Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Supervision Basics

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Supervision Basics

Article excerpt


As music teachers you are often called upon to provide supervision to students completing teacher's college in their practical teaching placements. To come to a definition ot supervision is not as easy as one might think. In the literature, the terms supervision and clinical supervision are described and defined in numerous ways. The latin roots of the word supervision are "super" (over) and "videre" (to watch and see). Forinash (2001) explains that supervision is a journey in which supervisor and supervsiee will learn and grow, and from which both will leave transformed.

What Factors Impact the Supervisory Relationship?

According to Feiner (2001) a number of issues will impact the dynamics within the supervisory relationship and these can essentially be thought of in three areas: assumptions and expectations; fears and uncertainty; and, self-disclosure and vulnerability. Examples of these concerns are presented below.

1) Assumptions and Expectations

Pre-professionals often come to the internship idealizing their supervisor. At the same time, supervisors may have extremely high expectations of themselves, especially when they are new to supervision. The supervisor does not need to know everything, rather he/she is there to guide supervisees to find information and facilitate their learning. Essentially, the relationship is one of give and take, where each party learns from the other. It can be validating for the student to know that the supervisor will learn from him/herself as well. Understanding, agreement and clear communication are the keys to each party knowing what is expected of him/her in their role and in their service to the studenrs and schools/facilities involved.

2) Fears and Uncertainty

Pre-professionals may become overwhelmed, and fearful of not being prepared; supervisors may also have fears and questions. For example, will the supervisee respect me? Will I be able to answer all their questions? State and trait anxiety also play a role. State anxiety is the worry or concern that we feel in a particular situation, for example teaching a new math lesson. Trait anxiety is the anxiety we carry around with us at all times and can be thought of as a part of our personality. Anxiety can be influenced by a person's level of maturity, experience level, competitiveness, and previous successes. Supervisors can help reduce anxiety by framing mistakes as learning opportunities and providing an optimal balance of support and challenge.

3) Self-Disclosure and Vulnerability

The supervisory relationship has a built-in power differential, and the perception and reality of the power that the supervisor has in turn influences the relationship. Pre-professionals may experience feelings ot exposure with regard to their musical, teaching, lesson planning and organizational skills. Mutual trust will influence how open the supervisee is with the supervisor. Supervisees should feel comfortable in discussing their personal feelings, reactions and/or theoretical frameworks that guide their thinking.

Some Traps to Avoid as Supervisors to Reduce Supervisee Anxiety

Amorphous supervision is when the supervisor offers too little clarity about what is expected from the pre-protessional. Essentially, there is too little structure or guidance. The supervisee becomes anxious regarding the roles he/she is to fill and the way he or she will be evaluated. In unsupportive supervision, the supervisors appear cold and aloof. They are critical, and offer little support causing the supervisee to feel threatened and vulnerable. Sometimes new supervisors are tempted to maintain distance in order for the supervisee to respect them and see the relationship as professional and so they can fall into this trap of unsupportive supervision without even knowing it. In therapeutic supervision, the problems occurring in the supervisees' work appear to be stemming from personal issues and the supervisor attempts to address these in supervision. …

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