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Professional Growth or Performance Management?

The start of the new school year often sees the return to the performance management cycle. But with such a disrupted second half of the academic year, many heads, schools and MATs are rethinking their approach. This post takes a look at an alternative to traditional performance management that might be exactly what you are looking for – professional growth.

What’s the difference?

According to Chris Moyse, professional growth focusses on improving the teacher, while performance management is all about proving your worth. Simply by looking at professional development from a different perspective, you flip the narrative. It is no longer about your staff justifying their pay rise using data to prove they are a good teacher and delivering results. Instead, the focus is on your staff. How do you help them become better at their job?

Not one size fits all

Most traditional performance management starts with the school development plan. Each year, targets are set, data is collected and staff are judged. Staff are forced to accept school-wide targets that everyone has. I have even seen them related to the head’s target.

“This year’s focus is on [insert target area here], so everyone must have a target based on this.”

Taking the opposite view, professional growth assumes that by focusing on genuinely continuous professional development the quality of the teaching will improve and this will lead to improved organisational performance and outcomes for pupils. This allows them to focus on a very individual approach to professional development and school improvement. It is something that is done by teachers, not to them. It is a one size fits one approach.

A culture of growth

What is the expectation for effective professional growth to take place? If teacher’s don’t have targets how do they know what to do and what to focus on? This is actually covered in the Teacher’s Standards, if the expectation is that these define the minimum level of practice, then growth to improve their professional ability within these areas becomes the target. When teachers reflect honestly on their ability to meet these standards and explore their own strengths and weaknesses, then finding an appropriate area for professional growth is simple.

Solutions not problems.

Because there are no imposed targets from above that focus on the problems that the school faces, teachers and teh school are free to develop their strengths and find solutions to any weaknesses that they might identify. They are enabled to take responsibility for their own development. As their strengths grow, and their weaknesses diminish they have a greater impact in the roles that they already have. Their improvement is proof enough that they deserve to progress along the pay-scale.

Conversations not judgements

The focus of the appraisal is not about proving that a target has been met with reams of data and analysis, but a conversation that is focused on a growth plan that has been developed as the result of a coaching conversation based on the GROW model. (Goal, Reality, Options, What Next?). These conversations become part of the everyday life of being a member of staff.

Excelsior MAT is another trust that has worked with Chris to support their staff in developing their professional growth. After the first year, they surveyed staff on how they felt about the process. Responses were overwhelmingly positive and they have extended the model to all staff, not just teachers, but Teaching Assistants, Office Staff and Site Staff.

Observations not worth the paper they are written on?

Schools that are using this model of performance development are moving away from formal lesson observations with grades. They recognise that it is a poor method for judging the quality of teaching. This doesn’t mean that observations don’t occur, it means that the purpose of the observation has changed. Instead of being a judgement, it is based around coaching or learning. Observations are requested by teachers wanting support in improvement, or by teachers who want to learn from someone. Feedback is designed to encourage reflection on strengths and successes first before next steps are planned for further growth. There are alternatives to observation for further developing practice.

Other models worth exploring

Bridgewater College Trust and Excelsior MAT are not the only organisations moving away from the concept of management. Maritime Academy Trust also support their teacher’s growth and development without imposing targets. They base their approach around principles of facilitative collaboration. They recognise that there is always something to learn from each other and embed that through their “Maritime Mindset“.

What next?

If data driven targets, or imposed targets aren’t working for you and  your school, do explore professional growth further. The latest Roundtable Report on professional growth, which is free to all members, is a good place to start and can be downloaded from the digital library

Excelsior Multi Academy Trust have also been kind enough to share a copy of all their proformas and policy documents that have supported their change to Professional Growth. Copies of these can be downloaded by Premium and School Members (also from the digital library). Huge thanks to them for putting is all together and allowing us to share it.

Chris Moyse also has a much more detailed blogpost on the ideas and principles behind professional growth that can be found here.

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