Six principles of learning

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In your unit readings for this week, Kadushin and Harkness describe six principles of learning. After reading them, identify which one resonates with you. Explain why. Propose an example of a situation in supervision and describe how the principle you chose could be used in the example.

127

to be taught, is highly motivated to teach it,
has a high level of teaching skills, is capable
of designing an effective learning program, is
enthusiastic about his subject, and has respect
for and confidence in his learners. The neces-
sary knowledge base required for good educa-
tional supervision is not confined to the subject
matter of content to be taught. It extends as well
to necessary knowledge about teaching tech-
niques, knowledge about the student who is
the learner, and knowledge of the teacher about
himself or herself.

Our interest is in how learners learn. The
supervisor needs to be aware of some of the
factors that facilitate learning and know some-
thing about techniques that maximize it. In this
section, we outline some general principles of
learning and some techniques derived from
these principles that are applicable to the super-
visory conference.

Principle 1: People Learn Best If They Are
Highly Motivated to Learn
In applying this principle, the supervisor can
use the following techniques.

1. Explain the Usefulness of the Content to
Be Taught The supervisor owes workers some
explanation as to why it might be important for
them to know the material if they are to dis-
charge his professional responsibilities effec-
tively. Motivation increases as usefulness of the
content becomes clear. The new worker may
not appreciate the importance, for instance,
of learning effective referral procedures. If the
supervisor can show, by citing the relevant

Conditions for Effective Teaching and
Learning: Introduction
In implementing the responsibilities of admin-
istrative supervision, the supervisor acts as a
manager. In implementing the responsibili-
ties of educational supervision, the supervi-
sor acts as a teacher. The previous chapter was
concerned with what the supervisor teaches.
The present chapter is concerned with how the
supervisor teaches to catalyze learning. It is
further concerned with some of the problems
in implementing the process of educational
supervision.

The supervisor’s principal responsibility in
educational supervision is to teach the worker
how to do the job. Our task here is to delineate
what promotes effective teaching and learn-
ing. The teacher can organize content, provide
a suitable atmosphere for learning, and make
learning available; however, the teacher cannot
ensure its acceptance and certainly not its use—
only the learner can do that. Teaching is essen-
tially the art of assisting another to learn. As
Robinson (1936:128) said, “Teaching provides
the subject matter, the stimulus, the materials,
sets the tasks and defines the conditions. But
learning is the process of utilizing opportunity
and limits in one’s way for one’s own ends.”
Learning is a creative personal experience.

The supervisor, in implementing educational
supervision, has the responsibility of knowing
the content that needs to be learned, of know-
ing how to teach it effectively, and for creating,
sustaining, and managing an interpersonal
environment that facilitates learning. The good
teacher has expert knowledge of the content

C h a p T E r 5

principles and problems in Implementing
Educational Supervision

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128 [ p r I n C I p L E S a n d p r o b L E m S I n I m p L E m E n T I n g E d u C a T I o n a L S u p E r v I S I o n

to goal seeking.” Intrinsic motives are tied to
the content itself. People want to study the con-
tent because they are interested in the material,
because there are intrinsic rewards in meet-
ing and mastering the challenge of the content
(Csikszentmihalyi and Csikszentmihalyi 1988),
and because there is pleasure in acquiring
knowledge that helps solve professional prob-
lems (Gleeson 1992).

Motives may be largely extrinsic, however.
Learning the content is only a way of reaching
subsequent goals. There may be psychic rewards
from the approbation of peers, the supervisor,
parents, and one’s own professional superego.
Other psychic rewards are derived from com-
petitively learning better than sibling-peers in
the agency. Learning the content may be moti-
vated by a desire for autonomy and indepen-
dence, so that one does not have to turn to the
supervisor for help. There may be administra-
tive rewards, such as pay raises and promotions.

Motives for learning may result from a devel-
oping commitment to the agency, its staff, and
its objectives. Having a strong conviction in
the agency’s objectives, the worker wants to see
them achieved as effectively as possible. Moti-
vation is strengthened by identification with the
agency and colleagues. Feeling identified with
the agency, the worker wants the agency to be
favorably perceived by the community; feeling
loyal and close to his colleagues, the worker
wants their good opinion. As a consequence of
these considerations, the worker is motivated to
learn so as to be as competent as possible.

Research on the nature of job satisfaction
helps clarify the incentives that are likely to
motivate on-the-job learning. Influential stud-
ies on job satisfaction have been done by Herz-
berg and his group in a wide variety of contexts
(Herzberg 1968; Herzberg, Mausner, and Sny-
derman 2005). Although the work itself may
be the best predictor of job satisfaction after
controlling for personal and job characteristics
(Smerek and Peterson 2007), five factors were
identified as the principal sources of job satis-
faction for most people. Arranged in order of

research, the sizable percentage of people who
need referral service and the effects of different
referral procedures on subsequent client expe-
rience, the worker may better understand the
significance of this unit of learning. The adult
learner (Goldman 2011; Memmott and Bren-
nan 1998) is concerned with current problems
that require learning for solution. In teaching-
learning situations involving adults, the super-
visor can take advantage of this orientation by
stressing the utility and applicability of what is
learned.

2. Make Learning Meaningful in Terms of the
Individual Worker’s Motives and Needs How-
ever useful or significant the material is gen-
erally, the worker is not likely to be motivated
unless one can show its usefulness and impor-
tance for a problem or situation that is meaning-
ful to him or her. Showing how the supervisee
could have improved on the last interview if he
or she had had a surer grasp of the dynamics of
behavior will do more to increase motivation
than lectures on the general importance of such
knowledge.

When the training is close to the job of the
worker, it is more specific to the worker’s prob-
lems and more directly perceived by the worker
as meeting his or her needs and satisfying his or
her concerns. This has been found repeatedly
in studies of in-service training in child welfare
(Brittain and Potter 2009).

3. Tie Areas of Low Motivation to Areas of
High Motivation The worker may be highly
motivated to help the client but indifferent
to the content the supervisor is attempting to
teach (e.g., evaluating social work practice). If
the supervisor can demonstrate that monitor-
ing practice outcomes permits the worker to be
more helpful to the client (Worthen and Lam-
bert 2007), the worker may then be motivated
to learn ways to do it.

One needs to be aware of the variety of the
possible motives for learning. Motivation is “an
internal process initiated by a need that leads

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worker may be right, in which case the supervi-
sor has nothing to teach him or her.

If the supervisor, however, is convinced that
the worker’s perception of his performance is
wrong and that there is much the worker needs
to learn, the supervisor would first have to
stimulate dissatisfaction with the worker’s per-
formance. The supervisor may want to confront
the worker with the gap between what he or she
is doing and what he or she can do, needs to
be done, or wants to be able to do. Dissatisfac-
tion with current performance is a necessary
prerequisite before the worker is ready to learn
new and better ways of working with the client.
The worker is more likely to be motivated when
he or she is somewhat uneasy (Stoltenberg and
McNeill 1997).

Consequently, the supervisor should make
a deliberate but compassionate effort to create
some desire for, or curiosity about, the learning
he or she has to offer. Rather than being passive
in the face of lack of motivation, the supervisor
acts as a catalyst for change, creating tension
that needs to be resolved. The worker’s equi-
librium needs to be disturbed if receptivity to
learning is to be stimulated.

At times, the “supervisor must awaken
anxiety by penetrating the rationalization and
defenses that bind it. If the supervisor avoids
conflict for purposes of keeping the supervisory
relationship untroubled and outwardly smooth,
he will have abdicated his responsibility to the
supervisee and will have compromised his
trustworthiness” (Mueller and Kell 1972:30–31).

Motivation for learning follows the general
principle that all behavior is purposive. People
learn only when they want to learn or when
they feel a need to learn. Although this justi-
fies stimulation of a need, such a procedure may
be unnecessary. The first assumption about an
apparently unmotivated supervisee might well
be that the supervisor is not sensitive enough
to discern the motives that the worker has. It
would initially be better to attempt to under-
stand and use those motives that the learner
himself brings to the situation. The supervisor

frequency, these factors are achievement (feel-
ing pleased with something done in which one
would take pride), recognition (good work
was commented on and complimented), the
work itself (the work was interesting, challeng-
ing, varied), responsibility (freedom to do the
work independently and autonomously), and
advancement (the possibility of moving up to
more responsible positions). These factors can
be used to motivate learning (Weikel-Morrison
2002). For instance, there is greater possibility of
meeting the need for achievement if the worker
learns how to do the job more effectively; learn-
ing to do the job increases the probability that
the worker will be granted more responsibility
and more opportunity to work independently;
and learning to do the job enhances the pos-
sibility of advancement.

Supervisors would do well to utilize any and
all motives to optimize learning. If the worker
wants a promotion or raise or a student wants
a high grade, these motives can be tied to the
need to learn the content as a requirement for
achieving their goals.

Motivation increases receptivity to learn-
ing and makes energy available for learning.
It thus sets the stage for learning and provides
the teachable moment, but it does not in itself
make for learning. The supervisor has to take
advantage of the teachable situation to teach
something of significance. Motivation needs to
be provided with a learning opportunity and
direction. The supervisor provides guidance to
the learning that motivation seeks.

4. Safeguard, Stimulate, and Instill Motivation
Because motivation is of such crucial signifi-
cance, the supervisor needs to safeguard and
stimulate motivation where it exists and instill
motivation where it does not. Motivation indi-
cates a readiness for learning. A worker who
lacks motivation to learn certain content may
have no felt need for it. The worker is satisfied
with what he or she is doing and in the way he or
she is doing it. The worker has no problem that
requires additional learning for its solution. The

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130 [ p r I n C I p L E S a n d p r o b L E m S I n I m p L E m E n T I n g E d u C a T I o n a L S u p E r v I S I o n

permit the supervisor to measure progress. As
Seneca said, “No wind is favorable if you do
not know your destination.” People learn best
if the objectives of learning are clearly identi-
fied, if they know what to look for, and if they
have a sense of priorities. However, Shulman
(1991:166) reported: “When I ask participants
in my supervision workshops to spell out their
sense of their role . . . most tell me they never
had a supervisor who was clear about purpose
and role.”

2. Respect the Worker’s Rights, Within Limits,
To Determine His or Her Own Solutions The
structure, although supportive in its clarity,
should not be so rigid that it becomes restric-
tive. Supervisory rigidity contributes to poor
supervisory experiences (Nelson and Fried-
lander 2001; Quarto 2002). Some flexibility
needs to be permitted the supervisee so as to
prevent psychic energy from being diverted
from learning to deal with rising hostility
and resentment at infantilization. This is par-
ticularly true in adult education because the
learner operates with considerable freedom
and autonomy in other significant areas of his
or her life. Here, however, the worker is par-
tially dependent, as is every learner who needs
to turn to others to teach what he or she does
not yet know. As a generally independent adult,
the learner is more apt to resent this necessary
dependency. The supervisor should then per-
mit the greatest amount of independence that
the learner can profitably use without danger
to the client. Respect for the worker’s auton-
omy and initiative ensures that psychic energy
necessary for learning will not be dissipated in
defense of autonomy.

3. Establish a Safe and Secure Atmosphere
Establish an atmosphere of accepting, psy-
chological safety and a framework of security
(Shulman 2010). Learning implies a risk of
mistakes and a risk of failure. It implies, too,
a confession of ignorance. A worker who fears
censure and rejection for admitting failure or

might need to recognize that in some cases the
problem is not that the worker is unmotivated
but that he or she is differently motivated. The
problem is not lack of motivation but differ-
ence in motivation. Discovering the nature
of these different motivations, the supervisor
might be able to exploit them in the service of
motivating learning.

Principle 2: People Learn Best When
They Can Devote Most of Their Energies
to Learning
Energy needed to defend against rejection,
anxiety, guilt, shame, fear of failure, attacks on
autonomy, or uncertain expectations is energy
deflected from learning. Using the following
techniques, the supervisor can maximize the
amount of energy available for learning.

1. Provide Structure Providing structure
means clearly establishing the time, place, roles,
limits, expectations, obligations, and objectives
of supervision (Freeman 1993). Providing struc-
ture mitigates anxiety by focusing learning. If
workers are anxious because they are uncertain
of what is expected from them in the role of
supervisee, then they are not fully free to devote
full attention to learning (Costa 1994). There-
fore, the nature of the supervisory relationship
should be clear. The frequency of supervisory
meetings, the length of such conferences, the
respective responsibilities, expectations, and
obligations of supervisee and supervisor in
preparation for, and in the conduct of, such
conferences should be clearly established,
mutually understood, and mutually accepted.
Such details provide the comfort of an unam-
biguous structure.

