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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The clinical supervision conference : an exploratory study Grimmett, Peter Philip


The literature characterizes current supervision practices as involving little reflection. Clinical supervision was proposed to provide opportunities for conceptual-analytical thought. Despite its apparent popularity, empirical knowledge of the process is inadequate. Writers nevertheless expound the approach's adaptability to supervisee needs. Yet we know little about how flexible clinical supervisors are in their attempts to influence supervisees towards instructional improvement. The purpose of the study was to explore the clinical supervision relationship in the naturalistic setting of the conference. Predicated on a view of "supervision as teaching" (Goldhammer et al., 1980), the investigation focussed on conference communication, on the structural variations in participants' dialogue and interactive thoughts and on the possible interrelationships between overt and covert participant behaviour. Four volunteer supervisors completed two clinical cycles with their respective supervisees. The videotaped conferences were replayed to dyad participants at separate times to stimulate recall of their interactive thoughts. Preactive data were also gathered to aid the examination of overt and covert conference behaviour. Preliminary data analysis found differences in performance to be more readily explainable by the "structural variations" in participants dialogue and thoughts. These variations occurred as participants differentiated and integrated events experienced in the conference and served as indicators of conceptual functioning. The current link in research on teaching between conceptual level and teacher flexibility suggested a potential connection between clinical supervision participants' conference behaviour and their conceptual development. The study's conceptual framework integrated Harvey et al.'s (1961) levels of conceptual development with Wallen's (1972) levels of constructive openness, influence processes, and supervisee roles, adding one further influence process and one further supervisee role to cause a re-integration of the relationships between supervisor influence and supervisee behaviour posited by Wallen. Transcripts of conference dialogue and participants' thoughts were then analysed on two levels. At a micro-level, transcripts were coded using a structural variations analysis system developed by the researcher. A case study approach was used to demonstrate how different levels of conceptual functioning affected the supervisory relationship. Two supervisors functioned more abstractly, their verbal behaviour characterized by high levels of constructive openness. The other two functioned more concretely, espousing lower levels of constructive openness . Supervisee growth occurred only in dyads involving supervisors fostering high constructive openness and functioning conceptually in a more abstract fashion. These supervisors, whilst "flexing" to the "pull" of supervisee initiative, also appeared to influence supervisees positively. A lowering of supervisee conceptual functioning occurred in dyads involving more concrete functioning supervisors who appeared to force supervisees to "flex" in the direction of supervisory "pull". Associations between preactive and interactive data were found, suggesting a potential means of diagnostic assessment for would-be supervisors. At a macro-level, general patterns of thought and behaviour associating with more abstract and more concrete functioning supervisors were derived. More abstract functioning supervisors used questioning strategies and exploration procedures that facilitated supervisee lesson appraisal. Their supervisees reported deriving insights and expressed appreciation of the intervention's effectiveness. More concrete functioning supervisors emphasized the giving of feedback over the encouragement of collaborative exploration of instruction. Their supervisees reported experiencing confusion and role discomfort, and were indifferent to the usefulness of clinical supervision. The study's findings would imply that clinical supervision requires supervisors capable of functioning at high conceptual levels. Research indicates, however, that most practitioners function at low levels. This study then suggests potential areas of development that could be incorporated into the pre-service and in-service education of clinical supervisors.

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