Book Reviews

Book by Peter J. Burke and Robert D. Krey
Review by Ruth O. Bingham, PhD
Colleges of Arts and Sciences
University of Hawaii at Manoa


Many advisors come to their positions without formal training in supervision yet often find themselves supervising others, whether clerical support, student assistants, fellow advisors, or even non-advising colleagues participating in an advising program. 

In Supervision, Burke and Krey argue that supervision is best not left to intuition: "In many instances, decisions based upon intuition prove disastrous not only for the individual but for many other people who may become embroiled in the consequences of those decisions" (p. 30). Instead, they advocate developing a sound theoretical basis through analysis and reason.

Supervision is almost entirely theoretical analysis, focused on supervision in education, specifically in public school systems. Fortunately, the theories have universal application and advisors will find it easy to adapt the information to their individual situations.

Burke and Krey dissect the topic meticulously, breaking it down into sections (purposes, patterns, processes, and products), subsections, and sub-subsections, concluding with a relatively brief section on integrating the parts. A detailed Table of Contents helps keep readers on track.

Their careful analysis is thorough but dense, written predominantly in passive voice and with a metacogntive approach (explaining how the argument is organized, what will be explained, and why). The style yields an inordinate amount of repetition and gives the impression of being pedantic, even though much of the information is both insightful and useful.

For example, a passage on developing a theory of supervision includes the following:

.... The criteria constitute the point against which activities and products are to be measured and provide the bases for making judgments. 

A criterion is the referent point or condition which can serve as the basis for evaluation. 

The degree to which the objectives have been achieved is measured against a standard called a criterion. The criteria usually tend to cluster in an area of measurement or accomplishment termed the criterion measure. (p. 42)

Yet, Burke's and Krey 's analyses are ultimately useful: they explain how perspectives mold the purpose of supervision; they delineate improvement goals as opposed to maintenance goals; they distinguish between an idealized structure of supervision and its operation, or implementation; they examine supervisory processes such as evaluating, influencing change, planning, and managing; and so on.

Throughout, Burke and Krey prompt readers to question what they do and why, to analyze how they supervise, and to think critically about consequences. The authors also frequently provide examples and diagrams, suggest activities, and recommend additional reading, all of which illuminate their argument and lighten their prose.

Burke and Krey propose a comprehensive working definition of supervision (p. 20), but the most memorable version appears on p. 258: "Supervision is a process of influencing ... people, situations, and relationships."

Those whose supervision is going smoothly may not be willing to work through the text, but the task will prove beneficial for those who are new to supervising, who find supervising challenging, or who wish to develop or improve a program of supervision. Supervision will prove most helpful for departmental chairs and program directors.

Those familiar with the first edition will notice that this edition includes updated references, modified activities, and revisions to reflect current national policies on standards and assessment: "This edition provides a blueprint with which to build that conceptual framework for instructional leadership that may be used to fulfill the new policy demands" (p. vii).

Supervision: A Guide to Instructional Leadership. Second edition. (2005). Book by Peter J. Burke and Robert D. Krey. Review by Ruth O. Bingham. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 462 pp. Price $89.95 (hardback). ISBN # 0-398-07584-0

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