Clarity relates to learning objectives as well
(Ching 1993; Talen and Schindler 1993). The
supervisor needs to know, and to share with
the supervisee, some idea of where he or she
hopes the learner is going—what the worker
will know and be able to do after learning what
the supervisor hopes to teach. Objectives give
meaning to each discrete learning unit and

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it was that I was supposed to be thinking about.
(Herrick 1977:95)

Learning does not merely result in adding
knowledge and skills to those already avail-
able to the learner. Learning involves the risk
of change in attitudes, values, and behavior as
the new learning modifies the perception of the
world and of people. The risk of change is anxi-
ety provoking. People often fear what the con-
sequences of change might be for them. If the
supervisor is empathic in regard to the anxiety
created by change resulting from learning and
is supportive, there is less of a need to devote
psychic energy to defend against change and to
bind associated anxiety.

However, acceptance involves expectations.
Psychological safety does not mean a permis-
siveness that ignores the demand for adequate
performance on the part of the worker. The
supervisor must make firm demands on the
worker for learning what he or she needs to
learn. However, those demands should be made
in a friendly way, out of a desire to help rather
than to hurt. They do create tension. However,
such tension is necessary to motivate the super-
visee to learn.

The supervisor has to be consistently helpful
to the supervisee rather than consistently popu-
lar. This means challenging error, calling atten-
tion to ignorance, and pointing to mistakes and
deficiencies in performance. The supervisor has
to offer a judicious balance between stimulus
and support. The supervisor is responsible for
maintaining the balance between a degree of
tension that motivates and challenges and a
degree of tension that immobilizes. The super-
visor should use the tension that derives not
from the fear of failure but from the discrep-
ancy between what the worker knows and what
he wants to know. It involves making demands
with the utmost possible respect, compassion,
and understanding. It would be foolish to pre-
tend that balancing these contradictory and
vaguely defined variables is anything but the
most difficult of tasks.

ignorance will devote psychic energy to defense
against such anticipated attacks. The supervi-
sor should be the supervisee’s mentor rather
than tormentor. An atmosphere of acceptance
permits a freer involvement in risk-taking and
a greater psychic concentration on learning
rather than on self-defense. Learning takes
place best in an interaction that permits, if it
does not condone, mistakes and recognizes the
ambiguity and indefiniteness of the available
answers.

The effects of the supervisor’s attitude of
acceptance on the worker’s performance were
described by a worker:

I didn’t feel that I was getting criticized for what I
was doing. So a lot of my feelings of anxiety and
discomfort began to dissipate as I was not getting
criticism from him: therefore, I wasn’t criticiz-
ing myself—as harshly anyway. And I was feel-
ing more comfortable. As I began to feel more
comfortable—the more comfortable I felt, it’s like
the more ready I was to take that more critical
look at what I had done. The more sure I felt that I
wasn’t a complete asshole, that I wasn’t blowing it
right and left, that I was OK in the room—I wasn’t
going to permanently damage anybody or any of
that—and that the person I was presenting was
really myself and not something that I was trying
to do for my absent supervisor, the more ready I
became to ask questions of myself and what I was
doing in technique and all that. It wasn’t laden
with all the feelings and all the anxiety and all
that. (Herrick 1977:136)

The impact on the supervisee of a supervi-
sor who communicates nonacceptance was
described by a supervisee:

I would just get angrier and angrier inside and
I would get tighter and tighter and more closed,
and whatever it was that we were supposed to
be talking about around my client no longer
became important because the dynamics that
were going on between the two of us were so
heavy that I couldn’t even think about whatever

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132 [ p r I n C I p L E S a n d p r o b L E m S I n I m p L E m E n T I n g E d u C a T I o n a L S u p E r v I S I o n

the fact that at least the supervisor knows the
answer to some of his or her questions—and is
willing to share this knowledge with the worker,
if necessary. If the supervisor does not know
or seems unwilling to share this knowledge,
tension increases because it suggests to the
supervisee that he or she faces the prospect of
dealing with situations for which no adequate
assistance is available. Inevitably, on some occa-
sions, the supervisor might have to say, “I don’t
know.” However, the supervisor then needs to
add, “We will try to find out.”

Lack of knowledge in a situation that requires
responsible action is anxiety provoking. Know-
ing that someone knows and is ready to pro-
vide the helpful knowledge diminishes anxiety.
It might be noted that supervisor competence
rather than omniscience is all that the super-
visee does, and can, expect. However, the
greater professional competence of the supervi-
sor can help to meet the supervisees’ legitimate
dependence needs. The supervisor has to be
capable and ready to meet these needs (Ben-
nett 2008; White and Queener 2003).

The negative effect on the supervisee when
perceived legitimate dependency needs are
thwarted was described by a supervisee:

And sometimes her tone would get condescend-
ing: “Now, B., you’re bright. You can think of
that.” For instance, if I was having difficulty with
something and asked for some suggestions, that
would be the sort of response she would give me.
It was like, unless I did everything on my own, I
wasn’t putting forth enough effort. I could’ve used
at times more help from her—very direct help—
rather than, “What do you think?” There were a
couple times when we went back and forth—it’s
amazing—where she’d say, “Well, what do you
think?” after I asked for help; and I’d say, “I don’t
know, what do you think?” And she would—very
straight-faced—come back with, “Well, what
do you think?” And I’d say, “Look, H., I really
thought about it very hard; and I can’t come up
with anything else. That’s why I’m asking you.”
(Herrick 1977:154–55)

4. Acknowledge and Use What the Worker
Already Knows and Can Do This technique
decreases anxiety because it indicates to work-
ers that they can draw on what they already
know to meet the demands of supervision.
Affirmation and use of the already-rich learn-
ing the worker brings to the teaching-learning
situation is an advantageous aspect of adult
education.

5. Move from the Familiar to the Unfamiliar
The unfamiliar provokes anxiety. If the supervi-
sor can relate new material to familiar material,
the new learning seems less strange and less dif-
ficult to learn.

6. Demonstrate Confidence (If Warranted)
in the Worker’s Ability to Learn Workers may
have doubts about their abilities—doubts
against which they need to defend themselves
at some expenditure of psychic energy robbed
from learning. Communication of a feeling of
confidence in the worker’s ability, where war-
ranted, helps to allay feelings that detract from
learning. Confidence in the learner’s ability to
learn is contagious. Communication of confi-
dence increases motivation for, and interest in,
learning.

At the same time, the supervisor has to accept,
and make allowances for, the fact that learning
is a growth process and takes time. One must
expect nonproductive plateaus where little
progress is being made. There needs to be time
for reflection, absorption, and consolidation of
learning. There is likely to be some regression
in learning—much zigging and zagging. Like all
growth processes, it is uneven and variable, and
different kinds of content are learned at differ-
ent rates of speed.

7. Know Your Content; Be Ready and Will-
ing to Teach It The supervisor needs not only
the wish but also the ability to be helpful. The
worker does not know what he or she needs
to know, which makes the worker anxious.
The worker’s anxiety is tempered, however, by

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she cannot trust the supervisor’s judgment. It
is therefore important to commend only what
can be defended as objectively praiseworthy.
The supervisor should be specific about the
behavior that has elicited approval—not using
a general statement such as, “You really indi-
cated your understanding of Mr. P.’s behavior,”
but rather a specific statement such as, “You
really indicated your understanding of Mr. P.’s
behavior when you said . . . in response to his
comment about. . . .” Such specificity not only
ensures that learning is attended by positive sat-
isfactions because it is being rewarded but also
makes conscious and explicit the behavior that
the supervisor hopes to reinforce.

Pleasure and pain—reward and punishment—
overlap with the question of motivation in
learning. People are motivated to learn so that
they can avoid the pain that comes from an
inability to deal successfully with problems in
job performance. They are motivated to learn
so as to feel the pleasure of doing a job compe-
tently and effectively, to avoid the punishment
of being dependent, and to obtain the reward
of acting autonomously. People are motivated
to learn so that they can avoid the pain of criti-
cism and guilt and be rewarded with praise
and approbation from themselves and from
“significant others,” including the supervisor.
People are motivated to learn to avoid the dis-
satisfaction that comes from the uncertainty of
not clearly knowing what they are supposed to
be doing or how to do it. Also, people are moti-
vated to learn in order to feel the satisfaction
in the security that comes from knowing, with
assurance, what it is all about.

3. Praise Through Positive Feedback Such
reinforcement is most effective if offered while
the learning situation to which it applies is
still fresh and vivid. This fact emphasizes the
importance of regularly scheduled conferences
at reasonably frequent intervals (once a week
perhaps) so that the supervisor can offer his
critical reaction to recently encountered expe-
riences in which learning has been applied by

Principle 3: People Learn Best When Learning
Is Successful and Rewarding
These techniques help the worker repeat what is
satisfying and avoid repeating what is painful.

1. Balance the Skills of the Worker and the
Challenges of Practice Set conditions of learn-
ing so as to ensure a high probability of success
by optimizing the balance between the skills
of the worker and the challenges of practice
(Csikszentmihalyi and Csikszentmihalyi 1988).
Intrinsically rewarding each successful experi-
ence in one’s practice reinforces the behavior
associated with the successful experience.

It would be inadvisable to present the worker
with a learning demand that is clearly beyond
his or her capacity to meet. If there is little
chance of success, there is little motivation to
try. Learners needs some assurance that they
can succeed if they are going to risk trying. On
the other hand, the task needs to be sufficiently
challenging to engage the worker’s interest and
prompt the worker to extend himself or herself.
If a task is too easy, one is not likely to experi-
ence a feeling of success in achieving it. Select-
ing a learning task that is challenging but not
overwhelming is a neat trick. It is, admittedly,
much easier to describe than to do—particu-
larly without any gauge by which to measure
how much challenge a worker can hope to meet
successfully.

2. Praise Professional Accomplishments
Supervisors can increase positive satisfactions
in learning if they praise, where warranted,
success in professional accomplishment.
Praise is a psychic reward that reinforces the
behavior that prompted the commendation.
Indiscriminate praise is counterproductive,
however. The supervisee is an adult capable of
independent critical assessment of his or her
own performance. If the supervisor praises a
performance that he or she recognizes as sub-
standard, the supervisor loses credibility in the
worker’s eyes and subsequent assessments are
discounted. The worker might feel that he or

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social-work learning situations. The client who
is motivated to use the service, has good ego
strength, is not unduly defensive, and with
whom the worker can in some way identify
presents less difficulty. A situation in which
cause-and-effect relationships are clear, for
which remedial resources and services are
available, and in which the problem is well
focused presents less difficulty. These charac-
teristics represent treatable clients in treatable
situations, ensuring greater probability of the
successful application of learning.

7. Prepare the Learner for Failure The super-
visor can ensure the greater probability of posi-
tive satisfaction in learning if he or she prepares
the worker for failure. It may be necessary to
expose the worker to situations of a complex-
ity and difficulty for which he or she is not yet
fully prepared. The demands of case coverage
may not always permit the assignment of cases
that are within the worker’s competence. In
such instances, it would be helpful to explicitly
recognize with the worker the possibility of fail-
ure in the encounter. The worker is then less
likely to be overwhelmed by personal guilt or
shame and be more open to learning from the
experience.

Principle 4: People Learn Best if They Are
Actively Involved in the Learning Process

1. Encourage the Worker’s Participation in
Agenda Planning The supervisee should be
encouraged to participate in planning the
agenda for the supervisory sessions. This tech-
nique ensures the supervisee’s active involve-
ment in the learning situation. In addition, it
increases the probability that content of pri-
mary interest and concern to the supervisee
will be discussed.

Active participation in selecting the content
for learning tends to heighten commitment to
the task of learning; the learner himself or her-
self suggested that he or she was motivated to
learn the content. The objectives of the learn-
ing-teaching encounter are therefore probably

the supervisees. Assessment of results is neces-
sary if the learner is to experience a feeling of
success, which is a reward.

4. Evaluate Progress Over Time Periodic
stock-taking provided in a formal evaluation
conference at less frequent intervals (e.g., every
six months) further ensures learning attended
by positive satisfaction because it permits a per-
spective on long-range progress. The supervisee
can get some sense of progress in learning over
time, which is rewarding.

5. Partialize Learning The supervisor can
ensure a greater probability of success by par-
tializing learning: “A man can eat a whole steer,
one steak at a time.” Offer learning in digestible
dosages. The agenda for a particular conference
should cover a limited, defined unit of learning
that is clear, acceptable, and attainable.

6. Present Material in a Graded Sequence
Success and positive satisfactions in learning
are more likely if the material is presented in
a graded sequence—from the simple to the
complex, from the obvious to the obscure. It
involves moving from more concrete consider-
ation of case material to more theoretical con-
ceptualizations of cases.

It is easier for a worker to understand con-
crete situational needs, such as a home for a
totally dependent, abandoned infant, than it is
to understand the psychological dependency
needs of a middle-aged neurotic. It is easier to
understand that feelings are facts than to grasp
the idea of ambivalence. Grading the complex-
ity of content is more difficult in social work
than in mathematics or chemistry. Seemingly
simple situations have a tendency to present
unanticipated complexities. However, to the
extent that the supervisor can discern the mea-
sure of comparative difficulty of material to be
taught, he or she should attempt to teach the
simpler content first.

