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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
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Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework

Report

This article is adapted from the text of two key reports: the Hay Group’s Growing Our Potential report considers the principles, key features and enabling conditions for successful approaches to teacher performance and development, while the Grattan Institute’s Implementing a Performance and Development Framework discusses how successful teacher performance and development systems can be implemented, drawing examples from successful schools systems in East Asia. Both are independent reports which informed the preparation of the Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework.


Nationally and internationally, there is unequivocal evidence that the quality of teaching is the most significant in-school factor affecting student outcomes. There is also strong evidence that better appraisal and feedback leading to targeted development can improve teacher performance. In Australia, there are schools that have outstanding performance and development practices and have seen tangible improvements in the quality of teaching as a result. However, in aggregate, Australian teachers report that they do not always get the feedback they need to improve their performance.

One major concern is that teachers currently perceive performance and development processes as bureaucratic exercises, largely done to fulfil administrative requirements.

These are some of the issues addressed by the Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework. The Framework is a nationally agreed initiative, endorsed by Education Ministers in August 2012, which will provide a systematic approach to performance and development across all schools. The pace and method of implementation will be determined by jurisdictions and school sectors.

The Framework requires that all teachers receive regular formal and informal feedback on their performance. This includes a formal review against their performance and development goals at least annually, with verbal and written feedback being provided to the teacher. Beyond the formal requirements, however, the Framework is intended to promote professional conversations and development that improve teaching and minimise administrative and bureaucratic requirements.

The Framework was developed by the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) in collaboration with education stakeholders. To support the implementation of the Framework  AITSL offers a bank of resources. They include school case studies that highlight the very substantial work already undertaken around performance and development at the school level; workshops to unpack the Framework; existing performance and development resources shared by schools; a Conversation Wheel and answers to frequently asked questions. An online Self Assessment Tool is also available.

The evidence base for the Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework is drawn from Australian and international research. Some important lessons from this research are drawn together in two key studies; both are independent reports which informed the preparation of the Framework. The current article now provides edited excerpts from each report, covering some of the elements from them that have contributed to the development of the Framework.

Growing Our Potential: strategic context, school culture and leadership

The Hay Group’s Growing Our Potential report considers the principles, key features and enabling conditions for successful approaches to teacher performance and development.

One feature of the report is its discussion of how to plan effective performance and development processes. Educational leaders need to: fit them into a wider strategic context; understand the sort of culture required for effective performance and development, and how this relates to an existing school culture; prepare enabling factors that deal with likely obstacles; and, on these foundations, establish formal performance and development procedures. In all these steps, the role of leadership is crucial.

Strategic context

Any performance and development framework needs to fit into the wider context of educational planning in Australia, including an understanding of how the moral purpose of education is perceived. At the school level, performance and development processes should fit into the school’s general strategic priorities, and the wider policy environment.

Shifts in the national agenda, departmental priorities, or strategic planning at the school level all trigger the need to review performance development and improvement process.

Culture

Any performance management framework needs to start with a recognition of the ‘as is’ culture, rather than assuming that the performance management system itself will shift the prevailing culture to accommodate new practices. In general, current values, assumptions and beliefs need to be acknowledged. Currently in Australia, schools strongly value the professional growth and development of teachers, and the provision of a supportive learning environment. However, support is not as strong for behavioural feedback and classroom observation. 

The full success of the Framework will require a culture in which student learning is the overriding value and explicit rationale for teacher performance and development, and the professional growth and development of teachers is universally acknowledged as necessary and obtainable.

The role of leaders

The most critical part of ensuring successful implementation of any performance management, development and improvement process is the leadership and people management of an organisation. Ongoing support to develop leaders and people-managers within schools is therefore a critical feature of a successful performance management and development process.

An effective system of performance management and development requires that teachers and their supervisors develop an intimate understanding of how teacher performance links to school objectives and student learning. It also requires that they understand how to engage in assessment and constructive feedback in order to improve individual and school performance. Teachers are more likely to want to develop and improve if they know where they stand in relation to agreed school improvement objectives and established standards of performance for their role.

School principals and other managerial roles within schools should be recognised as having formal accountability for the performance of other staff.

Leaders who embrace the process and use it to develop teachers will continue to improve the professional practice in their schools and strengthen the learning outcomes of not only their students but also of their teachers.


Implementing a performance and development framework: multiple methods of appraisal and feedback

The Grattan Institute’s Implementing a Performance and Development Framework discusses how successful teacher performance and development systems can be implemented, drawing examples from successful schools systems in East Asia. 

The current article summarises the report’s discussion of the ways in which teachers’ performance may be appraised. The report proposes eight methods of teacher appraisal and feedback.

It is acknowledged that none of these methods are perfect. They all provide incomplete observation of the teacher; all contain slightly different pieces of information about a teacher’s role and performance. The report therefore recommends that they be used in some combination, and that schools use at least four of these methods to assess each teacher. Each school should decide for itself which methods to use, but all should include student performance and assessment.

