There are both formal and informal practices involved in supervision. The informal practices occur when the supervisor regularly gives the student informal feedback in impartial, productive methods that empowers the student. Such practices can lead to a sustainable and friendly supervisor-student relationship. Sometimes, a student can receive informal supervisor on a daily basis. Unlike informal, formal supervisory practices are organised in a specific time and occur less frequently, usually taking place once a week in a quiet environment where the student and supervisor are not disturbed. The formal supervisory sessions are an important component of the field placement, they usually last one hour. They occur at an agreed specific time, where the supervisor and student have a private setting to converse about the events of the previous week, and decide the action plans for the next week. According to Alsop and Ryan (1996), there are four main aims that need to be accounted in the course of formal supervisory:
- The student should reflect on their practice, and should value the feedback from the supervisor, and should converse about their practice.
- The student should examine their 'learning goals' and organise to achieve them
- Both supervisor and student should revise the 'learning contract' that binds them until the next supervision meeting
- Both supervisor and student should examine the 'practical issues' to widen the student's understanding of their fieldwork experience
An effective relationship between the supervisor and student is one of reflective openness and honesty. To take advantage of this relationship, the student should consider Gilling (2000) advice, which states that the student should have a 'readiness to change practice' and have a 'commitment to self-enquiry', allowing the student to maximise their learning throughout the supervision process. Also, self-awareness is significant in the reflective process, which means that the student should be well-informed of their own identities, including the personal beliefs and values they hold. The placement experience can result in the student challenging or confronting these beliefs and values, therefore reflective practice is important. As highlighted by Gilling and many other reflective models forms by other authors, the final stage of reflection concerns the student's willingness to transform their practice and adopt newer conceptual methods and views. If the student is not willing to alter their methods, they may miss the potential advantages in terms of their practice development. This would greatly impact upon the possible advances made by the student and the evolvement of professional practice. A skilful supervisor should guide the student into a reflective process, and will be willing to spend great amounts of time to listen to the student, and help guide and challenge the student throughout the placement experience. The supervisor and student need to come to a general consensus of what they expect from the supervisory process, and an agreement to take the process seriously.
To sum up, formal supervision occurs at an agreed time where the student learns from the supervisor, form objectives regarding their scholarly development, and explore their own practice. This means that both the student and supervisor should acknowledge the significance of formal supervisor sessions, and the need to allocate times for these sessions. Further, the supervisory process encourages the student and supervisor to engage in critical reflection, which is seen as an essential contribution to a successful placement experience.