Canvassing international views on the research agenda for social work supervision

Liz Beddoe

Supervision is seen as a vital activity for meeting many professional demands in contemporary social work: the continuing development of professional skills, the safeguarding of competent and ethical practice and the oversight of casework. A strong research base is necessary to ensure that there is research support for supervision as a core practice in social work. Recent research reports that the empirical basis for supervision in social work is relatively weak. This poses a significant challenge to social work educators and researchers. A modified Delphi study was devised to address the question: is there an international consensus on what should be on the agenda for research and development of supervision in social work? From the diverse perspectives of the research group – Finland, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the UK we aimed to explore understandings, concerns and gaps in knowledge about supervision and to identify key areas for research and appropriate research methodologies. We’ll be shortly reporting on a two-phase Delphi study with two questionnaires sent to a panel of well-informed researchers, educators and selected senior practitioners.
This week we presented at the JSWEC Conference in England presentation Beddoe Ruch et al International supervision JSWEC outlines the challenges of the study design and recruitment of research participants across borders and will report on several core themes in the findings.

The main areas recommended for scholarly activity reflect the ongoing tensions about the role of supervision and the balance of its functions as the profession responds to the impacts of neo-liberalism on practice. Participants recognise that in any refocusing of the practice and discipline of supervision, proponents will still need to incorporate a balance of reflective and educative functions with administrative needs. As such the evolution of reflective practice will continue to be an ongoing challenge. Survey participants were clear that supervision is a costly exercise and in austere times needs to be able to demonstrate effectiveness and outcome


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