Before schools implement teacher appraisal and feedback they should define what constitutes effective teaching and learning in their school. Teachers and principals, and perhaps parents, should have this discussion; they should also decide the objectives and benchmarks against which performance will be assessed.

Student performance and assessments

Student performance, and assessments of their work, provide indicators of teachers’ overall performance, and of specific aspects of their teaching. Used well, they are the most direct link between student learning and teachers’ performance; ensuring they’re used well is an important aspect of effective school leadership.

Unfortunately, test scores have often been used poorly. This means that discussions about teacher appraisal, feedback and development are often side-tracked by disagreement about whether test scores genuinely reflect teacher effectiveness, or how to measure the contribution an individual teacher makes to student test scores.

Teacher value-added scores are an improvement on raw student test scores, but also still suffer from methodological problems.

Peer observation and collaboration

Peer observation involves teachers observing and learning from other teachers. The observations are often conducted in teams, and, while initially confronting, tend to be very well regarded once established. Teachers, particularly those new to the profession, are usually reassured by the feedback they receive. They are able to test innovations, reveal hidden behaviours, address known problems and identify the extent to which teachers are able to recognise areas for development in their own performance.

Peer observations are an important and effective way of changing the culture of a school from one of siloed operation to a collaborative, sharing environment.

Direct observation of classroom teaching and learning

Similar to peer observation, direct observation is carried out by a school principal or other school leader, such as a highly effective teacher. Both observation methods should contain pre- and post-observation meetings, and should focus on self-reflection followed by constructive feedback.

School leaders’ subjective assessments of teachers have been found to be good predictors of student achievement.

Student surveys and feedback

Students are a vital source of feedback for teachers. They provide information on individual student needs, how students are responding to distinct aspects of teaching, their progress and their attitudes to class.

Students report on teachers with a high degree of reliability. However, the validity of the survey results depends on the instrument used.

School principals and teachers should be involved in developing student surveys, to ensure that the questions deal with aspects of teaching which are of most relevance to the school. The more frequent the surveys, the more useful the information. The age of students affects how the surveys should be designed. In particular, it is important to note that primary students tend to rate teachers more generously than older students.

Teacher self-assessment

Teacher self-assessments are a common tool for appraisal. Their usefulness comes from requiring teachers to reflect on their own methods, and their success. Self-assessment often takes the form of a portfolio of work, compiled to highlight knowledge and skills as well as effectiveness. Self-assessments are often a requirement of accreditation processes, but can also be useful for both formative and summative appraisals.

It should be noted that there is limited evidence supporting the effectiveness of teacher self-assessments; there is, however, some evidence that teachers do not consider that this form of appraisal improves teaching or promotes good teaching practices.

Parent surveys and feedback

Parental feedback broadens the view of teacher performance, providing the perspective of an important party in education. It can strengthen the collaboration between parents and teachers, and utilise parents’ unique knowledge about their child’s education.

Some criticise parent surveys as being simply a distilled student opinion, and for that reason it is important that surveys only ask questions about aspects of a student’s learning that parents can directly observe.

External observation

External observations provide assessments of teaching and learning that remove any school-specific bias. They enable establishment of benchmarks across schools, providing valuable information about strengths and weaknesses. They also encourage sharing of innovations and best-practice. External appraisal can foster effective networks of teachers, schools and regions. However, due to the obvious logistic difficulty relative to other appraisal methods, it is likely that it would complement other measures rather than form a core part of a teacher’s appraisal.

360-degree feedback

A comprehensive appraisal requires feedback from a range of sources: the school principal; senior teachers; peers; less effective teachers and those being mentored; students and parents. This 360-degree feedback provides opportunities to reflect on work inside and outside the classroom, and in this sense can be an umbrella for the mix of methods discussed above. As well as opening up candid conversations about performance, 360-degree feedback process is particularly important for assessing how well teachers and school principals appraise and provide feedback to other teachers. This should be emphasised in schools trying to establish greater collegiality and professional collaboration.
 

Conclusion

Research suggests that designing a performance and development framework, and even designing the details of an approach at the school level, are not the main factors in achieving sustained improvement. Rather, it is in the ongoing work of implementation and culture change that the real challenge lies. For this Framework to have an enduring impact, a strong commitment from, and extensive support for, schools, groups of schools, teachers and school leaders will be critical.


References

Hay Group, Growing our potential: Hay Group’s View on Implementing an Effective Performance Improvement and Development Framework for Teachers, 2012. Independent paper prepared for AITSL to support the development of the Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework.

Jensen, B & Reichl, J, Implementing a Performance and Development Framework, Grattan Institute, 2012. Independent submission. The Grattan Institute independently prepared this report and was not commissioned by AITSL.

Edited extracts from each report are included with permission of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.

KLA

Subject Headings

Professional development
Teacher evaluation
Teaching and learning
Teaching profession