Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Supervision of Graduate Interns---I never had a class in this!

I've had oodles of graduate interns working with me over the years.  They come, they go, they graduate, and often they land higher paying jobs than what I have.  I love interns! 
  • They bring fresh ideas
  • They are enthusiastic
  • They are up-to-date on current research
  • They are young (now they are the age of my own children)
  • They work tirelessly and are high-achievers
  • They are articulate

This list can go on.

 Although I do enjoy having them, sometimes minor issues arise and my big problem is that I have never been trained to supervise an intern.  I've developed my own homemade style (after careful thought) year after year, but each new intern brings a different set of prior experiences and skills.  Often interns have had a prior career; and just as often, they have recently graduated from an undergraduate program.  Sometimes, English for the intern is actually not the primary language. Sometimes, an intern is challenged in some area.  The point is that even if I had training in supervision, the students themselves are so diverse, it's hard to apply a 'one size fits all' approach.

After a lot of discussion and thought with my newest intern, I finally went back to the ASHA standards which are pictured below.  The ultimate goals for an intern are independence and an ability for self-evaluation, with consultation and occasional assistance from a supervising clinician. The student should strive for 'Level 3' in a practicum setting. 

I'm obviously in the 'trenches' and haven't blogged about scholarly research here, but with my role as a supervisor, and my lack of training in this role, I have begun to scout out Special Interest Group 11--Administration and Supervision.  I'm not a member of this group, but since I joined a different Special Interest Group, I do have access to the publications of group 11.  I found an article written by Dr. Corey Cassidy, who is affiliated with the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Radford University in Virginia.

 "The Relationship Between Perceived Supervisory Roles, Working Alliances, and Students’ Self-Efficacy in Speech-Language Pathology Practicum Experiences"  Corey Cassidy, SIG 11 Perspectives on Administration and Supervision, October 2013.

 Dr. Cassidy clearly explained the three main types of clinical supervision roles:

Weekly evaluation form

The Teacher Role: In the teacher role, a supervisor may focus on evaluating therapy session interventions, modeling, and demonstrating for the student.

The Counselor Role:  The goal of supervision in the counselor role is to promote students’ self-growth, and the supervisor tends to be more open and to exert little control.

(Although some of my students have needed counseling, I try not to take on this role.  Occasionally, a student will want to talk about personal issues, diverting attention from the tasks at hand. It's best to not take on this role unless truly necessary.)

The Consultant Role: "Within the consultant role, a supervisor focuses on the content brought to the session by the student with the goal of promoting control by the student ( Stenack & Dye, 1983). The supervisor is likely to discuss options of techniques or models based on the initiation of the student ( Bernard & Goodyear, 1998). These supervisors using the consultant role emphasize student control, initiation of direction, and problem-solving processes."  This is directly quoted from the above mentioned article by Dr. Cassidy.

Dr. Cassidy doesn't claim to have the answers as to what is the most effective supervisory role (although he seems to encourage movement towards a consultant role as the intern gains experience).  Since the goal is to increase graduate student self-efficacy,  I'm personally trying to be less directive as a semester wears on.   I usually begin  supervising in the teacher role with new graduate interns.  My goal is to gradually allow more autonomy, and consult on lesson planning and implementation.  I've discovered that self-reflection is a skill that needs taught with some students.   Although I am often physically in the room, I don't feel that intervening frequently is best for building problem-solving skills; but time for discussion afterwards is helpful. 

     What is the best way to promote self-efficacy?  A few ideas here....

  • Students can record their own therapy sessions and watch.  Perhaps the SLP can consult about what to look for (e.g. intern's own language levels, intern's eliciting skills, etc..)
  • After a session, the student can read the ASHA skill set and rate their performance based on the rating scale.
  • Students can focus on one or two of their own skills and rate them after the session.
  • Supervisors can play a role by highlight areas of strength as well as weakness giving the interns a direction when self-monitoring improvements.
Dr. Cassidy concludes with the following:   The supervisor role has an effect on students’ self-efficacy in the course of their clinical education. Many supervisors, however, habitually use a more directive style of supervision with all students, regardless of students’ prior experience or competence in the clinic, and overlook the critical process of rapport within the supervisor-student dyad. Students should take an active role in the supervisory process in order to encourage and improve their working relationships with supervisors, and aim for clinical independence at a pace that is most comfortable and appropriate for them.

"The Relationship Between Perceived Supervisory Roles, Working Alliances, and Students’ Self-Efficacy in Speech-Language Pathology Practicum Experiences"  Corey Cassidy, SIG 11 Perspectives on Administration and Supervision, October 2013.

 Stenack, R. J., Dye, H. A. ( 1983). Practicum supervision roles: Effects on supervisee statements. Counselor Education and Supervision, 22, 157– 168.

 Bernard, J. M., Goodyear, R. K. ( 1998). Fundamentals of clinical supervision ( 2nd ed.). Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon.


  1. I will be looking into the resources you link to here, and I'll be interested in future posts on this subject. I'm just about to begin supervising some grad interns myself this summer. We're working on a specific project over the summer that's a little outside the usual SLP Internship realm, so it's not quite the same as having a student teacher or CFY for a whole quarter or semester, but it's still very much an Intern/Supervisor situation, which I've never really done before. I've had students shadow me for a few hours or days, but not do the actual therapy work.

    Thanks again for being willing to share your experiences not just with things you feel you're strong at, but also the things you feel you're shakier at or have a lot yet to learn about. It's been very helpful to the rest of us!

    1. Thanks for your nice comment. I do feel not so confident in this area, mainly due to lack of formal training, and not always having someone to ask if I'm actually doing it right.

  2. After my last intern, I'm done. The last 2 just haven't been up to the standards that I would expect a grad student about to graduate. I guess I'm just feeling very disillusioned. When I consulted with other SLPs in my system who had interns, they didn't have the same experience that I had. This last one was extremely stressful!