Saturday, January 19, 2013

Towards Quality Educational Outcomes: A Look at Public School District Supervisors’ Roles

By:  Gilbert M. Forbes

 (This is the follow up of the article entilted Towards Quality Educational Outcomes: Maximizing the Roles and Functions of Public School District Supervisors.  Click to read the previous article.)

What Should Supervisors Be Doing?

Apart from the information mentioned already with regards to the duties, roles and functions of district supervisors in the previous post, in the absence of local literatures that expound those informations, it would be better to have some insights from popular foreign literature available online.

William H. Burton (1922) gave an interesting insight on what supervisors should be doing.  These are improvement of the teaching act, improvement of teachers in service, testing and measuring and rating of teachers.

Burton’s listing has been viewed as “the first modern statement and concept” of supervision. This list looks surprisingly current when we examine the numerous tasks that today’s supervisors actually perform.

Writing a half century later, Harris enumerated ten tasks of supervision in the following rather detailed list:

     Task 1. Developing curriculum.
     Task 2. Organizing for instruction.
     Task 3. Providing staff.
     Task 4. Providing facilities.
     Task 5. Providing materials.
     Task 6. Arranging for in-service education.
     Task 7. Orienting staff members.
     Task 8. Relating special pupil services.
     Task 9. Developing public relations.
     Task 10. Evaluating instruction.

Harris classified tasks 1, 3, and 4 as preliminary; 6 and 10 as developmental; and the others as operational.  Those who view supervision as a one-to-one, clinical relationship between the teacher and supervisor would eliminate many of the tasks from both lists. Those who view supervision as a field distinct from administration would delegate administrative tasks like scheduling, staffing, and public relations to the administrator rather than to the instructional supervisor. 

Thus under R.A. 9155, administrative task are assigned to the school head and although the school head also have supervisory functions as one of their most important roles, supervisors are there  to assist and strengthen school supervisory practices.

Verma as quoted by De Leon (2010) points out that supervision exists for one reason, and that is to improve teaching and learning.  Verma further that supervision is a specialized service focused to bring qualitative improvement in education.  Good supervision is concerned to improve learning situations.

Karolyn J. Snyder on the other hand viewed the supervisor’s task in the following light: The primary supervisory task is to develop professional learning communities, in work teams, that not only acquire new knowledge and skills but also learn how to study and respond exceptionally well to their natural work and learning environments.  Snyder perceived “the new work of the supervisor” as “building the energy mass.

The supervisor plays a variety of roles within certain domains, and the expertise demonstrated in the particular domains is derived from a number of bases or foundations.  Edward Pajak headed a study on identification of supervisory proficiencies sponsored by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

By reviewing the literature on supervision and surveying instructional leaders, Pajak affirmed twelve domains, with relevant knowledge, attitudes, and skills in each domain. These domains and their definitions are as follows:
  • Community Relations—Establishing and maintaining open and productive relations between the school and its community;
  • Staff Development—Developing and facilitating meaningful opportunities for professional growth;
  • Planning and Change—Initiating and implementing collaboratively developed strategies for continuous improvement;
  • Communication—Ensuring open and clear communication among individuals and groups through the organization;
  • Curriculum—Coordinating and integrating the process of curriculum development and implementation;
  • Instructional Program—Supporting and coordinating efforts to improve the instructional program;
  • Service to Teachers—Providing materials, resources, and assistance to support teaching and learning;
  • Observation and Conferencing—Providing feedback to teachers based on classroom observation;
  • Problem Solving and Decision Making—Using a variety of strategies to clarify and analyze problems and to make decisions;
  • Research and Program Evaluation—Encouraging experimentation and assessing outcomes;
  • Motivating and Organizing—Helping people to develop a shared vision and achieve collective aims;
  • Personal Development—Recognizing and reflecting upon one’s personal and professional beliefs, abilities, and action.
The role supervisors should play particularly in the Philippines is summarily defined already in the law but these lists give us the domains and indicators that could be drawn in clarifying their roles and functions.  

