Aligning Teacher Performance and DevelopmenT Processes
Written by Toni Riordan, Deputy Principal and published in Independent Schools Queensland 'Catalyst' Magazine (Winter Edition)
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It is no wonder that today’s teachers feel as if the educational ‘bar’ not only continues to be raised but to be frequently shifting focus. Queensland teachers experience ambiguous expectations related to the Australian Curriculum; the drive to educate for innovation; the need to incorporate coding into the curriculum; to ‘flip’ classrooms; blend learning and to be ready for external assessment of our senior students in just a few years’ time. It is therefore imperative that teachers in independent schools can trust that their places of work are developing genuine cultures of teacher performance and development, which allow teachers to really know their classroom practice through the analysis of reliable and valid feedback; to collaborate with peers and instructional leaders to understand their performance; to set goals for further development; and to ultimately encourage and engage staff in the core business of schools, because it is the interaction between teaching and learning that will always occur no matter what the educational landscape looks like the further we journey into the 21st century.
St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School joined the ISQ Strategy program in early 2015. The program provides a consultation service to school leaders to assist the school’s focus on building quality teaching. To date, we have had access to information, strategies and resources to build the foundations of a positive teacher performance and development within an overall implementation framework. The specific aim of St Aidan’s strategy is to incorporate the 360-degree teacher feedback tool for professional learning, Educator Impact to enhance teacher engagement in our school’s professional learning framework.
St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School was established as an Anglican Independent Day School in 1929 by the Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Advent and is now one of two schools operated by the Sisters. Located in the western suburb of Corinda, in Brisbane, St Aidan’s is well known for its focus on academic excellence, quality learning and teaching and commitment to pastoral care.
St Aidan’s provides for the education of approximately 750 girls from Prep to Year 12 with a co-educational Kindergarten.
As a school, we value learning. The Mission of St Aidan's is to provide excellence in education, in a caring, friendly environment, where each individual, nurtured and shaped by the values of the Christian Faith, has the opportunity to achieve her full potential and to develop a passion for life and for learning. The Vision of St Aidan’s nurtures each student’s personal aspirations within a vibrant learner-centred community.
At the same time I commenced my tenure as Deputy Principal at St Aidan’s last year, the school was focused on its renewed Strategic Plan (2014-2018). One of the broader dimensions of the Strategic Plan, ‘Inspiring Professionals’ includes the key intention to: develop a reflective practice and feedback culture whereby teachers assist each other to improve teaching practice. The leadership team at St Aidan’s had investigated the value of Educator Impact (EI) and coupled with my experience in trialling the tool in a previous school, came to the conclusion that EI appeared to be offering a conduit to provide feedback to teachers that we believed would help us to continue to develop a strong teacher performance and development culture.
St Aidan’s had spent the years preceding the Strategic Plan renewal with whole-school attention on the professional learning culture, which is clearly reflected in the St Aidan’s Professional Learning Framework, developed in 2012. At the commencement of the EI program at St Aidan’s, the leadership team recognised that teachers were used to performance and development processes such as staff annual reviews; professional goal setting and participation in ‘pedagogical rounds’ as either teacher-demonstrators, teacher-observers or observer group facilitators but we knew we had to determine the ‘health’ of the teacher performance and development culture at the school, as identified by its teaching staff.
With the assistance of the ISQ School Support Officer assigned to our school as part of the Strategy program, the Independent Schools Queensland’s Performance and Development Culture Reflection was administered to teaching staff on the July 2015 Staff Professional Learning Day. Eighty percent of the teaching population reflected on statements relating to the school context, leadership and language of teacher performance and development, goal setting, working towards goals and ongoing reflection and review. While the majority of staff agreed or strongly agreed that St Aidan’s was developing a strong culture of teacher performance, development and professional learning, there were some gaps evident in this imperative. On-going, improvement-focused and accurate feedback was strongly desired, as was a more transparent and accountable way to work towards professional goals based on student achievement. Staff at St Aidan’s and the ISQ Officer were satisfied that using EI as a feedback tool would align effectively with the AITSL Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, acknowledging that EI comprehensively maps the AITSL standards to their observation competencies and clearly reports the school’s feedback mapped to the AITSL standards. This alignment would allow St Aidan’s to work towards better professional feedback, more targeted goal-setting and ultimately to improved learning outcomes for students.
As part of the second step of the Strategy program at St Aidan’s, we wanted to develop and implement sustainable, evidence-based strategies to incorporate Educator Impact into our current performance and development practices. An initial pilot group was established to trial the use of EI in Term 1 of 2015. Twelve teachers volunteered to join me in ‘trying out’ each aspect of the EI tool. This pilot group consisted of early adopters, with a range of years of teaching experience, an even spread of primary and secondary teachers, with secondary teachers representing a diverse range of secondary school subjects. From the onset, participants were consulted in order to establish timelines of the trial and how to report progress to staff. They had opportunities to discuss and debate the strengths and challenges that EI brought to our professional learning practice and they trialled various models of peer observer groupings as well as different time management strategies to complete EI tasks. The outcomes of this trial was so positive, with the pilot group offering valuable insight into how best to organise time for pre- post- and peer observations; how to guide students through their participation in providing feedback to teachers and how to analyse the feedback summary reports, that the leadership team decided to establish a second trial group, commencing in Term 2, 2015, so that it could ‘try out’ the suggestions for improved implementation of EI put forward by the first trial group.
