Evidence-based supervision

Richard Churches
Geraldine Hutchinson

Richard Churches is an expert in evidence-based practice while Lina Aghajanian manages our work in the Middle East supporting teachers of refugees. Together with Geraldine Hutchinson, an authority on inspections in the Middle East, they take a closer look at the role of subject-specific supervisors. The role is vital in helping teachers to bridge the theory-practice gap and this thinkpiece looks at how the role can become evidence-based and the impact that can have.

In many countries, ministries of education directly employ subject-specific supervisors who work across the school system and provide a middle tier that delivers teacher development, training and policy implementation. These supervisors are usually former teachers of the subjects that they support and often have many years' experience of the context that they are working in. Even though a high proportion of education systems still maintain a supervisory system, little attention has been paid to how they could be improved or developed. Instead, and frequently, the conversation about education reform has centred around the role of the school leader, principal or headteacher.

As important as these roles are, in a world where we find ourselves increasingly focused on evidence from research into pedagogical effectiveness and the translation of evidence from neuroscience and cognitive psychology, it seems unlikely that the leader of a school alone will be able to maintain a fully up-to-date knowledge of that evidence – particularly as subject-specific research evidence grows.

Enabling education reform

In the same way that supervisory systems within medicine and healthcare maintain and grow leading-edge clinical practice – alongside the organisational leadership of a hospital or clinic, so (in turn) evidence-based supervision in education might offer an enhanced, robust and complementary means of enabling education reform.

This thinkpiece discusses an innovative programme designed by Education Development Trust and delivered in collaboration with the Queen Rania Teacher Academy (QRTA). The programme has been, and is being, delivered to ministry supervisors who are supporting the teachers of around 20,000 Syrian refugee children across Jordan.