There are some general criteria for differ-
entiating between simpler and more difficult

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by doing. Learning determines action, but suc-
cessful action reinforces learning.

The worker may, however, engage in incom-
petent practice. Consequently, providing prac-
tice experience has to be followed by a critical
review of what was done. Such feedback enables
the worker to know specifically what might
need correction and change. This review should
again be followed by the opportunity to practice
the corrected learning.

Principle 5: People Learn Best if the Content Is
Meaningfully Presented

1. Select Content That Interests the Learner As
much as possible, select for teaching the con-
tent that is of interest and concern to the super-
visee. Readiness for learning is often related to
some specific situation. Workers need to know
what will help them to deal with problems they
are having with a particular client. This is the
teachable moment for the presentation of the
relevant content. At this point, the content has
meaning for the supervisee and can be most
effectively taught.

2. Present Content Within a Theoretical
Framework Content is meaningfully pre-
sented if it fits into some general theoretical
framework. Notwithstanding the important
and growing emphasis on evidence-based
practice (Howard et al. 2009; Morago 2010) and
supervision (Stoltenberg and Pace 2008; Milne
2009), different supervisors adhere to different
theoretical systems, such as psychodynamic
psychology, cognitive-behaviorism, and exis-
tential psychology (Calley 2008). Barring a pre-
ponderance of evidence, the choice of system
may not be as important as the fact that there is
belief in some comprehensive, internally con-
sistent configuration that satisfactorily explains
the mysteries of human behavior—at least for
its adherents (Frank and Frank 2003). In social
work, the subject matter is people. Workers
need some cognitive map—some cosmology—
that makes sense of why people do what they do
in the way they do it.

acceptable to the worker. However, although
the supervisor might need to start where the
worker is, the supervisor has an obligation to
educate toward where the agency wants the
worker to be. There are objective performance
standards that need to be met. The supervi-
sor cannot, in a gesture of mutual egalitarian-
ism, give priority to the worker’s educational
choices. Supervisors are constrained to teach
what the worker needs to learn, not what the
worker wants to learn. But the two are often
reconcilable, and knowing what the individual
learner is interested in learning may enable the
supervisor to bring “wants” and “needs” closer
to each other.

2. Encourage Discussion The supervisor
can ensure greater active involvement of the
supervisee in learning by encouraging and
providing opportunity for the worker to ques-
tion, discuss, object, and express doubt. The
supervisor should supplement, rather than
substitute for, a supervisee’s thinking. Think-
ing is trial acting. The worker will use what is
being taught in active encounters with clients.
They worker can, however, also be encour-
aged to engage with the content to be learned
through discussion. This is a cognitive rather
than behavioral engagement with the learning
but one that nevertheless requires active par-
ticipation in learning. Such involvement of the
supervisee is only possible in an atmosphere of
psychological safety in which the supervisee
feels comfortable about questioning the super-
visor and presenting his or her own, perhaps
opposing, point of view.

3. Provide Opportunities to Use Knowledge
The supervisor should provide the explicit
opportunity to use and apply the knowledge he
or she seeks to teach. If supervisors are teaching
the worker some of the principles of client advo-
cacy, they would need to provide an assignment
that involves the worker in client advocacy. The
worker then, of necessity, is actively engaged in
testing the learning through use. People learn

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that teach the same idea in different ways, the
idea is easier to grasp and accept. Through
comparison and contrast—an illustration of
similarities and differences—the same content
is more meaningfully presented.

Practice of skills is, after all, the opportunity
to repeatedly exercise of such skills in different
situations. However, this repetition is not hap-
hazard. It is carefully selected in terms of orga-
nizing principles. As Tyler (1971:83) stated, “In
order for educational experiences to produce
a cumulative effect they must be organized
so as to reinforce each other.” The best rep-
etition involves not sheer drill of old learning
but some variation that includes new elements
to capture the learner’s interest. People learn
best if the material is presented in a way that is
novel, varied, and challenging. Such presenta-
tions tend to keep the learner stimulated and
interested.

5. Plan Your Teaching Teaching that is
planned in terms of continuity (reiteration
of important content—deepening learning),
sequence (successively building toward greater
complexity—broadening learning), and inte-
gration (relating different kinds of content to
each other) is apt to be teaching presented in
a more meaningful context. Content has to be
thoughtfully organized and systematically pre-
sented if it is to be taught effectively.

Some of the techniques mentioned in rela-
tion to previously cited principles of learning
are applicable here as well. The content is more
meaningful if the supervisor can relate new
learning to previously acquired learning, mov-
ing from the familiar to the unfamiliar, and if
the content can be presented in logical progres-
sions, moving from simple to complex.

6. Make Learning Conscious and Explicit
Learning is more meaningful if it can be made
conscious and explicit. People are not always
aware of what they have learned. To the extent
that they can consciously articulate and label
what they have learned, the learning is apt to

It is difficult to learn discrete, unrelated
details of behavior. If, however, the supervisor
is knowledgeable about some well-articulated
scheme, he or she can relate details to princi-
ples that act as an organizing focus for details.
Whatever one’s opinion is regarding id-ego-
superego or drive-stimulus-response, one needs
to recognize that these ideas suggest large-scale,
coherent, explanatory frameworks of human
behavior that meaningfully organize details
regarding the human condition. The supervi-
sor needs to have available some reasonably
comprehensive explanatory framework that
meaningfully organizes the content that he or
she is attempting to teach. Such ideational scaf-
folding provides the unity behind the plurality
of experiences and gives a sense of connected-
ness to discrete lessons.

Bruner (1963) noted that “perhaps the most
basic thing that can be said about human
memory after a century of intensive research
is that unless detail is placed into a structured
pattern it is rapidly forgotten” (24); “organiz-
ing facts in terms of principle and idea from
which they may be inferred is the only known
way of reducing the quick rate of loss of human
memory” (31). Bruner further commented that
“the principal problem of human memory is
not storage but retrieval” and that “the key to
retrieval is organization” (32). People learn best
if they can organize discrete data in terms of
some unifying concepts and some unifying the-
oretical framework. An ideational framework
helps to organize the chaos of unfamiliar and
seemingly unrelated data.

3. Teach Selectively Meaningful teaching is
selective teaching. Some things are more impor-
tant than others. Some content requires more
attention, emphasis, or repetition than other
content. The supervisor needs to have priorities
that guide the choice of content to be taught.

4. Use Imaginative Repetition Imaginative
repetition makes learning more meaningful. If
the supervisor selects a number of experiences

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2007). Adult learners are, of course, often able
to articulate what they want to learn and why
they want to learn it. Maximum participation
of the learner in the teacher-learner interaction
is not only desirable but eminently feasible. The
adult learner has a fund of learning and life
experience that might be adapted to the cur-
rent learning situation.

As in many professions (Polanyi 1966), much
of what the social worker needs to learn is expe-
riential in nature. In an analysis of the expe-
riential learning patterns of social workers as
compared with other professional groups, Kolb
(1981) identified the social worker’s learning
orientation as “concrete-active.” The pattern
suggests a preference for learning through
active involvement rather than detached,
reflective, analytic observation of phenomena,
learning through immersion in experience,
a tendency to solve problems in an intuitive
trial-and-error manner: “The dominant phi-
losophy is pragmatism and truth as defined by
workability. Inquiry centers on the question of
how actions shape events. The case study is the
common method of inquiry and analysis” (Kolb
1981:244).

Kolb’s diagnostic methods have attracted
attention in social work education (Ander-
son and Adams 1992; Cartney 2000; Kruzich
et al.1986; Raschick, Maypole, and Day 1998;
Tsang 1993; Van Soest and Kruzich1994; Wolfs-
feld and Haj-Yahia 2010) and practice (Fox and
Guild 1987), leading Ing (1990) to encourage
their use to guide supervision. Although Kolb’s
research has been challenged (Koob and Funk
2002) and there may not be “adequate evi-
dence base to justify incorporating learning
style assessments” of adult learners (Pashler et
al. 2008:105), some findings suggest that social
workers with varied styles of learning tend
to shift (Tsang 1993) and converge over time
(Wolfsfeld and Haj-Yahia 2010), adapting to
the demands of their job (Gypen 1981). Thus,
where Fox and Guild (1987) and Raschick et
al. (1998:65) have encouraged supervisors
to use learning style assessments to “start

be more meaningful and transferable. This fact
calls attention to the need for periodic recapitu-
lation and summarization of units of completed
learning.

Principle 6: People Learn Best If the
Supervisor Takes into Consideration the
Supervisee’s Uniqueness as a Learner

1. Individualize the Learner Using Educational
Diagnosis Educational diagnosis involves a
precise definition of the knowledge and skills
that a particular worker needs in order to do the
specific tasks required of him or her at a level of
proficiency that meets agency standards, as well
as how the worker might best learn this. The
supervisor should study the learner to under-
stand how he or she learns (Ladany, Marotta,
and Muse-Burke 2001).

Educational diagnosis of a supervisee
includes a statement regarding what the worker
already knows well, what he or she needs to
learn, what he or she wants to learn, and how
he or she wants to learn it. To individualize
teaching, the supervisor needs to know not only
where the worker is but where he or she wants
to go. With such an educational diagnosis,
the supervisor is in a better position to fit the
learning situation to the learner rather than the
learner to the learning situation. The advantage
of tutorial teaching in the supervisory context
is precisely that the supervisor can tailor the
choice of approach and content to the learning
needs of the individual supervisee (Memmott
and Brennan 1998).

In making an educational diagnosis of
supervisees, one needs to consider the special
attributes of the adult learner (Cartney 2000;
Tusting and Barton 2003). Adult learners have a
long attention span, can sustain learning activ-
ity, and can postpone gratification for long peri-
ods. A good deal of adult learning might more
properly be termed relearning rather than pri-
mary learning, and the learning process there-
fore involves some necessary unlearning. There
is more resistance to accepting the temporary
dependency that learning often requires (Nye

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and some are ready to learn but are less ready
to be taught.

Is resistance to learning (Itzhaky and Aloni
1996) manifested in submissiveness, detach-
ment, arrogance, aggression, self-deprecation,
dependence, and ingratiation? What failures in
performance are due to ignorance or inexperi-
ence, amenable to change through education
and experience, and what problems are the
results of personality difficulties? What charac-
ter defects impede learning and tie up psychic
energy that might otherwise be available for
learning? Is content learned for self-protection
or for mastery of problem situations? Is learn-
ing collected as a possession or acquired for the
aggrandizement of status? Does the supervisee
think his or her way through a problem or feel
his way through it? Is the supervisee responsive
to a deductive pattern of instruction, moving
from the general idea to the particular situa-
tion, or does the supervisee learn more read-
ily inductively, requiring an experience with
a series of similar situations before he or she
can truly grasp the relevant generalization? Is
the supervisee a fast learner, always ready and
anxious for new material, or a learner who
needs to take more time in integrating learn-
ing? Does the supervisee acknowledge his or
her learning deficiencies and demonstrate a
readiness to learn, or is the response charac-
terized by denial and defensiveness? To what
extent is the supervisee ready, willing, and able
to take responsibility for his or her own learn-
ing needs? To what extent is the learner com-
fortable with uncertainty and ambiguity in the
knowledge base available? To what extent does
the supervisee need the certainty of unequivo-
cal answers? The marginal learner needs to be
distinguished from the resistant learner and
the neurotically resistant learner from the situ-
ationally resistant learner.

How can the worker be described in terms
of the variety of motives that energize people’s
interest and behavior? In McClelland and
Burnham’s (1976) terms, is the worker moti-
vated by a need for interpersonal affiliation,

where the worker is,” Wolfsfeld and Haj-Yahia
(2010:68) have found that most supervisors
“exhibit [learning] styles congruent with the
styles typically found among social workers”
and “supervisors tend to stick to their ‘natural’
supervision style irregardless [sic] of the learn-
ing style of the specific supervisee.” Research
has not identified a significant relationship
between the learning-style match between
supervisors and supervisees and subordinate
satisfaction with supervision (Jacquot 1988)
or performance (Epstein 1996). Apparently,
some degree of contrast or tension between the
teaching style of the supervisor and the learn-
ing style of the supervisee is beneficial (Tsang
1993), and those supervisors who do adjust
their style to their supervisees “seem to prefer
some degree of difference—but not too much”
(Wolfsfeld and Haj-Yahia 2010:86). It appears
that social workers and their supervisors tend
to prefer a person-oriented supervisory style,
characterized by “mutual communication, sup-
port, and emotional expression” (Itzhaky and
Eliahu 1999:77).

