Supervision and the art of questioning

Posted: 10/06/2016

At any given moment in a supervision session, we may find ourselves wondering, ‘What is the most useful question I could ask right now?’

From a strengths-based, social constructionist perspective, what we perceive as real and important is not compelled by objective conditions but is negotiated through dialogue and culture, and is therefore subject to change. Questions are fundamental in constructing—and changing—social realities. All questions carry particular assumptions and invitations. There is no such thing as an innocent or neutral question.

One variety of strengths-based work, the field of Appreciative Inquiry, has provided a number of guiding aphorisms including the following:

  • We live in the worlds our questions create.
  • The choice of topics and questions is vital
  • As plants grow towards the light, human systems grow in the direction of their curiosity – toward what they persistently ask questions about.Vision_For_Supervision 298px

The usefulness of strengths-based questions lies in the particular topics that they ‘persistently ask questions about’. The A Vision for Supervision cards encourage supervisors to persistently ask questions about practitioners’ hopes, priorities, achievements, strengths, resilience, resourcefulness, creativity, and ongoing professional developments. They invite both supervisors and practitioners to live in a world which values collaboration, affirmation, mutual respect, careful reflection and constructive challenge—irrespective of the topic under discussion and the circumstances in which supervision occurs. They can also provide a refreshing alternative to the varieties of deficit-based language that remain pervasive in professional practice and supervision. Our selection of cards, therefore, is neither neutral nor eclectic. We have deliberately ‘stacked the deck’, but in a transparent way.

In this approach the supervisor’s most valued expertise consists of process, not content. The supervisor’s expertise lies in asking questions that evoke the practitioner’s expertise. The supervisor’s questions assist the practitioner to find the answers they need.

This resource evVision_Cards_201451okes a vision for supervision that we hope can support creative practice in the wide variety of contexts in which contemporary professional supervision occurs. Strengths-based dialogue is at the heart of the vision and provides the foundation. However, we hope that the cards can make a contribution to your practice irrespective of whether you (or those receiving supervision from you) explicitly identify with a strengths-based perspective




Other related Blogs:

Strengths-based Supervision

What is “the Strengths Approach”?


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