The Relationship Between Reflective Supervision/Consultation and Reduced Burnout Among Early Education Professionals
This quantitative study aimed to better understand the relationship between reflective supervision/consultation (RSC) and burnout among early childhood education (ECE) professionals. The study surveyed 379 ECE professionals in the Midwest. This study found that high-quality RSC is significantly linked to lower levels of burnout and predicts less emotional exhaustion. The findings suggest that consistent, relationship-based RSC has an important impact on the well-being of ECE professionals. The research provides recommendations to improve RSC engagement.
The well-being of the early childhood education (ECE) workforce is increasingly understood as a cornerstone of effective services (Li Grining et al., 2010; Whitaker et al., 2015). Yet, those in the ECE field face complex challenges such as contextual adversity (Osofsky, 2009), low wages (Caven, 2021; Totenhagen et al., 2016; Whitebook et al., 2014), and few career development opportunities (Thorpe et al., 2020). Although ECE professionals value the work (Irvine et al., 2016; OECD, 2019), job-related stressors are linked to burnout, secondary traumatic stress, and turnover (Ansari et al., 2022; Osofsky, 2009; Schaack et al., 2020; Wells, 2015). While compensation is arguably one of the most crucial factors in the recruitment and retention of early childhood providers (Caven, 2021; Totenhagen et al., 2016), professional well-being has a considerable impact on highquality, consistent ECE services (Li Grinning et al., 2010). As ECE professionals work for wage-related policy changes, the field must also focus their attention on strategies that promote professional quality of life and well-being.
Well over half of young children in the United States participate in non-parental care arrangements, with nearly 62% enrolled in center-based programs such as preschool or prekindergarten (U.S. Department of Education, 2021). These numbers demonstrate the essential nature of ECE professionals. Yet, at between 30%–56% per year, turnover rates among ECE teachers are some of the highest (Caven, 2021; Koch et al., 2015). ECE turnover impacts program quality (Hale-Jinks et al., 2006) and child development (Markowitz, 2019 ). Research indicates that occupational stress and burnout are part of the problem (Schaack et al., 2020). Although the evidence base is limited, preliminary studies point to the benefits of reflective supervision/consultation (RSC) as a support for early childhood providers (Frosch et al., 2018; Shea et al. 2021; Susman-Stillman et al., 2020).
RSC is a well-regarded practice commonly used among infant and early childhood professionals, and it holds the potential to mitigate the effects of burnout (Frosch et al., 2018; Susman-Stillman et al., 2020). The practice of RSC enhances a provider’s emotional capacity to do the work and respond sensitively to young children and families (Virmani & Ontai, 2010). The widespread use of RSC is well-documented. In fact, RSC is an essential component of the Endorsement for Culturally Sensitive, Relationship-Focused Practice Promoting Infant, and Early Childhood Mental Health© (Endorsement©) and a practice standard for the infant and early childhood mental health field. Notwithstanding the acceptance of RSC as best practice for infant and early childhood professionals (Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health, 2018; Watson & Gatti, 2012), few empirical studies evaluate the impact of RSC on professional development and well-being.
Evidence regarding the positive effects of RSC is essential for funding and policy efforts (Tomlin et al., 2014), as well as a key factor in making RSC an evidence-based practice (Heller & Ash, 2016). Additionally, we would argue that ECE workforce wellness is essential, in its own right, making additional research an ethical responsibility.
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