Anecdotally honours students value quite simple things from their supervisors (and keep in mind as supervisors that honours research is not required or expected to be original, a good rule of thumb is that the student should learn something significant from it). The students recognise it is a professional relationship, and in honours the majority of students will always do what is asked of them academically. In return, what they really value are things that could be simply described as ‘pedagogical respect’:
Students expect their supervisor to care about their research. In practice this means to show an interest in the work and recognise that it matters (a lot) to the student.
Do what you say
They want their supervisor to do what they say they will do when they say they will do it. Students get very disappointed, anxious, and at times scathing, of supervisors who continually cancel meetings, or don’t meet the deadlines they have proposed. Students understand that supervisors are busy, and can cope with you taking two weeks to read and respond to something – as long as you have said it will take two weeks and you then do it in that two weeks.
Overwhelmingly students want to know if, as a supervisor, you have concerns about their work. They want to know what these concerns are, and why you have them. They want to be told this in a way that recognises that they are working hard with the best of intent.
In semester two students receive a bonus if they complete a first draft (which we all recognise will only be a first draft) by week 6. This is the single biggest contributor to over 70% HD examination average in honours. This draft isn’t really about the supervisor, but please don’t insist on your candidates getting chapter one (or two, or any) just ‘so’ before they write the rest. No one can possibly know a chapter is finished until the shape of the whole is known, so getting that roughed is much much (much) more important than trying to get it right first off. (Perfection seriously f&^ks productivity.)