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Title: The nature, culture and future of supervision
Authors: Tsui, MS 
Issue Date: Jun-2005
Publisher: Faculty of Education, University of Auckland for the Supervision Conference Committee
Source: L. Beddoe, J. Worrall & F. Howard (Eds). Supervision Conference, 2004 : weaving together the strands of supervision : Conference proceedings of the Supervision Conference (pp. 25-32). Auckland, N.Z : University of Auckland, Faculty of Education for the Supervision Conference Committee How to cite?
Abstract: Supervision is recognized as one of the major determinants of the quality of service to clients, the level of professional development of social workers, and the level of job satisfaction of social workers. However, reviews of the history, theoretical models, and empirical studies of supervision reveal that academic debates still focus on basic issues in supervisory practice. In addition, the supervision model limit the forum of supervisory practice to its organizational context and pay little attention to the effects of cultural context on supervisory practice.
A cultural model, which examines the format, purpose, relationship, authority, and ideal of social work supervision in the cultural context, is introduced. The common core and cultural differences of supervision will be discussed. The future path of supervision as a form of organizational learning will also be explored. It is envisaged that supervision, mentorship, consultation, and coaching will be used in an integrated manner in the near future.
It is a great honour for me to be here to share my ideas and ideals with such a distinguished audience from different parts of the world. I was born in Hong Kong, brought up in the Chinese culture, and educated in North America. I am a cultural product of an old civilization and an intellectual product of a relatively conservative academic tradition. At this conference, I shall be exposed to many innovative and stimulating ideas that I was prepared to pursue in the next decade. But now I find that my friends at this conference have already achieved what I am dreaming about.
I have 23 years of experience in the supervision of social workers, nurses, teachers, counsellors, administrators, and students. I have published 23 pieces of work, including books, book chapters, journal articles, and research papers. Of course, I did not produce one piece in a year. The publications are mainly the result of my research efforts in the last decade. Before I joined the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 1989, I was the Service Supervisor of Development and Health Services of the second-largest non-governmental social welfare organization - the Hong Kong Christian Service, where I set up the first community-based family service centre and the first counselling centre for psychotropic substance abusers in Hong Kong. I also supervised the medical personnel of a polyclinic and a team of staff in a professional development unit.
I am going to share my views of on the nature, culture and future of supervision with you. This sharing is, in fact, a revisit and a reflection of my personal and professional adventure of supervisory parctice. Hence, this speech may be renamed a "Adventure of Ming-sum: A Tale of Supervision."
If helping professionals were asked to identify the unique characteristic of their profession, supervision would be a likely choice. In fact, supervision makes professional practice not only effective and efficient but also unique and human. Therefore, it is important for us to revisit the nature and essence of professional practice before we engage ourselves in the supervisory process. When I was a practising supervisor, I was always aware that I needed to be both culturally sensitive and contextually specific. I had to remember that I am also a social worker. As a supervisor, I try to see supervisees not only as staff members but as human beings with motives and dignity. Supervision is not merely a mechanism for ensuring service accountability, it is also an opportunity to pursue personal and professional growth. During my long journey of exploration, I reconfirmed my belief that 'to be natural and human" is the ultimate and universal principle of supervisory practice. When I was a young supervisor, I believed that the supervisor provided "super-vision" for frontline workers. However, when I become older, I eventually understand that "shared vision" between the supervisor and the supervisee may be more important, especially in helping professions that rely on teamwork.
As supervisors, we should not only instruct our staff but also inspire and impress them. The most important task of a supervisor is to pass the mission and vision with passion to supervisees. Then supervision becomes the shared mission of the older and younger generations of practitioners. Supervision is not only a professional practice, it is also a moral practice which is political and personal. Without a sense of mission, we shall become the "unfaithful angels" (Specht and Courtney, 1994) who gave up their mission.
ISBN: 1-877370-09-6
Rights: © 2005 the Faculty of Education, University of Auckland. Posted by permission of the publisher.
Appears in Collections:Conference Paper

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