The educational diagnosis of the individual
adult learner is developed through supervisory
interaction and assessment. The supervisor
observes the supervisee’s use of supervision,
the level of motivation manifested, the balance
of rigidity and flexibility in learning, the level
of preparation for and participation in con-
ferences, and the general attitude toward the
content to be learned and toward the learning
situation. The supervisor attempts to discern
the procedures that elicit the supervisee’s best
response. Some people learn best in a highly
structured situation; some people learn best
in a loosely structured situation; some learn
through listening, others through reading;
some learn only through action in a practice
situation; some cannot begin to act until they
have learned; some learn best in an individual
tutorial situation; others learn best through
group interaction; some learn best through
ready acceptance of teaching; some learn best
through active opposition to content presented;

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difficulty, the supervisor needs to be aware of
some relevant symptomatic manifestations.
The consistent failure on the part of the worker
to discuss content that might logically be pre-
sumed to be important is a diagnostic one. The
total absence of any mention of the husband-
father in the case of a child with a behavior
problem, or lack of any information regarding
sexual adjustment in the case of a marital prob-
lem, might be suggestive.

An atypically sharp, disproportionate feeling
reaction to some aspect of the client’s situation
might be another cue. The worker’s response, if
exaggerated, might suggest that the source of
the reaction is only partially the client’s situa-
tion and more due to the worker’s own prob-
lems. Persistent stereotyping of the client based
on limited evidence might suggest distortions
in perception stemming from the worker.

Individualization implies some understand-
ing of what the learner risks in learning this
content, and there are both internal risks and
external risks. The internal risks relate to the
meaning this learning has for the worker’s self-
image and current belief and attitudinal system.
The external risks concern the worker’s rela-
tionship with his or her reference group. Those
who believe that the Bible is literal truth, for
instance, may not accept proof in support of the
theory of evolution. The conservative worker
might feel out of place with friends if he or she
accepted liberal ideas about social welfare.

2. Apply the Educational Diagnosis The
supervisor, in preparation for a conference,
would need to review what the supervisee most
needs to learn at this particular time, how best
to approach teaching the content to this par-
ticular supervisee, how the supervisee is likely
to react in response to the efforts to teach this
content, and so on.

Individualization implies that each person
has his or her own unique, best way of learn-
ing. However, although it is recognized that the
supervisor may not always be capable of modu-
lating an approach to be neatly congruent with

for task achievement, or for power to influ-
ence others? In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of
needs (Maslow 1943), is the worker motivated
by a strong need for belonging, love, and social
interaction, by a need for esteem and status, or
by a need for self-actualization? In Herzberg’s
terms (Herzberg et al. 2005), is the worker
motivated by maintenance needs, job security,
salary, and working conditions, or by needs for
growth and development, increased respon-
sibility, and recognition of accomplishment?
What is the degree of cognitive complexity with
which the worker approaches a situation—the
extent to which he or she can perceive the mul-
tidimensional aspects of a problem?

A comprehensive educational diagnosis that
individualizes the supervisee also includes
some attention to learning problems associated
with more personal aspects of the supervisee’s
functioning in interaction with the clients, such
as learning problems relating to the reactivation
of the worker’s personal developmental prob-
lems in the interaction with the client and prob-
lems of selective identification with one aspect
of the case situation. As a result of transference,
the worker’s perception of the client is distorted
by seeing the client as representing significant
others from the worker’s past in some measure.
As a result of reactivation of developmental
problems, the worker may distort the client’s
situation by avoidance of significant content
that would be important to recognize. As a
result of selective identification, the worker may
distort perception of the client’s situation by
“taking sides” with the child in a parent-child
problem or with the wife in a marital problem.
There are also difficulties that result not only
from developmental problems but maturational
problems—problems posed for the worker in
moving from one state of life to another, from
single to married, from nonparent to parent,
from midlife crisis to retirement.

An educational diagnosis requires some
attention to these sources of distortion that
can adversely affect the worker’s ability to offer
effective service. In the effort to identify such

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140 [ p r I n C I p L E S a n d p r o b L E m S I n I m p L E m E n T I n g E d u C a T I o n a L S u p E r v I S I o n

as having crucial significance for learning in
supervision. The term relationship as used here
includes the strength of the working alliance
between teacher and learner (Efstation, Patton,
and Kardash 1990; Horvath and Greenberg
1989), the quality of their emotional interac-
tion (Kaib 2010), and the strength and resil-
ience of their bond (Fitch, Pistole, and Gunn
2010; Renfro-Michel and Sheperis 2009). A
growing body of evidence suggests that inter-
personal relationships have a potent effect on
the neurobiology of learning throughout life
(Latawiec 2008; Cozolino 2010). In a review
of the research, Lambert (2001) described the
interpersonal relationship as the most powerful
helping ingredient determining psychotherapy
outcomes (Lambert 2001).

Learning takes place best when student and
teacher are both in concert and at ease with
the lessons to be learned and their respective
duties, obligations, and tasks (Tsong 2004). Not
only must the learner be motivated to accept
the content of what needs to be learned, but he
or she must be motivated and ready to accept
it from the teacher. A worker resists accepting
content offered by a supervisor he or she does
not like, trust, and respect. The relationship, if
positive, is the bridge over which the material
passes from teacher to learner. If the relation-
ship is negative, communication is blocked.

A positive relationship intensifies the impact
of the supervisor’s educational efforts. There is
considerable empirical support for the conten-
tion that the nature of the supervisory relation-
ship is a powerful variable in determining the
supervisee’s openness and receptivity to the
supervisor’s efforts to educate toward change
(Bernard and Goodyear 2009). Relationship
propels learning and makes content acceptable.

Identification with the supervisor heightens
the worker’s motivation to learn. As a conse-
quence of identification, the worker wishes to
be like the supervisor, to have the supervisor’s
competence, and to learn in order to emulate
the supervisor. Only if the relationship is posi-
tive will the worker identify with the supervisor.

the needs of the learner, the supervisor should
at least be understandingly aware of the nature
of the learner’s educational diagnosis.

3. Actively Engage the Learner in Assessment It
is desirable to actively engage the supervisee in
an assessment of what he or she already knows
and wants to learn. Once again, this individ-
ualizes the learning needs of the particular
supervisee, spares him or her the boredom of
redundant learning, and spares the supervisor
the effort of teaching what does not need to be
taught. In addition, the learner’s employment
record and record of experience at the agency
give relevant information about his or her edu-
cational and experiential background.

Adult learners have at their command a
variety of previously learned skills that may be
retranslated for use in a social work context.
When implementing educational supervision,
the supervisor might try to help the supervisee
identify these skills and help the supervisee to
use them appropriately.

4. Consider the Worker’s Pace of Learning The
supervisor should individualize teaching
according to differences in the pace of learning.
It takes time to integrate newly learned mate-
rial, assimilate it with previous learning, and
make an accommodation to a new equilibrium
in thinking and feeling that the incorporation
of learned material requires. Being asked to
absorb too much too quickly threatens internal
coherence and stability.

Although it is true that people learn more
effectively when they learn at their own pace,
there needs to be some recognition that both
the agency and clients pay a heavy price for the
pace of the slow learner. Neither can tolerate for
long an excessively slow learner.

The Significance of the Supervisor-
Supervisee relationship for
Educational Supervision
Throughout this chapter, we have made allu-
sions to the supervisor-supervisee relationship

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process in educational supervision, the worker
is then in a better position to understand what
is involved in seeking and using help. As Rob-
inson stated, “Since supervision in social case-
work teaches a helping process, it must itself be
a helping process so that the [worker] experi-
ences in his relationship with the supervisor a
process similar to the one he must learn to use
with his client” (1949:30).

Just as change can be awkward or painful
for clients, the “deeper” lessons of professional
development are “typically associated” with epi-
sodes of personal discomfort and subjective dis-
tress for the worker as well (Lombardo, Milne
and Proctor 2009:213). Therefore, supervisors
and supervisees, as well as workers and clients,
must work to monitor, nurture, and tend the
bonds that ally them (Falender and Shafranske
2004; Gard and Lewis 2008), if they are to repair
the ruptures that invariably occur in otherwise-
healthy working relationships (Bordin 1983). A
rupture is “a problematic emotional response
which interferes with intellectual functioning”
that “arises out of the universal lag between
intellectual grasp and ability to perform until
the individual integrates knowledge through
experience” (Burns 1958:7). Thus, the supervi-
sory relationship itself, its nature and use, is an
educational exemplification of what needs to be
taught in developing clinical competence. The
supervisory relationship is both the context for
learning and a learning experience in itself.

Since Ekstein and Wallerstein (1972)
emphasized the importance of the supervi-
sory relationship, it has become the subject of
considerable interest to researchers. Although
empirical evidence “affirming the importance
of the supervisory alliance . . . is surprisingly
wanting (Milne 2009:93), some evidence sug-
gests that the supervisory relationship affects
both the process (Inman and Ladany 2008)
and the outcomes of supervision (Bernard and
Goodyear 2009), including client outcomes
(Harkness 1997; Shulman 2010). Such findings
highlight the importance of research that seeks
to identify additional factors and variables that

The supervisor as model for identification is
aptly described in the following, written by a
supervisee:

I guess his personal way of being was very strong
in supervision. It was very warm, very relaxed,
very comfortable—he smiled, laughed, sat back
in his chair, and then gazed away as he listened.
He was very interested but wasn’t like sitting on
the edge of his chair waiting for the next thing I
would say so that he could respond to that. And
I perceived that as indirectly giving me a model
‘cause I figured that must be in some ways what
he’s like in therapy; and that’s more what I would
be like in therapy if I were myself. And it would
also kinda make the client a lot more comfort-
able since it made me comfortable in supervision.
“Aha!” I figured. “I should try to do that.” It’s very
relaxing, and he uses strokes—makes a support-
ive, reinforcing comments, but not overbearingly
so—just does enough of that that I can believe it
when he does it. And he never makes harsh, criti-
cal statements and his suggestions are usually spe-
cific, and he explains what he means by them and
gives an example of it but somehow manages to
do that without making me feel like a jerk for not
having known to do that in the first place. (Her-
rick 1977:139–40)

In learning through identification, the super-
visor needs to give the supervisee the freedom
to accept what he or she can use and reject or
discard what does not seem appropriate. Such
freedom leads to selective identification and
selective learning rather than an indiscriminate
mimicry of the supervisor.

The educational alliance between supervi-
sor and supervisee is analogous, in significance
and importance, to the therapeutic alliance
between worker and client. Establishing and
maintaining a positive relationship with the
supervisee teaches essential social work skills.
In developing such a relationship, the supervi-
sor is modeling the way in which the supervisee
might effectively relate to the client (Bogo 1993;
Shulman 2010). Having experienced a helping

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of previously developed solutions to practice
problems. Studies of student evaluation of
teaching show that a thorough knowledge of
subject matter content is a necessary, if not suf-
ficient, requirement for good teaching.

In fact, in response to a question designed to
identify their principal “strengths” in supervi-
sion, supervisors most frequently cited clinical
knowledge, skill, and experience. Listing their
greatest strengths, supervisors said the follow-
ing (Kadushin 1992b):

•  I have extensive knowledge and experi-
ence and am able to use that in developing
skills in my supervisees.

•  Experience and firsthand knowledge of
the services I am supervising.

•  Knowledge about what skills are needed
to do the job and ability to impart that
knowledge.

•  My knowledge of public social service
from budgeting to therapeutics.

Many supervisees, responding to an analo-
gous question about their perceptions of their
supervisors’ strengths, cited clinical exper-
tise. Supervisees said the following (Kadushin
1992b):

•  One of her principal strengths lies in her
knowledge of theory and in her willing-
ness to share this knowledge.

•  Expert clinical knowledge which allows
him to offer suggestions.

•  Excellent knowledge he has of the theory,
applied theory, agency dynamics and case
work.

In addition to the demand for practice exper-
tise, there are additional problems in imple-
menting educational supervision. Supervisors
may exploit educational supervision to meet
their own needs without being fully aware of
it. The situation provides the opportunity for
developing protégés, for making workers over
into the supervisor’s own professional image.

influence the development and quality of the
supervisory relationship (Jacobsen and Tang-
gaard 2009). This includes individual and
developmental differences among supervis-
ees and their supervisors on such dimensions
as anxiety, attachment style, cognitive com-
plexity and development, ego development,
ethnicity and culture, experience, gender,
learning and cognitive styles, personality,
power, race, self-efficacy and self-presentation
(of anxiety, interpersonal attachment, and
self-monitoring), and sexual and theoretical
orientation. Lyon and Potkar (2010) provided
a succinct review of the research and, for an
extended discussion, Bernard and Goodyear
(2009) devoted three chapters to this literature.

