Supervision Across the Content Areas
reviewed by J. Reid Schwebach - October 16, 2007
Sally S. Zepeda and R. Stewart Mayers have done an excellent job providing a concise supervision reader and resource in Supervision Across the Content Areas. This is the only book available that incorporates a Cliff Notes overview of curriculum supervision before branching into different classroom subjects, specifically mathematics, English/language arts, social studies, and science. A central assumption of the authors is that principals are expected to supervise in unfamiliar content areas. This issue alone motivated me to pick up the book, and other principals and aspiring principals that I know have similar concerns about supervising a broad variety of curriculum.
Needless to say this shouldnt be the only supervision book on the supervisors shelf. However, it is a pragmatic read because of its accessibility. I believe that supervisors will reach for it to gather first ideas and for the useful teacher observation forms described as data collection tools; this latter use is reason enough to own the book. Because of the clear (albeit abbreviated) explanations of supervision strategies, the book is a very nice complement to Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordons Supervision and Instructional Leadership, A Developmental Approach (2006). Glickmans developmental supervision methods are incorporated into the strategies set forth in Supervision Across the Content Areas.
Various supervision models are presented, including informal and formal, clinical supervision, and differentiated supervisory models. The book sections help the supervisor align curricula, differentiate instruction, and anticipate common experiences that are associated with effective teaching and learning. I found these common experiences in other books, such as Teaching Science in the 21st Century, edited by Jack Rhoton and Patricia Shane (2006), but Supervision is much more prescriptive and provides a menu of solid procedures for improving schools.
At the center of the books educational philosophy is [the concept] that teacher growth is a capital that principals need to build on and invest in if results are to be realized by students (p. 2). Zepeda and Mayers cite accomplished current supervision literature to describe necessary goals for the augmentation of instructional quality. This includes the need for instructors to interact with each other, and the need for the school to be a constructivist learning place for adults.
In chapter six, the authors reference Piagets stages of cognitive development and Ericksons eight levels of psychosocial development in children. These measures are used to adjust expectations about teaching and learning for the developmentally appropriate stage, and these philosophies are presented as the cornerstone for understanding students as learners. This particular chapter should be well understood by the administrator who values how students learn differently across the grades.
Eighty of the 214 pages are dedicated to supervision of the four subjects. Notably absent subjects are foreign language, art, technology, physical education, etc., and a chapter about these subjects would not have distracted the reader from the books focus. The content standards for all subjects, including the absent ones, are introduced earlier. These eighty pages set forth the national standards for each subject area, and seek to help the administrator develop teacher instructional expertise.
Supervisory forms are tailored for different instructional strategies, such as the Socratic seminar, cooperative learning, the tracking of inquiry learning, and for helping teachers consider multiple intelligences to differentiate instruction. A unique segment on portfolio supervision allows the supervisor to capitalize on collaboration as a method for achieving teacher goals.
The Supervisors Scorecard placards in many of the chapters help the supervisor focus on central ideas that are useful for efficient supervision. Undoubtedly, many subject-specific Look Fors will be worthy talking points between teachers and supervisors.
For the chapter on mathematics instructional supervision, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards are first referenced, grade specific goals are explained, and a few target problems are explored. Later subject-specific chapters develop similarly. For math, the Supervisors Scorecard focuses on what to do when the teacher uses problem solving as an instructional approach (p. 131).
For the chapter on English/language arts instructional supervision, the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English standards are first referenced. Here, the Supervisors Scorecard focuses on what to do when the teacher is using cooperative learning strategies (p. 146).
For the chapter on social studies instructional supervision, the National Council for the Social Studies standards are considered. This chapter does not include a Supervisors Scorecard [as in other chapters], but instead a Socratic seminar observation form is presented (p. 158).
For the chapter on science instructional supervision, the National Science Education standards are presented. Then, a very brief Supervisors Scorecard is offered, which focuses on scientific investigations and the scientific process.
In sum, the book is a worthy acquisition because of its accessibility, utility, and resourcefulness for observation ideas. A school supervisor will benefit by using the book to address the question, Am I using supervision techniques that are not only appropriate for my staff, but also for what they are teaching?
Glickman, C.D., Gordon, S.P., & Ross-Gordon, J.M. (2006). Supervision and instructional leadership, A developmental approach. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Rhoton, J., & Shane, P. (2006). Teaching science in the 21st Century. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association.