Findings

ERO evaluated whether a school’s appraisal system was effectively contributing to improvements in teacher capability and student outcomes by investigating:

  • how well the appraisal policies and procedures emphasised the focus on improving teacher practices and student learning and achievement
  • how closely the appraisal goals reflected both school and personal goals
  • how deliberately and thoroughly the appraisal processes linked teacher practice with student outcomes
  • how rigorous the attestation processes were for both sets of teaching standards (RTC and professional standards)
  • how the principal and teachers talked about the alignment of appraisal with other school practices to improve teaching and student outcomes.

The online survey also asked principals to rate how effective they considered their school’s appraisal process was, for improving a range of teacher and student outcomes and for meeting the accountability requirements.

Key findings: Overall effectiveness of appraisal

Findings from the on-site reviews

  • Just over 20 percent of primary schools and four percent of secondary schools had high quality appraisal systems that supported schools to improve teacher capability and student outcomes.
  • Another 35 percent of primary and 37 percent of secondary schools had compliant appraisal systems.
  • Forty-five percent of primary schools and 59 percent of secondary schools had limited appraisal systems.

Findings from the surveys

  • Thirty percent of the principals surveyed reported their appraisal systems were either very effective or effective at improving the quality of the full range of key teaching and student outcomes. Another 30 percent said their appraisal systems were either very effective or effective at improving the quality of most of the key teaching and student outcomes. (See Appendix 2 for this range.)

What appraisal aspects made the difference?

ERO identified factors associated with an appraisal system’s effectiveness. The factors were grouped into four inter-related dimensions:

  • school culture focused on improvement
  • coherence across school self-review components
  • guidance in policy and procedures
  • organisational support for appraisal.

Table 1 shows the relationship between the factors within these four dimensions and the three categories of effectiveness. Most schools had factors that were necessary but not sufficient to make a high quality appraisal system. These factors were the foundation for compliant appraisal. Other factors were only observed in schools with high quality appraisal systems and were what made the difference.

If schools had a coherent system with all the self-review components, and a culture focused on improvement, then both the organisational support, and guidance in documents, for appraisal were strong. The high quality appraisal process supported the focus on improvement and accountability. These schools were focused on and improved outcomes for students.

Table 1: A description of factors of school practices associated with the three categories of appraisal effectiveness

Dimensions of appraisal

Foundation factors

Necessary but not sufficient

Factors that made the difference

A school culture focused on improvement

Collaborative practices

Principals had high expectations for all students and all teachers

The analysis of teacher practice included discussions about the impact on learning and achievement of all students

Coherence across school self-review practices

Alignment of charter goals, student targets and teacher professional learning and development (PLD)

A range of evidence used in discussion about practice

Leaders knew how to embed appraisal into an improvement-focused, self‑review system

Teacher goals were the connection between student targets and teacher PLD

Leaders had a deep understanding of self-review processes such as evaluation and Teaching as Inquiry

Guidance in policy and procedures

Guidance in appraisal policy and documentation

Guidance in appraisal policy and documentation included details about using a range of data, setting goals and using Tātaiako

Organisational support for appraisal

Organisational support such as:

  • training for appraisers
  • someone with responsibility for the quality and completion of tasks across the school
  • time
  • templates for particular tasks

Leaders understood the organisational support needed to implement robust appraisal across the school

Timely, high quality feedback was a feature of the process

School systems ensured every teacher’s appraisal focused on improved practice

  • Schools with limited appraisal systems had some of the foundation factors.
  • Schools with compliant appraisal systems had the foundation factors and some of the factors that made the difference.
  • Schools with high quality appraisal systems had all factors.

The dimensions, and the relationships between them, are explored in the following sections:

  • Section A: School culture focused on improvement
  • Section B: Coherence across school self-review components
  • Section C: Guidance in policy and procedures
  • Section D: Organisational support for appraisal.

Each dimension’s context is introduced by referring to relevant research and what ERO investigated. Key findings are bulleted. Practices of schools with high quality appraisal systems that supported improved teacher capability and student learning are discussed.

