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You’ve invested time and energy in agreeing your school’s Appraisal Policy. The document is printed the CPD booked – Job Done! The Summer break looms… and yet, there’s a nagging suspicion about unfinished business. You’ve met statutory requirements but have you won the hearts and minds? As you plan for the implementation of Performance Management and the associated systems of Performance Related Pay and that awkward link with Capability Procedures you know you’ll face challenging questions. The first being, “How will we motivate those who see, “all this” as a threat, or an imposed, bureaucratic process?

My 40 years of working in both challenging and outstanding schools has taught me a lot. I have learnt that using a developmental approach to staff development is the only sustainable model. I have seen the long term benefits of the, “teacher talks first” approach. We don’t hector colleagues about where they need to be – we start by understanding where they are. We don’t describe their achievement gap – we help them plan how to bridge it. In short, we don’t see them as operatives in an imposed system – we respect them as co-professionals in a collegiate system. That’s how we motivate colleagues – it’s about the art of the possible not the threat of the impossible. It’s about a capacity building approach not a quick fix, tactical, “Job done, what’s next?” attitude.

Teacher Appraisal as motivation

I believe that motivating colleagues is about explaining a truth. Appraisal is being imposed but that doesn’t mean the content of the dialogue is imposed. We have found it far more powerful and, in the end, more successful by starting from each teacher’s view of, “Where am I now?” and working towards a collaborative answer to, “(So) What do we need to do?”

I’m going to describe an approach we have used and are using that really works. It is built on a set of deceptively simple questions, or steps. Of course there are other approaches but we believe none are more straightforward than the iAbacus.

Head teacher using abacus

I designed the original Abacus to simplify, reassure, build confidence and develop the skills, knowledge and an understanding of self-evaluation and action planning, for colleagues. We wanted a culture of, “looking at what we do with a view to doing it better” and I captured that by using a basic Abacus. That original Abacus proved itself – sliding a bead to demonstrate improvement grabbed attention. The new online iAbacus works even better, as one user said, “The power is in the process and the simplicity is in the software”.

Whether you use the iAbacus, or not, the process of self-evaluation in appraisal motivates teachers by placing them at the centre of their development as they:

  • Slide the bead to make their judgement about the quality of provision
  • Check their judgement against given, or agreed criteria
  • Identify factors hindering progress and considering what is helping
  • Plan detailed actions to improve and develop

Teachers using iAbacus for Performance Management using standards
Who could possibly object to being offered a system like this? It allows the teacher to tell their own story. It encourages dialogue and enables collaboration. The iAbacus supports a “can do” culture, encourages collaboration and is a powerful tool in the, “teacher talks first” approach to appraisal. Finally, I have used it to challenge the hardest critics and most cynical colleagues by pushing it across the table and saying, “OK you’ve described the problem, identified the barriers – what do you suggest we do?”

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In my next BLOG I’ll consider, “How can we ensure appraisal, or Performance Management, is a natural part of our professional development and school improvement processes and not a bolt on extra? In the the third, I’ll try to answer your toughest, most cynical questions about Appraisal, Performance Related Pay and Capability Procedures. So, send your dreaded and devilish questions in!