ERG SES D 07, Research in Education
Kadushin (2003) has defined supervision in the following terms: ‘the critical examination of ideas and practice even of one’s own personality’. This exploration of the self is an integral component of the lived experience of supervision in social care. However, it is not a straightforward or simple process. In 2005 Share and McElwee (2005b: 58) claimed that ‘it is crucial to the future of social care in Ireland that practitioners themselves engage seriously with the concept of professionalism and begin to discuss what it might mean’. The lived experience of supervision has to play a crucial role here. There is no doubt that professionalization and mandatory supervision has emerged onto the agenda for policy-makers in the Irish social care field. Much of the debate and discussion on the topic is teleological: it is generally assumed that a) social care practice will ‘eventually’ become a ‘professional’ activity and b) that this is a good thing. In a sense the question of ‘what is a profession? and ‘what is supervision?’ has been bracketed and the discussion over ‘what type of profession should it be?’ has begun to take over. Inevitably, however, the two questions are inextricably linked. Narrative inquiry is a possible avenue to explore these questions. Narratives are a vehicle for supervisors to reflect on their practices and explore queries they have about their professional decisions. Through narratives we see and understand the world (Bruner, 1986; Clandinin & Connelly 2000; Coles 1989; Wortham, 2001). Which narratives we decide to tell and retell and the dynamics of telling stories play roles in constructing identities. This presentation outlines the opportunities and tensions associated with employing a narrative inquiry approach to a pilot project exploring the lived experience of supervision in a social care setting. Wortham (2001) explains, “The act of telling an autobiographical narrative is a performance that can position the narrator and audience in various ways” (p. 9). In addition, telling stories of self is a window into how people view themselves, their experiences and others. Perhaps it should not be surprising that the lack of robust and generally agreed articulation of what constitutes professional supervision in the first place has resulted in the absence of a body of literature and the development of appropriate academic identity for supervisors in contemporary social care practice in Ireland.
Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Coles, R. (1989). The call of stories: Teaching and the moral imagination. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Clandinin, D. J. and Connelly, F. M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Kadushin, A. & Harkins, D. (2003) 4th Edition. Supervision in Social Work. New York: Columbia University Press. Share, P. & N. McElwee (2005) ‘The professionalisation of social care in Ireland?’ In P. Share & N. McElwee (eds) Applied social care: An introduction for Irish students. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. Wortham, S. (2001). Narratives in action: A strategy for research and analysis. New York: Teachers College Press.
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