In the world of school, several activities take place at the
same time. Some of these activities are focused on learning specific subjects
while others are based on student and staff involvement in extra curricular
activities. The school community is centered on teachers and students who,
throughout the school day, are thrown together in the practical world of
teaching and learning.
A teacher’s main duty is to preside over classroom activities
and ensure that learning takes place in accordance with the aims and objectives
of the lesson. While it is believed that teachers in general do an excellent
job, continued supervision is necessary to not only maintain standards, but also
to ensure that students continue to be exposed to improved teacher instruction.
The success of a school depends on supervision, which according
to Glickman et al (1998), "is the function in schools that draws together
the discrete elements of instructional effectiveness into whole-school
action" (p. 6). This whole-school action must, therefore, involve the
principal who is expected to take the lead in providing the kind of collegial
atmosphere which makes for good governance and ultimately, good teacher
The principal, as facilitator, must be seen as the enlightened
manager who believes in teachers
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and is willing to employ capable personnel who
are serious about supervision and who will provide expert guidance in this area.
The vision of any school is to provide effective instruction for students. To
ensure that this takes place on a consistent basis, supervisors must work with
teachers, in a non-threatening way, to move instruction from what it is
(ineffective), to what it should be (effective).
Supervisors, working with teachers in a collaborative way, and
providing expert direct assistance to teachers (with the view to improving
instruction), use what is known as clinical supervision. Morris Cogan, cited in
Acheson and Gall (1977) defines this model for conducting the observation of a
teacher as "the rationale and practice designed to improve the teacher’s
classroom performance" (p. 9). As the father of clinical supervision, Cogan
believed that for this to be effective, data had to be collected from the
teacher in the classroom, and that both the supervisor and teacher involved
would then collaborate to plan programs, procedures and strategies aimed at
improving the teacher’s classroom behavior, specifically instruction
Acheson and Gall (1977) also quote and agree with Sergiovanni
and Starratt who refer to clinical supervision as the "face-to-face contact
with teachers with the intent of improving instruction and increasing
professional growth" (p. 304).
There are five phases in clinical supervision. The first is the
planning conference or pre-conference, involving the supervisor and teacher.
This session focuses on:
the reason and purpose for the observation,
the focus of the observation,
the method and form of observation to be used,
the time of observation,
the time for post-conference.
The second phase of the clinical supervision cycle is the actual
observation of the teacher in the classroom. During this time, data is collected
based on what the supervisor decided he/she would observe. Once the data is
collected, analyses and interpretations are made. This is the third phase, which
also involves deciding what approaches are to be used in Phase 4; this is,
The fourth phase focuses on reviewing the results of the
observation session and formulating plans which will aid in improving future
teacher instruction. In addition, this exercise is intended to train the teacher
in self-supervision techniques.
In the final stage of the cycle, post-conferencing critique
takes place. Both the supervisor and teacher analyze the first four phases of
clinical supervision, and make adjustments where necessary, before the cycle
begins again. This conference, though not necessarily a formal one, examines
questions such as, what was valuable in what we did? What changes in strategies
can be made?
In addition, the supervisor’s own skills and techniques come
under the microscope, as the observation exercise is a learning experience for
not only the teacher but the supervisor as well. The supervisor must constantly
revise or change strategies when dealing with professional teachers.
Interpersonal skills have to be renewed and reviewed if the observation exercise
is to be productive.
- After the entire cycle of clinical supervision has been completed, the
teacher, in collaboration with the supervisor, is expected to put a plan
of action into place to continue the process of improvement of instruction
and personal development
The Benefits of Clinical Supervision
- The ultimate goal of the supervisor is to improve teachers’ classroom
instruction. Clinical supervision, therefore, allows for objective
feedback, which if given in a timely manner, will lead to improved
results. Clinical supervision helps to diagnose instructional problems and
provides valuable information which can lead to solving such problems. As
a result, teachers are able to clearly see differences in what they are
doing in reality, and what they think they are doing.
Where necessary, improvements in instruction are highlighted and
teachers, through clinical supervision, are able to develop new skills and
strategies which will be replicated as needed. As teacher instruction improves,
students will become more motivated, classroom management will be improved and a
better atmosphere for promoting learning will exist.
Not only does clinical supervision aid the teacher in improving
classroom instruction, it also aids the teacher in improving his/her chances for
promotion and/or "taking on" other responsibilities as he/she grows
professionally. One such responsibility could be to provide direct assistance to
a colleague. If clinical supervision is perceived in a positive light, then the
teacher will become self-motivated and will seek further professional
development even when his is not a requirement of the job per se.
Role of the Supervisor
- The primary goal of the supervisor in clinical supervision is to improve
instruction, by observing, analyzing and providing feedback to the
teacher. An effective supervisor who links both interpersonal as well as
technical skills, will be successful in improving instruction. The onus is
on the supervisor to enhance the collaborative effort by building the
teacher’s self-acceptance, morale trust, and rapport between the
parties. A clinical supervisor is also a facilitator–one who works with
the teacher to meet the goal of the observation exercise, which is to
improve teacher instruction. Effective supervision results when a
supervisor, for example, clearly sets out the criteria to be used in the
evaluative process and ensures that even if the final assessment is a
negative one, the teacher benefits from the exercise and leaves with
his/her self-esteem intact.
Limitations of Clinical Supervision
- Whereas the supervisor recognizes that teachers have emotional as well
as other personal needs, and, bearing in mind that the teacher may be
experiencing personal problems that may affect the success of a particular
instructional session, the supervisor should not delve too deeply into the
role of counselor.
As with counseling, the supervisor should not extend his/her
portfolio to include curriculum policy making and implementation, to such a
degree that the actual act of clinical supervision becomes null and void. The
focus must be on the teaching act, rather than matters affecting the teacher
with are beyond the confines of the classroom itself.
- Providing direct assistance (using the clinical supervision model) can
take various forms. For example, peer coaching is a useful means of
improving instruction. Principals or supervisors who are strapped for
time, may find that it is just as effective to use experienced colleagues,
familiar with the clinical supervision process, to observe fellow
Other forms of direct assistance are demonstration teaching,
co-teaching, assisting with resources and materials, assisting with student
assessment and problem solving. Clinical supervision, with its focus on direct
assistance to teachers, is based on providing the best possible teacher
instruction, given human and other resources constraints. The case study that
follows illustrates how a supervisor uses clinical supervision to improve a
teacher’s classroom management.
1 - Case Study
A new teacher, Miss Jane Brown, is having serious problems with
her classroom management at Pimento Valley Secondary. She has just started the
third month of her first teaching post. Her assignment is to teach Integrated
Science to Grade 8 and 9 students. Her classes range from 45 to 50 students. The
school is situated in a rural industrial town. Students are usually well
behaved, but given the opportunity will get out of hand. The teacher, a trained
biologist, has not had formal teacher training.
As the days and weeks go by, classroom management worsens, and
the teacher gradually loses control of her classes.
Because the teacher has difficulty controlling her classes, she
begins to arrive late. The students pay little attention to her. Some students
complain to parents that they are not getting any class work assignments, while
other teachers complain that their classes are constantly being disturbed.
Constraints of the Problem
In addition to large class sizes, there is no established system
of supervision which would aid Miss Brown in developing her teaching skills.
Also, Miss Brown, realizing her incompetence, has isolated herself from
colleagues to whom she could turn for support.
Having been asked to aid Miss Brown in developing and improving
her teaching skills, design a clinical supervision program which will achieve