Part 1: Basic Principles of Supervision

Activity 1.1: The Definition and Importance of Supervision

This activity comprises two readings which will outline for you the responsibilities and competencies required for effective supervision. You will be asked at the end of the activity to reflect on your responses to the definitions and the range of competencies outlined.

Reading 1: What is Supervision?

Importance of Supervision

The supervisor has a vital role in the training of future clinicians. Unfortunately, this role is given short shrift in some clinical circles. The supervisory process is nevertheless a key element of health professional training programs. Villeneuve (1994) underlines the following aspects:

“The importance of linking theory and practice. These links form during formal training, but become stronger through experience in the field.

“Field placement supplements the training program, enabling students to achieve the practical knowledge, skills and attitudes required for professional practice. This is how they will assimilate these achievements into day to day activities.”


Let us take a few minutes here to define supervision.

Villeneuve (1994, p. 27) defines supervision as “a continuing process of exchange to develop reflective analysis of a given task. It contributes toward developing professional competency in an organizational setting.”

Anthony and Gaiptman (1993) see the concept as follows: the term supervision comes from the Latin super, meaning over or above, and videre, meaning to see or watch. Taken literally, it means that one person “watches over” the work of another. Supervision in the area of education is a process whereby a student and an experienced practitioner have a relationship aimed at improving the student’s competency. It is a multifaceted process involving three functions: administration, education and support.

Main Functions of Supervision

As we have just seen, the supervisor has three main functions, namely, administration, education and support.

Let’s look at what this entails.


This is an important component of supervision, providing a structure that enables the student to learn successfully. The supervisor has many administrative duties to carry out before the student arrives and during the placement. These include describing clinical policies, procedures and objectives; planning; work assignments; and other organizational tasks.


This component involves the supervisor in helping the student achieve knowledge and develop skills, behaviours and values needed for successful practice. It is the supervisor’s job to make it easier for the student to learn, help identify the student’s resources and learning strategies, integrate the student into the group and stimulate his or her skills and capacity to learn.


The support component of supervision is intended to put students at ease so they feel free to discuss their concerns, experiment and even make mistakes. A positive learning atmosphere is created which empowers students to manage their work or learning-related stress. The supervisor’s aim is to help students settle comfortably into their new work environment so they can more readily perform their duties and learn.

Adapted from Anthony & Gaiptman (1993), p. 1-3

Reading 2: Responsibilities and Competencies, by Supervisory Function

Translated from Villeneuve, L. (1994). L’encadrement du stage supervisé. Montreal: Editions Saint-Martin, p. 31-32

Administrative Function


Competencies required

Provide the necessary information about the organization’s operating procedures and day to day activities.

Knowledge of the placement institution’s mission, objectives and intervention focus.

Provide the necessary information about the organization’s operating procedures and day to day activities.

Knowledge of the relevant government policies and the policies and procedures of the placement facility.

Explain the relevant government policies and the policies and procedures of the placement facility.

Capacity to apply the chief managerial functions (e.g. planning and programming) to the student’s work; capacity to set priorities.

Plan, organize and coordinate field placement activities and clinical experiences.

Capacity to select assignment cases in light of the student’s learning achievement.

Assign tasks.

Knowledge of basic information about the quality and quantity of work normally expected of a student; capacity to formulate objectives, procedures and evaluation tools; to skillfully deploy authority, power, influence and leadership; and to give the student continuous feedback.

Check, qualify and quantify the work done.

Capacity to negotiate the student’s role and tasks with the field/clinical site.

Supervise the way in which the organization uses the student.

Knowledge of the supervisor’s and partners’ roles and responsibilities; capacity to provide representation vis-a-vis partners.

Represent the field/clinical site; act as intermediary between the educational institution and the departments of the placement facility.

Capacity to formulate learning objectives and draw up a learning contract and to factor them into learning activities geared to their achievement.

Assist in formulating learning objectives and the learning contract.

Capacity to formulate learning objectives and draw up a learning contract and to factor them into learning activities geared to their achievement.

Introduce the student to the field/clinical placement and supervision procedures and explain the stages involved.

Knowledge of what supervised placement entails; capacity to calibrate learning to the student’s achievement level.

Prepare supervision (e.g. case discussions, teaching targets and required materials).

Capacity to use a supervision model and the associated tools or techniques.

Educating Function


Competencies required

Learn to recognize and respect the way the student is, does things and learns.

Knowledge of cognitive psychology, learning modes and cognitive styles; capacity to respect the way the student is and does things.

Create a sharing atmosphere conducive to the advancement of learning and acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Capacity to listen and create an atmosphere conducive to learning.

Convey the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes; encourage their development and practice.

Capacity to identify knowledge to be acquired and skills to be built; capacity to analyze attitudes, values, and so on.

Promote associations between theory and practice; encourage the cycle of action-reflection-learning-practice; jointly analyze actions taken or planned.

Capacity to factor the importance of the theory-practice association and the action-reflection cycle into supervised placement.

Provide the student with the necessary learning tools.

Capacity to develop or use tools conducive to learning (role playing, audiovisuals, journal, etc.)

Encourage self-evaluation and evaluate learning on a continuing basis.

Capacity to evaluate learning and encourage self-evaluation.

Support Function


Competencies required

Build a relationship of trust with the supervisee.

Capacity to establish satisfactory contact with the supervisee, while balancing authority and trust.

Recognize, support and stimulate the student’s learning.

Capacity to be open and understanding of the learner, as well as empathetic and genuine in interaction with him or her.

Foster openness and understanding when problems arise; ease tension resulting from a new environment and inexperience.

Knowledge of the inner conditions associated with learning; capacity to deal with the affective and cognitive dimensions of learning.

Create a climate conducive to the expression of feelings and emotions; encourage awareness of one’s own reactions and those of the student and beneficiary.

Capacity to establish the calm and trust needed for learning; to build awareness; and to encourage retrospection regarding attitudes and reactions; capacity to challenge oneself and adapt.

Clarify roles, responsibilities and intervention objectives; provide an overarching perspective.

Capacity to carefully consider interventions and highlight those relating to professional practice; capacity to enhance the student’s inner resources and encourage autonomy.

Be tolerant of mistakes and face reality

Capacity to provide constructive feedback and show how mistakes teach lessons

Let’s Discuss

How do these definitions apply to your profession? What needs to be added, if anything, for your profession?

9 comments on “Activity 1.1: The Definition and Importance of Supervision

  1. manels33 on

    This definition applies to my profession. The only thing that needs to be added is that our profession is based on roles. These roles guide the practice and the clinical situations the supervisee has to meet.

  2. ClaudieBF on

    These definitions apply to my profession. I would add something about making sure the student feels confortable interacting with everyone and not just the supervisor. Building a climate where the collegues are aware of the internship and also feel confortable interacting with them.

  3. Suhantee on

    The definition englobes the meaning to encourage open communication channels, clarifying issues, identifying when difficulties are occurring. This includes acknowledging need for space for both the supervisor and the student.

  4. Claude VA on

    Ces concepts s’intègrent très bien à ma profession. En fait, les même principes sont appliqués dans ma pratique clinique et dans mes interventions avec les résidents.

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