Section A: School culture focused on improvement

Background

Teachers working together to solve education problems is more professionally gratifying and motivating than trying to solve problems individually. Such work also leads to better outcomes for students (Mourshed 2010, Fullan 2011, and Levin 2012). [10] The conclusion from one large study’s focus on increasing the frequency and quality of teacher professional conversations along with increasing the quality of teacher knowledge and practices, was that of the two foci the emphasis on professional conversations was the most powerful for improving student outcomes. In particular, if these conversations include teachers:

  • seeking evidence where students are not doing well
  • review the impact of teaching on all students, to improve teaching
  • be open to new practices that make a difference. [11]

Appraisal interactions provide leaders with the opportunity to model the way conversations about teacher practice would incorporate these three aspects.

Fullan (2011, p10) cautions ‘Culture is the driver; good appraisal is the reinforcer, not the other way round. Throw a good appraisal system in a bad culture and you get nothing but increased alienation.’

What did ERO investigate?

ERO investigated how the appraisal system worked when a school had a culture of improvement and high expectations for all students, by exploring:

  • aspects of the school culture that hindered or supported appraisal processes that focused on improvements in student outcomes
  • how teachers and school leaders talked about improving practice and student outcomes.

Key findings: School culture focused on improvement

  • Collaborative practices were necessary but not sufficient for appraisal to contribute to improved teaching and student outcomes. What made a difference was where conversations about teacher practice included frank and open discussions about the impact on learning and achievement of all students.
  • Many of the schools where appraisal had limited effectiveness to contribute to improving student outcomes, had collaborative practices but did not expect appraisal processes to contribute to improved student outcomes. These schools had little purpose or rigour in their appraisal processes.

Schools with high quality appraisal systems had transparent classrooms, where what happened in classrooms in terms of teacher practice and outcomes for students was openly shared and discussed. They were very deliberate in using a range of information about learning and wellbeing of all students and expected success for all students. They had high‑trust purposeful collaborations. The focus was on improvingpractice, rather than proving that practice had a positive impact. Three features of purposeful collaboration were:

  • talk was based on evidence
  • next steps were clearly described
  • the purpose for collaboration was to have a shared responsibility for student outcomes.

Examples of the three features ERO found are illustrated below.

Evidence-based teaching

Teaching as inquiry is the school focus and is articulated within the appraisal system. Appraisal processes involve gathering evidence along with observations and reflections on practice. Staff are moving from a culture of reflecting on teaching to a culture of evidence-based teaching.

The principal has weekly spots in staff meetings to discuss evidence - what it is, how one piece can be used many times, and staff are now bringing their own evidence to these meetings as confidence and capability increases to determine what constitutes useful evidence. (Primary school)

Describing next steps

Self reflection is highly evident in all appraisals. Staff are not afraid to acknowledge and undertake next steps and challenges. This helps with developing a learning community. (Secondary school)

Shared responsibility for student outcomes ensures collaboration is purposeful

Staff demonstrate a genuine commitment to make a difference for all students. Collegiality inspires individuals and teams to aim higher. They have created a shared responsibility for professional learning. The principal and deputy principal drive teaching and learning and have planning interviews with teachers to monitor each teacher’s personal and professional development. (Primary school)

Can schools be improvement focused but not link this to appraisal?

Appraisal was just one tool schools used to improve teaching practice and outcomes for students. Although not the focus of this evaluation, it was clear that many schools used Teaching as Inquiry for improvement. Goals, driven by the evidence from student outcomes, underpinned high quality improvement models in many schools. However, these models did not always include appraisal goals, as shown below.

At the end of 2012 teachers reflected on writing programmes and student attitudes to writing in light of poor achievement results. They identified strategies to improve learning in 2013, resources, and direction for PLD to build teacher capacity to teach writing effectively. Although the school was improvement-focused, teacher appraisal goals were not linked to school goals. (Primary school)

The risk in such schools is that teachers may find it difficult to focus on school improvement goals while at the same time attempting to focus on quite separate appraisal goals.

Why does appraisal get separated from improvement?

When appraisal was separate to the improvement focus it was seen as quite a different process to Teaching as Inquiry. For example, the leader’s role was seen as supervisory in appraisal, whereas in inquiry the leader’s role was seen as one of coaching. [12] Appraisal was compliance based and lacked rigour as a process for improvement.

