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eJOURNAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK (CYC-Net) – ISSN 1605-7406

ISSUE 106 NOVEMBER 2007 •  CONTENTS •  HOME PAGE

supervision

Support-Education-Training (S.E.T.). A framework for supervision in child and youth care

Thom Garfat

Support, education, and training (S.E.T.) is a framework for interaction and development in the supervisor-supervisee relationship and for enhancing the quality of services offered to youths. S.E.T. emphasizes goal-setting and identification of contents of the supervisory process: self, clients, colleagues, teams, programs, and tasks. Individual values and beliefs among the professional staff shape S.E.T. and development of the organization.

Youth Horizons is a child care agency that has its mind “set” on supervision. One of the largest agencies in Canada, Youth Horizons, located in Montreal, Quebec, has developed a framework for supervision which encompasses, and is applicable to, all areas of child and youth care.

This framework, called S.E.T., an acronym for Support, Education, and Training, is contextualized by the agency’s expectation regarding supervision which states that:

“Youth Horizons expects that the supervisory interaction is an interaction involving the support, education, and training of the individuals involved. We believe that supervision is a learning process which is part of the overall professional staff development of the organization. It is affected by the values and beliefs of the organization and is therefore an interactional process conducted with caring and respect for the individuals involved, and is differentiated according to the needs of those individuals. Youth Horizons expects supervision to be a learning process within the overall framework of enhancing the quality of services delivered to children and their families. All individuals within Youth Horizons have the right to expect regular supervision as a support to maintaining and improving the quality of their work.”

Supervision is a shared responsibility
Supervision is an opportunity and a right; not an obligation or demand. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to provide the opportunity for quality supervision, and it is the responsibility of the supervisee to take advantage of that opportunity — both responsibilities are of equal importance.

The support, education, and training (S.E.T.) of child and youth care workers is essential in order to assure, maintain, and enhance the quality of services offered to young people and their families. This outcome is achieved directly through the development of workers’ knowledge and skills and indirectly through the enhancement of their feelings of self-esteem and self-respect when they receive supervision that supports increased performance effectiveness. There is a direct relationship between the quality of supervision and the quality of services delivered. When we fail to provide effective supervision we impede the growth and development of our workers and, with them, our services.

S.E.T. is not a manual on how to do supervision. It is rather a framework for helping a supervisor know what to do during the supervisory interaction. It is hoped that through the understanding of this context, supervisors and supervisees will come to appreciate supervision as a systemic interaction undertaken to facilitate the enhancement of the quality of services.

Elements of context are basis for supervision
All things occur in context. This principle is demonstrated each time we have discussions about the behavior of a young person in one of our programs. We are constantly asking questions such as “What was going on at the time that he did it?”, “What happened just before she behaved that way?” or “Who else was around at the time?” When we ask these questions, we are acknowledging the importance of context as it relates to human activities and interactions. In supervision, the elements of context that must be considered include the physical, the emotional, the psychological, and the organizational. All interactions occur in some physical context. The room in which it occurs, the colors of the room, the location of the room — all of these things impact upon the interaction. The emotional context includes feelings that we bring to a situation (e.g., the feelings we have when we start our day; the feelings we have toward the person with whom we are about to interact) and the emotional reaction we have to the interaction itself (e.g., if I feel disrespected I may feel angry, if I feel supported I may feel positive). The psychological orientation we bring to any interaction includes the meaning or values we attach to the interaction and our understanding of its purpose. For example, we may go to supervision with a meaning attached to it that comes from our past experiences and therefore leads us to approach it with resistance or openness. Organizationally, the context includes such things as how supervision is organized, when it is scheduled, how the agenda is created and the priority given to it among the other tasks to which we must attend.

Change is constant
Supervision is only one of the many processes that occurs in an organization, as Figure A indicates. As such, supervision affects, and is affected by, all the other parts of the system. Given the basic principle that a change in any one part of the system will lead to a change in other parts of the system, it is obvious that, in an ideal situation, a change in any part of the organization will impact the supervisory interaction.

Changes in the supervisory relationship, therefore, will impact and bring about changes in other aspects of the organization.

Figure B outlines some of the components involved in the supervisory system. If we adopt the same principle that a change in any one part of a system leads to changes in other parts of the system, it is clear that any change in the supervisory system will lead to a change in the other parts of that system. For example, if we increase the amount of knowledge available in the supervisory interaction we will be able to trace that knowledge through to see how such an increase will affect the outcome of the supervisory process.

All systems are affected by, and possess, controls. In supervision, these controls include the values and beliefs of the organization that are expressed through formal mechanisms as agency policies and through informal mechanisms as the commitment that is made to maintaining supervisory quality, the amount of time available, accreditation expectations, and other such variables.

Inputs into the supervisory process include the facilities, tools, characteristics of the supervisor and supervisee, and the content of the supervisory relationships.

