Teacher Performance Management – Is It Worth the Investment?

Australian teachers and the education community are calling for a greater focus on teacher performance and development.

An OECD survey of lower secondary teachers found that 63% of teachers in Australia believe that appraisals of their work are done purely to meet administrative requirements. 1

61% also feel that current methods of teacher appraisal have little impact on the way they teach in the classroom and provide them with little or no idea of how to improve their performance.2

Teacher Performance Management - Is It Worth the Investment?

Why is teacher performance management important?

Australia wants to position itself as a world leader in education. It is widely accepted that the key to higher performing students is the effectiveness of their teachers. Studies suggest that students with a highly effective teacher learn twice as much as students with a less effective teacher.

Systems of teacher appraisal and feedback that are directly linked to improved classroom teaching and student performance have been shown to increase teacher effectiveness by as much as 20 to 30%.2

Creating a Performance and Development Culture in Australian Schools

A performance management system is not just a set of forms to fill in. Nor is it just about applying impersonal scores or ratings to individuals to quantify their contribution. Rather, performance management is an ongoing communication process between teachers and their supervisors throughout the year focused on improving their effectiveness.

The Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework was developed by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) in an effort to drive a culture of performance and development in all Australian schools. The framework promotes genuine professional conversations about teaching performance – rather than just ticking boxes in a bureaucratic appraisal process – and requires that teachers:

  • know what is expected of them;
  • receive frequent, useful feedback on their teaching; and
  • access high quality support to improve their practices.

The Defining Elements of Effective Performance Management

The Performance Management Cycle
The performance management process starts when a teacher commences their tenure with a school and only finishes the day they leave. That said, performance management is cyclical in nature:

  1. Performance and Development Planning
    All teachers should have an agreed set of documented goals related to both their performance and professional development. Goals should take into account the individual’s capabilities as well as the school’s priorities.
  2. Learning and Development
    Whilst the focus of graduate teachers will be to satisfy the proficiency requirements and register as a teacher, for experienced staff the pathways for development may differ depending on the individual. For most experienced teachers, professional development activities will be classroom focused based on their particular interests and needs. Others, however may decide to pursue further qualifications such as accreditation under the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers or post-graduate studies.
  3. Feedback and Reflection on Performance
    Meaningful feedback is essential to improving teaching practices. Best practice performance management begins and ends with self reflection under the guidance of a supervisor, coach or mentor, and is characterised by frequent, real-time feedback involving colleagues as well as leaders. The annual performance review discussion then just becomes the culmination of these formal and informal discussions that precede it throughout the year.Evidence used to reflect on and evaluate teacher performance should come from multiple sources including student data; direct observation; and peer feedback.

Role of school leadership and peers
Clearly school principals and executives have a key role to play in driving and managing the performance of their staff. They set the priorities and oversee the development of curriculum and teaching practices employed in the classroom. However what is often overlooked is that the teachers themselves also have a powerful part to play in each others’ development.

A performance and development culture requires an openness and preparedness by all staff to giving and receiving feedback for improvement. Peer feedback can generate a valuable source of information, perspectives and ideas that teachers can draw upon to improve their performance.

Flexible approach
The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers outline what effective teaching looks like at various stages of a teacher’s career.

However, it is important to recognise that all schools are different: they operate in unique contexts and have their own specific challenges. Each school will therefore have their own set of priorities to focus on. A performance management system must be flexible enough to cater for schools at different stages along the performance journey.

The High Stakes of Teacher Performance

We are facing a teacher shortage crisis that may only worsen if we do not address the issues that are driving talented individuals away from the profession. Effective performance management will be key to ensuring schools provide satisfying and challenging environments that produce quality teachers and attract the best and brightest to the profession.

Development focused performance management enriches the careers and lives of Australian teachers. Teachers experience greater job satisfaction when they are given the opportunity to hone their skills and become better equipped to meet the demands of their roles through feedback and coaching.

But the most significant benefit is undoubtedly the improvement in the results of Australian students. More effective teachers means better student outcomes. And when all is said and done, there really isn’t a more compelling reason to invest in teacher performance than the future of our children.

Now that you’re thinking about your team, take a look at our performance management whitepaper specifically for teachers. It’s free to download and will take your performance reviews to the next level.