The Supervisor’s problems in
Implementing Educational Supervision
To teach the content that is the curriculum
of educational supervision, the supervisor
needs to know the content. There is a growing
demand for evidence-based practice, and stay-
ing current with the rapid proliferation of evi-
dence-based knowledge is demanding. Practice
knowledge and competence are indispensable
for effective first-line supervision generally, and
for educational supervision in particular. These
fuel the power of expertise, a principal source
of the supervisor’s administrative authority. The
responsibilities of educational supervision fur-
ther require a solid grasp of the subject matter
relevant to agency practice. The supervisor—as
a source of identification, an admired practitio-
ner, and a model of effective practice—needs to
project the image and the reality of competence.
Consequently, the supervisor faces the problem
of assessing—and if necessary, upgrading—the-
oretical knowledge and expertise.

Scott (1969) found that professionally ori-
ented workers preferred a supervisor “to
know the theoretical fundamentals of their
discipline—be skilled in teaching casework
methods and capable of offering professionally
competent assistance” (94–95). The supervisee
looks to the supervisor to have available a fund

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A supervisor who is anxious about his or her
own relationship with the administrator may
overcontrol the worker to prevent embarrass-
ment at worker errors for which the supervisor
is held responsible. Conversely, supervisors may
act out their own rebellious impulses toward
the agency through their supervisees, from the
safety of middle-management positions.

The supervisor who has considerable thera-
peutic skills but limited pedagogic skills, or
who feels more comfortable with the role of cli-
nician than that of teacher, may convert educa-
tional supervision into psychotherapy. There is
greater gratification in casting the supervisee in
the role of client than in that of learner. Ques-
tions brought into the supervisory conference
by the supervisee tend to become personalized
and interpreted as problems of personal pathol-
ogy with which the supervisee might need help.

Supervisors may be sufficiently uncertain
about their own knowledge that they cannot
permit the supervisee the freedom to experi-
ment and to learn. A supervisor wrote:

Because of my discomfort with the supervisory
relationship, I found it easier to simply introduce
final decisions matter-of-factly, rather than risk
challenge of my own choice of alternatives in a give-
and-take process. I was perfectly happy with this
“dictator” method but feared an open exercise of
authority which might be called for in joint demo-
cratic decision-making if the worker didn’t accept
my reasons as valid and challenged my choices.

Such a supervisor may tend to be defensive and
find it difficult to acknowledge ignorance.

Educational supervision provides the oppor-
tunity for a narcissistic display of knowledge
and skills. Whether or not this is educationally
helpful to the supervisee becomes a secondary
consideration. The supervisor who made the
following comment caught himself indulging
in such behavior:

In discussing the client with the worker during that
session, I made another mistake: that of “lecturing”

The supervisor becomes, in such instances,
more an object of direct imitation than an
object of identification. The worker’s success
is the supervisor’s success; the worker’s failures
are perceived as the supervisor’s failures. The
supervisee is less an independent entity than an
extension of the supervisor.

The supervisor who, in response to the triadic
situation of client-worker-supervisor, is still
more a worker than a supervisor, may focus too
heavily on the client. Such a supervisor is still
primarily interested in practice, albeit vicari-
ously through the supervisee. This supervisor
has not yet made the psychological transition
from worker to supervisor. The consequence
for educational supervision is that the supervi-
sor denies the supervisee his or her freedom to
learn. Giving exclusive priority to client needs,
the supervisor is so fearful of mistakes by the
supervisee that he or she tends to be overdirec-
tive and overcontrolling. The supervisor acts
more like a guard than a guide.

A supervisor may be hesitant to share his or
her knowledge and expertise with the super-
visee out of anxiety about competition, from a
“sibling.” If the supervisor derives gratification
from the supervisee’s dependency, he or she will
perennially tend to perceive the supervisee as
“not yet ready” for the next steps in education.
In both these situations, the supervisor tends
to teach the content of educational supervision
grudgingly, in small doses, at an inappropri-
ately slow tempo. Evidence of workers’ growing
independence and competence is viewed with
anxiety rather than pleasure. An imperious
“need to be needed” on the part of the supervi-
sor will further conflict with the responsibility
to grant the supervisee as much autonomy as he
or she can responsibly handle.

Overidentification with the worker may
make the supervisor overly protective, shield-
ing the worker from possible mistakes, anx-
ious that the worker may not be able to accept
normal failures: “She was afraid to take the
risks necessary for learning and I was afraid
to let her.”

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144 [ p r I n C I p L E S a n d p r o b L E m S I n I m p L E m E n T I n g E d u C a T I o n a L S u p E r v I S I o n

evaluating whether or not the supervisee has in
fact learned what it is that the supervisee has to
know and what the supervisor is mandated to
teach. These considerations make it clear once
again that supervisor and supervisee are not
acting as equals in educational supervision.

Every supervisor has his or her own likes and
dislikes regarding supervisee learning patterns.
If the supervisor is not aware of such predilec-
tions, there is less probability that he or she
can control differences in response to different
supervisees. Some supervisors like rapid, avid
learners who absorb teaching quickly and vora-
ciously; some like the slow, plodding learners
who are less challenging and for whom consid-
erable repetition of content is required. Some
supervisors like the supervisee who presses the
supervisor-supervisee educational relation-
ship in the direction of peer consultation and
colleagueship; others find gratification in the
supervisee who accepts a parent-child rela-
tionship. Some like the exuberant, extroverted
learner; some like the shy, introverted learner.
Some are more comfortable with learners who
do best in the individual tutorial situation;
some are more comfortable with group-oriented
learners.

differentiating Educational
Supervision from Therapy
One of the persistent problems encountered by
educational supervisors is the task of differenti-
ating supervision from therapy—differentiating
teaching from treating (Ganzer and Ornstein
2004; Kernberg 2010). The supervisory context
is in many essential characteristics similar to
the therapeutic context. Both situations involve
a continuing, intimate, highly cathected, dyadic
relationship in which an effort at exerting inter-
personal influence to effect change is made by one
member of the dyad toward the other (Shulman
2005). Both interactions are designed to develop
a heightened sense of self-awareness (Frawley-
O’Dea and Sarnet 2001; Rosenfeld 2008).

How then does the supervisor develop self-
awareness in the supervisee without being

the worker on the psychological, social, cultural
and economic factors affecting clients’ behavioral
patterns without any reference to the particu-
lar situation at hand. And when I did talk about
the client, I started to discourse on the effects of
emotional and cultural deprivation on the lives of
children, and the psychoanalytical implications of
Henry’s father having run away from the home.
.  .  . I finally caught myself in the middle of the
oedipal complex bit. “B.S.!” I said to myself and
changed the subject immediately, hoping that the
worker had not realized the pompousness of it all,
and if she did, that she would forgive me for it.
I then realized how easy it is to get carried away
when one has a captive audience. The “teaching”
aspect of supervision is an art not easily mastered.
I must remember to do more teaching and less
preaching.

Some egalitarian-oriented supervisors
may, on the other hand, be afraid of showing
what they know. Revealing that they are actu-
ally more knowledgeable than the supervisee
destroys a pretense of equality in the relation-
ship. Teaching freely requires the ready accep-
tance by the supervisor that he or she does,
in fact, know more than the supervisee and is
entitled to teach it.

Some supervisors are made uneasy by the
inherently unequal nature of the supervisor-
supervisee relationship in educational
supervision. It needs to be noted that the
superordinate-subordinate role relationship
still holds, even in the educational component
of supervision. The supervisor is sanctioned
by the agency to engage in educational activ-
ity. Second, the supervisee, while participat-
ing in determining what should be taught and
learned, faces constraints determined by what
the agency requires that he learn to do. Educa-
tional supervision needs to maintain a balance
between what the supervisees want to learn
and what they need to learn. Consequently,
the supervisor has considerable responsibility
for what is included in the educational pro-
gram. Third, the supervisor is responsible for

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is not concerned with the causes of personal
pathology, but only with the consequences of
such problems for the worker’s performance on
the job.

This is not to deny that professional growth
does have consequences related to personal
growth. The professional self is, after all, a sig-
nificant aspect of the total personal-self config-
uration. However, if the personal self undergoes
growth and change, as is likely, this happens as
an incidental, serendipitous, unplanned, unin-
tended byproduct of the focus on professional
growth.

Although the following comments by Ekstein
and Wallerstein (1972) relate to supervision of
the psychiatric resident, they are pertinent to
this discussion:

Both supervision and psychotherapy are inter-
personal helping processes working with the
same affective components, with the essential
difference between them created by the differ-
ence in purpose. Though both are helping pro-
cesses, the purpose of the helping experience is
different. Whatever practical problems the patient
may bring to his psychotherapist, they are always
viewed in the light of the main task: the resolution
of inner conflict. Whatever personal problems the
student may bring to his supervisor, they are like-
wise always seen in terms of the main task: lead-
ing him toward greater skill in his work with his
patients. . . . If the main purpose of a relationship
is maintained throughout, the difference is clearly
apparent between the type of relationship called
psychotherapy and the one called supervision. . . .
In psychotherapy the patient essentially sets his
own goals. The therapist has no vested interest in
any particular degree or direction of change. In
supervision, on the other hand, the clinical set-
ting, whose representative is the supervisor, sets
both its requirements and its goals in terms of
standards of professional performance and clini-
cal service currently rendered and to be attained.
(Ekstein and Wallerstein 1972:254–55, reprinted
with permission of International Universities
Press)

accused of “social working the social worker”?
A distinction needs to be made between edu-
cational supervision and therapy to prevent
problems in boundary violations and conflict-
ing dual relationships.

Differences Between Supervision and Therapy
Differences between educational supervision,
concerned with developing self-awareness and
therapy, relate to purpose, focus, and roles.

Purpose and Focus The supervisor recognizes
and respects the limits and restrictions of his or
her purpose. The supervisor’s responsibility is
to help the supervisee become a better worker,
not necessarily a better person. A legitimate
concern is with the professional activities of the
supervisee, but the supervisor has no sanction
to intrude into the personal life of the super-
visee. The concern is with changes in profes-
sional identity rather than changes in personal
identity. The supervisor should ask, “How can
I help you do your work?” rather than “How
can I help you?” Ekstein and Wallerstein (1972)
noted that “in supervision we aim at a change
in skill, a change in the use of the professional
self while in psychotherapy we aim at changes
which embrace the total adaptive functioning
of the individual” (92).

The valid focus of attention is the supervis-
ee’s work, rather than the supervisee himself or
herself. Only if the supervisee’s behavior, feel-
ings, and attitudes create some difficulty in the
performance of professional tasks—then and
only then—do they become a legitimate matter
for supervisory concern. The supervisor is not
entitled to intervene with regard to behavior,
feelings, and attitudes that, however problem-
atic or deviant, are not clearly manifested in
some job-related interaction.

In educational supervision, one is not pri-
marily dealing with the total person as in ther-
apy. The supervisor is dealing with only one of
the many roles that make up the worker’s total
identity—the specific, particular role of agency
employee. The supervisor, unlike the therapist,

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supervisory duty (Campbell 2006; Milne 2009).
The supervisor cannot at the same time be a
psychotherapist to the supervisee and a guard-
ian of agency standards.

In implementing the focus on supervision as
against therapy, the supervisor keeps the dis-
cussion centered on the client’s situation and
experience rather than the worker’s situation
and experience. The discussion is work-cen-
tered, not worker-centered. Further, the focus
is on what the worker did or failed to do rather
than why he did it. If there is any discussion of
the reasons that may help explain the worker’s
behavior, it is centered on the current work
situation rather than in any psychodynamic
exploration of developmental antecedents.

Current reality as an explanation of work-
ers’ problems should always be examined first.
Personal problems should be discussed only
through their derivative manifestations in
assigned work.

Unlike therapy, in supervision problems are
alluded to but not explored for their develop-
mental genesis. As Towle (1954:89) noted, “Our
task is education not therapy. .  . . We should
deal with the student’s emotional difficulties
only insofar as they are interfering with his
learning.” Therapy explores the personal impli-
cations of problems; supervision explores the
professional implications of problems.

Difference in Role Relationships Shifting
from educational supervision to psychotherapy
involves an unwarranted and inappropriate
shift in roles. As Stiles (1963) said, “A super-
visory relationship contains an implicit con-
tract: the worker is responsible for attempting
to maximize his performance and continuing
his professional development; the supervisor is
responsible for helping him achieve these goals”
(24). The parameters of the contract, as noted,
are the worker’s “performance” and “profes-
sional development.” Concern with personal
development is an unwarranted and unantici-
pated extension of the explicit contract. Hav-
ing consented to an administrative-educational

The therapist is free to work toward any
goal that the client selects. The supervisor is
responsible for the behavior of the supervisee
and is not free to work toward any goal the
supervisee selects. The agency requirement is
that the supervisor help the worker become an
effective agency employee. The therapist helps
the client achieve an individualized, personally
satisfactory solution to his problem. The super-
visor helps the worker achieve a resolution to
his or her problem that is satisfactory to the
organization. The objective of the supervision
is improved technical performance in contrast
with the therapist’s objective of personality
reconstruction or remediation. The objectives
of educational supervision and therapy are dif-
ferent. Supervision is oriented to the needs of
the client; therapy is oriented to the needs of
the worker.

