Part 2 of 3: Examine the role of supervision in your practice

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We now move onto the topic of supervision.  Supervision is an integral part of Human Services practice and is applicable to both students on placement experiences and to experienced practitioners. Constructed as a professional development activity, supervision involves critical reflection that allows current and future practitioners to adapt and to process contextual challenges and tensions that may occur within the workplace (Adamson, 2012; Watts 2018). It is not however about complying with rules and policies (though it can have a managerial and risk-mitigation aspect). Instead, it is aimed at increasing your learning, helping you apply professional skills, knowledge and principles and function effectively in a practical work environment (Bogo, 2015). Supervisors may therefore challenge assumptions, ask critical questions and encourage students (and practitioners) to reflect on their actions and review decisions in order to learn from them. Questions asked during supervision sessions may therefore not always have a right answer, but rather a choice of “best” answer (Beddoe & Davys, 2010, p. 19).

Supervision in a student placement context has a number of parallels with the kind of supervision you will engage in as an employee, but will often have a stronger ‘educational component’. The content and the reading (Activity 1.4) at the end of this learning topic will help you gain insight into the different functions of supervision as well as how to engage with the feedback that is given.

Before we do that however, it is important to be prepared for supervision. This can maximise your time with your supervisor. The research conducted to develop this resource highlighted five student-led actions that supervisors associate with effective supervision experiences. Click on the image hotspots below to explore these and think about how you can build these into your placement experience.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


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Activity 1.2.1– Engagement Session with Q&A 

Now that you have had an opportunity to think about your actions within the supervision context, the next part of this resource enables you to learn about what to expect in, and how to prepare for supervision sessions. This is through an engagement session that has been put together by Human Services Professional Placement Course Examiners at University of Southern Queensland (Ms Krystal Schaffer and Mr David Steggall). Hear from them about topics such as What is Supervision?, How do you prepare for Supervision?, and How does Supervision differ between students and employees?

 

Consider these questions while you watch the video: 

What is Supervision?  

  • What are the two approaches that your supervisor may focus on during the supervision sessions? Is there one you prefer? Why?
  • Why does Ms Schaffer say that you as the Human Services worker, are the tool for service delivery?
  • What does it mean when Mr Steggall talks about External Supervision?

How do you prepare for Supervision? What are the aims of Supervision?

  • What does Mr Steggall say about vulnerability during the placement? How does he recommend that you document your experience?
  • What kind of record keeping do Mr Steggall and Ms Schaffer encourage students to complete? Why?

What is Supervision on Placement?

  • What is the key difference between Supervision while on a placement as compared to being employed in a job?
Note: You will have the opportunity to answer the above questions within this activity and download them for later use. USQ Students are encouraged to download their responses and include them in the Placement Portfolio.

 


Feedback

The last topic in this section focusses on the topic of feedback. The topic of feedback is mentioned in the above video and is one of the most important aspects of your supervision sessions as it can enhance how you learn (Bicen & Laverie, 2009; Markowski, Bower, Essex, & Yearley, 2021).  This is because while supervision can have a number of functions, one of the most important ones is that of transformation. This transformation extends beyond the way that you may work with clients to your own personal transformation.

 

Feedback is one of the tools that facilitates such transformation. Feedback from both your supervisor and peers can help identify gaps in your knowledge base and provides a reference for this to be remedied (Bicen & Laverie, 2009). How you receive this feedback and what you do with it determines how you grow and develop as a professional (Carless & Boud, 2018). Evaluation and feedback from your supervisors and peers is however often complex and subjective (Cleak & Wilson, 2019).  This may lead to some feelings of confusion about what is being evaluated and how your competence is being measured.  Cleak and Wilson (2019), suggest that your competence is measured in the way you use your knowledge, skills and values to respond to and address various scenarios on placement.  Additionally, how you reflect on your practice and plan future responses to situations is also a measure of your competence (Bogo et al., 2013).

 

During placement, your ability to reflect, respectfully handle conflicting perspectives, continue to participate, express, support and contribute to new ideas is a measure of competence that a supervisor may be looking for (Cleak & Wilson, 2019). However, during a supervision session you may find that you get defensive and upset with a supervisor, particularly if there is a disagreement; or worry about your ability to ‘pass’ the professional placement; or worse, doubt in your ability to be a Human Services practitioner.  Depending on the format and approach of the supervisor you may also end up deconstructing and reconstructing your entire approach to practice (Rankine & Thompson, 2015). Take this time with your supervisor to unpack and reflect on these feelings.  While not all feedback needs to be taken 100% onboard, it is important to be able to listen to it in a professional manner, discuss and clarify any details with the supervisor and then work through areas of improvement in a constructive manner. Supervision that involves principles of openness, authenticity, fairness and consistency are of benefit and improve the professional practice of students on placement (Cleak & Wilson, 2019).

 

Your Course Examiner is always there to help you navigate such conversations so remember to reach out if you have any questions!

 

We conclude the Examine part of this module with a video and reading activity that helps you understand why feedback is important and some of the more effective ways to respond to feedback.

 


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Activity 1.2.2 – Video and Reading Activity with Q&A

In order to be able to engage with feedback, one has to be able to receive it meaningfully. One thing that can hinder the ‘receiving’ process is individual blind spots. Before we talk about Blind Spots let us do an experiment.

Watch the following video ‘Why Do We Have Blindspots?’

 

 

Just like a physical blind spot we can also have mental or emotional blind spots. These blind spots can be positive or negative. For example, someone may be blind to their strengths as well as areas of improvement. Within the workplace such blind spots have been linked to stereotyping, lower levels of adaptability and even a lack of awareness about how one’s behaviour impacts others (Edmondson and Dimmock, 2020; Banaji and Greenwald, 2013). The above insights are important because you may be going into your placement without being aware of your blind spot. This lack of awareness can then be linked to your inability to engage with feedback, particularly if it is constructive or challenges your existing views.

 

Consider the following questions before we continue:

  • How does the concept of blind spots resonate with you?
  • Have you ever had an experience where you assumed something that was later found to be inaccurate or perhaps you (unintentionally) missed something? In what ways might your blind spot have been at work?
  • How might your blind spot impact your learning at your professional placement?

The article ‘The right way to respond to negative feedback‘, published in the Harvard Business Review, gives you tools to reduce the impact of your blind posts and instead “hear critical feedback …intentionally mine it for insight” (Eurich, 2018, p. 1). Consider the following questions as you read the article:

  • What does the author say about reacting to feedback? Why?
  • How can negative feedback, according to the author, be used to reset a relationship?
  • Do you agree? What might be some of the barriers to the process of resetting an experience?

 

Note: You will have the opportunity to answer the above questions within this activity and download them for later use. USQ Students are encouraged to download their responses and include them in the Placement Portfolio. 

 

 

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