Developing Supervision Champions

By Anita Soni

Supervision plays a central role for the helping professions. For educational psychologists, this is demonstrated in the guidance from the British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychologists and the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC). Despite this, it can be difficult to come to shared agreement as definitions of supervision vary between and within professional groups.

This was something we discussed during the supervision course for educational psychologists held at the University of Birmingham over 4 days from November 2018 to June 2019. The key word that continually cropped up was “reflection”. As educational psychologists we are all seeking to become reflective practitioners and supervision is a key mechanism that enables this. However reflection itself is not an easy concept and can be defined in differing ways.

Helpfully, in June 2019, the Chief Executives of the statutory regulators of the health and care professionals (including the HCPC) issued a joint statement of support that sets out a common expectation that health and care professionals should be reflective practitioners. The HCPC emphasises that registrants should engage in continuing professional development that enables learning and reflection. Within the joint statement, reflection is defined as ‘… the thought process where individuals consider their experiences to gain insight about their whole practice. Reflection supports individuals to continually improve the way they work or the quality of care they give people.’

The joint statement goes on to offer advice on how reflection can become more effective and identifies four components of good reflection including:

  • Reflection is something to engage in willingly, and should not be seen as a bureaucratic chore.
  • Systematic approaches to reflection that aim to draw out learning are more effective.
  • The value of reflecting on positive and negative experiences.
  • The focus of reflection should be on the service users, their families and carers.

These four components are helpful when considering supervision, as this too benefits from being undertaken as a willing endeavour, from the use of structured approaches, including successes and failures and being service user focused.

It is important to recognise that reflection can be difficult and challenging to undertake. Trainee educational psychologists and their supervisors spend a great deal of time in supervision and reflection and supervision take commitment, time, openness and honesty. Indeed it can be a challenge to talk about what has gone wrong, or what may be emotionally challenging and so there can be a temptation to stay on safe ground.

During our supervision course, we discuss how supervision can be a relatively hidden and private practice, as we generally we don’t see how others do it. As part of the course we encourage participants to bring videos of their supervisor to share. Initially, the thought of sharing videos of supervision was challenging, as it can be uncomfortable to see and hear yourself. Nonetheless, once we started sharing video and audio recording, it became easier and we learned from watching, listening and discussing how to enable good supervision, indeed we reflected on our supervisory practices, and became supervision champions!

If you are interested in reading the full joint statement issued in June 2019, it can be found here.

If you are an educational psychologist and are interested in thinking further about supervision, developing your skills and knowledge, and becoming a supervision champion, why not come to the four day BPS accredited course at the University of Birmingham? Let me know if you’re interested through email at a.soni@bham.ac.uk.

Anita is a tutor on the initial training course for educational psychologists at the University of Birmingham.

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2 thoughts on “Developing Supervision Champions

  1. Thank you for the overview, perfect timing for me as I am supervising my first trainee and even knowing this overview has prompted me to review more structured approaches to reflection.

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