If the supervisee becomes a client of the
supervisor in a shift from educational super-
vision to psychotherapy, the focus of supervi-
sory attention must shift from the agency client
to the worker. The needs of the supervisee as
client then take precedence over the needs of
the agency client. This is a subversion of the
primary responsibility and obligation of the
agency toward its client. Instead of the focus of
attention being on service, the client is used to
advance the therapy of the worker. This is an
inequitable manipulation of the client, without
the client’s permission and in contravention to the
client’s objectives in coming to the agency. The
client becomes an involuntary coparticipant in
the worker’s therapy.

To accept the supervisee for psychotherapy
requires a modification of work standards. The
criteria for a decision regarding enforcement
of agency standards become the therapeutic
needs of the supervisee-client rather than the
needs of agency clients. This too is contrary
to the primary obligation of the agency. Exer-
cise of administrative sanctions required in
maintaining adequate standards may be anti-
therapeutic for the supervisee-client. The evalu-
ation of worker performance is an inalienable

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current functioning than is possible, or accept-
able, in the supervisory relationship.

Effective therapy requires a psychosocial
diagnosis of the client and a therapeutic alli-
ance between therapist and client. Effective
educational supervision requires an educa-
tional diagnosis and a teacher-learner alliance
between supervisor and supervisee. In therapy,
unconscious feelings are explored for their gen-
esis and worked through for their resolution.
In supervision, unconscious feelings may be
identified but are neither explored nor resolved.
While listening with the understanding of a
therapist the supervisor responds, not as a ther-
apist but as an educator. Even in psychoanalytic
training, the following holds true:

Supervision should not become a psychothera-
peutic process: conflating the two usually leads
to regression in the supervision, tends to blur the
clarity of the supervisory process, and may inter-
fere with the collegial aspects of the relationship.
It may also foster transference displacement and
acting out by a supervisee. . . . (Kernberg 2010:611)

The supervisor seeks to promote identifica-
tion, but not transference. If therapy depends
for some of its effectiveness on transference ele-
ments, then converting the supervisory situa-
tion into a therapeutic relationship increases
the probability that therapy will fail. In the
usual therapy situation, the contact between
patient and therapist is confined to their inter-
action during the therapy sessions. Supervisor
and supervisee, on the contrary, have contact
with each other in many different contexts in
the agency. This tends to dilute the potency of
transference for effective therapy.

The evaluative component inherent in super-
vision makes it difficult to effectively engage in
therapy. In addition to the risk of loss of self-
esteem, of possible rejection and blame in shar-
ing intra- and interpersonal problems, there is
the added risk that this content might be used
in evaluating the supervisee’s potentialities for
professional performance and advancement.

process, the worker cannot legitimately have a
psychotherapy process imposed on him or her.
“Therapizing” the relationship suggests that the
supervisor is entering areas of the worker’s life
concerning which the supervisor has no orga-
nizational sanction or authority.

Unlike the client in psychotherapy, the super-
visee did not voluntarily select the supervisor as
a therapist and is not free to terminate the rela-
tionship with the supervisor (Campbell 2006).
Thus, attempted transformation of educational
supervision into psychotherapy is even more
likely to be resented by the captive worker.

In educational supervision, the worker con-
tracts for knowledge and guidance, not the
alleviation of symptoms. There is no treatment
contract that would sanction the supervisor to
subject the supervisee to some of the psychic
pain that may be necessary for effective ther-
apy. There is no contract that would make the
supervisee aware that he or she might have to
accept some of the inevitable discomforts of
therapy.

In accepting the role of patient to therapist,
certain prerogatives of privacy are waived. In
a supervisory relationship that is redirected
to a therapeutic relationship, there is no clear
agreement on the part of the supervisee that
he or she has agreed to the suspension of such
entitlements.

Subverting educational supervision so that
it becomes psychotherapy in disguise not only
contravenes the agreed-upon nature of recipro-
cal supervisor-supervisee role relations, it also
violates the conditions for effective therapy. To
the extent that personal therapy potentiates
supervision and professional growth (Bike,
Norcross, and Schatz 2009; Gold and Hilsen-
roth 2009), merging supervision and therapy
may weaken them both (Rosenfeld 2007;
Latawiec 2008). Effective therapy is not likely
to be possible unless a complete detailed his-
tory has been taken and a clear diagnosis of the
problem formulated (Harkness 2010). Effec-
tive therapy would require considerably more
detailed exploration of developmental data and

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are similar in some essential respects. Both
encourage self-examination in the context of
a meaningful relationship; both are directed
toward personal growth and change; both
provoke anxiety. The psychodynamics of both
processes and the techniques employed are
the same. The distinction lies primarily in
purpose and focus and role parameters of the
relationship.

problems in Implementation of Therapy-
Educational Supervision distinction
One of the problems that all supervisees face
is learning what issues to bring to supervision.
“[I]n virtually every therapeutic model super-
visors expect comprehensive and accurate
information about therapy sessions and the
trainees internal processing of the case,” (Far-
ber 2006:181), yet most supervisees withhold
information from their supervisors (Ladany,
Hill, Corbett, and Nutt 1996; Farber 2006).
Mehr, Ladany, and Caskie (2010:103) asked,
“What are they not telling you?” and admon-
ished that trainees must “disclose information
about their clients and clinical interactions, as
well as their own experience within the super-
visory relationship . . . [i]n order for supervisors
to promote the development of [their] clinical
competence.”

On the other hand, there are limits. A vener-
able psychoanalyst wrote:

After telling me that her patient had expressed
sexual fantasies about her in a clearly seductive
way, the candidate—a highly intelligent woman
who was usually secure and open—told me that
this had made her feel very insecure. We explored
this further, and she finally said: “I have to confess
that if I met this man one evening in a bar without
any prior knowledge of him, I would be tempted
to go to bed with him.” (Kernberg 2010:611)

In response, the psychoanalyst continued:

I commented that she was making it clear he was
attractive to her as a man, but what was it in him

There is increased tendency to share selectively
rather than fully and openly. The responsibili-
ties of supervision compromise the require-
ments for effective therapeutic interaction.

Yet, in flesh-and-blood practice, the bound-
ary between supervision and therapy can
become indistinct. In an exploration of that
borderline region, Frawley-O’Dea and Sarnat
(2001) have argued for a more permeable, inter-
subjective approach to supervision in which the
power and authority of the supervisor is muted,
the distinction between teaching and treat-
ing is relaxed, and the unconscious dynamics
of both the supervisee and the supervisor are
shared and explored (Ganzer and Ornstein
2004; Miehls 2010). Although Frawley-O’Dea
and Sarnat (2001) did not view “the supervis-
ees’ dynamics as taboo and off limits,” they are
not “advocating an anything goes approach, but
rather a careful and reflective investigation of
the interpersonal world of the participants”
with “boundaries and limits . . . negotiated and
co-constructed by the participants” (Miehls
2010:372).

Personal factors are frequently addressed
in supervision (Henry, Hart, and Nance 2004;
Rosenfeld 2007), as clinicians draw on both per-
sonal and professional sources in their practice
(Falendar and Shafranske 2004). However, in
therapizing the supervisor-supervisee relation-
ship, the supervisor risks doing the supervisee
an injustice. It reduces the supervisee’s incen-
tive to get outside help clearly designed to pro-
vide therapy and thus denies the supervisee the
full benefit of a relationship exclusively devoted
to his therapy (Bike, Norcross, and Schatz 2009;
Gold and Hilsenroth 2009). And where prac-
titioners of “relational” supervision tread in
the grey zone, Miehls (2010:372) noted that the
needs of the client and the treatment should be
the primary focus of supervision, urging cau-
tion if the supervisee has not had his or her own
treatment.

To summarize, confusion results from the fact
that educational supervision toward developing
job-related self-awareness and psychotherapy

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responded by doing “nothing.” My quick thoughts
leading to this response went something like this:
avoid taking on the role of therapist; personal
problems of the supervisee are not relevant here
unless they interfere with job or learning perfor-
mance and there is not yet sufficient evidence to
this effect. In starting the process of evaluating
Vera’s work, I have become aware of a tendency
on her part to shy away from offering help to cli-
ents in the area of marital conflict, although not
hesitating to offer and provide it in other prob-
lem areas (housing, child-parent relationships,
etc.). Also, it now occurs to me that Vera may not
have been asking for any help with her personal
problems (she was already involved in outside
counseling), but only for help in resolving her
concern about being able to help someone else
with a problem she saw was similar to her own. If
this was the case, I would consider her concern to
represent the kind of emotional aspect of learn-
ing which is the responsibility of the supervisor
to deal with. In retrospect, viewing the pattern of
Vera’s work performance I think the problem was
more job related than I had originally thought.

The problem was noted by another supervi-
sor in the following vignette:

A recurrent problem was Dick’s hesitancy about
helping a family arrange for a nursing home
placement for an aged client, even when this
seemed clearly necessary. At some point, I felt that
it was important to explore Dick’s feelings toward
nursing homes to be sure that he wasn’t allowing
a personal bias to interfere against nursing home
placement. I attempted to deal exclusively with
job-related awareness, but when Dick admitted
that much of his feeling came from the experi-
ence of his own father being placed in a nursing
home, the session began to focus more and more
on the supervisee rather than on the work-related
issue. We became caught up in dealing with the
psychology of Dick’s relationship with his father,
but eventually I was able to redirect our attention
and move back with some difficulty to the issue of
nursing homes for his clients.

that made her afraid of him? This led us into a
discussion [in which] I expressed appreciation of
the candidate’s capacity to talk honestly about her
feelings with me, but I focused on the meaning
of the patient’s induction of those feelings, and
I respected the candidate’s privacy regarding the
particular unconscious tendencies that might
have made her feel particularly attracted to this
man. (Kernberg 2010:611)

Problems such as these “leave the supervi-
sor in the dilemma of having to be more than
a teacher, but less than a therapist. Inevitably
this demands sensitive and difficult decisions
on the part of the supervisor, who must always
be aware of when his professional concern
becomes personal intrusiveness and yet deal
directly and realistically with counter-transfer-
ence phenomena that interfere with the ongo-
ing therapeutic work (Gizynski 1978:203).”

Furthermore, “It is a matter of extreme deli-
cacy to maintain a warm and interested human
relationship on the one hand and on the other
not to respond to the therapeutic needs that
the [supervisee] may reveal either directly by
the development of symptoms or indirectly
in the handling of case material” (Zetzel 1953).

Consequently, establishing guidelines for
what is appropriate in a supervisory conference
is easier than applying them (Sarnat 1992). The
following excerpt is a supervisor’s introspective
review of the difficulty in making a decision in
such a situation. The problem lies in deciding
when a worker’s difficulty is purely personal
and when it is task-related:

Vera [the worker] brought up the fact that she was
experiencing some confusion herself about the
prospect of marrying her present boyfriend and
that the two of them were involved in premarital
counseling. She expressed doubt as to her ability
to help someone else deal with a problem similar
to the one she herself was experiencing.

I was caught a little off guard and likewise
experienced a certain element of confusion—a
few quick thoughts ran through my mind, and I

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acceptance of distinction between
Supervision and Therapy: Empirical data
The available data suggest that most supervi-
sors and supervisees understand, and accept,
the limited definition of the supervisor’s
responsibility as outlined here. Most of the 853
respondents to a questionnaire made a clear
distinction between professional development
and personal development. The professional
development of the supervisee was selected by
both supervisors and supervisees as one major
objective of supervision. Conversely, both
groups selected “ensuring the more complete
development of the supervisee as a mature per-
son” as among the three least important objec-
tives. Satisfaction “in helping the supervisee
grow and develop in professional competence”
was the main satisfaction in supervision for the
largest percentage of supervisors (88 percent).
Less than 1 percent of them, however, checked
“helping supervisees with their personal prob-
lems” as a source of satisfaction. Similarly, the
statement of dissatisfaction in supervision least
frequently checked by supervisees was “My
supervisor tends to become too involved in my
personal problems,” indicating that transfor-
mation of supervision into psychotherapy was
not currently a problem for most of the respon-
dents (Kadushin 1974).