In the light of public service, service-oriented supervisor will perform at varying times each of the four roles which involves being a:

Coordinator. The supervisor serves as a coordinator of programs, groups, materials, and reports. It is the supervisor who acts as a link between programs and people, school heads and other stakeholders from all or different schools in his area. He or she knows the disparate pieces of the educational process and directs the actions of others to make the pieces blend. As a director of staff development, the supervisor plans, arranges, evaluates, and often conducts in-service programs with and for teachers.

Consultant.  The supervisor serves in a consulting capacity as a specialist in curriculum, instructional methodology, and staff development. In this capacity, he or she renders service to both individual teachers and groups. At times, the supervisor may simply furnish necessary information and suggestions. At other times, he or she may help teachers define, set, and pursue goals. The supervisor should be a prime source of assistance to teachers wishing to improve either their generic or specialized teaching skills. Though some will disagree with us, we believe the supervisor-consultant should be able to demonstrate a repertoire of teaching strategies.

Group Leader.  The supervisor as group leader works continuously to release the potential of groups seeking to improve the curriculum, instruction, or themselves. To perform this role the supervisor must be knowledgeable about group dynamics and must demonstrate leadership skills. The supervisor assists groups in consensus building, in moving toward group goals, and in perfecting the democratic process. As a group leader, the supervisor seeks, identifies, and fosters leadership from within the group.

Evaluator.  As an evaluator, the supervisor provides assistance to teachers in evaluating instruction and curriculum. The supervisor helps teachers find answers to curricular and instructional problems, identify research studies that may have a bearing on their problems, and conduct limited research projects. Additionally, the supervisor helps teachers evaluate their classroom performance, assess their own strengths and weaknesses, and select means of overcoming their deficiencies.

Other than these, Supervisors should possess (1) certain personal traits and (2) certain types of knowledge and skills.

Knowledge and Skills. Although personal traits of supervisors are not often discussed, we can find an abundance of statements about the knowledge and skills successful supervisors need. There is general agreement that supervisors should have:
  • A sound general education program.
  • A thorough preservice professional education program.
  • A major field of study.
  • A solid graduate program in supervision.
  • Three to five years of successful teaching at the elementary, middle, or secondary school level.
In pre-service and in-service training programs, supervisors should develop a grounding in:
  • Learning theory and educational psychology.
  • Philosophy of education.
  • History of education, especially of curriculum and instructional development.
  • The role of the school in society.
  • Curriculum development.
  • Instructional design and methods.
  • Group dynamics.
  • Conferencing and counseling.
  • Assessment of teacher performance.
Lovell and Wiles pointed to necessary knowledge and skills when they wrote that supervision is
  • Releasing human potential
  • Leadership
  • Communications
  • Coordinating and facilitating change
  • Curriculum development
  • Facilitating human development.
As a service-oriented agent for improvement, the supervisor must be imbued with the spirit counselors refer to as “the helping relationship,” the desire to give of oneself to be of assistance to others. Beyond this, the supervisor needs the kind of persuasiveness and infectious enthusiasm that inspires teachers to want to make changes for the better.

The supervisor should be an “idea person,” one who leads people to think about new and improved ways of doing things. He or she needs to convey the attitude of valuing and seeking the ideas of others while not appearing to have answers to all the problems teachers face. The supervisor who is a helper to teachers is able to effect a democratic environment in which the contributions of each participating member are valued. Above all, the supervisor needs to possess a predisposition to change and must constantly promote improvement.

If supervisors, whose chief responsibility is to bring about improvements, are satisfied with the status quo, they can be sure that the teachers will be, too. The supervisor must be able to live with change and help teachers adapt to the changing needs of society and of children and youth. To accomplish this mission, the supervisor should be able to work effectively in both one-to-one relationships and in groups.

to be concluded . . .

(Mr. Gilbert M. Forbes had his Bachelors Degree and MA in Educational Management (CAR) from the Philippine Normal University.  A campus paper adviser and trainer for 13 years.  Currently, he is a school principal in one of the central schools in the Division of Quezon.) 


International Institute for Educational Planning (UNESCO):  Reforming School Supervision for Quality Improvement, Module 2; Roles and Functions of Supervisors at

Roles of the School Supervisor at
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