In some cases leaders delayed establishing appraisal goals as they felt practice needed to be embedded before impact could be assessed. Such practice does not allow for the monitoring of implementing new teaching approaches or support the teacher to focus on the changes expected as part of the development.

The main advantages of connecting improvement with accountability in appraisal are coherence of actions, synergy of tasks, and use of time. These are explored in theCoherence across school self-review components and Organisational supportsections of this report.

Section B: Coherence across school self-review components

Background

A range of self-review practices promote evidence-based decision-making to improve the impact of teacher and leader practice on student outcomes. Examples of some of the individual components of self review include:

  • assessment for and of learning (see Hattie 2009, [13] Wiliam 2011, [14] Ministry of Education 2011 [15])
  • Teaching as Inquiry in the NZ Curriculum (Ministry of Education [16])
  • inquiry and knowledge building for improved student outcomes (see Timperley et al 2007 [17] and BES overview 2012 [18])
  • school-wide planning and reporting (Ministry of Education [19]).

ERO has previously evaluated the quality of various aspects of self review. In the 2009 reports on Managing Professional Learning and Development in Schools ERO found that the most effective primary schools [20] and secondary schools [21] had:

  • aligned their PLD with well-informed school priorities
  • a supportive professional culture where practice was shared and critiqued
  • self-review systems to monitor and evaluate the impact of their PLD investment
  • significant improvements in student outcomes as a result of the PLD.

In 2011 ERO evaluated schools’ Teaching as Inquiry practices. In some very effective schools ERO highlighted the following:

Occasionally, inquiry was applied to the self-review process carried out by leaders. For example, leaders made decisions about future PLD opportunities on the basis of information collected through the performance management system (PMS). Such practices indicated the strength and coherence of inquiry in these schools. (p.28) [22]

The 2011 ERO report recommended that schools incorporate Teaching as Inquiryinto their performance management systems.

What did ERO investigate?

ERO explored:

  • how well the school goals, student targets, teacher and leader goals, and professional learning were aligned in the policies, procedures and other documents
  • how school leaders and teachers talked about particular self-review components (including appraisal)
  • if, and how well, particular practices reflected a deliberate focus on cohesion.

Key findings: Coherence across self-review components

  • Aligning charter goals, student targets, and teacher professional learning and development (PLD) is necessary but not sufficient to ensure that the appraisal system was likely to contribute to improved teaching and student outcomes. Having teacher goals connect school targets with teacher PLD made the difference to the effectiveness of appraisal.
  • Although over one-third of schools had all aspects of self review well aligned along with their appraisal goals and process, not all undertook rigorous appraisal across the whole school.
  • Just over half of primary and secondary schools had a good alignment between the charter goals, student targets and teacher PLD. However they generally did not align teacher appraisal goals with student goals and teacher PLD.
  • The remaining schools had little coherence across all self-review elements.
  • Schools used a wide range of evidence for appraisal discussions. Primary schools surveyed were more likely than secondary schools to use an analysis of achievement data in their conversations about the links between teaching and student outcomes. Secondary schools surveyed were more likely to use feedback from students in these conversations.

Just over half the schools had aligned teacher PLD with school targets. Schools withhigh quality appraisal systems were deliberately developing teacher goals that were the accountability factor between the two. Below is an example of such practices in one school.

The teachers have had PLD on developing goals based on analysis of class data. They now feel their goals are far more focused and measurable than before. The template for goals had prompts for school goals, teacher goals and RTC. For example, an English teacher shared her goal: to identify class texts that engage students and use in ways that raise achievement. She wanted to increase student engagement so that her Year 9 students were interested in critically analysing the meaning and thinking about how it relates to their lives. She linked this goal to the school target around increasing the literacy achievement of year 9 and 10 students and the RTC ‘using critical inquiry and problem-solving effectively in their professional practice’. (Secondary school)

Schools that were deliberate with this alignment shared advantages for individual teachers and for the school as a whole. Examples of the advantages are provided here.

