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The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Katie Renton

Performance evaluation: being fair and consistent

Quality teaching can be achieved in many forms, which makes judgements on the effectiveness of teachers a huge challenge. 

Performance management in schools is more important than ever. This is for two key reasons.

  1. Decentralisation of the evaluation process means senior leaders are responsible for upholding effective appraisal frameworks in school.
  2. Payment progression for teachers is now based on performance as opposed to the previous criteria of longevity. For these reasons, ensuring a strong framework for teacher evaluations in school is crucial.

Defining quality

What attributes can be evaluated in order to define a great teacher? Great exam results? Engaging and fun lesson plans? Thorough marking? Extra-curricular contributions? Commitment to professional development? Punctuality?

Ultimately, the answer is all of the above. Senior and middle leaders need to ensure there is a fair and consistent approach across the school that acknowledges the individual methods and techniques of different teachers when it comes to evaluating staff.

A number of different evaluative approaches can be considered to ensure schools take a fair approach. 

Based on the research by the Sutton Trust, Testing Teachers, our Evaluating Teacher Performance course supports school leaders to establish a fair and consistent system of evaluation. 

Here are some of the key pieces of advice from this course.

Methods of evaluation

In his 2013 report of the extensive research by the Sutton Trust, Richard Murphy states that; '…effective evaluation is good for pupils and good for teachers. It can improve the quality of teaching, provided it is accompanied by good feedback, and it can lead to better results for pupils and improved learning.'

In the same report, Murphy outlined the three most common ways of evaluating teachers:

  1. Lesson observations: viewing a teacher in their natural habitat of the classroom and evaluating their practice next to particular performance criteria.
  2. Gathering pupil achievement data: evaluating pupil gains in test scores – the more improved, the better.
  3. Analysing pupil surveys: asking the pupils themselves about how they view their learning experience under the leadership of the teacher in question.

Using results effectively

With these three main methods in mind, there are some further pieces of advice to consider which will support the aim of consistency and fairness.

  • Each of the above methods have weaknesses, but combining their use within one school appraisal framework will create a comprehensive system – the subjectivity of one method can be balanced out by more concrete evidence from another.
  • In order to gather a fuller picture of an individual’s performance, use a combination of methods and assess their cumulative performance over several years to avoid inaccurate judgements and anomalies.
  • It is also important to take other areas beyond the classroom into account to establish overall performance – such as extra-curricular contribution, attendance and commitment to professional development.
  • Evaluation must be supported with clear feedback for improvement – the system in school should encourage teachers to develop and learn.
  • Metrics are not absolute – the expertise from experienced senior leaders should be there to support informed decisions.

Further reading

 

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