Fehr Dissertation Notes Historical Analysis of the Role of Supervisor

Fehr, S. (2001). The role of the educational supervisor in United States public schools from 1970 to 2000 as reflected in the supervision literature. Unpublished dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University.


  • Supervisors switched their gaze primarily from evaluative purposes to supporting instructional growth in teachers.


1970s Because supervision is tied to administration, the supervisor became consumed by administrative tasks rather than supporting teachers in developing their instructional practices.

  • Schools became accountable to the public and were under immense scrutiny regarding their performance. Supervisors, then, acted as public relations personnel, bridging the gap between the community and the school.
  • IDEA 1975



The many hats of the supervisor during the 70s: evaluator, superintendent, curriculum specialist, principal, staff developer, teacher of teachers, public relations person, change agent, peacekeeper, advocate, mediator, visionary, accountant (budget manager), problem solver, cheerleader, role model, mentor, reviewer of research, and manager.


Late 1970s economic factors caused supervisors to link their roles of evaluation and instructional support in order to survive. Otherwise, their positions were in jeopardy of becoming extinct due to cost-cutting measures.


Ambiguity over supervisors' roles and responsibilities because they were not clearly defined at this time.


Late 70s

  • Return to back to the basics movement
  • Parents desiring involvement
  • Communities dissatisfied with schools, and supervisors were caught in the middle of teachers and communities.


Observation instruments, such as those found in the seminal text Mirrors of Behavior III, were the primary implementation devices in supervision. Although clinical supervision as a theoretical construct had been introduced in the literature, it was not existent in the practice of supervision, which was highly focused on teacher evaluation resulting from accountability pressures of the era.


Creation of COPIS


Centralized management - supervisors as case managers charged with changing teacher behavior



  • Supervisor as evaluator
  • Infrequent classroom visits to determine effectiveness. Effectiveness was measured through the attainment of behavioral objectives.
  • Increased workload of supervisors
  • Accountability of supervisors
  • Focus on student achievement as measured through standardized tests
  • Top-down accountability pressures regarding effectiveness
  • Emergence of team-teaching, which decreased the time needed to supervise since multiple individuals could be supervised at once.
  • Little teacher input


Multiple roles of the supervisor - a focus on supervisor as curriculum specialist and change agent; supervisor as evaluator still prevailed. Supervisor still wore multiple hats.


Being a leader in the 1980s meant... "What it meant to be a school leader was linked inextricably to helping others find meaning in their school experience (p. 154)."


Central administration had much more control over supervisors during this era.


Conflicting views of clinical supervision - Noreen Garman vs. Madeline Hunter. Supervisors used Hunter's tool to evaluate teachers. Garman's notions of clinical supervision were more organic and relationship intensive. Hunter's notions were more prescriptive and authoritarian.


Creation of AERA SIG, Journal of Curriculum and Supervision


Mid 80s big shift towards conceptual understandings and implementation of supervision rather than procedural applications.


Late 1980s

  • Scholars begin to question practices.
  • Introspection to examine supervisors' practice.
  • Interference of legislation determined supervisory roles away from curriculum development and more towards evaluation, not just of teachers but of programs, too.
  • Beginning of the emergence of teacher empowerment and teacher involvement in supervisory practices
  • Emergence of peer coaching
  • The emergence of developmental supervision by Glickman
  • Directive supervision, collaborative supervision, and non-directive supervision had implications for supervisor roles.
  • Emergence and practice of cognitive coaching by Costa and Garmston
  • Emergence of differentiated supervision by Glatthorn



  • Standards based movement
  • Desire for international competitiveness
  • Standardized test scores are the measure of achievement
  • Increased teacher involvement in supervision, therefore the supervisor began to take on more of a supportive role with regard to supervision as professional development
  • Supervision still used as an evaluative tool
  • Shift in thinking regarding supervision - supervision not as controlling teacher behavior but rather as a mechanism for empowering teachers
  • Movement away from isolationism in teaching with the emergence of working teams
  • Focus on reflective practice
  • Continued decentralization


Late 1990s

  • Emergence of action research
  • Increased parental involvement in schools - creation of parent/teacher organizations