Individual teachers improve their capability to inquire

The appraisal process is ongoing and fully integrated with Teaching as Inquiry, and encourages teachers to develop their capacity to reflect critically on their own practice and improve their responsiveness to student learning needs. Monitoring meetings provide useful forums for teachers to focus on identified learners. (Primary school)

Appraisal is a formative process used to build teacher capability. During the year, teachers receive useful feedback from appraisers following observations of teaching, and conversations about Teaching as Inquiry, based on documented evidence. The appraisal system is part of the annual monitoring, assessment and reporting schedule. (Primary school)

Individual teachers are motivated to improve practice

Since 2012, Teaching as Inquiry has formed the basis for appraisal. Inquiries are linked to school and department goals. School leaders feel that appraisal has increased enthusiasm among staff members; increased teacher and student motivation and engagement; encouraged greater ownership of professional practice and development; improved teacher student relationships; and raised student achievement. (Secondary school)

Individual appraisal involves purposeful collaboration with groups of peers

Appraisal and PLD are clearly linked. Once staff goals and actions are decided, appropriate PLD and support are identified. Each teacher chooses a professional learning group where they regularly discuss what they are doing and the impact on students. The PLD team of eight, including two Specialist Classroom Teachers, has overview of PLD needs and identifies in‑school expertise to meet these. (Secondary school)

Individual teachers’ improvements contributed to meeting school goals and targets

There is clear alignment between professional development, teachers’ goals and overall school goals. For example, there is currently an overall strategic target in writing which data indicates is an area in which students are not achieving as well as in other areas. All teachers have a development goal in their appraisal that is related to this and the board has funded PLD with an external advisor in the teaching of writing. (Primary school)

School improvement is cumulative

Appraisal is strongly and very effectively linked to PLD. Priority focus in both appraisal and PLD has over the last four years seen a shift in focus from reading, English as a second or other Language (ESOL) literacy, to maths, Ka Hikitia and now writing. (Primary school).

ERO found a clear link between effectiveness of appraisal and effectiveness of school self review and development. Almost all of the 16 primary schools in the sample that ERO will review again in one to two years had appraisal processes that had limited effectiveness for improving teaching and student learning.

Section C: Policy and procedure guidance

Background

The performance management requirements, [23] as mandated by the Secretary of Education in 1996, provide the framework and minimum statements for schools to document in their policies and procedures. For example:

  • schools need to specify who is responsible for appraisal, the appraisal process, and statements about confidentiality and dealing with disputes
  • the process needs to be in consultation with the teacher and include identification of the appraiser, written performance expectations, written development goals and specific assistance to reach each goal, observation, self-appraisal, an opportunity to discuss practice and an appraisal report.

It is the board’s responsibility to ensure school policy and procedures are clear. The Ministry’s guide for boards of trustees advises: [24]

Experience shows that clear board policy is critical, with well defined procedures for staff appointments, principal appraisal and complaints. As the principal is likely to handle the day-to-day employment matters, you must establish clear expectations with your principal for recruitment and staff management and ensure these are met. (p.5)

What did ERO investigate?

ERO investigated whether a school’s appraisal policies and procedures supported appraisal by exploring:

  • how well the policy and procedures balanced a focus on improved teaching and student outcomes with the accountability requirements
  • how well the documents guided appraisal practices.

ERO also included questions about appraisal policies and practices in the surveys to a sample of principals (see Appendix 2).

Key findings: Policy and procedure

  • The surveys showed that principals of schools with detailed documentation were more likely to report their appraisal processes were effective and that appraisal contributed positively to improving teacher practices and student outcomes.
  • Although most schools provide guidance for most aspects of appraisal in their documents, the on-site investigation showed that these guidelines were more likely to be followed in a compliant manner.

What mandated requirements were in school appraisal policies and procedures?

Almost all schools surveyed reported they had documented the mandated requirements. These schools described who was responsible for appraisal, and its purposes. Purposes outlined included promoting professional development and growth, assuring the board that the relevant professional standards were being met, improving student learning, and supporting school goals and values.

The schools surveyed reported their documented appraisal policies and procedures made it clear that appraisal goals and objectives should relate to student learning or outcomes, to the Registered Teacher Criteria, and be aligned with school and department/syndicate goals. The documents also detailed the following mandated processes:

  • discussions with appraiser to set goals and achievement of performance expectations
  • identification of individual PLD and support needed to reach goals
  • classroom observations.

