Supervision

Blog prompt: Describe what good supervision looks like to you. What are the values, principles, and priorities that are partof good supervision? Write an example of when you have demonstrated these characteristics and values. Describe a time when someone else has demonstrated these characteristics and values.

I like thinking about good supervision and what it looks like. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many supervisors over my career, some really good and some … well, let’s just say they weren’t the best examples one might follow. The supervisors I consider good are those, naturally, who share my values, principles and priorities. I previously understood supervision from an employment paradigm, but now as a faculty member, I supervise students differently and mostly in relation to their research. I’m going to approach this blog prompt from this new paradigm so I can really reflect on the things that matter to me in this role.

My values, principles, and priorities of supervising student research are (in no particular order):

  • I want to be direct with feedback in a way that is kind, generous, and nurturing.
  • I want to provide enough direction so students are clear on what needs to be done while leaving enough space for the student to make new discoveries.
  • I want to nudge students rather than push them … but when a push is needed, I want to provide that as well.
  • I want to help students develop their confidence as writers and scholars.
  • I want to reinforce the positive, courageous steps they take along their journeys.

I think that, in general, I demonstrate these values and principles most of the time … Because these are somewhat aspirational, I admit that I can also fall short. When that happens, I can feel like I’ve let a student down. Recently, though, I would say my actions are aligned with these values more often than they are not. I can tell when my actions and values are aligned because the interactions with students just feel right. If things feel a little off, that’s generally a signal to me that I’m probably not acting according to my values. Trusting these feelings gives me a chance to reflect on an interaction and see how I can improve.

Recently, editors have demonstrated these values when responding to my work. Jim Palmer, editor of the Community College Review, is an excellent model of the type of scholarly supervision to which I aspire. His gentle approach helped my writing become better than I had expected. He was direct, but in a supportive way. He offered comments, asked clarifying questions, and offered suggestions that allowed me to consider what I had written and determine what changes, if any, I might need to make on the manuscript. Under his guidance, the manuscript developed and I flourished. When I work with students on projects or provide feedback on their work, I think of Jim and try to offer feedback in the same spirit of generosity that he did.

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