Eisner Artistic Supervision Notes

Eisner, E. W. (1982). The artistic approach to supervision. In T. Sergiovanni (Ed.), Supervision of teaching: 1982 yearbook of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (pp. 53-66). Virginia: ASCD.

·      Supervisor implies hierarchical relationships of right and wrong.

·      The roots of scientific management from the Industrial Era are still present in current (1980s) supervisory practices: "It is to say that the term supervisor has an industrial ring and that prescriptive, evaluative, and hierarchical connotations are related to it (p. 54)."

·      "The term supervisor has quite another set of connotations. It is someone on the managerial side of the ledger that the workers on the line must heed (p. 54)."


The Fallacies of "Scientific" Supervision

·      Checklists are inappropriate and inaccurate tools for evaluating teaching.

·      "To focus exclusively on behavior and to neglect meaning or experience because it requires inference and imaginative forms of empathetic participation in the life of another can be misinterpret what one looks at (p. 56)."

·      "Thus, poetry is a form of representation that makes meanings possible that are inexpressible in prose. Visual images make meanings possible that text cannot convey. Number conveys meanings with a precision that poetry and music cannot achieve. Each form of representation is a vehicle through which differing conceptions find their public expression; each form houses its own potential for meanings that cannot be replicated in other forms (p. 58)."

·      The scientific management approach to supervision is flawed and inadequate for recognizing the complexity of teaching.

·      "What occurs is a satisfaction in the classroom and that highly prescriptive methods reduce the scope of their own ingenuity and diminish their sense of pride and satisfaction (p. 59)."


An Artistic Approach to Supervision

·      "The aspiration to produce a science of educational practice has gone hand in hand with the treatment of supervision as a scientifically based technology. Many of the efforts that have been made have misconstrued the nature of educational practice and have had some unfortunate effects on teachers, pupils, and on life in schools (p. 59)."

·      "By artistic I mean using an approach to supervision that relies on the sensitivity, perceptivity, and knowledge of the supervisor as a way of appreciating the significant subtleties occurring in the classroom, and that exploits the expressive, poetic, and often metaphorical potential of language to convey to teachers or to others whose decisions affect what goes on in schools, what has been observed. In such an approach to supervision, the human is the instrument that makes sense of what has gone on. The major aim is to improve the quality of educational life in school (pp. 59-60)."

·      Artistic supervisors must be connoisseurs of teaching - able to see the subtleties of the complexity of teaching.

·      "Artistically-oriented supervision would recognize this style and try to help the teacher exploit it by strengthening the positive directions already taken (p. 60)."


Content of Perceptions

·      "An artistic approach to supervision would attend to the expressive character of what teachers and students are doing, the meta messages contained in the explicit actions they engage in. It would attempt to understand the kind of experience that pupils and teachers have, and not simply describe or count the behaviors they display. What the situation means to the other people who are in it and how the actions within the situation convey or create such meaning are the phenomena of interest in an artistic approach to supervision (p. 62)."

·      "The critic's function - and I would argue one of the major functions of the supervisor - is to help others appreciate what has transpired. Supervisors can do this by first having developed a high level of educational connoisseurship since it is this process that provides the content for criticism and, second, by being able to convey to others, often through expressive or artistic use of language, what has taken place (p. 62)."

·      What is described above with regard to the orchestra is from the observer's eyes and is not free of judgment. How would that work for a supervisor?

·      "When the characteristics of classroom life are formalized, as they are when check-off observation schedules are used, the quality of that life and its meaning for those who are in the situation is radically reduced (p. 63)."

·      Artistic supervision uses descriptive narratives as products.

·      "The educational critic and the supervisor who use an artistically-oriented approach to supervision are obligated to judge the worth of what has been seen by applying to it educational, not simply statistical, criteria (p. 65)."

·      The most important features or characteristics of an artistic approach to supervision... Artistic approaches to supervision:

o   "...require attention to the muted or expressive character of events, not simply to their incidence or literal meaning.

o   "...high levels of educational connoisseurship, the ability to see what is significant yet subtle.

o   "...appreciate the unique contributions of the teacher to the educational development of the young, as well as those contributions a teacher may have in common with others.

o   "...demand that attention be paid to the process of classroom life and that this process be observed over extended periods of time so that the significance of events can be placed in a temporal context.

o   "...require that rapport be established between supervisor and those supervised so that dialogue and a sense of trust can be established between the two.

o   "...an ability to use language in a way that exploits its potential to make public the expressive character of what has been seen.

o   "...the ability to interpret the meaning of the events occurring to those who experience them and to be able to appreciate their educational import.

o   "...accept the fact that the individual supervisor with his or her strengths, sensitivities, and experience is the major 'instrument' through which the educational situation is perceived and its meaning construed (p. 66)."