Defining the Job of University Supervisor: A Department-Wide Study of University Supervisors’ Practices

Spring, 2011

Source: Issues in Teacher Education, Volume 20, Number 1, (Spring, 2011), p. 51-68.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article explores how individual university supervisors, operating within a teacher education department of a college of education at a large public U.S. institution, valued, defined, and enacted their supervision of student teachers.

The current study addresses the following questions:
What value is placed on the work of the university supervisor at this institution?
What practices are articulated by the department and enacted (or not enacted) by department members?
What practices are constructed by individual supervisors, and are these practices consistent within and across programs?

Fourteen university supervisors from the secondary teacher education department at Smyth University participated in this study.

The participants had various professional ranks: an emeritus professor, two full professors, three associate professors, four assistant professors, three adjunct faculty, and a doctoral student.
Each of the participants in this study had teaching experience in at least one middle and/or high school before taking on the work of a university supervisor.

Data Collection
Four sets of data were collected for this study.
The first set of data was gathered during a regularly scheduled department meeting during the fall semester when the 13 department members in attendance responded to an anonymous two-item questionnaire.

The second set of data, which was gathered from August through April during the year of the study, consists of the minutes from nine department meetings.
The minutes of each meeting were analyzed to identify times when faculty addressed university supervision issues.

The third set of data was comprised of individual university supervisor’s responses to a 30-question instrument designed to illuminate both the structure of their practices and individual expectations for their interactions with their student teachers.

The fourth set of data, gathered in the fall semester, was comprised of artifacts from those individuals and/or programs that produced written materials, the College of Education forms, and the Student Teaching Handbook.

Conclusions and Implications
The findings reveal that the participants agreed on the importance of the work of the university supervisor in integrating university coursework and practical classroom experiences.
The university supervisors provide student teachers with appropriate feedback, and enrich opportunities for learning and skill development in the final semester of teacher preparation.

The findings demonstrate supervision is not enacted the same way by university supervisors in this department.
For example, some supervisors focused on specific events from one teaching observation while others encouraged student teachers to look beyond the current lesson for larger questions and answers.


Implications for Future Study

The results of this study demonstrated inconsistency within this teacher education institution stands in contrast to the notion that the term “university supervision” carries a reliable, dependable definition across the legion of institutions that prepare individuals to become teachers.

Updated: Dec. 26, 2012