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Title: The application of psychodynamic theory to a peer supervision group for head teachers
Author: McBlain, Anne-Marie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2693 3693
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2010
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This study follows a pilot study in the researcher's own authority where a peer supervision group had been set up to help a group of Head teachers who were reporting high levels of stress and job dissatisfaction including issues around: increasing demands to meet Local Authority targets; managing staff; increased administrative roles; dealing with pupils and their families who were experiencing complex socio-economic issues and increased feelings of isolation leading some of them to consider resigning. The current study, which was carried out by invitation in a neighbouring authority set out to: (1) To see if a process of group supervision would improve the lives of the Head teachers in that authority by allaying some of their fears and providing some practical ways forward with their difficulties and (2) To investigate some of the possible complex intra and interpersonal issues that may have contributed to any distress that participants brought to the group, or that occurred within it. The concepts of consultation, supervision and solution-focussed psychology were adapted to a group context as a means of generating practical solutions to problems and providing an effective container for the anxieties and uncertainties experienced by a group of Head teachers. Following an initial training day where the theoretical principles and group procedures were discussed, 11 participants volunteered to become part of a peer supervision group. Following a number of group sessions the 11 participants were interviewed using a psychoanalytic narrative 'Free Association Interview' method. Group members were also asked to rate their experiences in the group sessions. The interviews were recorded digitally, transcribed and arranged into nine common categories. The transcripts were then analysed using an interpretive categorical content analysis method and the psychodynamic concepts of splitting, transference, parataxic distortion, projective identification, alienation, Gestalt; the defended subject; anxieties and defences were applied to the data. The main findings from the questionnaire data indicated that in general the peer support group sessions were regarded as: useful, a good use of time, something that participants would be prepared to set time aside for; a reasonably high priority and having "a positive knock on effect for colleagues, pupils and parents in their school communities. The interview data indicated that the group was seen to help to contain anxiety-provoking feelings and provided a positive way forward for the Head teachers. It proved to be collaborative and reflexive and maximized individual group members' own resources to work more effectively. Through the group the Heads were able to: explore , and learn through practical, experiential and theoretical elements of their own professional practice and that of their peers; were able to discuss potentially controversial or disturbing issues; and enhance their ability to manage their own schools. More specifically the reported benefits for individuals of being in the group were: normalization of issues; improved problem-solving skills; reassurance and affirmation; the experienced benefits of altruism; educative or formative elements; improved listening and problem-solving skills and increased trust, openness and communication. In addition the emotional Health of the Head teachers was reported to have improved and their levels of perceived stress were reduced. Whilst it is acknowledged that it is not possible to replicate the group and have any assurance that the same effects would be experienced by different individuals, it can be seen that for the, individuals involved in this group, their experiences of being in the group may be generalised to other situations and contexts . The results obtained in this study may be interpreted ~o imply that the peer supervision group set out what it hoped to achieve in that it; 1. Improved the lives' of some of the Head teachers concerned by allaying some of their fears and providing some practical ways forward with their difficulties. 2. Suggested that complex intra and interpersonal issues may have contributed to the distress of the individuals concerned.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available