Andy Kemp

Performance Management Reviews

By Andy | January 3, 2016 | 0 Comment

I've been thinking a lot over the last year about the purpose and effectiveness of the traditional annual performance review which is a common part of most schools.  Appraisal in its current form in most schools lends its origins to the 1986 Education Act, which made it compulsory for maintained schools to undertake some form of performance review.

The exact process varies a little from school to school, but tends to involve some or all of the following:

  • Being observers
  • Setting and reviewing targets
  • Some form of self-assessment
  • Lots of bits of paper...
  • Meeting with a senior member of staff

I'm going to park the question of whether these reviews should be linked to performance related pay, as is now the expectation in many schools, despite there being little evidence that performance related pay works effectively in an educational context...

So how effective is performance management in its current form?  In 2003, Ofsted concluded that performance management was linked to overall school effectiveness.  However things are far from clear cut...

The research suggests people value:

  • Professional dialogue with line managers and senior colleagues
  • Positive feedback and recognition

But they are concerned about:

  • Amount of time involved, and the amount of paperwork (which they fear no-one reads!)
  • Lack of purpose to the exercise

Miklewright et al (2014) found that around 40% of teachers feel that professional development reviews processes have little impact on teaching practice.

So if we take a typical secondary school with, say, 100 teachers working in it.  And let's assume each review requires them to be observed by their HoD and give feedback on the lesson (1h30m staff time); maybe watch someone else teach (1h30m staff time); complete some self-assessment paperwork (1h staff time); meet with HoD (2 hours of staff time - 1h of HoD and 1h for staff member); and meet with Head/SMT (1h of staff time - 30m of SMT and 30m of staff member), then if each member of staff goes through this process every year we have invested 700 hours of staff time into the process, using the standard metric that an independent school teacher might teach around 20 hours a week, and 33 weeks of the year ~ 660hours of teaching.  We are spending something like £40k of staff time on professional development reviews in their current format, and the research suggests that in most cases the benefit is slight at best.  Many schools include other aspects in their review which would only increase this number! So is this a good use of school funds?

I'm sure there are some schools who feel that the system they have in place is useful and effective in their context - and they may well be right - but how many schools have sat down and seriously thought about this?

Like all good interventions in schools, we need to start at the end and work backwards - what is the outcome we want our professional development review process to achieve?  The answer to this is of course that we want our teachers to improve, although I'm not sure we are always clear about what we mean by improve...  But in round terms it tends to be about two slightly different aspects - we want people to be able to do their current role better, or at least some aspect of it; or we might want to help prepare them for some future role.

The problem for me is that it's very hard to enable someone to improve if they don't want to - something we all recognise from our attempts to teach a reluctant student!  So recently I've been starting to ask myself the question, maybe all professional development reviews should be optional...  This would allow us to expend greater time/resources on those who are looking to engage and improve, without expending so much on those who aren't yet ready to want to develop?

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I've recently piloted some 360º reviews with some of my team, which they were given the opportunity to be part of.  This takes a lot more time, effort, and resourcing to complete, but has the potential to be much more effective - I'll write more about this another time.  But I wonder if the trade-off of offering more detailed and rigorous reviews for those that want them, and not carrying them out for those that don't might not be a more effective model...

So I think it is time we all stepped back from our current appraisal processes, and asked ourselves, what is it we want them to achieve, and are they currently giving a good return upon our investment of time and money?

None of this deals with the fact that some people don't want to improve or develop - but in my experience neither does the current system!

 

References:

Ofsted. 2003. Leadership and Management: What Inspection Tells Us, Ofsted London.

Micklewright, J., Jerrim, J., Vignoles, A., Jenkins, A., Allen, R., Ilie, S., Bellarbre, E., Barrera, F. & Hein, C. 2014. Teachers in England’s secondary schools: evidence from TALIS 2013.

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