (a) promotes a flexible workplace; (b) provides support for travel including family support if needed; (c) ensures gender balance in supervisory teams; and (d) provides access to female mentors from collaborators.

Future focussed supervision that results in outputs and outcomes

Importantly, Professor Crossley’s supervision practice and Centre programs consider post-graduation outcomes for graduate researchers. Beginning during candidature, with the planning of opportunities to present and publish, candidates are encouraged towards awards and grant opportunities, are provided mentoring and access to industry networks, as well as university teaching opportunities – as relevant to the candidate’s aspirations.

Her future focussed approach has supported candidates to successfully publish their research with her completed PhD candidates, on average, producing six (range: 3-18) peer-reviewed publications each (in collaboration with supervisors) to date. Many have won discipline awards for publication during candidature, given invited conference presentations at international conferences, made University finals for the 3MT competition, or had their work recognised in internal awards, including the Nancy Millis Medal (La Trobe’s award for recognising exceptionally high-quality theses).

Professor Crossley has supported candidates to write grants, resulting in successful Fellowships and has arranged Professorial visits that have resulted in postdoctoral opportunities overseas. She has also actively promoted HDR candidates to positions on conference organising committee/chairs, gaining exposure and opportunities to learn from leaders.

Other opportunities provided to her candidates include contributions to international Consensus meetings and collaborations with international leaders. For example, Professor Crossley has enabled candidate involvement in consensus meetings/publications by enabling PhD candidates to participate in the planning and execution of the meetings. With many of these events attended by key international experts, these opportunities often lead to new international connections and collaborations.

Mentoring the next generation of supervisors

But in addition to supervising graduate researchers, Professor Crossley is also passionate about the importance of mentoring in research student supervision. This means she has consistently supported early- and mid-career researchers to develop their own supervision practices, including the effective transitioning of her own graduate researchers into supervision roles post-completion.

Professor Crossley includes early- and mid-career supervisors on all supervisory panels, and her supervisory teams are chosen to enhance the supervisory practice development of less experienced researchers. By including a diversity of academic levels (e.g. E/MCR, as well as senior researchers), and having all team members present at meetings, especially during planning or when providing feedback, she develops the skills of more junior team members. By including team members with specific clinical and/or research expertise (e.g. clinical experts in this field, biomechanics, epidemiology, imaging) she advances the training of less experienced supervisors. She also considers ensuring gender equity vital to supervisor development.

Congratulations again to Professor Kay Crossley!

Professor Crossley’s excellence in supervision and mentorship is recognised across her strong collegial networks, her students, and now, ACGR. You can hear from Kay herself about why she enjoys supervision so much, as well as a glowing testimonial from one of the graduate researchers in her group, here:


Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

1 comment

Natasha Kitano says:

Congratulations to Professor Crossley on this achievement and the obvious impact you have had on your students’ HDR journeys. I think it is important for teachers, supervisors, advisors to remember how central emotions are in feedback. The student-supervisor relationship is so important for student self-efficacy, commitment and enthusiasm. A wonderful story. Thank you.

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