Part 1: Student-Supervisor Relationship Building

Activity 1.1: Qualities of a Supervisor


In this activity you will first of all watch a short video of a problematic supervisor/student situation and you will be asked to respond to it. Then you will move on to a number of notes and readings about the qualities of a good supervisor. Much of this recaps some material covered in Module 1 (Basics of Supervision) and serves to set the context for this module which is mostly about the developing relationship between the supervisor and the student.

Video Clip: A Difficult Situation

Video Clip: Solution

Readings for Reflection

What Makes a Good Supervisor
We have all been supervised at one time or another, as a fieldwork student or part of the workforce. Take a few minutes to remember someone who once supervised you and proved to be “gifted” at it. Write down the qualities which made that person a good supervisor or superior. Michaud (1995) stresses “the importance of pondering the personal qualities needed to work effectively as a supervisor, as well as the characteristics of a supervised workplace.” Here is a list of qualities an “ideal” supervisor would have.
  • Accessibility
  • Genuineness and sincerity
  • Ability to fill an authority role
  • Ability to allow freedom of choice
  • Occupational skills
  • Self-assurance
  • Knowledge of the field/clinical site
  • Credibility
  • General culture
  • Vitality, motivation, enthusiasm
  • Empathy
  • Commitment to learning, teaching skills
  • Stress management
  • Capacity to inspire others and earn their trust
  • Problem solving ability
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills (including listening)
  • Group work skills
  • Patience
  • Professionalism, professional maturity and role modelling
  • Critical reasoning
  • Respect
  • Responsibility and organizational ability
  • Sense of humour
  • Proper use of constructive feedback, confrontation and negotiation
This list is derived from Dupont (1985), May (1994), Michaud (1995) and Villeneuve (1994). What an impressive list! “I can’t possibly be and do ALL that!” a supervisor would typically exclaim. It’s a tall order! Michaud (1995) writes, “No studies have shown that a person missing some of these qualities is incapable of supervising. Still, these are core human qualities that definitely help supervisors attain their professional goals” (p. 12). The author does have a reservation, however. “Although these are desirable qualities for everyone, this type of list should be seen as an ideal to strive for, not a scientific truth or sine qua non. A good supervisor may lack a sense of humour, for instance. Furthermore, I know of no empirical studies that support such contentions” (p. 14). Everyone has strengths and deficits, needless to say. What is more, you probably have some of these qualities already. It’s now a matter of deciding what traits you want to concentrate on developing to become a better supervisor. This is the aim of Activity 1.2, which comes next.

(c) 2004 CNFS – University of Ottawa component and Centre for e-Learning

Valued Field Instructors
Valued field instructor behaviors
(Power, Bogo, 2002)
(Eisenberg et al., 1996)


Emotional support
  • supervisor warm, supportive & understanding
  • sensitivity to students’ needs
  • open, trusting & respectful
  • clarity of rules, expectations, range of learning, assignments & teaching
  • encourage independence & active participation in learning
Observation and feedback
  • ongoing feedback & evaluation
Linking theory and practice
  • link to classroom & to theory in field
Students valued

Formal supervision at least once a week, preferably for 1 – 2 hours
Mutually established supervisory agenda
Progress/performance discussed
Overall positive – relationship with supervisor – personal as well as professional
Student Perspective (pdf)
The Influence of Personality Type (pdf)

Let’s Discuss: Compare

Compare your list to the list given in the notes and readings and add any qualities you think are missing.

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