Take 5 steps to effective appraisal

Sponsored content from BlueSky Education.

Preparing for the annual performance review has become a job in itself, leading many teachers and leaders to question if it’s all really worth it.

It’s the time and energy that goes into the gathering of evidence for data led targets, as well as preparing for termly lesson observations that has been quite rightly called into question.

The fact is that these annual reviews and observations, which add to already pressurised workloads, don’t really reflect what is happening in the classroom on a daily basis.

And technology can play a part in reducing that workload so that working towards appraisal objectives becomes a seamless part of the working week.

Many schools across the country are now adopting that approach, shifting away from numerical KPIs and teacher ratings towards a more developmental and support-based approach.

That approach puts continuous professional development (CPD) at its core. At its best, this approach saves time and enables teachers to reflect on their own practice – and take ownership of their career development.

So, how can you shift your approach to performance management? There are five key steps:

1. Forward focus your conversations about objectives. Start any appraisal by evaluating an individual’s strengths and areas for development, for example with a 360-degree peer feedback review that explores the individual’s competencies within a framework related to their role and the requirements of their organisation.

2. Evaluate against standards and competencies. Alongside the performance review, self-evaluation against national standards and the school’s own frameworks provides a focus for conversations around individual objectives, identifying areas that an individual may want to develop or training needs that have been identified in the context of the department team, school or multi-school group.

3. Set clear and precise objectives differentiated according to role. Setting clear objectives makes it easier to agree on success criteria. These should link explicitly to team, school and trust strategic plans. Differentiate objectives to ensure that there is clarity in expected impact relevant to the appraisee’s role. Moderation of this is essential. 

4. Personalise support and CPD. The CPD lead will pull together all of the professional learning needs from those identified individually to those that meet the mandatory needs of the organisation. All professional learning activities should be evaluated for impact and reviewed as part of the appraisal process. 

5. Review progress throughout the cycle. Rather than a single one-off appraisal event, ongoing dialogue between individuals and their reviewers is shown to have a greater impact on success. Having frequent, less formal conversations around objectives and professional development throughout the cycle help to maintain momentum and allows scope for changing the focus of objectives if needed.

Denise Inwood is founder and CEO of BlueSky Education, an online platform used by schools in over 40 countries worldwide that allows schools to seamlessly link appraisal, professional development and quality assurance processes. BlueSky is a finalist in the 2024 Bett Awards Leadership and Management Solutions category and is exhibiting at Stand SB64.

Updated on: 2 February 2024

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