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The use of questions

Through the process of supervision the supervisee is given the opportunity to reconstruct their view of a particular issue or difficulty. This is achieved by the supervisor asking them questions to try to help them see things from different perspectives and in different contexts.

To help people come to conclusions and solutions under their own steam, the supervisor may wish to refrain from giving any advice until towards the end of the supervision conversation. However, this does not mean that they should not tell a supervisee what to do, especially within an urgent clinical setting.

Some useful general questions to ask in supervision

  • What would you like to happen/what do you want?
  • How will you know if this piece of supervision has been helpful to you?
  • What do I need to know about…?
  • What do you see as the main issues/your chief dilemma?
  • What do you think are the main contexts influencing this situation?
  • How do you understand…?
  • What explanations do you have?
  • How would you describe…?
  • How would x view you/what is going on?
  • What would x say?
  • Has there been a situation like this before?
  • When x does this what does y do/how would y react?
  • What you have said made me curious about…
  • How would a PCT manager/the GMC/a lawyer regard this?
  • If you looked at this from a ‘patient safety’ perspective what thoughts would you have?
  • What are the differences in beliefs/understandings/approaches between…?
  • What do you think would need to happen?
  • What would happen if you tried…?
  • Where do you think things will be in…(time)?
  • What will happen if nothing changes?

Circular process of supervision


Thinking points

Here are some other situations that might be encountered in educational supervision.

  • Trainee is insistent on a career direction you think is inappropriate.
  • Student/trainee failing an assessment.
  • First supervision meeting.
  • Final supervision meeting.
  • Trainee/student/colleague about whom someone has complained (patient or colleague).
  • Trainee/student/colleague in personal difficulty, e.g. with depression or burnout, or with a family member who is very sick.

What sort of questions might be helpful to encourage the supervisee to tak a reflective approach to move towards change and professional development? 

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