Just over half of the schools surveyed had a statement about confidentiality and details of a process for dealing with disputes.

What guidance was provided in policies and procedures about appraisal?

In the survey of schools, principals were asked about aspects they included in their appraisal policies, procedures and/or guidelines. ERO identified these aspects from research about effective teacher appraisal and from the guidance to schools by education agencies. See Appendix 2 for the full list of aspects and the survey responses.

Very few schools surveyed reported they had all the listed aspects in their documentation. Half of the schools had most aspects in their documentation. However, they were most likely to be missing statements about:

  • using Tātaiako Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners
  • what types of information to use in an appraisal discussion (e.g. how to talk about evidence, and what counts as evidence of effectiveness)
  • how to develop teacher goals that were focused on improving outcomes for all students and were measurable.

A quarter of the schools surveyed had little guidance in their documentation. These were also the schools with mandated requirements missing from their documentation. About two-thirds of primary and half of the secondary schools surveyed included guidance on reporting to the board about appraisal.

This lack of documented guidance about developing appraisal goals was reflected during ERO’s on-site investigations in schools. Many schools visited were struggling to develop clear and measurable goals that focused on student outcomes.

Only some boards received reports about appraisal. These reports to the board occasionally summarised appraisal goals or explained the outcomes from appraisal. Reports to the board more often explained:

  • that the appraisal process had been followed and completed in a timely manner
  • that teachers were meeting the professional standards or Registered Teacher Criteria
  • the provision, content or outcomes of school-wide PLD.

ERO found that in the schools where the board received some type of report about teacher appraisal, trustees were more knowledgeable about appraisal purposes and the school was more likely to have aligned and coherent self-review processes. Boards should establish clear expectations for school leaders about teacher appraisal processes and assurance that their expectations have been met. The board also needs to be clear about how they will use appraisal information in decisions about support for teachers’ goals.

Section D: Organisational support

Background

The well-considered provision of the necessary resources (people, time and tools) is fundamental to any improvement effort. For appraisal, these resources include:

  • someone with responsibility for the quality and completion of appraisal
  • time to develop appraisal expertise and undertake particular appraisal tasks
  • having the appraisal expertise and opportunities to develop this expertise
  • guidelines, including templates and indicators, to support teachers through particular appraisal tasks.

What did ERO investigate?

ERO investigated whether a school’s processes and structures gave both clear messages about appraisal and practical support to teachers for appraisal by exploring:

  • aspects of the appraisal processes, for example, time allocated for various appraisal tasks and how expertise in appraisal processes was developed, that hindered or supported appraisal contributing to improved teaching and outcomes for students.

ERO also included questions about appraisal practice and implementation in the survey.

Key findings: Organisational support

Findings from the on-site reviews

  • High quality and timely feedback about teacher practice was identified as a key difference between schools with high quality appraisal systems and those that were compliant or had limited appraisal systems.

Findings from the surveys

  • Seventy percent of schools surveyed had someone who monitored the completion of appraisal tasks.
  • Approximately 70 percent of principals surveyed had templates for developing goals, classroom observations, self-appraisal and the final report. Only half had templates for all of these processes.
  • Approximately 80 percent of schools surveyed provided time for goal setting meetings between appraisee and appraiser, observations and feedback discussions.
  • Well over half of principals and/or senior leaders from the schools surveyed have had appraisal training. The training was mostly about using the RTC, goal setting, observations and providing effective feedback.

All schools with high quality appraisal systems had comprehensive support for the processes. This included time, training, and guidelines on: setting worthwhile goals, agreed indicators of effectiveness, and how to use a range of data. ERO found that in many of these schools the teachers commented positively on the comprehensive guidelines provided for appraisal, and the way in which senior leaders continually reminded them of what needed to be done and when. These schools had someone who actively led the appraisal process by being responsible for both the quality and completion of appraisal tasks.

The deputy principal with responsibility for appraisal has provided clear guidelines about what a good research project looks like and for reviewing and assessing the RTCs. These guidelines include indications of ‘What my evidence might look like’ ‘What evidence an appraiser/mentor might look for’ for provisionally registered teachers (PRTs), assistant teachers and unit holders. (Secondary school)

How are appraisals monitored?

