Language Teacher Supervision: A Case-Based Approach

Kathleen M. Bailey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Pp. xvi + 384.

Reviewed by Servet Celik
Indiana University
Bloomington, Idiana

Blending personal experience with an emerging body of research and practice on supervision from a wide range of fields in an attempt to shed light on a rarely explored topic in language teaching, Bailey s Language Teacher Supervision: A Case-Based Approach,through the use of case studies, serves as an admirable resource for people who might become language teacher supervisors, as well as for those who already have supervisory responsibilities (p. 1).
This text spans 15 chapters devoted to issues such as supervision as a profession, teachers awareness and attitudes, professional autonomy and authority, and teacher evaluation, and in doing so, explores the purpose and application of language teacher supervision. It also offers pragmatic information on teacher observation, analysis, and feedback.
The first chapter, as it provides insight into the status of supervision as a professional endeavor, investigates how the proficiencies of supervisors have been defined in other fields and reflects upon the specific expertise needed by language teacher supervisors. It then lays out the rationale behind the case approach and discusses how it elucidates the issues underlying supervision. The next two chapters draw from theory to ease the understanding of supervision. Chapter 2, through the lens of Sociocultural Theory, explores awareness and attitude, both of which are essential in building a sound relationship between supervisors and teachers to cultivate the type of professional conscientiousness needed for personal development. Chapter 3, using several key concepts from second language acquisition research, attempts to discover the multifaceted, and somewhat problematic, interaction between supervisor s authority and teachers autonomy. Bailey refers to the types of power in supervision and highlights the fine line between acceptable control that can help empower language teachers and unwarranted control that can be detrimental to the supervision process.
Chapters 4, 5, and 6 discuss issues related to classroom observations of teachers. Chapter 4 talks about the pros and cons of observing teachers and recording data during observations and makes specific reference to observer s paradox. With the need for proper evaluation methods in mind, chapters 5 and 6 review several manual and electronic data collection techniques, and outline the advantages and disadvantages of each. Chapters 7 and 8 look at post-observation conferences with teachers, which Bailey considers to be one of the most delicate aspects of supervision, mainly due to disparate power relationships between supervisors and teachers. Chapter 7 reviews the literature on how supervisory conferences should be conducted and what factors affect their discourse. Chapter 8 recaps research on verbal mitigation devices in supervisors speech, as well as on nonverbal behavior, and explores how supervisors can utilize such tools to minimize power gaps and to maximize the effectiveness of feedback. Chapters 9 and 10 examine teacher evaluation and the necessity of properly carrying out such evaluations and emphasize the differences between evaluative supervision and developmental supervisory functions. Chapter 9 scrutinizes the primary purposes and principles of language teacher evaluation and accentuates the different sources of information for assessing teachers. Chapter 10 addresses the criteria for language teacher evaluation including individual opinions, group consensus, teaching methods, competencies and performance standards as it draws from previous research on teacher effectiveness.
The next four chapters focus on a number of different supervisory contexts in language education. Chapter 11 delves into issues related to supervision of pre-service teachers, as it reviews two case studies on the relationship between student teachers and cooperating teachers, and reflects upon one supervisor s experience. It also offers insight into the differences between the work of cooperating teachers and university supervisors and evaluates the situational leadership model. Chapter 12 discusses the difficulties and incentives associated with supervising teaching assistants and considers strategies to successfully work with this population. Chapter 13 is dedicated to issues pertaining to the supervision of in-service language teachers as it uncovers various attitudinal factors such as decision making, reluctance and resistance, job satisfaction, and burnout. Chapter 14 embarks upon the challenges of supervising non-native speaking language teachers, while it tackles the problem of defining the non-native speaker and answering what varieties of language should be taught. Finally, chapter 15 synthesizes the ideas discussed in earlier chapters to create a comprehensive depiction of desired supervision. This final chapter takes on the concept of professionalism and calls for a contemporary language teacher supervision that goes hand in hand with current trends and reflective teaching practices.
With assorted chapters on supervision, each consisting of case studies for analysis and discussion, concluding comments, and questions and tasks to allow readers to review and reinforce their understanding, this insightful read will serve as an indispensable resource for its audience. Although the link between supervision and substantial professional development occasionally gets fuzzy, overall this text offers an equilibrium between a personal and scientific look at language teacher supervision, effectively linking opinion, theory and research which helps readers to gain knowledge and develop skills as a professional language teacher supervisor in ways that are more purposeful and straightforward than the largely haphazard endeavor it has been for many people (xiv).