A World Without Appraisal

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In a world without teacher appraisal would you care any less about the children you teach ? Would you no longer stay after school to support the struggling student?  Would you decide that the school play or the Year 8 football team no longer mattered?  Would the work on evenings,  at weekends and in holidays suddenly come to a halt? Would you stop trying your best? Would you cease to reflect about on teaching?

Appraisal and performance management tend to have little or no bearing on how much we care about students or how hard we try to get it right for them. It can be said that, most teachers try hard in spite of appraisal. They keep giving their time up after school for revision despite the fact that they know some students won’t meet their targets, they continue to contribute to extra-curricular activities even though it isn’t explicit in their appraisal documentation, they come in on a Saturday to contribute to the school community, not to tick a box. Teachers never give up. Even when they know they are not going to meet targets through no fault of their own. Even when every effort is futile, they never lose heart.

So why are we desperately trying to fit passion, enthusiasm and altruism into a box of a system designed with failure and accountability in mind? Paperwork which gets looked at twice a year if we’re lucky? A system where meetings can have detrimental impact on relationships between colleagues rather than strengthen them?

How different would a world without teacher appraisal be?

Perhaps in a world without teacher appraisal there could be honest discussions where teachers don’t waste time communicating between the lines in the fear of venturing into the mine field of capability and unions? Perhaps in a world without appraisal and performance related pay we would nurture intrinsic motivation within staff rather than dangling the carrot or following with a stick? Perhaps in a world without narrow focused targets colleagues would take responsibility for the bigger picture? Perhaps in a world without accountability teachers would be more willing to listen to honest feedback whose soul purpose was to improve the provision for students and nothing more? Perhaps in a world without appraisal teachers would work together to improve outcomes for all students in all aspects of school life? Perhaps in a world without tick boxes we could create a community based on a collective approach rather than being in a culture where an individual need only be concerned with their own class? Perhaps it’s time to take a view through different eyes?

What would you do if, on the first day back the headteacher showed you the school priorities and declared “It’s not about history/maths/English* (*add or delete as appropriate) getting their grades up, it’s about everyone working together to improve the outcomes for students at this school? What can you do to support these subjects in their journey whilst improving the provision for students in your own? What can we all do to develop character in our young people so that they are the change society is crying out for?”
What if the rally cry was genuine and authentic backed up with action to prove it wasn’t just disingenuous rhetoric? The response from every member of the team would be positive. You would sense a feeling of empowerment; of loyalty and dedication to the school and its students; of  determination and motivation; of a continual and collective approach to improving teaching and learning.
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The reality is that most teachers go above and beyond to improve student life chances despite their appraisal targets. Targets which are based on the premise of extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation and have been developed with the worst case scenario in mind. How many teachers do you know that are motivated by money? How many worst case scenarios have you come across in your career? Is there any teacher (good or bad) that you have met who doesnt possess the desire to improve their practice? And for those very negligible few who aren’t cut out for this noble profession, is appraisal and performance management really the best way to address the inadequacies of their personal motivation?

Perhaps it’s time that someone took a view through different eyes? Perhaps it’s time that we caught ’em being good rather than catching ’em being bad? Perhaps it’s time that we shifted the culture from personal accountability (I and you) to collective responsibility  (we and us)?

Perhaps we are entering a time where some leaders are brave enought to say “I already have…..”

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3 thoughts on “A World Without Appraisal

  1. jillberry102

    Interesting to read, and you did make me think.

    I started teaching in 1980 and we didn’t have appraisal for the first ten years or so of my teaching career, and then I worked with different appraisal systems for the next 20 years. In my experience, it didn’t make us work any harder/motivate us differently, but it did encourage us to be more reflective within a proper structure, with constructive dialogue with those we led/those who led us. Appraisal/performance review CAN work well if we get the processes/relationships/communication right. Interestingly, tomorrow I’m doing some work with aspiring heads’ appraisers, and it’s something I’m committed to. It can help us get the balance of support and challenge right, I think.

    However, I am NOT a fan of PRP, and think that as soon as you link professional review to salary, it changes the nature of the beast. I would want to keep pay review as a separate thing, and I think that can be done. Let’s keep appraisal as a tool for effective personal and professional development and not link it to the carrot/stick of how much we earn.

    If you haven’t yet read it, you might find Kev Bartle’s post useful? https://dailygenius.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/performance-appraisal-tweaking-to-transform-for-now/

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    1. Completely agree Jill. We are doing things differently this time. It’s a very brave move but we are encouraging teacher reflection throughout the year rather than at a few key points which is what the appraisal cycle can sometimes become. Our approach is going to be solely about teaching and learning, impact of students and improving the experience for children in our care. PRP keeps staff as hostages to fortune, removing that will give staff more confidence to take risks and keep a focus on the bigger picture. Structure and support is important as it’s the continual reflection and conversation that makes the difference. That’s why all of our CPD this year is linked to our work in triads. Good luck tomorrow Jill. I know you’ll influence SLT in the right way – person centred approach. And thank you, as always, for taking the time to read, listen, guide, share and inspire. You’re a wonderful woman!

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