Does self-evaluation have any impact on school improvement?
Monitoring, Evaluation and Review is an essential feature of the management and leadership role in any effective school. Effective review of school life enables proper decisions to be made in relation to standards, quality, value for money and school improvement. At the heart of any school’s self-review, is quality assurance based upon astute, evidence-based self-evaluation that is rooted in systematic monitoring. Monitoring will not please everyone, but I argue here how and why it is achieved is far more important than what is tackled.
Evaluation must always involve key staff and offer insight and analysis for improvement.
There is a necessity for school improvement to be supportive. Evaluation must also involve trust between colleagues and have a common-sense approach from middle and senior leaders.
As part of our MER (Monitoring, Evaluation and Review) cycle (which proved very popular with readers), all of our departments moderate the quality of marking, planning and teaching in their own teams. As a school, we have left them to do this. In fact, we’ve left our teachers alone for almost one year before looking at the quality of marking. A risky strategy to adapt in a ‘requires improvement’ school where expectations are high, despite unwanted stress.
We’ve encouraged, facilitated and asked teachers to observe each other using IRIS video-observation, and with our new Coaching Proposals to support teaching and learning in 2016/17, our teaching and learning culture will be best-placed to truly provide teachers with an opportunity to thrive.
Workload and Workflow:
In large secondary schools, there may be a need to evaluate anything and everything. For many schools, the may have a calendar of evaluation activities that see tasks, resources and staffing thinly stretched. In poor cases, the activities lead to no reporting or actual school improvement. Worst still, evaluation only involves those driving school improvement and its aims.
The consequence is a huge workload for everyone and a restricted workflow.
Reviewing the Reviewing:
Throughout the first 18 months of this cycle, we have reviewed:
- what has/has not worked?
- what has had impact on school improvement?
- what contributes to school development / staff training?
- what contributes to increased workload / reduced resources?
The current default position is that departments do their own self-evaluation with support of their senior leader manager, with possible involvement of other SLT for quality assurance unless there is a significant concern about department performance. For the future, we view the support and challenge on offer to be even more balanced using the High Challenge, Low Threat analogy from Mary Myatt.
Measuring or trusting?
In her new book, Myatt advocates ‘trust’:
[Mistakes] can only happen in a culture of high levels of trust, where colleagues regularly share their concerns about their own practice. When they do this, they are preparing the ground for holding others to account as well. When a culture has been created of high challenge, low threat, when all have taken the short amount of time to note the things that have gone well, then self-esteem is sufficiently high to own up to the mistakes and move practice on.
The year ahead:
For the following academic year, we are considering the following model which will operate on a two or three-year cycle.
The principle is that department self-evaluation will operate on a two or three-year cycle. Resources will be mapped out more carefully and thoughtfully, with improved workload for everyone. Appraisal and coaching (observations) will exist per annum and operate outside of this structure.
How departments are identified as high-performing or under-performing has yet to be finalised. In principle, our middle leaders view this approach as more meaningful and balanced, hopefully supporting departments where it is most needed and re-deploying resources to where needs are most required. In principle, a highly performing department is likely to be left to their own devices to ‘get on with the job’.
Here is the draft cyclical model which will evolve over the coming 6 weeks.
n.b. terms are defined as half-term periods e.g. 6-8 weeks.
There will be flaws in the model, so we are keen to develop the principle before going live in September 2016. I will report back, so please do feedback in the comments below.
Monitoring is really important in a school. If done well it contributes to teacher development, if done badly, it’s a reason why many teachers leave a school and for some, leave the profession. (Dawn Cox)