The processes of supervision include S.E.T and all the sub-processes necessary to effectively conduct the three main processes — support, education, and training. Support may include emotional or psychological support for the individual to fulfill the expectations of his or her role. It may equally include support for the individual to gain knowledge (education) or to learn to do things differently (training). Education may involve the provision of information, teaching cognitive skills, or trying new experiences. Training may include role playing, learning from doing, or trying new experiences.

There are numerous individual processes which occur during supervision to provide support, education, and training. They include the processes of listening, teaching, facilitating, sharing, talking, thinking, problem solving, confrontation, role playing, and learning. Given that supervision is a time of supporting an individual to know or to know how to do (Maier, 1985) any activity involved in helping an individual reach these goals is a valid supervisory process.

The outcomes of supervision can he both direct and indirect. They include increased knowledge or skills of the supervisee as well as an increased sense of support or self-esteem. The outcome of supervision may include new ideas, new ways of looking at a situation, indicators of team functioning, reports from youngsters on worker effectiveness, formal evaluations, and treatment outcomes.

The foregoing has outlined some of the variables involved in the interactive supervisory system. For a further elaboration of these components in the treatment organization see Garfat (1990). To further understand the specific context of supervision, however, it is necessary to elaborate further on the input component of the supervisory process.

Individual characteristics play major role
The main inputs into the supervisory process include the facilities, tools, characteristics of the supervisor and the supervisee, and the content of the interaction. This section will focus on the characteristics of the supervisor and supervisee that, in interaction, most influence the supervisory process. This interaction is represented in Figure C. The interacting characteristics of both parties that most concern us include:

Attitudes: Everyone brings an attitude, or general set, toward supervision. The attitude may be that supervision is an opportunity or an obligation; something mandatory or imposed. A healthy attitude is one which reflects the thinking that supervision is an opportunity to be supported in gaining new knowledge or new skills in working more effectively with troubled children and their families.

Expectations: We all have certain expectations about the supervisory relationship. We may expect it to be painful, judgmental, exciting, or fun. The expectations which we bring directly affect the interaction and, therefore, the outcome of supervision.

Beliefs: We all hold certain beliefs about supervision. We may believe that it is something to which we are entitled, that it is a good idea, or that it will be a waste of our time. If we believe supervision to be a valuable experience, we will work toward making it so.

Feelings: The feelings that we bring and the feelings that are generated interact with the characteristics of the other person to affect the processes and the outcome of supervision.

Knowledge: Knowledge to supervise may be about a subject, about how to do something, or about where to find the information that is required. Both parties bring equally valuable knowledge to the relationship and both should be respected for that knowledge. It may include knowledge about children, about programs, about adults, about learning, or about education. The knowledge of one individual in interaction with the knowledge of another individual often leads to more creative outcomes.

Skills: Both supervisor and supervisee bring certain skills to the supervisory relationship. All skills necessary to interact effectively are important and include listening, problem solving, teaching, and sharing. Any skill necessary to an effective human interaction is a necessary supervisory skill as well.

Behaviors: No interaction occurs without behaviors. The behaviors of the supervisee in response to the supervisor’s interventions and the supervisor’s behaviors in response to the supervisee’s input affect each other. These behaviors provide us with extra information about the other person’s reaction to or understanding of what is occurring. It is important, therefore, that we pay attention to the behaviors of the other parties involved in the supervisory relationship and ask for their help in interpreting their behavior.

When we prepare for supervision, or think about our supervisory relationships, we should review these characteristics as they impact the outcome of supervision. If you are a supervisor, you may want to ask yourself what kind of an attitude you bring to supervision, what values you hold about it, what expectations you have and what skills or knowledge you might need. If you are a supervisee, you may wish to ask yourself the same questions. Preparation increases the likelihood that the outcome of supervision will be satisfactory. Additionally, we benefit when we look at how our characteristics interact with those of the other person involved.

Which style are you?
Everyone has his or her own unique way of participating in any interaction. Because of our attitudes, expectations, and other individual attributes, we bring to supervision a preferred style. The following do not identify all the possible styles that may occur. They are offered to stimulate your thinking and to identify some of the commonly observed styles that occur in supervision.

Evaluative/Judgmental: The person who brings this style to the supervisory relationship is constantly involved in critical judgment of the performance of the other. Typically, one member of the interaction assumes the role of judge and the other assumes the role of the person rationalizing or explaining what occurred. Like all styles, this one is represented both in our lan-guage and the behavior that frames our language.

Unidirected: A unidirected style of participation is characterized by one party raising all of the issues for supervision and the other party only responding to the issues raised. It differs from the previous in that it may not be evaluative or judgmental. It is characterized by agendas set by only one person, a reluctance to deal with items raised by the other and frequently the feeling, by at least one of the parties, that they were not able to talk about things that were important to them.

