Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Staff Appraisal

Unit 4

Staff appraisal is a process of review by teachers, heads, deputy heads and other senior teachers of individual competencies, perfor­mance, and professional needs. In a small school, it is likely to be you, as school Head, who carries out the appraisal of staff, but in a large school this may be delegated to the Deputy Head, Senior Master / Mistress or Head of Department. It is a process in which an individual teacher and a senior colleague collaborate in evalu­ating that teacher's work as a professional person. This means appraising all aspects of a teacher's organisation of their classroom, how they manage classroom activities, including the use of time and materials, how they behave towards pupils, other teachers, the school head, parents and the community.

In Guyana, there exists a clear system of the appraisal of staff. In this unit, you will learn why staff appraisal should be carried out and how to do so. The unit can be used for self study or with peer group learning with other trainees.

Individual study time: 3 hours

Learning outcomes

At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

¨ be aware of the Ministry of Education’s Annual Appraisal Report on Teachers
¨ understand what staff appraisal is, and why it should be carried out
¨ know the steps which form the procedures for staff appraisal
¨ analyse your own leadership style and know which approaches are most effective for positive staff appraisal
¨ decide how to follow up a staff appraisal
¨ understand the need for self‑appraisal.

Reasons for appraisal
Appraisal is directed towards helping a teacher to become as effective as possible in the teaching and learning process, and also towards meeting a teacher's needs for professional development, for example, in‑service training and career prospects. You should not, therefore, view appraisal as a mechanism for fault‑finding and criticising, but as a means of building the teacher's positive self‑image and motivation to be as good a teacher as possible. In Guyana, education is becoming more learner‑centred than previously, on the basis that pupils need to become actively involved in their own learning processes, in order to learn and develop to the full. Pupils and teachers too, need to participate in their own development, becoming able to analyse and reflect on their own competen­cies. From this, they are more likely to become independent thinkers and doers. For the majority of teachers, this requires a change of attitude, and this can only come from a willingness to review continually what takes place in the classroom and the school, and the effects particular actions have on others.

Requirements for appraisal
A good appraisal process, in which the teacher is able to be honest about strengths and weaknesses, and about where help and encouragement are needed, depends on a spirit of trust between the school head, or other senior teacher, and the teacher being appraised. It follows that you, or the senior teacher carrying out the appraisal, must be a professional person who is respected for your competence, and who has a good relationship with the staff.

This means that if you have to give criticism for lateness or lack of prepa­ration in the classroom, you give it with the understanding that the partic­ular teacher needs guidance. Thus, your comments will not be made in an unkind manner, but with the intention of being constructive. This should be the case even where a teacher refuses or is unable to change unacceptable behaviour, and you need to initiate disciplinary action in the interests of the learners. If you are seen to be a person who really knows the teacher, the pupils and the classroom reality, and you are known to be a person who has respect for the feelings of teachers and pupils, appraisal is more likely to take place in a spirit of mutual confidence.

Differences from other forms of evaluation
Appraisal in Guyana is undertaken as a means of assessment of a teacher for purposes of rating or grading and also for recommendation for promotion to a higher position. It is a very different process from being inspected by the M.E.R.D.Team or monitored by a person in higher authority. It is therefore important that appraisal is not carried out in a negative spirit of sitting in judgement or it will fail in its purpose. Instead, the teacher should be treated as a stakeholder in the educational process, working in a collabora­tive way to become as good as possible, and as a person who has profes­sional needs and interests. Your role as school head in this, is that of educational leader in the school, with the task of creating an effective learning environment for all pupils, of all abilities, and with varying needs that should be met. The teacher being appraised shares this task.

The process of staff appraisal
There are a number of steps to be taken in carrying out staff appraisal. Before these can begin, you need to have discussions with the staff as a whole. Teachers need to be confident that they can be open with you so that if they feel the leadership style is inappropriate, they can say this in the know­ledge that you and other members of the leadership team will review your own style.

A second important element is to emphasise that what is said during the process of appraisal will be treated as confidential. A teacher who reveals personal insecurity or details of an unhappy domestic life during discus­sion needs to feel sure that this will not become common knowledge in the staff room or community. Professional ambitions, too, have a right to be kept private. Appraisal should not be used as a means of making comparisons between one teacher and another.

Establishing a good atmosphere
In the first stage of discussion with staff concerning appraisal, you will need to make clear the purpose, and how it is to be done. The actual procedures should be discussed and staff ideas taken into account. A timetable needs to be drawn up, so that each teacher has time to prepare his or her own thoughts, knowing when you will carry out observations within specific classrooms, and when interviews will be held. Follow‑up procedures should be discussed, in which actions will be initiated, for example, planning for in­-service training. You, or the senior staff member to whom you have dele­gated the task or designated senior staff, should prepare for the whole process by analysing your attitudes to leadership.

