The changes in the Education Council and the Practising Teachers Criteria over the past few years have been significant. A focus of my own post
graduate study was asking the question: Do teachers value the data that is used to perform their appraisal?
A significant number of factors influences the objective of appraisal from the formal to the informal. Formally the PTCs and associated indicators are designed to challenge the teacher around their practice and encourage reflection on their teaching practice. An appraisal is a requirement to maintain teacher registration and now must have specific evidence kept regularly and, with the depth to inform the judgements made. An appraiser or the Teachers Council themselves could request evidence at any time.
More “informally” appraisal is influenced by the culture of the school. It is easy to put this in the hands of a Principal or Senior Leadership team, but this is like blaming the traffic when you’re sitting in the gridlock. I doubt that there are teachers out there that haven’t experienced or heard of both ends of the appraisal spectrum. From ‘something that helps me be a better teacher’ to ‘something that gets in the way of me doing my job’.
The key is the appraiser as an individual and the school itself has the power to make of that what they will. It’s fundamental that teachers believe that reflection then growth make them a better teacher and appraisal empowers them with the awareness to do their job better. I’m sure there are a bunch of self-help books which one way or another say this same thing.
This appraisal process and culture itself has evolved and will continue to do so. At New Era, it’s been a similar journey as we’ve reflected on the growth of our network appraisals. Initially, our approach was a hardware health type scenario, that then looked at software. Then, application integration, creative use to best practice, and in more recent times a school’s aspirational objectives around the desired teaching and learning outcomes.
When we present a network appraisal document to a school, it can be quite confrontational. It can shine a light on things that have been missed, ignored or choices that are questionable. It can raise hard questions about personnel, financial control and pedagogical rationale.
Most principals and BoTs are not afraid of this process in many aspects of the operation and development of their school. However, in ICT it can be challenging when they lack the logistics or high-level knowledge to check if what they know is correct. Think of a science teacher making judgements on the assessment of music portfolio or a music teacher analysing a new-entrant programme.
When making decisions, you rely on patterns, evidence and best practice. Fortunately, this is well established in teaching practice with research underpinning pedagogies. In ICT schools are fortunate to have the Connected Learning Advisory, but beyond that, schools rely on their knowledge. They talk to other schools. They rely upon the people that they work with. However, in reality, this is not always based on evidence that would stand up as hard fact.
A New Era network appraisal is designed to firstly, give you an honest account of what is going on in your school relative to best practice. We are under no illusion that budgets are tight and sometimes choices are made because of this constraint and others. Things in ICT also organically grow over time. Decisions are made that might have been different with hindsight.
Secondly, the appraisal is to indicate tensions that may exist in that all-important link between the technology and the practice. Technology should only exist to help augment learning relationships and serve as a tool for better teaching practice.
Finally, the appraisal acts as a vehicle for the tough conversations and reflection. If we all espouse that we are there to advocate for kids and produce the best environment for learning, our actions should match up.
An ICT Network Appraisal from New Era is the beginning of an open and robust relationship. Done with dignity, respect and pragmatism, it can assist with hard decisions based on facts and produce better outcomes for your students.