Designing Research-Informed Appraisal Questions

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In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday...
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C’mon, hands up! Who likes performance management?

The alignment of CPD, performance management and evidence-informed teaching is crucial; and takes time to embed…

In this blog post, I’d like to share a methodology for designing researchinformed questions (not targets) and offer a few questions for starters (that I am yet to see tackled).

I have been working with many schools that have designed research-informed appraisals for a number of years. It’s relatively new to most, and for some, they have not yet started.

Hands up ‘Who likes performance management?’

For me, almost 10 years later, I still get very excited when a school gets in touch and shares some of the work that they are doing, 1) to move away from traditional appraisal 2) to support teachers to design their own research-informed appraisal questions. I used to be fearful of asking teachers the above question, but slowly, ‘hands’ are starting to be raised when I pose this question.

For those schools who have moved forward, there is often a cautious step forward, from traditional target setting (the line manager sets 3 targets) towards a ‘research’ target, plus one still linked to pupil outcomes. One easy step is for the leadership to re-read its appraisal policy and swap the word ‘target’ and replace it with ‘question’. The policy will read very differently!

Gradually, research-informed schools then move away from traditional target setting towards something altogether; creating a more fulfilling process for teachers and line managers, sharing the work they are doing with others …

How to generate a research question?

  1. Discuss: From what we already know about XXX
  2. What would we like to find out?
  3. Use post-its to generate possible questions
  4. Identify keywords and phrases
  5. Finalise your question
  6. Sentence starters for a research question:
    • How can we…
    • Under what conditions…
    • What is the best way to…
    • Will…make a difference to ….
    • What strategies…
    • What can we do to …so that…
  7. How can we narrow your search terms (in order to shape focus)?

This template offers a good starting point for teachers and schools new to the process …

The 5 Minute Research Plan

What makes a good question?

  1. Open-ended enough to allow possibilities to emerge
  2. Not using “yes and no”- type questions
  3. Questions that begin with “how” or “why” or “under what conditions“
  4. Will it make a measurable difference to pupil learning?
  5. Is it really achievable in the time I have?
  6. Is it really and truly of personal & professional importance to us?
  7. Is it: specific, simply stated?
  8. Is it in line with academic research parameters?

If you want to take the above template one step further, try this method below.

The 5 Minute Research-Inquiry Appraisal Plan
44. The 5 Minute Research-Inquiry Appraisal Plan

Potential research questions

Here are a set of questions I’ve not yet seen tackled, and perhaps an area of research some teachers could tackle:

  1. Do lesson observations improve teaching and learning?
  2. How are outcomes influenced by lessons that are taught on Monday period one, compared to Friday period five?
  3. Are staff meetings a good use of people’s time?
  4. How is retrieval practice used effectively in early years classrooms?
  5. Why do ADHD pupils in [x school] get excluded more than any other group of pupils?
  6. What impact does a ‘deep dive’ have on future teaching quality?
  7. Do whole-school assemblies have a greater impact on behaviour at the start or end of the day?
  8. Do parents actually read school reports?
  9. Do reading book clubs for teachers in schools, raise standards of teaching?
  10. Do learning walks make a difference to X?

This framework offers teachers a process to learn where their research sits within the profession …

Research Framework Methods and Matrix by @TeacherToolkit

For teachers, ‘research’ usually means drawing upon research (sometimes, directly or as translated by school leaders) to integrate into thinking and sometimes their own practice, rather than directly applying research findings. The above methods hopefully provide schools with the processes to make it easier for teachers to conduct research in everyday classrooms …

Further resources and ideas

  1. Some initial research on how English schools transferred over to performance-related pay
  2. Research (ASA, 2014) indicates only about 1 to 14% of educational outcomes can be attributed to teachers!
  3. An argument for setting all teachers the same ‘outcomes’ target
  4. A proposal for moving toward ‘questions‘ as targets…
  5. A research-informed process/resource – explained in detail in this webinar.
  6. Five tips for teachers engaging with research, plus a summary from the DfE.

The strongest evidence-led cultures in schools provide dedicated time, have high levels of engagement by all, and is prioritised by school leaders …

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