Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Midlevel Managers' Supervisory Learning Journeys

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Midlevel Managers' Supervisory Learning Journeys

Article excerpt

The Association of College Personnel Administrators (ACPA) and the National Association for Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) note that supervision is an important skill for student affairs professionals to learn. Supervision is key to the success of midlevel managers as they are vital to student affairs department success because they typically supervise new professionals (Mills, 2000). Midlevel managers' leadership can determine whether or not new professionals remain in the held (Harned & Murphy, 1998).

Although most of the work of these midlevel manager professionals involves supervision, many midlevel managers lack basic supervisory skills (Winston & Fitch, 1993). The literature on supervisory practice in student affairs is limited (Cooper, Saunders, Howell, & Bates, 2001; Shupp & Arminio, 2012) and does not fully explore how people learn to become supervisors. Supervision is often seen as a negative reaction to poor performance when, in reality, good supervisory practices include supporting staff growth in order to build strong departments (Winston & Creamer, 1998).

Effective supervision is more important than ever before (Shupp & Arminio, 2012). Although mid-level managers need supervision skills, many lack these skills (Winston & Fitch, 1993). The purpose of this study is to explore how midlevel managers learn supervisory skills.

Literature Review

In this section, a brief review of the literature concerning the areas of supervision in the context of student affairs master's programs, synergistic supervision, models of supervision, and pertinent literature related to midlevel managers and supervision will be discussed. We will also explore learning strategies adopted by adult professionals to develop their supervision skills.

Supervision and Student Affairs and Higher Education Master's Preparation Programs

Before discussing the literature on supervision, it is important to review its relevance in student affairs master's preparation programs. Although supervision is a basic aspect of a desired competency, "Human and Organizational Resources" (American College Personnel Association & National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, 2010, p.16), research shows that students desire more training in supervision. Results from a longitudinal study of 90 new professionals indicated they wanted "additional training in practical skills such as supervision" (Renn & Jessup-Anger, 2008, p. 329). Researchers also noted that graduates from student affairs preparation programs believed they were least prepared in the area of supervision and believed that supervision was an important skill for their positions (Cuyjet, Longwell-Grice, & Molina, 2009).

When surveyed, midlevel and senior level student affairs professionals ranked supervision 26th out of 32 competencies for new professionals but considered supervision an important part of student professionals' job duties as it was ranked seventh out of 26 job duties (Burkard, Cole, Ott & Stohet, 2004). Faculty in master's student affairs preparation programs believe they should provide students knowledge rather than skills yet supervisory skills are needed on the job (Kuk, Cobb & Forrest, 2007). In short, there seems to be a difference of opinion on where students should learn supervision, but they need the skill.

Supervision Literature

Supervision has many dehnitions. For the purposes of this study, supervision is dehned as the continuous process of providing guidance to an individual with the intended outcome of employee and institutional growth (Janosik & Creamer, 2003). We review literature concerning synergistic supervision, qualities affecting how people learn to become supervisors and midlevel managers and supervision.

Synergistic supervision. In addition to examining the behaviors of good supervisors, much of the recent work on supervision in student affairs has discussed Winston and Creamer's (1997) idea of "synergistic supervision" (p. …

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