Avoidance: It is possible to spend an hour in supervision avoiding any of the processes of support education or training. It is equally possible to spend time in supervision avoiding topics that are uncomfortable for one member or the other. We all have areas that we would prefer to avoid, but this style of participation is characterized by the constant dancing away from topics of individual or mutual discomfort into areas that are comfortable for either or both of the parties involved.

Proportional Participatory: In this style of supervision, only one aspect of the individuals involved is focused upon. It may be that the participants focus only on the cognitive, affective, or behavioral aspects of a worker’s understanding or doing. It is characterized by interactions that only discuss how one feels about things, how they have situations analyzed or what they have been doing. All of these areas are important and should be explored in the supervisory process.

Mutual Participatory: A mutual participatory style is one in which both parties are actively involved in all levels of the support, education, and training process that characterize effective supervision. The agenda is mutually generated and both participants actively engage in the process of exploration in all areas. Both parties to the supervisory interaction have a preferred style. It is important that we review our style and question how it affects the supervisory outcome. Given that supervision is an interaction between parties designed to increase effectiveness, however, a mutual participatory style is the one which has the greatest likelihood of a satisfactory outcome for both parties.

Supervision has many components
It would be impossible to identify the numerous contents of supervision. It is possible, however, to identify, general areas of content that may be useful: self, clients, colleagues, teams, programs, tasks, and others during the supervisory process. We must constantly ask ourselves what the interaction is about so that we can determine what we must do in order to help achieve the desired outcome.

Sometimes supervision is about the individual self of either the supervisee or supervisor. It may be, for example, about doubts or fears, feelings of self worth, career aspirations, or directions. It may be about a specific client, or group of clients. It may involve knowledge or understanding of individuals, individual disturbance, ways of helping the individual, or groups and group psychodynamics.

Colleagues sometimes form the specific content of the supervisory interaction. Our relationships with our colleagues, our perceptions of them, our desires to support them, and the problems we have with them would all be valid topics for supervision provided that the goal is to help the supervisee approach his or her colleagues and that it is not just a time for gossip.

Team functioning is also a valid topic for supervision. The role that we play in the team, the impact of the team upon us, the team’s functioning and how we may help to enhance it are topics of importance.

The program, how it is designed, how it runs, and how it should be are frequent topics of supervision.

The many tasks in which we engage may lead us to use the supervisory relationship to discover new understandings or new ways of doing those tasks. The specific tasks relevant to supervision will depend on the worker’s functions.

The other person involved in the supervisory relationships is sometimes a valid topic. How we perceive the other, his or her affect upon us, our expectations of them or what we perceive to be their expectations and perceptions of us may sometimes need to be explored.

During supervision, we must constantly ask ourselves, “what is the specific content of this session?” If we fail to listen effectively, we miss the topic and end up discussing the wrong thing.

S.E.T. process relates to content
Figure D demonstrates the relationship between areas of content and the processes (support, education and training) of supervision. As supervisors, each time an item is raised we must ask ourselves, “what is needed in order to help this individual function more effectively in this situation?”

For example, individuals may need support when they raise the question of how to deal with a specific client, they may need education to understand a client better or they may need training in order to do something more effectively. When we ask the question, “what is this interaction about and what does the individual need in order to function more effectively?” we identify what we should be doing in the supervisory interaction of the moment: facilitating support, education or training.

The final component to the supervisory interaction of S.E.T around a specific content involves whether the outcome needs to be immediate or whether the desired outcome is long term. When present or immediate outcome is needed we are usually engaged in a more directive form of supervision whereas when the outcome is more future focused, our approach to the supervisory interaction may be more developmental and facilitative.

Supervision should be an interaction involving the support, education and training of the individuals involved It is a learning process that is part of the overall professional staff development of the organization and the individual. It is affected by the values and beliefs of the organization and it should be undertaken with caring and respect for the individuals involved and differentiated according to the needs of those individuals. It should be a learning process within the overall framework of enhancing the quality of services delivered to children and their families.

Supervision is an important interaction occurring in a specific context. When this context is well understood, the supervisory process becomes a meaningful activity for both parties involved. In order to enhance its effectiveness, it is important that both parties understand this context and prepare themselves for the supervision within this framework. For with preparation comes success.

References

Benien, FK. (1968). A general systems approach to social taxonomy. People, Groups and Organizations.  B. Indik and F.K. Berrien, (Eds) 110-127.

Garfat, T. (1990). The involvement of family members as consumers in treatment programs for troubled youths. In M. Krueger & N. Powell (Eds.), Choices in Caring. Child Welfare League of America, Washington, D.C., 125-143.

Maier, H. (1985). Teaching and training as a facet of supervision of care staff: An overview. Journal of Child Care, 2 (No. 4), 49-52.

This feature: Garfat, T. (1992). Support-Education-Training (S.E.T.): A framework for supervision in child and youth care. The Child and Youth Child Care Administrator, 4, 1, pp.2-13