McNeil Scientific Supervision Notes

McNeil, J. D. (1982). A scientific approach to supervision. In T. Sergiovanni (Ed.), Supervision of teaching: 1982 yearbook of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (pp. 18-34). Virginia: ASCD.


Scientific Supervision as Part of the Scientific Management Movement

·      Supervisor centered: "Supervisors themselves were to discover the best procedures for performing teaching tasks and to help teachers acquire these methods in order to ensure maximum pupil achievement (p. 19)."

·      Feels inquisitorial from the teachers' perspectives

·      "Teacher preparation and renewal were to be undertaken only after identifying the teacher's weaknesses by measuring the teacher's knowledge of subject matter, understanding of methods and teaching processes, ability to see teaching in academic and social perspectives, endurance, and energy (p. 19)."


Scientific Supervision as Drawing on Research Studies and Applying a Problem Solving Method

·      "Supervisors and teachers together were to adopt an experimental attitude, trying out new procedures and studying the effects of each newly introduced means of improvement until satisfactory results were attained (p. 20)."

·      Focus in on results as measured by test scores


Scientific Supervision as Democratic Ideology

·      1940s: "Principles associated with democracy - widespread participation, respect for personality and the importance of eliciting the contributions of many in reaching a common goal - tempered the earlier admonitions that teachers should act in accordance with facts and principles that were reasonably well established by the process of science (p. 20)."


The End of Scientific Research by School Supervisors

·      Measuring teacher effectiveness, the goal of scientific supervision, is a complicated task and has not yet been solved despite many efforts by those engage in scientific research.


Current Teacher Effectiveness Research

·      A Technology of Instruction Based on Learning and Behavior Theory

o   "Behavioral scientists thought that the problem of effective instruction could best be met by applying psychological theories of learning and the results of experiments involving controlled manipulation of specific factors (p. 23)."

o   "Although it has been more popular to focus on teachers as they way to affect instructional improvement, behavioral scientists with a product development orientation assumed that by improving materials, they would improve educational practice (p. 25)."

o   Ease of scientific management - the application of principles and techniques are simple, which makes it an appealing approach.

·      The Process-Product Paradigm

·      Impact of Process-Product Research on Supervision

o   Ahhh!!! What kinds of students are we producing???: "Supervisors now emphasize staff development programs aimed at getting teachers to apply a method called 'direct instruction,' a method derived from research findings regarding the apparent importance of academically focused teacher-directed classrooms. In accordance with direct instruction, teachers are expected to make goals or objectives clear to students, to allocate time for instruction in sufficient and continuing amounts, to match the content presented to that which will be measured on tests of achievement, to monitor the performance of pupils, and to keep questions at a low level so that pupils have a high success rate while learning and to give immediate feedback to students (p. 27)." The rationale is that since the tests use low level questions, there is no need to produce high level thinking students. Such skills only confuse students on these tests.

o   "In the 1920s, supervisors stressed time-on-task and student attention from a preoccupation for efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity. In the 1940s, they downplayed time-on-task as being too mechanistic and authoritarian for democratic classrooms (p. 28)."

·      The Process-Product Paradigm and Practices that Follow From It

o   "Mastery is usually measured by an achievement test measuring low levels of understanding, such as recall and comprehension, rather than application and evaluation (p. 29)."

o   "Orderly pupils may just as well produce an effective teacher as an effective teacher cause an orderly class (p. 30)."


The Future of Scientific Supervision

·      "It is not surprising then that a scientific approach to supervision - that we can find out why some people are more effective teachers than others and that we can sue this knowledge to help teachers become effective - is a central dimension in the supervision field (p. 31)."

·      Limitations to the Scientific Approach to Teaching Effectiveness

·      The Limited Contribution of Research to Improving Teaching

·      Optional Directions in the Scientific Approach