Evaluating social work supervision


  • Allyson Mary Davys University of Auckland private practice
  • Janet May Waikato Institute of Technology
  • Beverly Burns Private consultancy
  • Michael O’Connell Lakes District Health Board




supervision, evaluation, social work, safety, ideal practice, Aotearoa New Zealand.


INTRODUCTION: The question of whether the practice of professional supervision is effective, and how its effectiveness can be measured, has been debated by both social work and other professions. This study explored how practitioners, supervisors and managers in Aotearoa New Zealand currently evaluate the supervision they receive, provide and/or resource.  The study was interprofessional involving counsellors, mental health nurses, psychologists and social workers. This article focuses on the findings from the social work cohort.

METHODS: Through an on-line Qualtrics survey participants were asked: 1) how they currently evaluated professional/clinical supervision; and 2) how they thought professional/clinical supervision could be evaluated. Data were extracted through the Qualtrics reporting functions and thematic analysis was used to identify themes. A total of 329 participants completed the survey of which 145 (44%) were social workers. 

FINDINGS: A majority of the social work participants reported that they evaluated supervision in some form. No culture or policy emerged regarding supervision evaluation, but social workers expressed interest in training and resources to assist evaluation and some saw a supportive and endorsement role for the professional or regulatory bodies. An unexpected finding was reports of unsatisfactory and harmful supervision.

CONCLUSION: Evaluation of supervision is an activity with which social workers engage, but further research is needed to explore how evaluation can be embedded in supervision practice. More critically, a broader audit is required to reconsider the definition and model of social work supervision in Aotearoa New Zealand and the environments within which supervision occurs.

Author Biographies

Allyson Mary Davys, University of Auckland private practice

Allyson Davys, registered social worker, has practised social work in a range of social work contexts (statuary, not for profit and private). Her interest in professional supervision spans more than twenty years and includes supervision practice, education and research.  She is particularly interested in supervision as a generic practice and has supervised practitioners and managers from a range of professions and has delivered supervision education in tertiary academic settings and through workplace training workshops to similarly mixed professional groups. More recently she held a senior leadership and management position within a tertiary education institution which delivered professional health and social care qualifications.

Currently she is focussing on research, academic writing and doctoral study. She is a contract lecturer at the University of Auckland and has a small private practice delivering supervision training and providing professional supervision. 

Janet May, Waikato Institute of Technology

Senior Academic Staff Member 

Centre for Health and Social Practice 


BSW, MSc (counsellor, supervision and training),

PhD candidate 

Member New Zealand Association of Counsellors

Beverly Burns, Private consultancy

B.Ed. M.Soc.Sc. Dip Psych (Clin.),
Registered Psychologist
16 Riverside Lane

Michael O’Connell, Lakes District Health Board

 Clinical nurse director/clinical advisor




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How to Cite

Davys, A. M., May, J., Burns, B., & O’Connell, M. (2017). Evaluating social work supervision. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 29(3), 108–121. https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol29iss3id314



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