As the result of industrial action, the Education Council of Aotearoa is looking again at the role of appraisal and removing the 10% auditing of appraisal records by ERO. They say that they are looking to rebalance "our accountability to the public with professional trust." The link to this information is here. Teachers felt there was too much workload associated with an emphasis on compliance.
The removal of appraisal as an accountability tool tells me several things are likely to have been happening.
1. Appraisal of teachers has had an accountability focus rather than a growth focus.
2. Principals and leaders have been overzealous in a tick box approach to appraisal and observations.
3. Appraisal has been viewed as a punitive, pass or fail process, that teachers fear.
4. Inquiry has been an onerous compulsory recording exercise rather than a natural approach to teaching, with the benefit of deep reflection allowing changes in practice that are beneficial to all.
What should have happened?
I have always been taught that appraisal comes from the root word of praise. It is about acknowledging what is going well and looking for goals for the further improvement of teaching practice. A teacher cannot engage positively if it is just used for accountability purposes.
Inquiry is essential!
From what I have heard, teachers are saying that they don't have to do inquiry any more and there is certainly no legal requirement to do an inquiry for appraisal. But the thing is, inquiry is one of the six professional standards for educators, so of course teachers should be doing it if they want to be recognised as professional.
There are so many benefits of carrying out an inquiry related to your school's annual goals as well as your own goals. You can improve your practice through finding out what works best for the learners that you have in front of you. Teachers do inquiry quite naturally in the context of their work, but following a process like the spiral of inquiry, reminds us to look for research on best practice, and allows us the "permission" to reflect deeply on the effects that our changed practice has.
Inquiry is, in my opinion, the most pain-free approach to appraisal, where all stakeholders get benefits.
Do you "need" a portfolio?
The other aspect that has come under scrutiny is the need for portfolios. Once again there is no legal requirement for a portfolio for appraisal purposes but it seems that teachers have been collecting screeds and screeds of "evidence" to meet appraisal requirements. There is simply no need for that.
The benefits of a portfolio are directly dependent on the purpose of the portfolio. There are three main types of portfolio:-
- Showcase portfolio
- Process portfolio
- Accountability portfolio
The showcase portfolio is to show off your best work, and if you don't collect images, learner voice, videos, words of praise from your leader etc as you go along, it becomes a mammoth task when you want to apply for another job. You often simply don't have records any more, if you don't collect.
The process portfolio is to record your journey through learning, or inquiry. It is like a learning journal. A framework like the spiral of inquiry keeps you focused on the objective and you can see the progress that you make over time. The biggest benefit from my point of view is the opportunity to reflect through writing down or videoing your thoughts. These small actions alone allow you to order and make sense of your thinking. This process portfolio can also be used as a showcase because some of your best work comes out of the realisations of your goals.
The accountability portfolio is to keep records to show you have met the standards, as in an art or technology portfolio in NCEA assessment. For teachers, the process portfolio will easily meet the purposes of professional standards and is best implemented by tagging (or labelling) sufficient evidence in your process portfolio.
So if you use one portfolio to meet all of these purposes, you will have awesome professional records to tap into at any time. In this day and age of phones, laptops and other devices to hand, to record and organise artefacts in the cloud seems a no-brainer, so start collecting, and select the evidence that you do need according to the purpose of the portfolio. It only takes a few seconds to take a photo.
Image -pixabay free images
So there you have it - why I think teachers must be professionally appraised through an inquiry approach and why you would be mad not to have an e-portfolio.