A Distillation of Research to help us Understand Coaching Supervision
Coaching supervision facilitates continuous self-evaluation and learning beyond the initial coach training; research shows that coach development occurs with supervised rather than unsupervised practice and that without supervision skill levels decrease after training (McMahon & Patton, 2000).
Supervision gives coaches an opportunity to present their coaching work to a supervisor for discussion, feedback, review, reflection or guidance (Inskipp & Proctor, 1993). The benefits of this process include the enhancement of coach’s self-awareness, personal skill and professional development, confidence and competence (Borders, 1989; Boyd, 1978; Bradley, 1989; Inskipp & Proctor, 1993; Kaslow, 1977).
The assumption that a good coach will be a good coaching supervisor is not supported by research; coaching supervision is a distinct practice from coaching (Scott, Ingram, Vitanza, & Smith, 2000). A lack of formal training in supervision may violate the learning contract and trust that is at the core of the supervision relationship; it can happen because coaches lack formal training in supervision and therefore treat it as just a coaching session (Hess, 1997). Treating supervision as just another coaching session can lead to experiences that are of little use to the supervisees or at worst, be damaging (Ladany, 2004). A coach’s development journey does not necessarily follow a neat and linear path and assuming that novice coaches need more structure and teaching and experienced coaches benefit more from an open-ended sharing is misguided (Jevne, Sawatzky, & Paré, 2004; Ladany 2004).
Coaching supervision is a means to address the professional isolation felt by coaches. Coaches can deal with professional isolation by participating in informal support networks with peers from similar backgrounds – however, this network provides support and not supervision. Research shows that participants cite support as key benefit of supervision; support being defined in terms of emotional well-being, the reduction of stress, and prevention of burnout. Discussing cases and decisions with their peers not only reduced their stress but also enabled them to feel more accountable in their practice. What participants wanted additionally from supervision was skill development in the form of new ideas and techniques; and developing the confidence to try these new ideas and techniques (McMahon & Patton, 2000).