Lessons Learned: Student Experiences of Clinical Supervision

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipients: Patrice Keats and Janny Thompson, Faculty of Education

Project team: Josh Cytrynbaum, research assistant

Timeframe: January 2012 to April 2013

Funding: $7078

Description: Clinical counselling supervisors use practices such as instructing, modelling, observing, evaluating, gatekeeping, and feedback to facilitate student development in three broad areas: counselling skills, case conceptualization ability, and ethical/professional conduct. Extant research affirms the learning benefits of supervision generally, but says little about the specific learning outcomes associated with various supervision strategies.

This project will investigate the connections between particular supervisory practices and interventions and specific student learning outcomes in the Supervised Counselling Clinic I and II (EDUC 799 and 800) courses at the SFU Surrey Counselling Centre (SFU SCC). Our purpose is to understand what students learn from various supervision interventions and practices. The answers will help us to develop innovative and effective supervisory interventions in a context where students have their first opportunity to provide counselling to community-based clients.

The process of learning and applying clinical counselling skills, disciplinary knowledge, and professional attitudes is a complex, moment-by-moment experience for both students and instructors. To enable participants to report their experiences in near-real time, we will use a diary-interview method: interviews to explore in more depth the meanings that participants attribute to certain learning moments in supervision (e.g., confrontation about an inability to process clients' anger, or feedback on inappropriate use of confrontation), and audio field diaries to enable participants to record their thoughts in a conversational way as events occur. The use of audio diaries, and specifically event-contingent recording in which participants record their experiences following particular events such as client interactions, will aid us in our objective of understanding student learning and the impact of supervision interventions on students.

Once the audio field diaries are complete, we will transcribe them and process them with a qualitative data-analysis software program to identify patterns related to learning experiences and the impact of various supervision interventions. We will also conduct interviews with students to better understand their experiences and to invite reflections on their learning in the courses.

Our hope is that this project will benefit both program faculty and students by providing information that will enhance teaching and learning in these and other similar courses offered at SFU and in other counsellor education programs.

Questions addressed:

  • From students' perspectives, what kinds of supervision experiences lead to what kinds of learning (e.g., specific microskill acquisition, therapeutic knowledge)?
  • To what kinds of supervision interventions (e.g., entering session, reviewing session recordings) do students attribute integration of their learning?
  • How does student learning evolve over the course of the two clinic semesters (i.e., do students report different learning outcomes (skill acquisition, knowledge acquisition, attitude change) earlier or later in the courses? Do students see certain supervisory practices as more effective than others at different times in their supervised clinic experience?)?

Knowledge sharing: A report will be written and seminars presented to Counselling Psychology program faculty, interested community parties such as community-based supervisors in our practicum courses (including supervisors at the SFU Health and Counselling Centre), faculty at the SFU Clinical Psychology Centre, and other interested practitioners. Additionally, the findings will be disseminated in SFU's Teaching and Learning News bulletin and website and in peer-reviewed journals such as the Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy.