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Supervision in Early Childhood Education: A Developmental Perspective Early Childhood Education Series

reviewed by Marcia Edson - June 28, 2007

coverTitle: Supervision in Early Childhood Education: A Developmental Perspective Early Childhood Education Series
Author(s): Joseph J. Caruso and M. Temple Fawcett
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807747319 , Pages: 288 pages , Year: 2006
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Veteran directors and administrators in the field of early education and care are undoubtedly familiar with Caruso and Fawcett’s valuable text, Supervision in Early Childhood Education, a Developmental Perspective. The recently published third edition is even stronger and should appeal to a wide audience given the rapid growth of early childhood programs across the country. As universal pre-K forces programs for young children to multiply and diversify, the need for appropriate training for a burgeoning supervisory staff is particularly evident. The notion that great teachers are bound to be great directors is not always accurate, especially if that great teacher has had no preparation to be a great director. Supervision in Early Childhood Education is one remedy for that limitation, particularly for those emerging directors, curriculum coaches and lead teachers who need to know how to develop their supervisory acumen.  Refreshingly, the clarity of the writing makes it a comfortable read for teachers, principals, directors and graduate students in the field. This text is worth reading, and highlighting, and rereading again, because the authors deliver on their objective to be “descriptive and practical” (p. xi).

The subtitle, “a Developmental Perspective”, underscores the true richness of this text. Supervision, a developmental perspective? What exactly does that mean? The short answer is that in this book supervision is presented as a continuous process, a process that is inclusive and expansive, that is as much about the process of staff development as the process of staff evaluation. A longer answer emerges from each of the four parts of the text.

The first part acknowledges the proverbial elephant in the room by exposing five myths about supervision beginning with the notion that “Almost anyone can be an early childhood supervisor” (p. 3). The authors highlight the practical and personal/emotional issues that often impede quality supervision. They explore context and the relationship of context to developmental supervision. The complexity of early childhood venues -- from center based childcare for infants and toddlers to Head Start to state funded pre-kindergarten programs and the myriad of staff positions within those programs -- is deftly disentangled and clarified. This virtual primer on context and roles will be especially useful for teachers, mentors, and curriculum directors who are just stepping up to the world of supervision, as well as for public school principals who are adding a preschool component to their school.  

The underlying message that supervision is really a formative process grounded in building relationships, observation and communication skills, pervades this part of the text. Supervision, the authors feel, is a collaborative endeavor that ultimately supports the career of the early childhood professional.

Part II gives the reader a deeper understanding of developmental supervision with explicit descriptions of the necessary criteria for establishing a reciprocal relationship between the supervisor and the supervisee: “…we want to underscore that staff members are not the object of supervision, but play an active role in the process, and that supervisors learn, change and grow as a result of the process, too” (p. 48). Some readers may be surprised to see an emphasis on caring, self-awareness, dialogue, and reflection for both supervisor and supervisee: for principal and teacher, director and paraprofessional. The authors stress that the supervisor must commit to establishing an environment of trust among the entire staff. This trust, in addition to an ongoing commitment to professional growth, exemplifies the big-picture approach of developmental supervision. Part II concludes with an interesting case study that illustrates these ideas and the interplay among the context, the supervisor, and the supervisee.

In Part III the authors focus on the how of supervision, the actual practice of supervision, with specific recommendations for structuring conferences and guidelines for effective observations. This section will resonate with most readers since it deals with one of the more challenging issues of supervision: changing inappropriate teacher behaviors. More specific evaluative techniques are provided in the final chapter with a special emphasis on “the marginal performer”, for example the aide who is always late and staff members who might require termination. The case study presented is a powerful example of how important it is for a supervisor to be reflective and flexible in working with each supervisee on an individual basis.

The concluding chapters are presented as a “continuum,” moving from staff recruitment to staff development to staff evaluation and learning. This is another example of the authors’ attention to the big-picture of supervision. They seek to raise our consciousness about the importance of career development, for example, the lattice metaphor, in a profession that needs more professionalism. Several intriguing opportunities for teacher research and growth are described including teacher-led study groups and the Japanese model of lesson study.

Notably, Caruso and Fawcett recognize that cultural awareness should be addressed as an essential element of informed supervision, but the brevity of this section, entitled “Some Cultural Considerations,” left me wanting more. I found the descriptions of cultural and racial differences and mistaken interpretations very thought provoking. However, if we expect our center directors, mentors and principals to be truly “culturally responsive” (p. 233), and to be prepared to answer the question “How can I work best with people who are different from me?” more information is necessary.

As I read this text, I found myself reflecting back on situations and decisions from my roles as center director, teacher, consultant, and as a supervisor of student teachers. “What ifs” kept emerging, as did “I wish I had  ...” and “Next time I can…” Such is the relevance of this text. What differentiates this text is the focus on the big picture of supervision and the premise that quality supervision requires self-evaluation, engagement, reciprocity, and commitment to learning. As supervisors we grow and change as we move into different roles and as we mature professionally. Supervision in Early Childhood Education, a Developmental Perspective is a resource that will continually inform us along that journey.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: June 28, 2007
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 14540, Date Accessed: 5/28/2022 7:35:37 AM

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About the Author
  • Marcia Edson
    Boston University
    E-mail Author
    MARCIA EDSON is on the faculty of the Early Childhood program at Boston University. In addition to her teaching and coordination of practicum placements, Edson has served as a consultant to several urban school systems and childcare centers. She is currently engaged in a teacher development project for a Costa Rican early childhood program.
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