• Neil Ralph

Domains of Reflection in Coaching Supervision


As reflective practitioners it is valuable to develop our reflective practice and to identify opportunities for learning and growth through reflection. Arguably, our aim is to become mindful practitioners, able to simultaneously act, reflect and respond in each moment. So, how can we develop our practice and become active, reflective learners?

Conventionally, reflection is something that is done after an event; recalling what we think happened, interpreting those memories, considering alternative courses of action and planning for the next, similar event when we can apply what we have learnt (if we remember!) Whilst this reflection-on-action has some merit it is only one opportunity and can be enhanced by reflection-in-action and reflection-before-action. Let’s consider each of these phases in relation to your coaching supervision.

Reflection-before-action provides an opportunity to stop and think in advance of a supervision session: How can I get the most out of this session?


Consider:

  • How is the relationship with your supervisor and the quality of your work together, so far? How does this affect your contract and commitment to each other?

  • How will you show up in this session and what assumptions are you making about your supervisor?

  • What will you risk to achieve the insights and outcomes that you want?

  • What have you learnt from previous reflection-on-action and how may that influence this session?

  • What is uppermost in your mind and what is manifesting in your body?

  • What themes, issues, and opportunities are evident in your current and past client work?

Some coaches and supervisors agree that the coach will write a brief note to the supervisor, before each session, sharing these reflections. That can be helpful both for the coach, as it encourages the coach to give proper time and exploration to such questions, and also to the supervisor, as it can help the supervisor to prepare better for the session.


Reflection-in-action provides an opportunity, moment-by-moment, to check in with yourself (and your supervisor) to determine: Am I getting what I want out of this session?


Consider:

  • What is attracting or distracting me right now? Should I follow it or park it?

  • What am I not saying that may be important here?

  • What am I feeling, and not responding to? How safe do I feel and how does this affect my risk taking?

  • How am I actually showing up and why? How do I think my supervisor is showing up, and is that working for me?

  • Is the process working for me? How could a break for reflection help and inform at this time?

Taking the time to notice what is going on for you, and deciding what to share with your supervisor in live-time is a valuable skill to develop. It will both enhance the quality of your supervision and the supervisory relationship, and will also be excellent practice for using the same skill in your coaching, when it is also, frequently, very valuable.

Reflection-on-action is, arguably, the most familiar and well-practised form of reflection. However, making a conscious decision to diary some reflection time immediately after a supervision session will enhance learning and impact. This vital phase allows you to think through and write down: What have I learnt and what will I do now?


Consider:

  • What specific actions will I take, if any? What alternative courses of action are opening up?

  • What did I not voice that needs further processing?

  • Are our contract, relationship and process enabling or disenabling and how might they be enhanced?

  • How much more do I need to risk in supervision and other situations?

  • What will I do differently next time?


Sharing your reflections with your supervisor, particularly in a peer supervision relationship, introduces accountability and opportunity to receive feedback on your reflections (if this has been contracted for). This can be very enriching, adding another learning loop to the supervisory process.

The suggested prompt questions above may be applicable to different reflection stages, so experiment with when you ask these questions and observe the different results. And, of course, experiment with other questions that suggest themselves to you (or your supervisor).

Supervision is a meeting of professionals to engage in reflective practice, so developing opportunities and experience in reflection is central to that process. This will enhance your professional relationship, deepen trust, increase openness and be a benefit to your clients and your coaching practice.

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With thanks to Jeremy Vessey, Marc-Olivier Jodoin, and Faye Cornish for sharing their photography

on Unsplash

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