Appraisal is a natural part of the professional development of a teacher. It is quite separate and different from the supervisory role of a headteacher. It should be viewed as a professional partnership in which the person leading the appraisal will seek out the abilities of those being appraised rather than searching for incompetence. The whole process must be one which is based on trust.

Your attitudes in this area are important in determining whether staff appraisal is likely to be a positive process of staff development or treated with suspicion. If it is the latter you may need to consider changing your leadership style.

The teacher's own assessment
The process begins with the teacher's own personal review of successes, fail­ures, professional and personal needs. One method that is often used is to encourage teachers to go through a process of self evaluation where they will comment on their own successes and weaknesses on a regular basis. A teacher's everyday life is normally so busy that, unless time is set aside for this, the important activity of reflection gets set aside. A teacher might write as follows:

'Today, I began to feel that teaching the whole class together in Mathematics left some children bored. The clever ones finish their work very quickly, and get it right, and then misbehave, while some of the others were so slow and did not seem to understand. I would like to organise them in groups but I am not sure how to do it. How will I make sure that all the class is getting on with their work if I do not have them all facing the blackboard?'

Lesson observations

A good school head will visit classrooms on a regular basis. You will have found that this helps you to be knowledgeable about what is happening in the school. Lesson observations in staff appraisal may well be already part of the school's routine. For the purpose of staff appraisal, you need to arrange a time to observe a specific lesson. You should be present in the classroom for the whole period to observe the entire sequence of the lesson. Only then can you form your ideas about the preparation, organisation and management of teaching and learning in the classroom.

The questions which follow may be helpful in providing a structure for lesson observations.

1) Is the classroom a clean, safe and child friendly environment?
2) Would a pupil find the classroom a pleasant place to be in?
3) Does the teacher begin the lesson on time?
4) Has the lesson been well prepared and does it match with the syllabus or scheme of work?
5) Are all materials shown in the lesson plan available to the pupils?
6) What s the quality of the relationship between teacher and pupils?
7) Do pupils listen when the teacher speaks, and do they appear to respect the teacher without seeming afraid?
8) Does the organisation and management (whole class work, group work, individual activity, practical activity, etc.) meet the needs of the pupils and the subject area?
9) Are all children in the class, including those with Special Educational Needs being catered for?
10) Are the children learning?

In practical terms, it will be helpful for you to design a proforma which will be used by all staff when conducting lesson observations in appraisal.

Your responses to these questions will provide you with important informa­tion concerning the teacher's ability to provide learners with good quality teaching. If you observe poor preparation or interaction with pupils, these may indicate that the teacher has other problems. These may concern disci­pline or complaints from parents or community, for example, about lateness or attendance. Such information provides other data that needs to be discussed in the appraisal interview.

Appraisal interview and target setting
The report back on the lesson observation should take place as soon as possible after the observation and, where time allows, immediately after the lesson has taken place. If this is not possible, it should be done no later than the next day as this can be a worrying time for some teachers. In addition, there will need to be a formal Appraisal Interview. It is possible for both discussions to take place at the same meeting. The form and length of the interview can vary, but there should be discussion of the class­room observations. Since the purpose is to assist the teacher's professional development and the learning experiences for the children, the approach should be positive. Praise should be given for as much as possible, for example, 'I noticed how busy you were trying to keep the children with higher ability occu­pied whilst those with lower ability were finishing their work'. The aim is to build the teacher's confidence and self esteem because, through this, the teacher is more likely to discuss uncertainties about his or her work. In the example of the self evaluation quoted earlier, you and the teacher may then go on to discuss ways of grouping pupils to provide for different ability levels.

From the discussion in the interview, targets can be set. You can arrange for help to be offered within the school, or for other in‑service training. You can encourage the teacher to try out other methods of working, with the assurance that there will be full support during a time of change. Managing change can be stressful for a teacher, because of a fear of failure and many people prefer not to take risks.

Some avoidance behaviour, for example, lateness, absenteeism or alcohol abuse, can stem from feelings of inadequacy. The teacher whose lesson is badly prepared, can be asked if he or she thinks that the lesson would have been better if he or she had not been late. This opens up the subject, but in a positive spirit, which is more likely to lead to full and frank discussion of the teacher's professional responsibilities. Here, targets can be set which must be realistic, and any improvement should be commented on, for example, 'You were only late one day this week. Keep trying, the teaching was much better'. In this way, the teacher's morale can be raised and, for some, can be sufficient to bring about real improvement.

