Creating the container for reflective practice in virtual small group supervision

DProf thesis

Downing, K. 2021. Creating the container for reflective practice in virtual small group supervision. DProf thesis Middlesex University Health, Social Care and Education
TypeDProf thesis
TitleCreating the container for reflective practice in virtual small group supervision
AuthorsDowning, K.

I am a coaching supervisor based in North America. My primary practice is supervising virtual small groups of executive coaches. Coaching supervision is a developing practice; there is little research in the field of individual coach supervision, and almost none in the context of small group supervision. My overall purposes were to influence the adoption of coaching supervision within North American, where supervision is only beginning to be utilized; to make contributions to the practice of small group coaching supervision by elucidating what actually happened in the groups; and to contribute to addressing the gap in research-based literature. Over the 18 months of research with the North American based supervision groups, the aims of this project were addressed through two inquiries: What are the qualities and conditions that create enough safety in the supervision relationships within a group to enable self-disclosure, reflection and learning? How are these qualities and conditions designed and brought forth?
This thesis opens the doors and windows to the virtual rooms in which small supervision groups convened, adding to the collective knowledge about the artful craft and challenges of supervising; the development of the supervisory relationships; the groups’ processes and learning over a year; and the complexities that were present in virtual small group work. Five supervision groups, consisting of 21 coaches and 4 supervisors, participated over 18 months. I was the practitioner-researcher and supervisor for two groups, and for the first time in coaching supervision research1, a full year of recordings of the actual supervision sessions were collected as field texts. The study was further enriched by the collection of the coaches’ monthly journal entries and three action learning meetings that addressed the overall process of the supervision engagement and three groups, supervised by colleagues, which participated in monthly journaling and focus groups about their supervision processes.
The research makes two contributions to the knowledge of practice. The first is the effectiveness of virtual small group supervision—when a supervisor and coaches come together virtually in a small group, they learn and develop in their own unique ways, personally and professionally, through integration of inquiry, reflection and action. The second is a number of practitioner accounts which enables practitioners to contrast and compare with how they engage in their work. These stories are instrumental in inviting coaches with little or no supervision experience to consider how they might utilize supervision in small groups to deepen their reflective practices. This is the invitation to North American coaches. More experienced practitioners are able to engage in multi-dimensional conversations to explore and enrich the practice of small group supervision.
The contributions to theory are to the understanding of the dimensions of the supervisory relationship within the small group context, as the primacy of the supervisory relationships in the group setting were identified. The supervisory relationships included the individual relationships among the group members and the supervisor: the supervisor with each individual coach, the supervisor with the group as a whole, and the coaches with each other. This research contributes to the knowledge of the qualities required for the creation and stewardship of a safe and trusted container with a small group engaged in reflective practice. Key findings include the articulation of the process for the supervision engagement, a model of the elements the supervisor is holding, a model of reflective practice and learning opportunities, and a model of the overall supervision session.

Sustainable Development Goals4 Quality education
Middlesex University ThemeCreativity, Culture & Enterprise
Research GroupWork and Learning Research Centre
Department nameHealth, Social Care and Education
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print31 Jan 2023
Publication process dates
Deposited31 Jan 2023
Accepted12 Apr 2021
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
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