In three-quarters of the primary schools and one-third of secondary schools the principals were responsible for the appraisal process. In the other schools a senior leader was responsible. Whether the role was delegated to a senior leader or syndicate/department/faculty leader or the principal depended on the school’s size.

Over 90 percent of principals surveyed reported that the person in charge of appraisal monitored whether all appraisals were completed annually and that the goals and objectives aligned with school targets and goals. ERO’s on-site investigations found that the alignment of appraisal with school goals and targets was considerably less (see Key Findings in Section B: Coherence across school self-review components).

The principals’ survey highlighted that the monitoring was focused on task completion, rather than being focused on aligning appraisal with school-wide planning, PLD and in-depth analysis of assessment information.

Lack of rigour and not completing the appraisal process were the two main reasons for principals determining that their school’s appraisal systems had limited effectiveness.

The benefits from making time for appraisal processes

Schools with a high quality appraisal system enriched regular teacher work by making time to include appraisal tasks. This meant time for appraisal was made available in an ongoing way and not just for the one-off mandated appraisal tasks. For example, these schools took time in a range of meetings to look into the patterns of student achievement and learning behaviours. They used their analysis of teaching practices to identify the impacts of teaching on students’ learning and next steps for teachers. Discussions were about teaching goals and indicators of success.

In one secondary school with a high quality appraisal system, the leaders deliberately aligned PLD with appraisal by providing time for teachers to talk about progress towards their appraisal goals at each PLD session.

Forty-six percent of principals surveyed identified time as the greatest hindrance to effective appraisal. [25] This included time for training all appraisers, time for ongoing observations and feedback, competing use of time for syndicate, faculty or staff meetings, and timeliness of observations and final reporting.

How do schools develop appraisal expertise?

Sixty-four percent of primary schools and 86 percent of the secondary schools surveyed, had undertaken PLD about appraisal. For most schools, the principals, senior leaders and middle managers were involved in this learning about appraisal. Seventeen percent of schools surveyed had provided appraisal PLD for all teachers.

The PLD was most often about:

  • using Registered Teacher Criteria
  • providing effective feedback
  • having difficult conversations
  • observations
  • setting goals
  • using professional standards.

PLD was least likely to include learning about building on last year’s goals or usingTātaiako in the appraisal process or goal setting.

Appraisal expertise was most commonly developed through using resources provided by the Teachers Council. Fifteen percent of schools surveyed had used the Ministry’s Ruia resource. Appendix 5 lists the appraisal resources for boards, leaders and teachers.

A quarter of the principals surveyed identified other sources of expertise. These included: private consultants; Ministry in-school professional learning and development; in-school expertise; Ministry funded professional learning for particular roles, for example, first time principals and aspiring principals; and expertise developed through personal qualifications to build school appraisal expertise. From Term 2, 2013 the Teachers Council has been undertaking PLD for schools. This is probably not reflected in this data.

In many of the schools reviewed teachers’ opinions about the value of appraisal had improved after school leaders had undertaken some appraisal PLD. Principals told ERO that the quality of observation feedback and goal setting had improved after appraisal PLD. The valuing of appraisal further increased in schools where teachers had spent time building knowledge about Teaching as Inquiry and goal setting, as shown in the example below.

PLD has been provided for all teachers in Teaching as Inquiry and the setting of SMART goals. Appraisers learnt about the art of having difficult conversations. Middle management and classroom teachers spoken with were positive about their appraisal. They said that most staff saw its value and appreciated the strong support and guidance of senior staff. They thought it was helping them to reflect on and improve their performance. (Secondary school)

What tools are useful for robust appraisal processes?

Schools with high quality appraisal systems had developed a comprehensive wrap‑around set of guidelines, templates and indicators and adapted these specifically for the school. The appraisal resources were organised to avoid any ambiguity and allowed for adaptive use as appropriate for particular contexts (for example, in different faculties or syndicates). An example of the content of comprehensive guidelines from one school is described below.

The appraisal process and goals focus on improving teaching, learning and student outcomes. The appraisal document and templates show a highly organised and structured system which promotes consistency in this large school (2000 ). Each teacher has a copy of the document and templates.

