April 2016 Article of the Month
Ragsdale, J. R., Orme-Rogers, C., Bush, J. C., Stowman, S. L. and Seeger, R. W. "Behavioral outcomes of supervisory education in the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education: a qualitative research study." Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling 70, no. 1 (March 2016): 5-15.
SUMMARY and COMMENT: Our featured article is the final report of a study originally presented to the 2015 ACPE national conference (Atlanta, GA) during Judith R. Ragsdale's acceptance of the organization's Critical Thinking in Research & Innovation Award [--see Items of Related Interest, §I, below]. It is a prime example of the practical value of research to the ACPE and should be essential reading for every person seeking to enter supervisory education, but it also provides for a wider audience an illustration of what lies behind the very special learning modality that is Clinical Pastoral Education.
This is the latest of three studies by Ragsdale, et al. to help develop a theory to guide those who train Supervisory Education Students (SES) [--see Items of Related Interest, §II, below]. The principal aim of the study is one of clarification of behaviors of successful SESs that demonstrate the integration of various strands of emphasis in the supervisory education process (e.g., "conceptual understanding, practical skills, personal maturity and spiritual/religious grounding" [p. 6]). "We believe that integrated supervision is essential to CPE and its soul-full qualities...[and]... [c]larifying the behaviors resulting in certification will help define these separate strands and how they are woven through experience and study..." [p. 6]. What the present study is not, however, is an attempt to list expected behaviors simply to "lead SESs to act [them] out...rather than developing the integration allowing the behaviors to be expressed from a depth of understanding and personal maturity" [p. 14].
Data were analyzed from transcribed interviews of 40-60 minutes with 28 members of the ACPE Certification Commission, representing all of the organization's nine regions. "The interview question was: 'What behaviors either in the written materials, or on the DVD, or in the committee meeting itself, influence you to vote to grant, or to deny, a candidate’s request to be certified as an ACPE Associate Supervisor?'" [p. 8]. The method for the Grounded Theory analysis is briefly but well described on p. 8, along with certain demographics of the participants.
Among the results, 12 behavior themes are identified and explicated under the headings of 4 competencies. In sum, these are [--excerpted from Table 1 on p. 9]:
Each of the 12 themes is then paired with very practical examples of behaviors. For instance, specific behaviors for Assesses CPE students' learning needs include: "Provides an example of assessing a student's learning need and using a theory-informed intervention in response to an opportunity presented in the moment" and "Describes a theory-based shift in approach when an intervention did not work" [p. 9]; and for Develops spiritual care competencies, specific behaviors include, "Identifies skills the CPE students need to learn such as spiritual assessment, listening, and working with people in conflict" [p. 11]. A total of 84 specific behaviors are listed on pp. 9-13, along with a number of quotes characterizing the Certification Commission members' perspective and discernment. It's important to recognize that "[t]his study did not list the negative behaviors commissioners identified as preventing certification because many of the negative behaviors are simply lack of expressing the identified behaviors" [p. 13].
Among the points in their discussion that demonstrate how this research raises practical issues for the ACPE, the authors note, "Using theories to assess student learning needs does not appear in the current (2010) ACPE Standards, yet this is an important ability certification commissioners seek from SESs." And further, "While spiritual assessment is still not a named outcome for Level I or Level II CPE, the call for better preparation for chaplains...suggest[s] that spiritual assessment should be a skill SESs both practice and teach" [p. 13]. For this reader, understanding better what commission members may actually look for in supervisory candidates would seem not only to help build theory to improve the supervisory process but also to help bring greater clarity and congruence to official standards and outcomes. This research paints a very real-life picture of the supervisory competencies from which CPE students should expect to benefit.
Some of the recommendations out of this study are: "to define timelines and evaluation strategies for these behaviors," "to focus CPE supervisory education on content as well as on process," "to reconsider including integration as a competency for Supervisory CPE," and to encourage "supervisors considering supervising SESs ...[to]... intentionally use CPE processes for their own development in two ways: by evaluating their theoretical positions and amending them for supervisory education; and by submitting their supervision of SESs for consultation" [p. 13].
Suggestions for the Use of the Article for Student Discussion:
The most obvious ACPE context for discussion of this article would be a supervisory education group, in which case the findings should naturally generate animated sharing. The quotations included with the listing of competencies and behaviors could be helpful in focusing the discussion on manageable segments of the material. It might be both interesting and useful to explore how students perceive the behaviors in light of the article’s emphasis on the broad goal of integration. What of the findings do students experience as particularly clarifying? Special attention might be paid to the points made in the Discussion section about the "two of the philosophies from CPE’s roots" [p. 13]. A potentially more challenging group setting for discussion would be a regular CPE group. How would it feel, as a supervisor, to ask a group of CPE residents to read this article? Could it help those students better appreciate the adult-learning modality in which they are immersed? What do students make of the observations of the authors about diversity and the possible limits of drawing on one’s one faith tradition for spiritual care practice [--see p. 13]?
Related Items of Interest:
I. This study reported this month has previously been noted by the Research Network. The PowerPoint slides from Dr. Ragsdale's presentation to the 2015 national conference in Atlanta, GA, are linked to our Summer 2015 Newsletter (see §6), and a bibliography of her research is linked to our Spring 2015 Newsletter (§2).
II. The two preceding studies in the "series seeking to develop a theory to guide supervisors of SESs" [p. 7 of our featured article] are:
III. For students whose interest in the story of CPE might be piqued by this month's article, the following two books (cited in the bibliography) offer thoughtful perspectives:
IV. This month marks the return of online access to the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling as part of ACPE membership (via the link on the ACPE's Resources page. Students should take advantage of this rich resource by browsing recent years' tables of contents for reports of research and other materials. Note that from 2009-2014, articles were designated by individual electronic journal page designations, but since 2015 normal sequential pagination by issues was resumed.
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