The Annual Appraisal Report on Teachers and Senior Leaders
In Guyana, teachers are asked to make a self assessment of their performance and this is verified by their line manager or Headteacher. The teacher must sign in agreement with the conclusions made. The judgements about how a teacher has performed are grouped into the following areas:-

¨ Knowledge
¨ Methodology
¨ Human Relationships
¨ Output
¨ Professionalism

And the following are used for senior leaders

¨ Job Knowledge
¨ Supervision
¨ Organisations
¨ Administration Leadership
¨ Professionalism
¨ Staff Development
¨ Curriculum Implementation
¨ Evaluation
¨ Human Relationships
¨ Support Services

Section F of the appraisal gives an overall evaluation of the teacher’s performance ranging from outstanding to unacceptable. Note is also made of relevant staff development. Teachers are given a grade at the end of each appraisal and this grade is used in senior promotion as an Annual Confidential Report (A.C.R.) Grades are recorded for the last three years prior to an application. Points are awarded for each grade e.g. A = 30 points, B = 18 points, C = 12 points. Completion of the Education Management Certificate that you are currently studying will give an award of 6 points.

Follow‑up meetings
An important point about the appraisal process is that it should be an on­going process. In‑service training arrangements may be initiated, discussion of improvements in teaching and learning in the classroom may take place, or a teacher may need to be encouraged to seek promotion. All such activi­ties are part of your professional responsibilities as educational leader in the school. In the large school, part of this task will be shared by senior staff.

Activity 4.1
The case study below will help you to practise your appraisal knowledge and skills before you begin work with your school staff.

Case study
1. Obtain a copy of the Annual Appraisal Report for Teachers and study it.
2. In your observation of a lesson in a teacher's classroom, you have noted as follows:

”The teacher started this lesson punctually. Her explanations to her Grade 4 class were clear, and she revised the procedures for carrying out division by 10. She chose two pupils to work out examples on the board and then gave all the class four examples to work out on their own in their books. During this time, she walked round the classroom, looking at pupils' work. After ten minutes, six children had finished their work while all the rest were still working. The six early finishers began to misbehave, tickling other children. She spoke sternly to the six, and told them to sit still and be quiet. At the end of the lesson, most of the class had not finished.”

There are many different ways that you could approach feedback to the teacher on her lesson. Consider these two possible forms of advice that you might have given…..

Ask the teacher how she felt about her lesson and listen to her descrip­tion of her worries. Discuss these with her, and suggest ways of grouping the class according to mathematical ability, with different work or amount for each group. Ask her if she would like help in doing this.

2. Tell the teacher that she should become angry with the slow workers and tell them to hurry up. Tell her that you are not satisfied with her work and that she must make sure that children do not misbehave. Inform her that you expect better performance from her in the next appraisal.

If you were this teacher, which of the two approaches would you find more helpful?

We are confident, of course, that you will have chosen number one. Of the two approaches, it is non-threatening, supportive and helpful. It is only in this background of professional cooperation that you will get teachers to open up and disclose the issues that might be preventing then from achieving the high standards you require.

Professional development activities
Some professional development activities can be carried out within the school, for example, the head of department provides assistance in improving the teacher's skills in classroom management. Others may require that you ask the District Education Officer or a Curriculum Specialist from NCERD to arrange in‑service training in a workshop. The teacher, following appraisal, may show leadership poten­tial, and this information should be shared, with the permission of the teacher, with those responsible for making decisions about promotion, such as the T.S.C.

Frequency of appraisal
In Guyana, an appraisal report is prepared on an annual basis. However, the observation of lessons should be done much more regularly. We would advise that formal observation should take place at least 3 times a year by the Head of Department, Level Head or more senior staff. Informal observation when a manager simply watches what is going on around them, would take place every week if not every day.

Benefits of appraisal
The benefits of staff appraisal have been referred to throughout in this unit. Module 6, Monitoring School Effectiveness, demonstrates the use of guidance and counselling from a school head following classroom observations. School effectiveness includes a combination of the way in which the work of individual teachers and senior management within the school collaborate for the benefit of the learners. Under the headings of 'Staff needs' and 'The needs of the pupils' (Unit 3), Module 1, Self‑Development for Educational Leaders’, outlines the mission of the school, which is also the mission of the head and all teachers. Module 1 also notes the importance of the school head giving positive professional guidance if staff are to perform their func­tion effectively

The benefits can be summarised as:

¨ skills development, through in‑service training, experiments with teaching style, often assisted by organisational change
¨ career development, through in‑service training
¨ improved relationships: each understands the other better
¨ increased knowledge of the school and individuals
¨ productive links between appraisal and school development and planning
¨ improved learning opportunities for pupils
¨ improved morale and efficiency within the school.

When carried out in a spirit of willing co‑operation, with positive attitudes on both sides, you should find that staff appraisal contributes to school effectiveness. To be successful and have the desired benefits, you must examine closely your own style of leadership. Does this provide for a shared sense of responsibility amongst all school staff? All staff members are stake­holders in the educational life of the school, and are more likely to be moti­vated to improve their performance, if they feel a sense of ownership. You, in turn, will feel supported in your often difficult and lonely task

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