Meanwhile, a sizeable group of staff was developing, with a strong understanding of the EI tool and were available for consultation with the leadership team and the ISQ officer towards September of last year. Discussion was facilitated to determine how this group felt about the common understanding of student learning expectations at St Aidan’s; if they could note any cultural change; if they could detect an alignment of practices and what they perceived as challenges to successful implementation of teacher performance and development strategies. Meetings were minuted and shared with the wider staff, inviting further consultation, prior to establishing a team of interested staff from the trial groups to work with me to develop documentation and timelines for full implementation of Educator Impact in 2016.
The small team of teachers, referred to as the EI Focus Group met regularly in Term 4 in 2015 to develop the procedures, deadlines and accompanying documentation. The group assisted in establishing the protocols required for teachers to collect feedback using Educator Impact; it to proposed practical suggestions to find the time in our busy meetings schedule, required for reflective practice and collegial discussions based on feedback summary reports and finally, it demonstrated teacher-leadership by its members facilitating Introductory EI workshops for all staff conducted during the December Professional Learning Days last year. The first half of 2016 has seen St Aidan’s complete the data collection and goal-setting phases of the Educator Impact program.
The first half of 2016 has seen St
Aidan’s complete the data collection
and goal setting phases of our
performance and development
program. We now look forward to an
upcoming staff meeting in which our
school summary of EI feedback data
will be closely examined. We also
intend to revisit ISQ’s Professional
Growth Tool in July this year so that we
can compare staff perception data with
our benchmark data from the previous
year. We hope to measure some closing
gaps identified by teachers, concerning
professional feedback and more
effective goal setting. Finally, we look
forward to inviting teachers to share
their learnings with leadership team
members during the annual review
process towards the end of the year.
As we anticipate these considerable
school-wide tasks, we can take stock
now and consider a year’s work on
teacher performance and development
and note some very positive outcomes
already. Below are some reflections
The EI competencies are relevant
and are a great tool to identify the
strengths and areas for improvement
as we move into the next stage –
I found data collection very straight
forward. I found the questions
were quite easy to understand and
Evidence-based feedback to set goals
for future development is a simple
process (if we don’t complicate it for
I think the process for me was
useful as I was more conscious of
my teacher practice and in a sense
was doing a bit of a checklist as I
planned and conducted my lessons.
The feedback was constructive and
my suggested area for improvement
was what I had identified, so this will
definitely be a focus for next term.
With an understanding that quite a
few Queensland independent schools
are trialling EI to support teacher
performance and development, it is
hoped the following suggestions for
implementation might help others in
To manage the snapshot/one moment-in-time
nature of the EI data
collected, we planned “dialogue”
time around peer observations. We
took note of Brookhart and Moses’
work that what makes feedback
collegial is the dialogue in the
context of a relationship; “it involves
joint work in the service of student
learning” (Brookhart & Moses,
2015: 30). Pre- and post-observation
conversations were scheduled into
teachers’ task-completion timelines.
We made concerted efforts to have
staff see the “leader as learner”
during the trial and implementation
phases of teacher performance and
development processes. Vivianne
Robinson (2014) found that the
school leader who makes the
biggest impact on learning is the one
who participates as a learner with
teachers in helping move the school
forward. Initially, I trialled with the
pilot groups, sharing the experiences
of colleagues and being present to
listen to suggestions in my role as
Deputy Principal. This year, most
senior leaders have completed EI
tasks on the same timeline as others.
Planned consultation was key. Prior
to commencing the two trials, pilot
groups determined how and when
they would report progress to staff.
Creating a small focus group to work
closely with the Deputy to formulate
procedures and protocols for
implementation was highly effective.
While committing time is always the
greatest challenge for professional
development, as a school we were
prepared to “beg, steal and borrow”
from weekly events such as assembly
time, our faculty meeting schedule
and whole-staff meetings to prioritise
completion of TP&D tasks.
Peer observer pairs or small groups
of teachers were devised through
secondary faculty teams and year
groupings of primary teachers.
We trialled various groupings of
observers and decided that the
greatest purpose EI served our
staff was to capture the shared
understanding of classroom practice.
It is intended that individual
teachers’ goals written to develop
areas for improvement will inform
faculty and primary teaching team
goals (and vice versa).
We carefully planned our
communication to parents and
students regarding the use of EI
and instigated some parameters
around students’ involvement in
completing feedback surveys for
teachers. For instance, we didn’t
want to create survey fatigue for our
girls. We consider EI to be a useful
tool for teachers to be able to model
a way of learning collaboratively
with evidence-based feedback so
therefore wanted students’ initial
experience with the program to be
as positive as possible.
Walking alongside all stakeholders
thoughtfully and considerately, while
perhaps slowing down the pace of
implementation, has undoubtedly
aided the teacher performance and
development strategy at St Aidan’s
and its endeavours to incorporate EI
into its current professional learning
framework. “Walking the talk” as
leaders of learning has been key to our
participation in ISQ’s Strategy program.
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