Supervising Independent Student Projects - Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation - Carnegie Mellon University

Supervising Independent Student Projects

Have you ever been asked to supervise a(n) independent reading, independent study, honors thesis, senior thesis, or SURG/iSURG project? These types of student-initiated, faculty-supervised projects allow students to explore areas of interest in depth, gain independence working in a scholarly or artistic area, and work closely with an expert in the field (i.e., you). They can be deeply fulfilling for both students and faculty. However, without appropriate thought, structure, and supervision, they can also go badly, leading to frustration on both sides.

To ensure a positive outcome, consider these questions before you begin:

Is the student ready for this level of independence?

Does the student have the appropriate attitude and motivations?

Does the student have the necessary knowledge and skills?

Are you willing and able to commit to the project?

What is a realistic scope for the project?

What stages and “deliverables” will the project involve?

How and when can you provide useful feedback?

What will be your role? Your student’s role?

What practical advice can you provide?

What grading criteria will you use to evaluate the student’s work?