An introduction sets out the legal requirements, dispute procedures and the appraisal process. The next section outlines the school’s goal setting requirements and gives advice about working towards the goals. The third section covers the annual appraisal report. The last section contains resources which will assist the appraisee with the reflection process and self evaluation.

Also included as part of the appraisal guidelines are:

  • an inquiry cycle document and an RTC evidence log
  • information about the attainment of the appraisal goals
  • a checklist for the RTC
  • templates for the summary of the classroom observations that have occurred and an evaluation by the appraiser
  • a detailed self evaluation for the RTC process
  • appraisal reports for deans and unit holders
  • a student survey that could be used
  • a checklist of progress dates for appraisers.

An emphasis is placed on discussion between the appraiser and the appraisee. Classroom observation documents include three useful templates that invite co-construction of the goals and the findings. The templates help to support the reflection and feedback for both appraiser and appraisee. Criteria provided for classroom observations outline expected teaching practices. Teachers are expected to include areas of good practice and areas for development as part of their self reflection.

A clear timeline is provided for staff that results in a process that is ongoing throughout the year.

Teachers said that they appreciated the structure along with the flexibility and can see that appraisal improves student outcomes.

(Secondary school)

Two features in particular that reduced complexity and ambiguity in schools were:

  • indicators of effective teaching practice that had been developed collectively and shared an understanding of good practice. These indicators were often derived from research or PLD that the school had undertaken.
  • an online system that linked to the student performance database that enabled easy access to, and analysis of, a range of student information by teachers for their inquiries.

Examples of these features are below.

When the appraisal was redeveloped two years ago the school deliberately included indicators of effective practice that the school had learnt about through the Literacy Professional Development Project professional development that teachers had undertaken. (Primary school)

The school has an easily accessible, comprehensive student performance information database that enables the school to develop ‘a school-wide appraisal and goal setting process with teaching and learning and improving student progress and achievement as the prime purpose of the school’. The student-achievement database is providing useful and easily accessible student-achievement data in a variety of iterations (by teacher, class, subject, gender, ethnicity etc) for teachers. Most teachers readily accept the process because they see that it can help them to be the best they can. There is a belief that teachers can and do make a difference and a willingness to share concerns and get support and advice from other staff. (Secondary school)

Why it is important to understand change and implementation

Forty-four percent of secondary schools and 23 percent of primary schools investigated had recently reviewed their appraisal system, and were initiating a new system or changing major aspects of their old system. In three schools the changes were so extensive and recent that ERO could not yet judge their effectiveness.

Most of these schools’ improvements were to appraisal policy and procedures and school organisation. Examples included schools developing new guidelines and templates, appointing new co-ordinators and undertaking PLD. Leaders in schools with effective appraisal systems understood the need for ongoing review and bringing all teachers with them. The example below shows that this is a long-term view on improvement.

There has been full consultation on the appraisal journey from 2003 to 2013. The pace of development has been carefully judged so that most teachers understand and support the system. The leadership team and the HODs are fully supportive of the appraisal process and the direction of the appraisal plan. Some teachers have reservations but the majority are supportive of the move to teacher inquiry through the selected goals. (Secondary school)

Reviewing and developing appraisal policy, guidelines and templates alone is not likely to impact on improved professional practice and raise student achievement. For schools to improve their appraisal systems they must also focus on a culture of improvement across the school.

How effective did principals surveyed think their appraisal processes were?

The survey showed that many principals were not confident that their appraisal process is very effective. Approximately 20 percent of principals surveyed thought their appraisal process was very effective in supporting teachers to identify their personal professional goals and receive high quality feedback. Thirty-eight percent of primary principals and 48 percent of secondary principals thought the process wasvery effective in supporting the school to obtain their annual targets and school goals.

One-third of principals surveyed thought the school appraisal was somewhat or not effective in promoting inquiry into student learning, progress and achievement.

The aspects, which principals felt were somewhat or not effective in the school appraisal process correlated with the appraisal documentation completeness. For example, the aspect most schools with very thorough documentation identified as being somewhat or not effective was linking appraisal with the school’s professional learning communities. Schools with little documentation reported their appraisal process did not identify the PLD needed to improve student outcomes.