As any school leader is aware, quality of teaching is the most important lever in delivering good outcomes for students.
But great teachers are not born: the skills and knowledge required to deliver great quality teaching is developed over years.
With all the pressures and challenges facing the education sector, what can school leaders do to nurture teachers to develop these skills?
How do we enable them to deliver the best education for students, support the wider needs and strategic priorities of the team and school, and – not least – enjoy a long and rewarding teaching career?
It goes without saying that your school’s appraisal and performance management culture plays a significant role in this process.
There is growing recognition in the education sector – and beyond – that adopting a more ‘developmental’ approach, which focuses on professional development, significantly improves retention and recruitment.
So, what should school leaders consider when planning to shift the culture of performance management in their organisation?
Here are five key steps that ensure your appraisal process is focused on development:
Map individual development to school priorities
Appraisal is best when it empowers staff to improve their own performance in ways that impact on organisation improvement.
An effective appraisal process, in which individual professional objectives are mapped to strategic priorities of the school or trust, encourages staff to buy into a shared vision, values and ethos, and understand the purpose of the role in the organisation, which enhances staff wellbeing, improves retention and supports recruitment.
Professional development needs to be relevant
An appraisal process, in which individual teacher and school staff objectives are mapped to development and learning goals, can only be effective when the goals and training are relevant to the individual’s professional context.
Training and coaching should be designed to help them to develop the specific knowledge and pedagogy they need to better perform their role and support the needs of the children they teach.
Significantly, when teachers have a sense of agency over their own career objectives and appraisal, they are more likely to engage and – importantly – take professional accountability for the quality of their work.
Focus on continued, incremental improvement
There is a tendency to see performance objectives as an ‘end goal’ rather than an ongoing developmental journey.
This can result in trying to do too much at once, setting the appraisee up for failure.
Objectives that are based around continued professional development, whether that is a formal qualification or more informal coaching, should focus on the ‘continued’.
Supporting the process with more frequent, informal catch-ups between the appraisee and their appraiser, rooted in a repeated cycle of reflect, review and refocus, makes the process more sustainable and agile.
A performance review should always be forward-focused
The traditional performance annual review has always tended to look backwards, with appraisees having to gather evidence that ‘proves’ they have achieved their targets.
A developmental approach encourages us to look ahead at what we want to improve.
Using performance review tools such as a 360° feedback review, centred on the competencies required for each role, can help to identify strengths and areas for development, and is an excellent starting point for conversations around defining professional development goals.
Technology can significantly reduce the burden
Performance management processes can be very burdensome for both appraisee and appraiser; trying to keep track of paperwork and gathering evidence for the annual review.
Using an online system like BlueSky Education streamlines this process since everything is recorded in one place, and also helps to embed appraisal into day-to-day processes, encouraging staff to record reflections and actions at any time.
This makes appraisal less of a burden when it comes to regular reviews.
Taking appraisal and performance reviews online also allows senior leaders to compile reports instantly, a process that can take many days with a paper-based system.
This means they can evaluate progress along the way, reducing the workload associated with monitoring progress and ensuring that support can be provided quickly, if needed.
Through our work over many years with thousands of schools and trusts, we have learnt that adopting a developmental approach does not happen overnight, but it starts with creating a ‘golden thread’ that connects the work of every individual in the organisation back to the school’s strategic plan.
BlueSky Education ensures everyone’s appraisal objectives link to team, school or trust strategic priorities, as they thread through all elements of the software.
BlueSky supports the continuing process of school improvement by enabling robust quality assurance, identifying areas for development and sustaining professional growth.
To discuss how BlueSky Education and our suite of online solutions could support your organisation’s appraisal culture, fill in our form to book a free, no obligation online demo. Call us on 01483 880004 or email email@example.com.