It’s that time of the year again when teachers dust off their appraisal or performance management documentation and review how things went then set new objectives. I wonder how many teachers actually look at last year’s objectives with a degree of surprise or consternation thinking, “What was I thinking when I agreed these” or possibly, “I don’t remember setting these.”
Martin Robinson (@surrealanarchy) wrote a wonderful blog post over the summer, Performance Management is Nonsense: Stop Meaningless Appraisal in Schools, which got me thinking. Over the years I have been involved in hundreds of appraisal meetings and literally read thousands of sets of appraisal documentation. I read every one of the documents for teaching member of staff, each year, to make sure they were suitably rigorous, challenging and focussed. A few more frustrating hours were always spent chasing up the last few returns. My summary of the objectives for teachers would be: try to teach a bit better and get some decent results. Is the time invested worth the impact or are there better ways to spend the time? Maybe we’re not doing appraisal that well or maybe people talk up appraisal systems to look powerful, busy or competent rather than focussing on actual improvement and development of individual staff, departments or a subject.
Having spent over a decade building multiple complex systems within a school I’m now sat wondering how many I can dismantle, abandon or simplify across the Trust. It helps every now and then to step back and survey the whole terrain. Is teacher appraisal the best way to spend the limited time you have available or are there other options which will have a greater impact on outcomes? What about alternatives to appraisal such as:
A whole school improvement project that you would lead with proper research into the issue, engagement of other staff and metrics against which to measure the impact of the initiative or development.
A team action plan focused on improving a particular issue that needs improving, identified from pupil outcomes the previous year.
A lesson study inquiry into an aspect of your teaching practice that you want to develop.
An extended professional development programme, run in-house or with external support, to help you develop a particular aspect of your practice that you want to improve from a low base or make a super strength.
We can fail to ponder what is possible because of artificial limits we impose on ourselves. Head teachers sometimes wonder how performance pay decisions can be made in the absence of appraisal information. The cynic in me says just look at the results, that is what you do anyway, and the leader in me says get rid of performance pay it’s a distraction that damages the culture we aspire to.
#SaturdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week. The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short. It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger. The intention is for it to be read in two minutes as you’re relaxing or busy running around on you day off.