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Making the most of the Practice Supervisor Development Programme

19 August 2019

Alison Domakin Alison Domakin

In order to embed their learning and to continue developing their skills after the Practice Supervisor Development Programme, supervisors need support and encouragement from their organisations.

It is now nine months since we ran the first pilot cohort of the Practice Supervisor Development Programme (PSDP). Since that time, the consortium responsible for the design and delivery of the PSDP has been busy. In fact we have not stopped! We have delivered the five day taught programme to 24 cohorts in nine regions in England, with approximately 400 participants taking part. We have also given each Practice Supervisor the opportunity to try out two different models of group supervision and to talk through their learning in two individual reflective sessions with a coach. 

We are pleased to report that the PSDP has received very positive feedback from Practice Supervisors. Feedback at the end of the last day of teaching shows that those attending are keen to try out new ideas and learning in their work contexts. 

‘For me, as a new manager, it has been really beneficial to have the time away from the office, to really focus on my development and what kind of manager I am.’

‘I feel valued and attending this training allowed me to reflect on my practice away from the ‘office’. I also enjoyed networking and sharing new ideas with other practitioners.’

In order to embed their learning after the programme, Practice Supervisors need support and encouragement from their organisations. At the end of PSDP, we ask participants to focus on how they can continue to develop their skills and knowledge. The evaluation feedback at the end of the programme asks Practice Supervisors to comment on the following questions:

  • My organisation will support me to apply this programme in my practice.
  • I know where to go or who to talk to if I have further questions about the subject matter.
  • I will be acknowledged for using the content from the sessions in my work.
  • My colleagues will be open to me using the content in my practice.
  • I work in an environment where using new techniques and practice is supported.

Responses to these questions suggest that some Practice Supervisors are concerned that they may not receive support to apply the ideas and learning from PSDP in their work contexts after the programme has ended. In particular:

  • Practice Supervisors highlight the importance of having the support of their line manager to help them continue to develop their skills after PSDP. They consider regular developmental feedback to be essential. Some Practice Supervisors report that they are not receiving regular, reflective supervision themselves.
  • Practice Supervisors also report that they are keen to have the opportunity to network with other supervisors and share their learning more widely within the organisation. 
  • Individual coaching sessions are consistently rated very highly in participant feedback. Feedback from facilitators confirms the energy and commitment of Practice Supervisors who use the space to reflect on how they might apply their learning with the staff they supervise. It would be useful to harness this learning so that these ideas can be shared and supported by peers, line managers and senior leaders within the organisation. 
  • The other key piece of feedback, which we hear regularly, is the challenge of recording supervision, particularly group supervision, because of the requirements of organisational recording systems. Practice Supervisors want to be able to flag up issues such as these for the organisation as a whole to learn from and consider.

In summary, our experience to date suggests it is important for organisations to pay particular attention to:

  • Talking with Practice Supervisors before, during and after the programme about what they are learning and the ideas they would like to develop further as a consequence of attending PSDP.
  • How they can continue to develop in role after PSDP both individually and as a group of Practice Supervisors within the organisation.
  • Talking with Practice Supervisors about what the organisation can do to listen and support them in their role and to embed ideas and learning.
  • Encouraging Practice Supervisors to network and develop a community of practice to share ideas, learning and support each other both within the organisation, with peers from PSDP and with other colleagues regionally.

You can read more suggestions and ideas in our recently developed information guide for organisations. This has been developed in partnership with senior managers and Principal Social Workers to help support supervisors to embed their learning after PSDP. The guide provides suggestions to consider about how organisations and individual staff can support colleagues to maximise their learning at three key stages:

1. Prior to taking up a place on the programme.

2. During programme delivery.

3. After the programme has ended.

To find out more about the PSDP, visit the website or contact PSDPadmin@rip.org.uk.


About the author

Alison Domakin is the Practice and Engagement Lead for the Practice Supervisor Development Programme.  

Twitter: @AlisonDomakin. Please use #PSDP to share your ideas about learning from programme on Twitter. 


Practice Supervisor Development Programme

Research in Practice, together with consortium partners, are delivering a national Practice Supervisor Development Programme (PSDP) funded by the Department for Education. The programme aims to provide high-quality continuous professional development for up to 1,000 newly-appointed Practice Supervisors. These are social workers taking up their first role in which they are responsible for supporting and developing the practice of others and who have been in their role for less than twelve months. Currently over 300 Practice Supervisors have taken part.

The wholly not-for-profit consortium led by Research in Practice includes: The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation TrustUniversity of Sussex and Goldsmiths, University of London. The consortium will work with a number of skilled ‘local delivery partners’ comprising universities, Teaching Partnerships and trusted CPD providers in every region.

Find out more about the PSDP.

Frequently asked questions about the PSDP


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