On November 7th, 2023, EBS awarded the Doctor of Philosophy degree to Tiina Merkuljeva

Her doctoral thesis, "The Effects of External Group Supervision on Individual Professional Performance of Estonian Social Workers" demonstrates the wide scope and versatility of management as a field.

Tiina Merkuljeva's research confirmed that external group supervision could positively impact social workers' job performance if it consists of at least five group meetings and the participants are motivated and active in taking part. The study draws attention to the fact that the lack of interest of local government social work leaders in the welfare of social workers and a lack of awareness of the links between supervision and job performance may be reasons for not conducting external group supervision. The work contains valuable conclusions for future researchers, supervisors, participants in supervision, and policymakers in the field of social work.


Tiina Merkuljeva explains her doctoral work's domain: "The extent of individual work performance of social workers is broad and encompasses various aspects: the quality execution of work tasks, adaptation to the psychosocial environment of the organization and field, abilities and skills to act in specific social work situations, adapt to uncertainty, and cope with crisis situations. 

In my doctoral work, I define external group supervision as a learning event led by an external professional supervisor. It is an intervention with an educational and supportive function, impacting individual professional performance of social workers through two latent factors - self-efficacy and job engagement. The quasi-experiment conducted in the doctoral work confirmed that a supervision process consisting of five group meetings positively affected the job engagement of social workers, but did not have a significant effect on their self-efficacy.


Additionally, it was found that the impact of group supervision was only evident when social workers participated in all five sessions. The study revealed that the self-efficacy and job engagement indicators of supervision participants were higher than those who chose not to participate, even before the supervision."


The doctoral thesis was supervised by Professor Kaire Põder, Ph.D. (Estonian Business School) and Professor Ruth Alas, Ph.D. (Estonian Business School). Opponents: Associate Professor Judit Strömpl, Ph.D. (Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Social Studies, University of Tartu) and Airi Mitendorf, Ph.D., Development Manager (The National Institute for Health Development).


Supervisor Kaire Põder highlights the main strength of the doctoral thesis as the ability to combine experiment-based and evidence-based analytical thinking with good data collection and data analysis techniques. "The entire research design was very well thought out and executed. Domain expertise is as important in writing a good doctoral thesis as knowing the scientific literature and choosing the right methodology. Transparent and robust methodology works are rare in social sciences, especially those that reach causal connections. 

The reasons why supervision is not as effective as qualitative literature presupposed remained at the level of expertise, but a big step forward was taken in operationalizing difficult-to-measure concepts such as self-efficacy and engagement."


The opponent, Professor Judit Strömpl mentioned in her assessment that Tiina Merkuljeva's doctoral thesis is significant in the field, and the study conducted within the framework of the doctoral thesis helps bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and empirical data.


The doctoral thesis can be found here