The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Lizzie Gait

Tackling staff underperformance: a necessary evil?

Effective support must be provided for colleagues who are underperforming, but in order to ensure improvements take place, high quality training to help those in charge of performance management and appraisal is crucial.

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The Sutton Trust recently published a report on the findings of their survey, ‘What makes great teaching?’ Top of the list, with strong evidence of impact on student outcomes, is quality of ‘instruction’, which includes elements such as effective questioning and use of assessment by teachers, as well as specific practices such as:

  • reviewing previous learning
  • providing model responses for students
  • giving adequate time for practice
  • effective scaffolding.

If you boil the report to its most basic of outcomes - having a high quality teacher in the classroom has a positive impact on the achievement and progress. In fact, evidence suggests that it can improve pupil progress by around 40%! 

What do you do when a teacher is underperforming?

Effective support must be provided for colleagues who are underperforming, but in order to ensure improvements take place, high quality training to help those in charge of performance management and appraisal is crucial. The downloadable in-house training course tackling staff underperformance provides strategies for managing challenging conversations.

Firstly, you will need to know how to identify colleagues who are underperforming - not as easy as it sounds - and formulate an action plan for supporting them to improve their practice.

Once this is done, it is important to seek out and enact constructive, positive solutions to underperformance and take on the encouraging role of the mentor. Taking this role as coach and mentor can be a difficult one for many, and knowing what support to provide to establish improvements is not always a natural skill, but one which must be learned from appropriate professional development.

Difficult feedback can be... difficult

Inevitably, not every colleague will make the required improvements. Difficult conversations are sure to ensue; tears and anger are not unlikely. Dealing with the emotions of others in a sensitive way is vital. For example:

  • remaining calm and constructive in a highly-charged, conflict situation
  • giving an empathetic, yet robust response in the face of tears and emotions
  • carrying out a ‘courageous conversation’ in more difficult circumstances, where improvements are not being achieved.

It’s never easy dealing with underperforming staff, so the key is:

  • to provide high-quality support
  • to offer time for improvements to take root
  • to deal with colleagues in a sensitive and thoughtful manner
  • to commit yourself to having those difficult conversations – even when a little extra courage is required.

What next?

 

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