Learning and Teaching at Gilson College

Learning for living, Character for life, Hope for the Future

Teacher Appraisal and Professional Learning go hand-in-hand

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56:365 working AITSL

I am following the blog ‘Thinking is Hard Work’. (The title of the blog appealed to me and  I have been interested to read the authors posts!)

The author is Colleen Sharen. She is a Management and Organizational Studies Professor at Brescia University College at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada.

In the light of ASV’s journey towards implementation of teacher standards-based appraisal, (and for that matter leadership appraisal) measured against the AITSL National Teacher and Principal Professional Standards, Colleen’s  recent post ‘The Above Average Effect’ is an interesting one.

ASV is just beginning to trial its new appraisal process, which will be fully implemented in the coming years. This new direction is moving us away from a sometimes-used, tick-the-box, teacher-self-appraisal system that was usually ratified, or not, after an annual conversation with the principal.

The process being trialled now is a goals-and-evidence-based appraisal system where the principal, sometimes in conjunction with his or her leadership team, will use regular conversations with staff members to monitor and coach them as they progress towards achieving standards relevant to their experience level. Accordingly principals as well as most of our deputies and heads of school have received regular consultant-led professional learning in unpacking the standards and how to appraise using the standards.

Despite the new direction however, and because teachers will set personal goals and gather evidence of their achievement, standards-based appraisal still brings with it a measure of teacher self-assessment of, as well as reflection on, their own progress towards goal attainment.

Consequently, with some level of self-assessment being part of our process it is my opinion that (while Colleen writes about performance self-assessment and appraisal in industry) the principles and information from the studies she references about the ‘Above average effect’ will apply to some extent in our emerging context.

Colleen writes:

‘Performance evaluations and regular feedback are a part of corporate life.  They are designed with the assumption that if people receive feedback, that their performance will improve. But does performance improve? It depends.

‘People tend to evaluate themselves as above average. Consistently researchers have found across professions, tasks, skills, industries, that we rank ourselves as better than average, creating what is sometimes called the Lake Wobegon effect, where everyone is above average. Of course, this isn’t mathematically possible. But is this tendency to rate oneself more highly than our peers consistent across all people?…

‘…The research shows that people who are least competent, that is those in the bottom 25% in a particular task or skill, are most likely to over-rate their skills…

‘…So how can you improve people’s understanding of their own ability? Paradoxically, you do this by making them more competent…

‘…The good news is that with training, which leads to improved competence, most people can more accurately self-assess their performance.  And of course, you get the benefit of improved competence…The solution isn’t feedback. The solution is developing competence…’  Read full post.

Further, the main implication for ASV education that I took away from my reading of Colleen’s post is that while appraisal (for us, against professional standards) is welcome and very necessary, we must be sure we continue to assist our teachers to develop competence and excellence by providing them with quality professional learning.

How are we doing so far? Those in our schools company realise already that our schools leaders have, over a number of years now, been refining their programs and processes for developing whole-school professional learning that engages their teachers in development around at least one data-identified school goal – often more. The level to which teachers have implemented this professional learning in their classroom practice has been a matter for each individual school to gauge. Most schools have used student achievement data and some, classroom observation.

To assist with this professional learning direction, the appraisal process expects teachers to review relevant teacher standards and include a whole-school goal in their individual teacher appraisal plan along with two personal goals for improvement. As well they are now expected to gather and provide evidence of achievement of their goals and their progress towards meeting the related professional standards. From this data, principals and leadership team members should be able to more easily see whether teachers are developing competence, moving towards excellence, and achieving implementation of initiatives related to their goals. The required regular professional conversations will also reinforce leadership’s understanding of teacher progress.

As well, I’m sure that rolling out a standards-based appraisal process, along with expectation that teachers include personal goals as well as school goals, all assisted by provision of professional learning, will demonstrate that teachers can continue to develop competence, indeed excellence in their ability self-assess their accomplishments and decide where they need to move to next.

Of course ultimately all of this will be of  great benefit to our students and the wider school community! That is our main goal!

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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Author: Sandra England

Learning & Teaching Coordinator F-12 at Gilson College, an Adventist Schools Victoria school. Twitter: @GCLandT or @sandy_e

2 thoughts on “Teacher Appraisal and Professional Learning go hand-in-hand

  1. Thanks Sandra for sharing my work with your audience. In terms of performance, the real question is what performance are you measuring? Teaching or Learning? I can control what and how I teach, I have very little control over what my students learn, their motivation, effort, abilities and interest.

    One of my favourite authors on teaching mentor ship is a guy named Edwin Ralph from the University of Saskatchewan, who with his co-authors has developed a model of development for new teachers and their mentors called “Adaptive Mentoring” based on a model of leadership called situational leadership. Edwin is a great guy, and I’m sure would be more than happy to share his stuff with you. Also, it might be interesting to know if they have done any work tying mentoring of new teachers to the evaluation of teaching.

    I’m sure we’ll be talking/writing more soon. I look forward to reading your blog more often.

    Colleen

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  2. You’re welcome Colleen! And thank you for your insightful and encouraging comment, as well as your reference to Edwin Ralph and his work with new teachers and their mentors. It’s exciting to hear from a colleague many miles away!
    I certainly agree with you that teachers have little control over what students bring to the table in regard to their learning, but that, as you say, teachers can and should control their teaching. Prof John Hattie, formerly from the University of Auckland. NZ, and now at the University of Melbourne here in Australia in his Visible Learning A synthesis of over 800 meta-­analyses relating to achievement certainly confirms that apart from the students themselves, teachers have the largest influence or effect on student achievement; even larger than that of their parents and peers.
    I guess my concern in this post was to try to say that with our direction towards using the national teacher professional standards to appraise our staff as they develop their competency as professionals is that we must be mindful of and careful to provide professional learning opportunities to support them.
    Such a direction also requires that school leadership teams support all teachers, including new teachers through some form of mentoring. (Time and resources are other needs that must be catered for.)
    By professional learning we mean more than funding teachers to go to professional development courses, days etc. We also need to be sure teachers are able to reflectively self-assess their competencies. Hence my interest in your article.
    Our school system’s move towards consistent whole-school-focused PL includes such activities as teachers learning together through action research, staff meetings with more professional learning focus rather than being process and business focused, teachers visiting each other’s classroom and other schools, planning together, coaching each other, providing just-in-time support for each other, as well as leaders meta-coaching with mentors/coaches. We also expect that leaders ensure that professional learning is differentiated for the needs of teachers according to their competence and expertise.
    We are fortunate to have a strong mentorship program for our newly qualified teachers.
    As result, and after a numbers of years moving this way, we are beginning to see in a number of our schools the culture changing, with professional learning communities more apparent, where teachers are engaging in deeper professional conversations around the staff room table, and who are reflecting more regularly on their practice. That too is exciting and motivating for leaders.
    Colleen, I too look forward to reading your blog often!

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