There’s a low grumbling noise coming from the school hall. It’s the sound of cautious chatter as the entire staff: teachers, teaching assistants and senior leadership team assemble for the highly anticipated session on ‘setting objectives for appraisal’. With all the pressure of Performance Related Pay, there’s a tangible sense of trepidation, dare we say – reluctance in the air. The Head Teacher, in a trusting, almost relieved manner, now hands the session over to John Pearce and Dan O’Brien, the visiting experts on appraisal and performance management in schools.
John uses his forty years of research, to deliver an engaging, hands-on session where he slides the beads on a simple abacus to demonstrate a unique approach to appraisal. Slowly but surely he convinces all in the room that if done correctly, appraisal can be a positive, valuable experience that leads to genuine professional development and sustainable school improvement.
With everyone now at ease, confident in the ethos and ethics behind the abacus approach, Dan reveals the iAbacus™ – a deceptively simple, online tool that each member of staff will now use to self-evaluate and set objectives for appraisal. As he slides the beads on the interactive tool, demonstrating the straightforward, step-by-step process – there are smiles and confident nods of approval as many silently compare this to the over-complicated, form-filling software they’ve used until today.
Each member of staff now leaves the hall, some to the isolation of their own classroom, others to enjoy a collaborative environment in the staff room. Their mission is the same; log on to the iAbacus™, self-evaluate, add evidence, analyse factors, set objectives, and plan for improvement.
John and Dan circulate and watch as they use the iAbacus™ intuitively, some are already leaning across the table and demonstrating to colleagues how it can be used. Dan and John are almost redundant. They talk to the Head in her office – she shows them the new School Improvement Plan. They spot the tell-tale abacus beads giving a visual picture of progress – she has compiled it using the iAbacus™.
Later the staff return to the hall. Chattering with relief, they write on their feedback forms…
“User-friendly. Can clearly see where you currently are, and where you want to be in terms of development.”
“The Teachers’ Standards already on the system makes it easier to highlight areas for the action plan.”
“I like how it helps you reflect as a practitioner. The visual idea of an abacus makes it easy to use.”
“It’s simple and easy to use even for a computer-phobe like me. Thank you for all your help.”
“It’s easy to use and accessible from home.” “I liked the opportunities to provide evidence.”
“Can see straight away what you are up to – and what you could be working towards.”
“Simple to use – you can evaluate yourself and also ask others to collaborate on it.”
“The idea is good, the display is good – the final report function is very good.”
“It’s easy to use and a great way to record and check your overall process.”
“The sliding beads really made you think carefully about your subject area.”
“Provides an easy way to visualise targets and further improvements.”
“It was simple to understand for some who are not computer literate.”
“ I liked the ability to generate reports.” “Simple to use and visual.”
“I liked the visual display of where you are for each standard.”
“Easy to understand – even with my lack of computer skills!”
“Easy to see where you are and where you need to be.”
“I like how it’s accessible from home and easy to use.”
“Good for self-reflection to highlight areas to target.”
“Simple to use – lots of detail already inputted.”
“It is very simple and straightforward.”
No, I didn’t get a headache!!”