Toward an Effective Signature Pedagogy for Psychology

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mental health center, the academic programs, and the internship as well, each attending to the ... Falender, C. A., Erickson Cornish, J. A., Goodyear, R., Hatcher, R.,. Kaslow, N. J. ... Engagement in that the learning occurs through instructor–.


The second case example in Barnett’s article involves what Magnuson, Wilcoxon, and Norem (2000) describe as a “professionally apathetic” and therefore “lousy” supervisor (p. 189). He is known as an experienced and excellent psychotherapist but arrives at supervision sessions unprepared and seemingly uninterested. In fact, he provides further evidence of unethical supervision by desiring to discuss interns’ personal lives. This illustration underscores the importance of clear communication between the academic program and the internship site (e.g., Council of Chairs of Training Councils, 2001). If the training director at the academic program can discuss intern concerns directly with the supervisor, hopefully that will help him mend his ways. For that to happen, the academic program and the internship should already have procedures in place for open feedback in which each informs the other of any concerns in a timely and respectful manner. However, this case may also demonstrate again the need for specific training in supervision competence. The psychologist is apparently an excellent psychotherapist, but has he been trained in supervision as a specific intervention? If not, he might require the same measures as described earlier for the novice supervisor. In both case examples, diversity issues must certainly be considered. Barnett points out that supervision must “focus on diversity issues and associated self-awareness regarding diversity factors,” and I agree. In addition to considering multiculturalism with clients and working to increase self-awareness in the supervisee, using the supervisory relationship itself to explore diversity is often quite valuable. For instance, during the beginning phase of supervision, a supervisor might bring up the ways in which he or she and the supervisee are similar and different, including gender, race, ethnicity, ability, and so on, and discuss how these factors might impact supervision, thereby modeling the importance of considering multiculturalism and its potential impact in every relationship. Barnett also describes the importance of the supervisor as gatekeeper. In his case examples, not only should the supervisor serve as a gatekeeper for the profession but so should the community mental health center, the academic programs, and the internship as well, each attending to the supervisee’s competence and suitability for providing clinical services to the public on an ongoing basis. The short answer to “Who is a competent supervisor?” and “What makes for competent supervision?” is the psychologist with the appropriate knowledge, skills, values, and training in supervision who participates in ongoing assessment (including selfassessment) within an understood context. Although much work remains to fully answer these questions, Barnett’s article represents an important contribution to the definition and description of competent supervision.

References American Psychological Association. (2002). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. American Psychologist, 57, 1060 –1073. Bernard, J. M., & Goodyear, R. K. (2004). Fundamentals of clinical supervision (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson Education. Council of Chairs of Training Councils. (2001, October). Council of Chairs of Training Councils (CCTC) Voluntary Guidelines for Communication Between Graduate Programs and Internship Programs. Retrieved August 25, 2006, from Ellis, M. V., & Douce, L. A. (1994). Group supervision of novice clinical supervisors: Eight recurring issues. Journal of Counseling and Development, 72, 520 –525.


Falender, C. A., Erickson Cornish, J. A., Goodyear, R., Hatcher, R., Kaslow, N. J., Leventhal, G., et al. (2004). Defining competencies in psychology supervision: A consensus statement. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 60, 771–785. Kitchener, K. S. (1994). Doing good well: The wisdom behind ethical supervision. Counseling and Human Development, 16(9), 1– 8. Magnuson, S. A., Wilcoxon, S., & Norem, K. (2000, March). A profile of lousy supervision: Experienced counselors’ perspectives. Counselor Education and Supervision, 30, 189 –202. Stoltenberg, C. D., McNeill, B., & Delworth, U. (1998). Supervisor development and training. In C. D. Stoltenberg, B. McNeill, & U. Delworth, IDM Supervision: An integrated developmental model (pp. 158 – 172). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Toward an Effective Signature Pedagogy for Psychology: Comments Supporting the Case for Competent Supervisors Rodney K. Goodyear Barnett notes that Holloway (1992) characterized supervision as psychology’s “critical teaching method” (p. 177). I concur and, in fact, would extend this point to assert that supervision is psychology’s “signature pedagogy.” Signature pedagogies have been a particular focus of the Carnegie Foundation, which understands them to be professionspecific instructional strategies. The signature pedagogy in medicine, for example, is clinical rounds during which a “multigenerational” team of physicians and medical students visit a prescribed set of patients. They discuss diagnostic and treatment issues related to each patient (who constitutes the particular “lesson”) and what has happened since the group last had their rounds at that bed. Although a more senior physician is in charge, the roles of teacher and learner can blur as each learns from the other during these discussions. In law, on the other hand, students come to class prepared to be called upon at any moment to describe the essential arguments of a particular case or to summarize and respond to the arguments another student has just offered. During these interactions, their professor engages them in a type of Socratic dialogue. Shulman (2005) characterized signature pedagogies as ones having the following characteristics: 1. Engagement in that the learning occurs through instructor– learner dialogue. In psychology, this speaks to the importance of the supervisory alliance (see, e.g., the review in chapter 6 of Bernard & Goodyear, 2004). Although Barnett did not explicitly invoke this essential concept, he alluded to it in his discussion of the importance of supervisory empathy and other relationship qualities. 2. Uncertainty, because the specific focus and outcomes of the interactions typically are unclear to the participants as they begin a teaching episode. It is the nature of all professions—including psychology—to deal with situations that are complex and even “messy.” One task of psychology supervisors is to enable their supervisees to navigate what Scho¨n (1987) described as the “swampy lowlands” (p. 1) of practice.



