How Critical are we? Revitalising Critical Reflection in Supervision


  • Matt Rankine The University of Auckland


Supervision, Critical reflection, Reflective practice, Social work, Social justice


Reflective practice and critical reflection are problematic terms adopted by social work educators and practitioners. Social workers strive to understand power relationships, navigate oppressive structures and support disadvantaged groups in society in order to effectively improve practice. Supervision provides the professional space for critical reflection of the wider social work environment. This article reports on a qualitative study (Rankine, 2017a) examining critical reflection of practice in supervision within the current context of community-based child welfare services in Aotearoa New Zealand. Data were analysed from interviews with two participant groups: key informants and supervisory dyads. Analysis of the key informant data identified reflective practice as having different stages and critical reflection in supervision as a separate process that illuminated the impact of environmental factors on social work. Within practice, supervisory dyads utilised the supervision session for reflection on a superficial level but rarely used critical reflection to explore the wider contextual issues impacting on practice. Greater examination of the wider socio-political, socio-cultural and structural factors that influence practice and engagement with service users is urgently required. Critical reflection within supervision provides a space for social workers to develop professional practice and strengthen social justice strategies within their work.


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