This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
Any work in which two or more persons cooperate involves supervision. One must go ahead or think ahead, and indicate, though perhaps only silently by his own actions, what the others are to do. When the group is numerous, then special supervisors are needed. When the group is also there for the purpose of being trained, like the practice teachers in a normal school, then supervision of high quality is necessary; mere setting of tasks is not sufficient.
The function of the supervisor is to help the worker to find himself, to discover his own best way of doing whatever has to be done. Supervision must therefore be sympathetic - working, thinking, feeling, with the person supervised. The supervisor should be enthusiastic - should radiate success in every motion and word - though not at all in the spirit of self-display, wholly to set an example and to encourage. The discouraged worker must have kindly instruction. Nothing must be done to destroy self-respect; cutting remarks must be reserved for the careless or supercilious worker. But the supervisor must have compelling power - something in him to make the corps of workers feel that their assignments are of tremendous importance.
When the hour comes to-morrow those children must be taught, and taught properly, whether you have time to meet your friend at the train or not. You are an officer in the great educational army, and you must do your duty.
Supervisory Control depends for its effectiveness upon agents who possess technical and expert knowledge of educational processes, and who are capable of employing that knowledge for the development and advancement of the institutions coming under their control.
... It is emphatically constructive, rather than merely executive. For its best results it demands the completest cooperation between the members of the teaching and supervisory staffs. For the proper exercise of this form of control superintendents, directors, and principals should be given entire freedom of action. Supervisory control does not lie within the legitimate province of the Board of Education or of other municipal boards and officers. ... - Elliott, City School Supervision, pp. 11-13.
Inspection is quite a different matter. Its purpose is, not to give help immediately, but to evaluate and report for the guidance of authorities higher up in making future arrangements, one of which may be the dismissal or promotion of the person whose work is inspected. The inspector needs to have merely enough sympathy, or tact, to make his visit as little of a disturbance as possible. But the indispensable qualifications are, first of all, broad and accurate judgment, then thorough honesty, with plenty of moral courage.
There are two ways of judging a specialist of any rank, say a kindergartner or a teacher of Latin. One is by other specialists who are able to appreciate every step of the work; the other is by laymen on the basis of results merely. Either way has its advantages as well as its disadvantages, so that each needs to be supplemented by the other. The layman's view is the ultimate test, but it may be enlightened and guided by expert views. Our school boards, boards of regents, and commissions of various kinds exist to represent and make effective the layman's view; they sometimes include specialists in their own number, but even then they must occasionally employ outside specialists to investigate, evaluate, and report.
The finances of institutions of all kinds have long been treated in just this way. The treasurer makes his report to the governing body. A committee is then appointed, including an accountant if possible, to examine the report and advise whether or not it should be accepted. In some states there are certified public accountants who make a business of auditing reports. If there is an error in the computations, or a payment without a voucher, or some overvaluation of assets, the auditor calls attention to it. No treasurer should be offended at this: that is what the auditor is employed for - to find any flaws that exist. Inspection is necessary in any large organization, and no one should resent being subjected to it. When the inspector calls, it is best to welcome him, to throw everything open to his view, and help him to find out what he wants to know. To appear reticent is certain to raise the suspicion that something is being concealed. Rather than be overcautious when under the eye of the inspector, it is better to push the work merrily along even at the risk of making some blunders.
Though supervision and inspection are so different in their nature, they are often combined in the same office. The person holding such an office is likely to emphasize one phase of his work at the expense of the other, which one that shall be depending on his nature. Most school principals, supervisors, inspectors, and superintendents have to do both supervising and inspecting, whatever the title of the office may be and whatever their ostensible duty may be. With young persons, and with new recruits of any age, supervision is especially needed. With persons fitted to their work by years of experience, occasional inspection is needed to see how well they retain their efficiency and keep up with the times.
When we rise to the higher ranks of workers, those who are specialists in their respective lines and whose duties are not strictly standardized like those of bookkeepers, helpful supervision ceases to be possible, and even inspection is either perfunctory or else it is impertinent meddling: the inspector who makes an unfavorable criticism of an expert may have a war on his hands. The reason for this is not merely that competent supervisors and inspectors can no longer be found, but that the spirit of the workers is different. These high-grade workers are neither amateurs nor apprentices; they are masters. They are held to their tasks, not by the necessity of earning a livelihood or fear of discharge, but by sense of duty, loyalty to the institution, professional honor, love of achievement. To send an inspector to such a person is an affront, particularly if the purpose seems to be to find petty faults without coming to an appreciation of the larger results that are being accomplished.
Inspectorial Control is similar in nature to supervisory control, yet to be distinguished from it. . . . It differs from the supervisory activity in that its primary purpose is not personal, constructive service. Its aim is toward an impersonal, objective measurement of the results and worth of the school. . . .
There has not been, up to the present time, any widespread recognition in American education of the great importance of the inspectorial form of control. Yet, as the public schools have expanded and have become more intricate in their organization, so much greater has become the necessity of means whereby the essential operations may be subjected to a checking and valuating process. The schools have lacked an audit that would exhibit how well that which is being attempted is being done; an audit that would reveal the degree to which the machinery of organization is adapted to its purpose; an audit that would display the essential facts of census, attendance, and rate of progress of pupils, the accomplishments of teachers, and an anlaysis of the real cost in money of the several and numerous activities that enter into school education.
Inspectorial control should be exercised by duly constituted agencies distinct from those agencies or individuals that are primarily responsible for administrative and supervisory direction. Otherwise, there will be no impersonal judgments of worth founded on actual results and accomplishment. - Elliott, City School Supervision, pp. 12, 13.
... A man who has to inspect the work of five hundred, or even a hundred, others must do so superficially. He knows nothing of the life and character of the man before him, and must judge by unimportant or accidental details observed at the moment of inspection (in a superficially organized army, for instance, mainly by the condition of a man's clothes or by his look of "smartness" on parade). Under such conditions, as a school teacher complained to me, "only the coarser and more obvious forms of success pay." Work (to use only words which I have written down after actual conversations) becomes "mechanical," "inhuman," "red-tapish," and those who have to do it become "system-sick" and suffer from "Potters' Rot."
What is worse is that the defects of any system of inspection which ignores the quantitative limitations of personal intercourse can be "played up to" by the baser kind of employee. A Washington civil servant was, I believe, typical of many thousand others when he complained to me: "The low-class man who cares only to draw his pay and intrigue for promotion is happy. The man of public spirit or with the craftsman's love of his work is unhappy. . . ."
Much has been done in almost all great businesses and services to prevent the more obvious faults of superficial inspection. The head of a great business is often warned that he must neither blame nor praise an individual workman for what he happens to see in a visit to the works. Confidential "dossiers" are sometimes kept of a man's whole career, which are consulted before any step is taken to promote or degrade him. But success in the art of "human" as compared to "mechanical" direction is, I believe, still largely a matter of accident. . . .
In this difficult task of adjusting the vastness of the Great Society to the smallness of individual man, one of the most useful ideas to be kept before the inventor of an organization is the "self-respect" of those who are to be organized. An important means of preserving that self-respect is, as I have just said, such a system of inspection and control as shall secure that a man is judged on his whole character and by his best work. - Wallas, The Great Society, pp. 334-337.