Shortly after I started my graduate studies I became interested in counseling and started my counseling training parallel with my initial education. I was surprised to find out that supervision was sometimes mentioned during my formal education while in the counseling practice it was explained and part of the process since day one. I knew that I will be talking about my practice - analyzing my skills and knowledge with someone and I was looking forward to it. It helped me feel secure that I will have someone who will be there with me to answer all my questions and discuss my insecurities.
When I started to work as a trainer, I found out that many of my colleagues do not like the concept of supervision and that it is not a part of everyday work. At least, according to my experience, I got some programs to deliver, had a couple of supervision meetings occasionally and I miss it.
That experience inspired me to look into the process of supervision - what it can mean in the area of adult education and why we are ambivalent towards it.
How do we define supervision?
Supervision can refer to many processes. On one end of the continuum there is supervision as an evaluation tool that shows how well we have done our job. On the other end, we have supervision as a space for reflection – we learn by looking back at our experience.
Why do we need supervision?
Kadushin (1976) was one of the first authors that defined three functions of supervision: support, administration, and education. Support refers to the promotion of team spirit and personal job satisfaction. Administration refers to procedures and organizational policies, while education is learning all the necessary skills, data, etc. Newton and Cochrane (2018), inspired by these wrote about following functions of supervision:
- Responsibility – ethical and quality completing of the job tasks
- Nurturing – emotional support
- Transformation – learning and developing skills
While talking to my colleagues I noticed that many of them that feared supervision had a strong emphasis on responsibility - what was done well and what was wrong. Therefore, the main focus was only on the quality leaving out the nurturing and transformational function. When we are working with students it is important to reflect on the experience: what was done well and in an ethical manner in the teaching process, what may be improved, how we can emotionally support ourselves and students, what are the skills we need to develop, etc. What is your experience with supervision? Is it something that you miss in your training practice or is it something that is scaring you? Leave your opinion in the comments below.
When we work as consultants, independent experts or when supervision is not a part of our organization, this may represent a challenge. One solution could be peer supervision groups and you can read more about this in another blog that gives advice on how you can organize peer supervision meetings.
Kadushin, A., and Harkness, D., (1976; 4th edn 2002) Supervision in Social work, New York: Columbia University Press
Trudi Newton, Hilary Cochrane (2018): Supervision and Coaching: growth and Learning in Professional Practice, Taylor&Francis Group, NY,