‘Swimming to shore’: Co-constructing supervision with a thinking-aloud process

Matt Rankine and Andrew Thompson 

Supervision for social workers is an essential vehicle for revitalising, reflecting and transforming practice.

In our new article, we open the doors on our supervision session, with Matt as supervisee and Andrew as supervisor, and critically reflect on the content and process.

Using critical reflection as the research method, we co-construct and examine the content of our recorded supervision sessions and follow-up with participatory reflection sessions using a ‘thinking aloud’ process.  “Thinking aloud” simply means talking together about our motivations, meaning-making, discussing models of practice and considerations in response to a transcript of the supervision session.

Critical reflection identifies the location of power and how this impacts on practice and decision making. Consequently, our practice is enriched through the method of deconstructing and reconstructing items raised in supervision. Using critical reflection provides insights into the process and content of the supervision session. The key themes that emerge are the significance of building trust and recognition of power between supervisor and supervisee; the shared use of metaphoric language and meaning; using different media as innovations; the process as structure and the balancing of personal and professional issues within supervision.

This has been an informative and enlightening process that has enriched our practice. This study indicates enormous benefit for further research into the supervision session using critical reflection as a research methodology.  We invite other social workers to open their supervision sessions and explore the boundaries and limits of personal disclosure.  Given its inherent complexities and contradictions, critical reflection in social work needs development in research so that it is relevant to global and local contexts.

Rankine, M., & Thompson, A. (2015). ‘Swimming to shore’: co-constructing supervision with a thinking-aloud process. Reflective Practice, 16(4), 508-521. doi:10.1080/14623943.2015.1064377

Read the article here

Matt and Andrew

Matt Rankine Professional Teaching Fellow, University of Auckland and External Supervisor
Andrew Thompson  Professional Teaching Fellow, The University of Auckland; Social Worker, Starship Children’s Health, Auckland District Health Board and External Supervisor


About socialworknz

I'm a social work researcher in Aotearoa New Zealand
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4 Responses to ‘Swimming to shore’: Co-constructing supervision with a thinking-aloud process

  1. rurujude says:

    Thanks Matt and Andrew for sharing the inner world of your supervision relationship. Your questions and struggles about role boundaries, the place of personal issues as they relate to the work and your endeavours to innovate as you go are familiar. I was left wondering whether a woman-woman dyad would have had a different take on the presence and impact of the personal on the work. I’ll be thinking about possible gender difference in relation to your main findings in my own work. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Thanks Jude I really appreciated your comment. I would be intrigued to hear about the woman-woman supervision dyad and your reflections on balancing the personal and the professional during the session.
      I really enjoyed working with Matt on “Swimming to shore” and am looking forward to reading the results of his supervision research.

  2. Matt Rankine says:

    Thanks Jude for your thoughts and your time. Your ideas around the experiences of different supervisory dyads and the value of the relationship to explore the ‘personal in the professional’ is indeed fascinating. All the best in your work.

  3. socialworknz says:

    Reblogged this on Supervision in Social Work.

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