Improving appraisal: considering the evidence

As I work with teachers to improve their understanding of appraisal I continually reflect on their interest, questions, and concerns about evidence. How much is enough evidence? What is the right sort of evidence? What’s the purpose behind collecting the evidence? Who is responsible for collecting and storing the evidence? These and many, many more questions continue to be asked by teachers and school leaders as they take part in the appraisal process in their schools.

Are there any new things about evidence that we need to know now that that the Education Council has changed from the Practising Teacher Criteria to the Standards for the Teaching Profession, which will be compulsory in schools, ECEs and kura from the 1st January 2018? The answer is both no and maybe! No, because the key messages about evidence have not changed and also a ‘maybe’ as some of these messages about evidence have been given a slightly different emphasis.

So what are these key messages for you as teachers and school leaders when you are considering your evidence for appraisal?

Identification of quality practices in your educational setting

There is a much greater emphasis on the identification of specific quality practices that happen in your setting, be it a school, kura or early childhood centre. If you like, these are your shared expectations about what you do, and a collaborative description of these practices will contextualise the standards in your setting. Many schools, kura or ECE will have shared understandings about what an effective teaching profile looks like. These quality practices should be regularly referred to and reviewed, and are where you will find naturally occurring evidence to support your appraisal. This approach - the identification of and connection to quality practices - should avoid the tendency to silo evidence into discrete parcels and allay the uncertainty about what types of evidence to use. For those schools in the process of developing those shared understandings, the Education Council provides a framework, directly connected with the six Standards for the Teaching Profession, to support the identification of these practices. You can find the document here. It’s a very good place to start! 

Quality not quantity

No change here. Avoid wheelbarrows full of evidence and choose compelling evidence which falls out of your quality practices’ documentation and supports the impact of your practice on your own and your students’ learning

Evidence based on quality inquiry practice

No change here either! Inquiry lies at the heart of the appraisal process and will offer much of the evidence that will support your appraisal discussions and illustrate how you are meeting the standards. Your evidence needs to demonstrate not just what happened to your students’ learning as a result of your practice but what did you did differently that resulted in an improvement (or no improvement in some cases) in your students’ learning. It will involve your providing evidence of what you did differently in planning and designing your teaching programmes for all your students, and an analysis of the extent of your thinking and reflection about what you have learnt in this inquiry and what else you might need to do differently if things did not work despite your best efforts

Curation of evidence

There is a continuing emphasis on your role as a teacher in the appraisal process to curate evidence. This requires you to identify, analyse and evaluate the evidence of the impact your actions have had on the learning of students, whether it is through inquiry or other quality practices that you have identified.

Types of evidence required

The Education Council has always stressed the need for a range of evidence from different sources and perspectives, but I notice a much stronger emphasis on the importance on having at least two observations and two appraisal discussions where curated evidence is discussed between appraisee and appraiser. See the Education Council document Putting together your evidence package or portfolio to find out more about the range of evidence required for appraisal.

Improving, not just proving

The evidence that you collect for your appraisal should grow organically out of your practice in your educational setting and your reflection on that practice. Done well, it will support your professional growth, the improvement of outcomes for your students and provide assurance of accountability for your school, kura or ECE. 

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