Supervisors responding to admonitions that
they have no right to “casework the caseworker”
adhere to the dichotomy of professional versus
personal development even more rigorously
than do supervisees. If anything, supervisees
indicate a greater willingness to accept the ther-
apeutic intrusion of the supervisor than super-
visors appear willing to offer it. In response to
the incomplete sentence “If personal problems
came up in my work with clients I would pre-
fer that my supervisor .  .  .” 48 percent of the
supervisees said that they wanted the super-
visor to “identify the problems and help me
resolve them,” whereas only 30 percent of the
supervisors preferred this response. Conversely,
44 percent of the supervisors would “identify
the problem and help supervisees get outside

This problem is a difficult one because the
worker is likely to react negatively to both indif-
ference and excessive interest. If the supervisor
ignores the supervisee’s comment about what
is apparently a purely personal problem, the
worker is likely to feel rejected. If the supervi-
sor shows excessive interest in the problem, it
can be interpreted as an unwarranted intrusion.
Recognition of the worker’s statement without
pursuing it might be the difficult response of
choice. A frank, explicit statement by the super-
visor of what he or she is doing might help: “I
appreciate that this must be a difficult problem
for you but I really don’t think it is appropriate
for us to discuss it at length here.” However, it
needs to be recognized that a “rigid boundary
between the personal and professional lives of
(supervisees) seems simplistic and artificial”
(Gurka and Wicas 1979:404; Rosenfeld 2007).
What supervisees want and need from educa-
tional supervision tends to change over time
(Glidden and Tracey 1992), although advanced
practitioners “have repeatedly expressed a will-
ingness to examine personal issues that affect
their relationships with clients” (Sumerel and
Borders 1996:269). Schroffel (1999) reported
that supervisors rarely offer the advanced edu-
cational content that experienced practitioners
want, contributing significantly to worker dis-
satisfaction. In general, the evidence suggests
that educational supervision is dominated
by practical content, whether the supervisee
is a student, a new social worker, or a senior
practitioner (Charles, Gabor and Matheson
1992; Gray, Alperin and Wik 1989; Greenspan,
Hanfling, Parker, Primm and Waldfogel 1992;
Henry, Hart and Nance 2004; Dow, Hart, and
Nance 2009). Apparently, experienced workers
yearn for supervisory content that advances
their personal growth, whereas supervisors
emphasize content that gets the job done. How-
ever, the interest in supervised personal devel-
opment shown by workers with experience may
signal their desire for more challenging work,
not psychotherapy (Goodyear and Bernard
1998).

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that were there” (Goin and Kline 1976:43). The
objective in raising these feelings for discus-
sion was to make the resident aware of them so
as to give him “a greater chance for rational
control over his interactions with the patient”
(42). The objective was not to “probe deeper
into the roots of these feelings” for the purpose
of therapeutic resolution (see also Hunt 1981).
As Haley (1977:187) noted, “A person’s personal
life is too important to be tampered with by
teachers,” including supervisors (see also Mayer
and Rosenblatt 1975b).

Yet, another study reported the following
findings:

Three-quarters of the [eight] participants felt that
their overall supervision was mostly adequate or
effective in processing countertransference. Par-
ticipants liked when supervisors communicated
to them that they not only considered difficult
countertransference reactions to be a normal and
expected aspect of psychotherapeutic work, but
also welcomed the discussion of these reactions
and regarded them as an important and valuable
component of the treatment process. . . . [Yet] half
the participants also felt that their supervision
had at some point in time blurred into personal
therapy when discussing countertransference.
Most of these respondents found this blurring to
be a mixed experience. (Latawiec 2008:iii–iv)

An awareness of the parallel process phenom-
enon in supervision interaction is an additional
consideration in appropriate application of the
principles of teaching-learning and is related to
the teaching-therapy dilemma just discussed.

The parallel process Component in
Educational Supervision
The parallel process, sometimes called the
reflection process, has been identified as a
phenomenon in supervisory interaction that
has considerable significance for educational
supervision (Kernberg 2010; Mothersole 1999).

The parallel process suggests that the super-
visee reenacts in the supervisory conference the

help,” but only 11 percent of the supervisees pre-
ferred this response. Supervisors, more often
than supervisees, saw the legitimate source of
help for job-related personal problems as lying
outside the supervisory relationship (Kadu-
shin 1974). Kadushin (1992a) obtained similar
responses in an updated survey of supervisors
and supervisees. In a study of supervisor behav-
ior as identified by ninety-three direct service
workers, York and Denton (1990) found that
the behavior least frequently engaged in by
supervisors was to “advise people on their per-
sonal problems,” going on to comment that per-
haps supervisors “are not engaging in therapy
as supervision to the extent that some of us
might have suspected” (99).

The hesitancy of social work supervisors
to therapize the relationship reflects a similar
tendency in psychotherapeutic trainers of psy-
chiatrists. Goin and Kline (1976) videotaped
conferences between twenty-four supervisors
of second-year psychiatric residents for the
purpose of examining how the supervisors
dealt with the residents’ countertransference
reactions to their patients. Countertransfer-
ence was defined as the “therapist’s conscious
as well as unconscious reactions toward and
feelings about their patients” (41). Surprisingly
“for a discipline that often stresses the need for
open communication” (42), only twelve of the
twenty-four supervisors discussed counter-
transference at all, despite the fact that it was
evident in each case. Of the twelve supervisors
who did, only four discussed it at any length.
The supervisors tended to avoid such discus-
sion because of hesitancy about converting the
educational situation to therapy and because of
hesitancy in creating anxiety in the supervisee.

When countertransference was discussed
effectively, the supervisors (in a frank, no-non-
sense way) called attention to the therapist’s
feelings about the patient that were affecting
his work. There was no attempt to “explore per-
sonal motivations, conscious or unconscious,
for residents acting or feeling as they did. It was
merely an attempt to acknowledge the feelings

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Through a mirror neuron system, the neural cir-
cuits that are activated in someone who is, for
example, expressing an emotion, performing a
movement, or feeling a sensation, are the very
same neural circuits activated in another person
who is merely observing the other emote, move,
or sense. It has been suggested that this mirroring
action allows the observer to automatically and
unconsciously know what the other is feeling and
experience. (Latawiec 2008:92)

If mirror neurons are “the physiological com-
ponent that mediates empathy in the brain,”
enabling social workers to “experience and
understand the emotions and intentions/states
of mind” of their clients “just by hearing and
watching them” (Gerdes et al. 2011:114), then the
physiology that mediates empathic interaction
between supervisors and workers is presumably
the same. This idea has led to neuroscience-
based speculations regarding the intersubjec-
tive dynamics of the parallel-reflection process
(Latawiec 2008:92); for example, the empathic
supervisor may find herself mirroring the
experience of the empathic worker, as the
worker recapitulates his mirrored experience
of the client, in supervision. In this neurobio-
logical model of parallel-process phenomena,
empathy—rooted in “nerve cells that allow
humans to understand one another’s experi-
ence by undergoing a kind of involuntary neu-
rological ‘echo’ while observing one another’s
behavior” (Gerdes et al. 2011:114)—is transitive.

The parallel process has also been described
as an exemplification of isomorphism—the ten-
dency for patterns to repeat at different levels
of the system. The supervisor-supervisee-client
interaction can be viewed as one large system
that includes two subsystems: the worker-
client subsystem and the supervisor-super-
visee subsystem. Isomorphism would suggest
that the worker’s dealings with the client in
the worker-client subsystem would tend to get
reflected in the supervisor-supervisee subsys-
tem as a parallel process, and vice versa. The
isomorphic nature of service and supervision

behavior that the client manifests in the case-
work interview. The supervisor then has avail-
able in the here and now of the supervisory
conference this additional experiential dimen-
sion for understanding the worker’s perfor-
mance. Without being consciously aware of this,
the supervisee, in attempting to understand the
client’s behavior, identifies with it and mimics it
for presentation in the supervisory conference
so as to obtain help in dealing with it.

The isomorphic nature of service and super-
vision is encapsulated in the statement that
what the client does with the supervisee, the
supervisee will, in turn, do with the supervisor.
The client “comes” to supervision through this
process. Parallel process events are replica-
tions across system boundaries. The problem
is transferred from the worker-client setting to
the supervisor-supervisee setting.

A client who evokes a sense of disorganiza-
tion, confusion, and puzzlement in the worker
is paralleled by the supervisee’s evocation of
confusion and puzzlement in the supervi-
sor when the supervisee presents the case for
discussion. After experiencing a client who is
evasive and resistant, the worker, in discussing
the case, displays an analogous kind of eva-
siveness and resistance in interaction with the
supervisor. Just as the client generated a feeling
of helplessness, frustration, and anger in the
worker, the worker evokes feelings of helpless-
ness, frustration, and anger in the supervisor.
If the supervisor is aware of the source of his
feelings in the parallel process, he or she can
more effectively help the supervisee in working
with the client.

The parallel process has traditionally been
explained with the vocabulary of the uncon-
scious, such as identification, introjection, pro-
jection, projective identification, and related
psychodynamic verbs. In a recent review of the
considerable controversy about how this may
work, Latawiec (2008) noted evidence for a
neurobiological explanation rooted in the dis-
covery of mirror neurons (e.g., Cozolino 2010;
Gerdes and Segal 2011):

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it reenacted in the supervising interaction. It
is a form of communication through which
the worker, identified with the client, is try-
ing to tell the supervisor about the problem. In
responding therapeutically to the supervisee
enacting the role of the client, the supervisor
may model behavior that the supervisee can,
in turn, manifest productively toward the cli-
ent. This might include a tentative “diagnosis”
of the transaction as a parallel process event,
for example, paired with an invitation to par-
ticipate in collaborative reflection on the super-
visory relationship, in the here and now—a
possible model for worker-client interactions
in the future. For related models, see Cajvert
(2011) and Morrissey and Tribe (2001).

If empathy is transitive, the parallel process
may also work in reverse, as “what happens in
supervision can affect the way supervisees inter-
act with clients” (Lietz and Rounds 2009:124).
If the supervisor does not actively extend him-
self to help the supervisee, the supervisee may
repeat this by being indifferent to the client. If
the supervisor dominates the supervisee, the
supervisee may dominate the client. One of the
more frequently cited reverse parallel process
examples is one where the supervisor refuses
a request for an “emergency” meeting with the
supervisee, followed by the supervisee’s refusal
of an “emergency” meeting with the client.
Although these are examples of negative prac-
tice events, Shulman (2010) teaches supervisors
to use parallel-process dynamics to be helpful,
because “the way the supervisor demonstrates
the helping relationship with workers may
influence the manner in which staff members
relate to clients” (14), and some evidence sug-
gests that training helps supervisors develop
competencies in this method (Tebes et al. 2011).

It is difficult to differentiate parallel processes
in supervision from analogous processes that
mirror interactional situations that may relate
to each other. Much happens in the supervi-
sor-supervisee relationship that is similar to
what happens in the worker-client situation
because of contextual, structural, and dynamic

is encapsulated in the statement that what the
client does with the supervisee, the supervisee
will, in turn, do with the supervisor. The client
“comes” to supervision through this process.
Parallel process events are replications across
system boundaries.

Whether parallel process events are explained
as neurobiological, systemic, or unconscious
phenomena, they are transferred from the
worker-client setting to the supervisor-
supervisee setting, where their recognition and
management has been identified as a “key com-
petency” in social work supervision (ASWB
2009:B-1). Manifestations of parallel process
supposedly enable the supervisor to perceive
what is occurring in the situation between
worker and client as it is replicated in the super-
visory interaction. Parallel process thus permits
second-hand “observation” of the worker per-
formance with the client through its reflection
in supervision. A supervisor said:

I became aware of the parallel process dynam-
ics when I experienced an interaction that illus-
trated it. Penny, my supervisee, would shift away
from troublesome significant problems by talk-
ing, apparently revealingly, about less important
matters. Gratified at her open sharing, I rewarded
her by going along with the shift and responding
to her. In retrospect, I noticed that the client did
the same thing with Penny. When Penny raised
really difficult questions for discussion, the cli-
ent would deftly digress to content, that while
relevant, was less significant and less difficult to
deal with. Penny rewarded the client’s digression
by responding and accepting the shift. Thinking
about it, I planned to hold Penny to the difficult
matters that needed discussion and in this way
help Penny, in turn, to be less accepting of the cli-
ent’s evasions.

Parallel process events thus further the diag-
nostic and instructional objectives of super-
vision. Perception of a parallel process event
enables the supervisor to hypothesize about
the worker-client relationship as he or she sees

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154 [ p r I n C I p L E S a n d p r o b L E m S I n I m p L E m E n T I n g E d u C a T I o n a L S u p E r v I S I o n

Although many supervisors and supervisees
have observed parallel processes in their prac-
tice (Raichelson et al.1997), very limited empiri-
cal research (Ellis and Ladany 1997; Mothersole
1999) is available beyond anecdotal and clinical
accounts of the phenomena. Doehrman’s (1976)
frequently quoted study involved four psychol-
ogy counselor trainees, and a study by Fried-
lander, Siegel, and Brenock (1989) involved one
counselor trainee. More recently, Gray (2005)
studied critical incident interactions among six
supervisors, four psychotherapy trainees, and
their eighteen psychotherapy clients across 84
supervision and 182 therapy sessions. Follow-
ing each session, trainees or their clients were
interviewed for the most helpful and hinder-
ing in-session events, thoughts, and feelings,
generating a total of 984 qualitative responses
from supervision session interviews and 2,256
qualitative responses from psychotherapy ses-
sion interviews. These were coded into cat-
egories (e.g., “gained deeper understanding
or insight”) by judges and sorted for serial-
session qualitative matches in chronological
order across all eighteen triads. A total of 216
(156 helpful and 60 hindering) critical incident
parallel process interactions were identified, of
which 105 involved “the senior partner of the
dyad” providing Guidance to the junior partner
in the form of direction, suggestions, feedback,
or solutions” (Gray 2005:112).