3. Formation in that the learner’s thought processes are made clear to the instructor, who helps shape them so that the learner begins to “think like” a physician, a lawyer, a psychologist, and so on. In psychology, this formative work can concern how trainees conceptualize their clients’ problems but also how they think about themselves and understand the technical skills they will use. Finally, Shulman (2005) noted also that these are “pedagogies of action, because exchanges typically ended with someone saying, ‘That’s all very interesting. Now what shall we do?’ ”(p. 14). Clinical supervision has these several attributes and seems to be psychology’s signature pedagogy. Other mental health professions likely could make the same claim for it, of course, but this does not diminish its importance to psychology. This importance is complemented by the extent to which psychologists are supervising. That is, it is reasonable to infer that at any given time, about half of all professional psychologists are engaged in providing supervision (Norcross, Hedges, & Castle, 2002), and that eventually, most will provide it (Rønnestad, Orlinsky, Parks, & Davis, 1997). As is implied in the first of Barnett’s two case examples (“The Recent Graduate”), supervision is a responsibility for which most psychologists eventually will volunteer— or to which they will be assigned. Therefore, if supervision is our signature pedagogy, and if virtually all professional psychologists eventually will supervise, it stands to reason that supervision training should be universal. In the absence of that training, those who provide supervision likely are in violation of APA’s Ethical Standard 2.01(a), which stipulates that “psychologists provide services, teach, and conduct research with populations and in areas only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, consultation, study, or professional experience” (American Psychological Association [APA], 2002, p. 1063). When ineffective supervision is the result of supervisor incompetence, the supervisee is cheated of learning opportunities. Fortunately, because a psychology trainee will have roughly eight supervisors before obtaining licensure (M. V. Ellis, personal communication, August 31, 2006 —from data obtained as part of an instrument validation study; I also have obtained similar data through informal means at workshops I have given), he or she may have experiences that somewhat compensate for the ineffectiveness of any one given supervisor. However, this is not assured and does not justify ineffectiveness. Moreover, the supervisee who has the bad luck to have several ineffective supervisors may not be able to recover the lost training opportunities. The more worrisome situation is that in which supervisor incompetence results in actual harm. It is easy enough to imagine the harm that could occur to clients who are being served by supervisees receiving incompetent supervision. However, supervision is a hierarchical relationship in which the supervisor has the greater power and therefore is in a position to have damaging effects, as has been documented by researchers such as Gray, Ladany, Walker, and Ancis (2001) and Nelson and Friedlander (2001). As psychologists, our aspirational goal should be competent psychology supervisors who make a positive difference for their supervisees and the clients they serve. The minimal threshold of their competence, though, must be that they will do no harm. It is my impression that one barrier to psychologists’ developing competencies as supervisors is that many have assumed that they already have them by virtue of their skill as psychotherapists.

However, as Bernard and Goodyear (2004) noted, this is analogous to the athlete who believes that she or he automatically would be a good coach. It is a challenge to ensure that psychologists develop these competencies. Barnett notes that certification for supervisors might be one means to accomplish this. However, given the extensiveness with which psychologists are involved in supervision, this would mean certifying almost all psychologists. Perhaps the more practical strategy is a two-prong approach involving a professionwide effort to sensitize psychologists to the importance of obtaining supervision competence while also ensuring that all professional psychology doctoral programs provide the supervisory competence that already is stipulated in APA’s (2005) Accreditation Guidelines and Principles. This leads to the question of what essential supervisory competencies psychologists should have. Falender et al.’s (2004) taxonomy of supervisor competencies is probably the best resource. Its credibility derives from its origins as a consensus statement by supervision experts. Barnett’s discussion, though, prompts me to propose that supervisory competencies be thought of as two broad types: (a) relationship and (b) technical knowledge and skills. Although relationship competencies are not alone sufficient, they could go a long way toward helping psychologists achieve the “do no harm” criterion.

References American Psychological Association. (2002). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. American Psychologist, 57, 1060 –1073. American Psychological Association Committee on Accreditation. (2005). Guidelines and principles for accreditation of programs in professional psychology. Washington, DC: Author. Bernard, J. M., & Goodyear, R. K. (2004). Fundamentals of clinical supervision (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Falender, C. A., Cornish, J. A. E., Goodyear, R. K., Hatcher, R., Kaslow, N. J., Leventhal, G., et al. (2004). Defining competencies in psychology supervision: A consensus statement. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 60, 771–785. Gray, L. A., Ladany, N., Walker, J. A., & Ancis, J. R. (2001). Psychotherapy trainees’ experience of counterproductive events in supervision. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 48, 371–383. Holloway, E. L. (1992). Supervision: A way of learning and teaching. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Handbook of counseling psychology (2nd ed., pp. 177–214). New York: Wiley. Nelson, M. L., & Friedlander, M. L. (2001). A close look at conflictual supervisory relationships: The trainee’s perspective. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 48, 384 –395. Norcross, J. C., Hedges, M. A., Castle, P. H. (2002). Psychologists conducting psychotherapy in 2001: A study of the Division 29 membership. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 39, 97–102. Ronnestad, M. H., Orlinsky, D. E., Parks, B. K., Davis, J. D. (1997). Supervisors of psychotherapy: Mapping experience level and supervisory confidence. European Psychologist, 2, 191–201. Scho¨n, D. (1987). Educating the reflexive practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Shulman, L. (2005, February). The signature pedagogies of the professions of law, medicine, engineering, and the clergy: Potential lessons for the education of teachers. Paper presented at the Math Science Partnerships (MSP) Workshop: Teacher Education for Effective Teaching and Learning Hosted by the National Research Council Center for Education, Irvine, CA. Retrieved September 26, 2006, from media/data/Shulman_Signature_Pedagogies.pdf?media_000000001297.pdf

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