Using recordings of mindfulness-based teaching during supervision

– written by Alison Evans

As part of postgraduate training programmes and teacher training pathways, students/trainees are encouraged to record their teaching ready for assessment using the Mindfulness-based Interventions: Teaching Assessment Criteria (MBI:TAC). This is often a daunting prospect for teachers in training. We give an example here from one of our mindfulness-based supervisors (experienced in supervising students on training programmes) and her supervisee, Anne, who is training through the University of Exeter (other established training pathways also use the MBI:TAC include Bangor University and Oxford University). The UK Network of Mindfulness-based Training Organisations – in its frequently asked questions about good practice guidelines – outlines the need for practising teaching with supervision and receiving formative feedback from more experienced teachers.

Please note that we use the fictitious name “Anne” for the supervisee to preserve her anonymity.

Reflections from the perspective of the mindfulness-based supervisor

During the contracting process with Anne, we spoke about her intentions and needs within supervision. Her intention was, in part, for supervision to prepare her for an assessment of her teaching using the MBI:TAC. With this in mind, we both agreed it would be useful to bring recordings into supervision to help sort out any practical issues in recording and to give us some direct material to observe and work with together in supervision.

I have been recorded and assessed many times as a Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) teacher as part of training processes and research trials. Although the experience has sometimes felt excruciating, I have also deeply valued the learning that I have gained from seeing myself, feedback from peers and feedback from more experienced teachers and assessors. I think this experience has encouraged me to support supervisees to have the courage to experiment with this mode of learning and perhaps take themselves out of their comfort zone.

As this was not assessment, we did not need to spend hours recording and viewing teachings. Instead, we agreed to bring in a small amount of teaching of inquiry. One of the challenges of exploring inquiry from a group is that it demands a high degree of memory recall and many opportunities for skewed perceptions to come in.

To ensure that the use of recording didn’t take over supervision, we used it sparingly. Anne sent me a link with a clip of recording (we agreed that it would be no more than 10 minutes long). We began our supervision session both watching the agreed clip and then joining each other on Skype to reflect, feedback, dialogue and learn together. I felt it was important for Anne to be able to choose what she brought so she could grade her level of exposure. Having a further 50 minutes after the joint viewing allowed us to take our time, pause, touch into feelings of vulnerability and hold the process within the container of mindfulness. We held the MBI:TAC as a background structure for considering strengths and learning edges in teaching.

Reflections from Anne’s perspective

I have found the process of bringing video recordings to mindfulness-based supervision extremely useful. To begin with, it doesn’t feel like an easy thing to do and it has been interesting to observe my own reactions to this. When I watched some of the recordings for the first time, they felt quite uncomfortable and made me squirm inside. I didn’t want to use one of these clips for mindfulness-based supervision – I wanted to use a clip that I felt more comfortable with. But I simply observed this as a reaction – a mixture of thoughts, feelings and physical sensations – and deliberately used the clips where I felt there was the most opportunity for learning. I felt able to do this because I knew my mindfulness-based supervisor would be interested in helping me develop my own awareness around what was happening in the recording and help me explore different options. It felt like a collaborative process of journeying and discovering, rather than a ‘Oh, look what you did there!’

Just the process of watching some of the recordings was immensely helpful and, with hindsight, I would encourage other trainees to do this as early as possible. For me, the first viewing often resulted in judgemental thoughts, honing in on what I missed or what I could have done differently. However, on revisiting the same recording the next day, I had a wider perspective and could see the things that had gone well, as well as seeing opportunities for a different approach. It helped me to see more clearly a familiar pattern of wanting things to go a certain way, fearing being judged harshly for ‘getting it wrong’ and a tendency to strive to get things ‘right.’ This awareness has helped me acknowledge and embrace the difficulty of working with uncertainty (not knowing what’s going to come up) while still remaining present and grounded, and pulling the threads of the session together gently but coherently. I now have more compassion for myself in this process and am more willing to give myself the space to just be with things as they arise, knowing that there will always be different possibilities.

Using recordings is not just part of initial training processes. Mindfulness-based teachers are encouraged – as ongoing good practice requirements – to receive periodic feedback on teaching through: video recordings; a supervisor sitting in on teaching sessions; or co-teaching with reciprocal feedback. Working with a mindfulness-based supervisor whom you know and trust could be one way allowing yourself as a teacher to be seen and be open to learning from each other.

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