Findings from two larger studies of parallel
process, lacking the nuance and texture of case
studies, are difficult to interpret. In a sixteen-
week field study that examined the supervised
practice of one supervisor and four work-
ers serving 161 clients, worker ratings of the
supervisory relationship were not associated
with client ratings of the practice relationship
(Harkness 1995). But in a study of twenty-five
supervisors, seventy-five counseling students,
and seventy-five clients, Patton and Kivlighan
(1997) found that student ratings of their
working alliances with their supervisors were
associated with client ratings of their working
alliances with their counselors.

similarities. The worker-client interaction
involves a process of growth and change. This
is also true of the supervisor-supervisee inter-
action. In both interactions, feelings of anxiety,
dependency, anger, and resistance are activated.
Both interactions involve differences in power
and authority and evoke problems regarding
openness and defensiveness. Both are highly
affective, dyadic contexts in which emotionally
charged material is discussed in private. Both
contexts are conducive to transference and
countertransference evocations. Given these
similarities in the two situations and the fact
that the dimensions of human relationships
are limited and repetitive, that similar things
happen in the two situations would not be
surprising.

The supervisee is the constant element in the
two dyadic subsystems. Both involve interac-
tion; both are concerned with the process of
helping. Similar psychodynamics operate in
both sets of relationships. It might be expected,
then, that the feelings evoked in one context
by and in the supervisee might be similar to
the feelings evoked in the other context in and
by the supervisor. This provides the basis for
a parallel process. From the vantage point of
the parallel process, the two dyadic systems—
worker-client and supervisor-supervisee—
become one triadic system.

If the worker acts so as to obtain the appro-
bation of the supervisor, this is parallel to the
behavior of the client in attempting to solicit
the approbation of the worker. In both situa-
tions, however, the “parallel” behavior is a very
natural response to a person having positional
power with reference to significant aspects of
one’s life. Structural and dynamic similarities
between therapy and supervision foster paral-
lelisms. Analogous situations evoke analogous
behavior (Geidman and Wolkenfeld 1980). As
Frawley-O’Dea and Sarnat (2001:173) noted
in their literature review, “analytic and super-
visory processes overlap and therefore invite
regressive and progressive enactments of mul-
tidirectional parallelisms.”

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supervisee and that each stage of such growth
requires modification in the supervisor’s
approach to the supervisee. The modifications
are required in response to changing needs of
supervisees at different levels of the growth
process.

The central idea in these formulations is that
the supervisee moves through a series of iden-
tifiable, characteristic stages in learning to be a
professional social worker, counselor, or clinical
psychologist and in developing an identity as a
professional.

According to the available research, at the
beginning stages in the growth process super-
visees need high levels of instruction, structure,
and support. They are method and technique
oriented with a considerable concern for
skill development. The focus in instruction
is on the worker-client relationship and the
instructional-expert role of the supervisor is
given emphasis. The supervisee has a variable
sense of professional identity. A coherent theo-
retical conception of practice is in the process
of formulation. Expectations need modification
toward a greater acceptance of realistic limita-
tions. The supervisor is directive in a support-
security context.

Dependent, anxious, and insecure supervis-
ees at this point in their development are highly
motivated to acquire technical skills. A consid-
erable amount of learning is through imitation
in a relationship that is hierarchical, with the
supervisor being expert-teacher and proactive
in terms of supervisee’s performance.

Initially, the supervisee’s theoretical base
of practice is undifferentiated and unsophis-
ticated. The image of professional identity is
not clearly defined and not clearly owned. The
supervisee’s concern is primarily his or her
performance. The supervisee is very concerned
about competence, needs answers to survive on
the job, and is averse to risk taking. There is a
naive optimism on the part of the supervisee
that achieving a proficient level of competence
would invariably permit him or her to be help-
ful to all clients.

Albeit an article of faith in clinical practice,
Ellis and Ladany (1997:487) have argued that
there is too little evidence to support “infer-
ences from the observed links between therapy
and supervision to the parallel process,” and
Mothersole concluded that parallel process is
a concept with a long history of wide use, “yet
there is very little empirical evidence for its
existence. What is required is further study”
(Mothersole 1999:116).

developmental Supervision
In discussing the different orientations to
teaching in educational supervision, we con-
cluded that it is difficult to select one best, most
appropriate approach because much depended
on the context of teaching and the content of
teaching. Here we discuss an additional variable
that contributes to the difficulty: developmen-
tal supervision. As foreshadowed, the teaching-
learning principles discussed previously need
adaptation and revision at different points in
the professional development of the supervisee.
This reflects the findings regarding develop-
mental supervision. The basic idea of devel-
opmental supervision is that the supervisee
changes over the course of his development as
a competent professional, and such changes in
the supervisee require changes in the supervi-
sor’s approach. As learning needs change, edu-
cational supervision needs to change. Some
early, classical expositions of stages in learning
to become a social worker by Reynolds (1942)
and Towle (1954) embody the ideas of develop-
mental supervision.

A number of different attempts have been
made to formulate the process of educational
supervision in terms of stages of development.
Detailed statements of the concepts and stages of
developmental supervision are presented in texts
by Falender and Shafranske (2004) and Ber-
nard and Goodyear (2009). Ellis (2010), Milne
(2009), and Stoltenberg and McNeill (1997) have
reviewed the related empirical research.

A developmental approach to supervi-
sion presupposes that there is growth in the

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complexity, ambiguity, and multicausality of
human behavior and the inevitability of failure
in achieving definitive understanding.

Originally a figure of omniscience and trans-
ference, the supervisor came to be perceived
as less infallible and more human. There is
increased individuation and separateness from
the supervisor (Watkins 1990). A Socratic
approach involving a series of challenging ques-
tions having an implied direction, stimulating
inductive reasoning and self-discovery, is more
appropriate with supervisees at more advanced
developmental levels than with beginners
(Overholser 1991). Stoltenberg et al. (1987:25)
summarized these changes as being “a) from
greater to lesser need for supervisor-imposed
structure; b) from greater to lesser need for
didactic instruction; c) from greater to lesser
need for direct feedback of counseling behav-
ior; d) from greater to lesser need for super-
visory support and e) from greater to lesser
training/supervision needs in general.”

Over the course of professional development,
some needs—such as the need for continuing
support and encouragement from the supervi-
sor, the need to develop technical skills, and
the need for a facilitative relationship—remain
constant, if somewhat attenuated.

Although the concept of developmental
supervision seems eminently sensible and intu-
itively logical, some scientists find the evidence
lacking. Ellis and Ladany (1997), for example,
described the research on supervisee develop-
ment as plagued with disheartening conceptual
and methodological problems. Arguing that
such models neglect the relationship compo-
nent and erroneously assume that all supervises
are highly anxious, Ellis (2010:101) concluded,
“We have evidence that our supervision models
are not accurately depicting what is happening
in supervision.” At the heart of the matter is
whether studies of the short-term training of
practicum students in university settings can
serve as viable models of supervisee develop-
ment across the professional lifespan in agency
practice.

With professional development, changes
are made. There is progressively less need for
structure, directivity, and didactic instruction.
Learning through identification and internal-
ization takes the place of learning through
imitation. There is a growing need for inde-
pendence and autonomy as the ability to make
use of such freedom increases. However, the
movement in development is not uniformly
linear. The supervisee who has achieved
self-assured independence may temporarily
become dependent again when encountering
a difficult client.

The supervisor-supervisee relationship
becomes less hierarchical and more collegial,
and the supervisor is reactive to supervis-
ees. Practice and theory become more inte-
grated and theory more differentiated. There
is a growing freedom to explore self-awareness
issues and dynamics in the worker-client and
supervisor-supervisee interactions, with a focus
on the supervisee’s contribution to transference
and countertransference. There is a growing
ability to see the situation from the client’s per-
spective and a growing ability to individualize
the client. The image of self as a professional
social worker becomes clearer and more stable,
and there is growing consolidation and integra-
tion of professional identity. Confrontation and
supervisor self-disclosure is more appropriate at
this point in the supervisee’s development than
was true earlier. There is a growing acceptance
of the limitations of what the profession can
accomplish and acceptance of the reality that
only some of the clients can be helped some of
the time.

Professional development over time involves
the growth of technical skills and the growth
of a professional identity. The development is
from a focus on and concern with self on the
part of the supervisee to a gradual freedom to
become aware of and appreciate the self-other
transactions and their reciprocal effects. This
implies a greater willingness to accept the col-
laboration of the client in problem solving.
There is a gradual greater acceptance of the

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regarding modifications of supervisory behav-
ior with increasing professional development
and professional maturity of the supervisee
need review, however, when applied to an indi-
vidual supervisee. Other more idiosyncratic
elements, aside from the level of professional
development of the supervisee, need to be given
consideration—among these, the supervisee’s
motivation to achieve and willingness to accept
responsibility (York and Hastings 1985–86).

The educational supervisor-supervisee situa-
tion is not only developmental, it is persistently
interactional, which further complicates the
choice of teaching approach. Unlike classroom
instruction, educational supervision is primar-
ily tutorial. The one-on-one context demands
the individualization of the teacher-learner
interaction. Because the recipient of the super-
visor’s efforts is not inert but reacts in a highly
idiosyncratic manner to the supervisor’s actions
and in turn affects the supervisor’s response,
this is a highly interactional situation. The
same intervention by the supervisor may evoke
different responses from two different super-
visees whose learning needs, styles, and prefer-
ences are different. Hence, like the good social
worker, the good supervisor has to be sensitive
to how her interventions are being received
and modify his or her approach to optimize the
learning situation for the supervisee.

Summary
The following conditions make for an effective
learning situation in the context of a positive
relationship. People learn best in the following
conditions:

1. They are highly motivated to learn.
2. They can devote most of their energies to

learning.
3. Learning is attended by positive satisfactions.
4. They are actively involved in the learning

process.
5. The content to be learned is meaningfully

presented.
6. The uniqueness of the learner is considered.

Attempts have been made to empirically
determine whether supervisors actually modify
behavior as supervisees change. These find-
ings are contradictory. Some studies tend to
show that supervisors do make changes in their
approach to accommodate differences in needs
of supervisees at different stages in development
(more or less), but extensive reviews of the lit-
erature conducted by Stoltenberg, McNeill, and
Crethar (1994) and Worthington (2006) found
only weak support for the idea that they actually
do so. In direct observation research, for exam-
ple, Shanfield, Mohl, Matthews, and Hetherly
(1992) were unable to determine that supervi-
sory behavior with multiple supervisees varied at
all. How supervision affects the development of
novice therapists into seasoned professionals has
not been fully explored (Bernard and Goodyear
2009; Neufeldt, Beutler, and Banchero 1997).

Applying the suggestions of developmental
supervision requires some daunting prereq-
uisites. It requires that the supervisor has a
clear idea of the particular stage in develop-
ment of the supervisee. It requires the super-
visor to have a sufficiently varied repertoire
of responses and flexibility in application so
that he or she can select and implement the
response most appropriate to the supervisee’s
changing needs. In addition, given the varied
competing pressures faced by supervisors, it
requires the motivation and energy to make
the changes. As Fisher (1989) said, developmen-
tal supervision suppositions may be valid and
their validity acknowledged by supervisors, but
given the fact that “practicing different supervi-
sory approaches is a complex and challenging
task” and—given the “many demands on the
supervisor—customizing supervision sessions
may be unrealistic” (71–72).

The literature on developmental supervi-
sion has considerable heuristic value, how-
ever. It provides the field of supervision with
greater clarity regarding the subtle changes that
supervisees experience over time and a more
refined definition of the variables involved in
such changes. These general considerations

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158 [ p r I n C I p L E S a n d p r o b L E m S I n I m p L E m E n T I n g E d u C a T I o n a L S u p E r v I S I o n

needs of supervisees at different points in their
professional developments, with these dif-
ferences having been identified in studies of
developmental supervision. Parallel process
phenomena—reenactments in supervision of
clinical problems—may be a component of the
educational supervisory process.

There are differences between educational
supervision and therapy relating to purpose
and focus, role relationships, and process. The
distinction is difficult to apply with precision
in supervision, although supervisors gener-
ally accept the distinction. Educational super-
vision requires recognition of the different

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