Organizations that work with young, at-risk children are well-known to experience accelerated employee turnover. Frequent worker attrition undermines agencies’ institutional knowledge and disrupts their ongoing relationships with children and families. Emerging data suggest that the relationship between supervisors and the professionals they supervise may prevent or delay turnover. Reflective practice, which is a structured, relationship-based form of problem-solving, can be used by supervisors to enhance their supervisees’ emotion regulation and critical thinking skills. Through examining past actions, emotions, experiences, and responses, professionals who work with at-risk children strengthen their ability to slow down and respond intentionally in future interactions. The current study examines a pilot implementation of reflective practice with early childhood education providers, young child mental health providers, and child welfare professionals and tests the link between supervisors’ ability to provide reflective practice and supervisee turnover intentions.
Twenty-five early childhood professionals were provided with reflective practice by their supervisors. These 25 professionals were surveyed at three time-points (baseline, four months post-baseline, and nine months post-baseline). Supervisors’ ability to provide reflective practice was measured via the Reflective Supervisor Rating Scale (RSRS) (Gallen et al., 2016). Turnover intentions (“searching for a new job” and “thinking about quitting”) were measured via the Intention to Leave Scale (Nissly et al., 2005).
Structural equation modeling was used to test study hypotheses. A confirmatory factor analysis verified the factor structure of the RSRS subscales at the first time-point (β range = .84 to .94). Turnover intentions at the third time-point were regressed onto the latent RSRS factor as well as previous reports of turnover intentions. The results showed that RSRS did significantly predict turnover intentions (β = −.43, p < .05) such that those with better supervisor reflective ability were less likely to report turnover intentions at the final time-point.
The current results suggest that professionals that work with young, at-risk children can benefit from engaging in reflective practice. Childhood education providers, young child mental health providers, and child welfare professionals who experienced quality reflective supervision reported reduced turnover intentions after nine months of reflective practice. These results are consistent with the current study’s hypotheses as well as existing research on turnover among high-stress professions. Future research can examine how reflective practice can benefit professionals’ clients (i.e., at-risk children and families) when professionals are better able to intentionally respond to difficult situations and monitor their own reactivity to stress.