Many years ago, when I first entered the teaching world, if someone had asked me this question – what’s the point of Performance Management – I probably would have said something keen, enthusiastic and fairly meaningless like ‘it’s a great way for my line manager and me to discuss how well I’m getting on and any issues I might have’. Some time after that, perhaps feeling a little more jaded and cynical, I probably would have said ‘it gives my line manager a chance to check up on me’. At various different points in my career, I think I’ve seen PM as either a form-filling exercise, a nice excuse for a chat, a chance to show off what I’ve been doing in my classroom, or as an anxiety-laden ordeal. For a long time, I didn’t really think about the why of being performance managed, being much more concerned with the how and the what and the when. It wasn’t really until I looked at PM from the other side of the equation – from the manager’s side – that I started to question what the point of it really was.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not insinuating that there is no point. There absolutely is. However, I would argue that unless you’re asking yourself what the point is, there is no point. Bear with me while I explain what I mean! I am firmly of the opinion that PM is a process that needs to be mindful and goal-oriented. If you don’t know why you’re doing it, what you’re aiming to achieve or what your ultimate goal is, it really does become a form-filling exercise. Done properly, PM is probably the most useful tool in a teacher’s, manager’s and school’s toolbox for school improvement. So what is the point of Performance Management? In a word: development. As professionals, our aim should always be to develop our pedagogy, our classroom practice and our interpersonal skills. I’m not going to say ‘improve’, because I think, to a degree, saying someone needs to improve implies that they’re not good enough. PM isn’t about not being good enough, it’s about widening, deepening and broadening our skill set to be able to bring something new to the table.
I’d like to expand a little on that point about ‘not being good enough’. It’s easy to feel defensive about Performance Management. It’s easy to see it as a criticism, no matter how thick the bread on our feedback ‘sandwich’. It’s easy, as a manager, to feel anxious about giving any points for development or constructive criticism for fear of being too negative or putting people off. We need to move away from this negativity surrounding Performance Management. Schools are only as effective as they are flexible, adaptable and responsive to the needs of their pupils and the wider school community. Therefore, we, as staff members, need to be flexible, adaptable and responsive to the needs of our pupils and the wider school community. PM is a great way to do this, as it gives us a focus, a goal and an end-game. One way to ensure that the School Development Plan is a useful, working document and not another form-filling exercise is to use it in PM sessions. What is your school working towards? Perhaps you could use the targets from the SDP in your Performance Management Review, in order to ensure that you and your colleagues are all singing from the same hymn sheet, as it were.
If you’ve read my blogs before, you’ll know I’m a keen lover of analogies. So naturally, I couldn’t let this one go past without a nice little analogy! As a writer, I equate Performance Management with editing. However much you plan and prepare your teaching, however many fantastic resources you create, and however much effort you put into each actual lesson as it happens, taking the time to revisit that lesson and scheme of work in order to consider alternative methods is incredibly valuable. This goes not just for lessons, but for meetings you might be chairing, or presentations you might have to do. I’ll say it again: THIS IS NOT ABOUT NOT BEING GOOD ENOUGH. It’s not about improvement, per se, and it’s not about change for the sake of change. When I edit my writing, it’s not because I think it’s no good. It’s because I want to consider what effect I have created and how alternative grammatical structures might alter that effect in an exciting way. It’s because I want to try new vocabulary in order to expand my own skill set and be able, in future, to use those new adjectives or subject-specific terms. It’s because if we always stick to the same ways of doing things, we get stuck. Eventually, you will come across a child or a class in which that same old formative assessment method that you’ve used day in, day out for fifteen years is not working. Eventually, you will come across a topic for which that same old activity that you’ve used day in, day out for ten years is not appropriate. Performance Management is about development and development is about giving you options.
Lastly, I want to talk about the variances in PM methods. Some schools have developed a form – one page of A4 – to fill in at review meetings. Some schools require teachers to create their own PM review folders. Some schools require managers to have their own review files, with notes on everyone. Some schools insist that managers fill in the paperwork themselves. Some insist that it’s a joint exercise. Some say it should be the reviewee. It can be something of a minefield and it’s easy to lose objectivity in the face of this disparity. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. A logical, intuitive, simple-to-use online portal is now available, as a subscription, for schools to sign up to. Targets are easy to create, either bespoke or selected from the teaching standards or the school’s SDP priorities, which is a great way to show an individual’s progress across many areas, as well as the school’s progress towards its targets. Evidence can quickly and easily be uploaded to the portal and tagged to one or multiple targets, meaning no more huge, clumsy folders full of paper. For performance-related pay reviews, the decision becomes far less subjective, as the evidence against the standards is there in plain view. Why not check it out here: www.schoolcpdtracker.com?
Remember: this is about your development as a professional. What do you want to gain from it and how is it contributing towards your professional goals? Ask yourself that and you’re one step closer to achieving them.
Published on 28 October 2017