A Context for Staff Performance Framework

  • On 2012-11-14
  • context, learning, Performance
I have been in a range of conversations with teachers and school leadership teams lately discussing the forthcoming Australian Teacher Performance Standards / Frameworks. I think that one of the things that the Australian Federal and State Governments (and any government worldwide) have to get clear is the context for implementing staff performance frameworks in schools. I am unclear whether or not they are clear about how to empower performance and productivity in schools.
To give you a sense of my thinking here is an analogy about supporting performance in schools (which is further thought development on my ASCD Edge blog)
In many team sports not everyone is in the position to score goals / points. In Soccer it is more often than not the strikers who are paid to be the goal scorers. In American football you have specific individuals paid a lot of money for their ability to score touchdowns. In Netball you have two specific positions (GA, GS) who are the only ones who can score. In Australian Rules Football, much like soccer, it is the forwards who are paid for their ability to score. Each member of the team, however, has a position to play and their job is to make it as easy as possible for their scorers to score. The team is considered to be a good / exceptional team if they are able to create the circumstances such that the scorers are put in the position to score more often and in an easier fashion.
In an educational environment, the only player who can score is the student. The game that is being played is learning, but the only individual who can kick the goal, score the touchdown,  ensure they learn what they need to learn …. is the student. You can’t kick the goal for them. Only they can learn. The students are critical members of a team put together to support them kicking the goals (learning). What you can’t measure a team on is the ability of the team to kick goals. What you can measure a team on is its ability to set the goal scorer up in such a way that it is easy for them to kick a goal. Many factors can affect the ability of a student to learn (score). One of those aspects is the ability of team they are playing with to put them into a scoring position. However, the following factors also count – If they had a bad day. If they live in poverty. If they have an illness. If they have a poor attitude. If they have a disability or are injured. You can list lots of factors here.
When you look at the essence of John Hattie’s meta-analysis on what impacts learning you will see the breadth of factors that can affect the performance of a student in his/her ability to score (learn). Yet there are only a certain range of things a teacher / school can control or have impact on. No matter what any one says – it is only the students who can score.
Using this context then, you cannot measure a teacher’s performance on whether a student scores or not. What you can measure is the ability of the teacher and, equally, the school to set up the environment such that the students can score. That is how performance frameworks should be set up. What you will find is that in schools where students DO perform – the habits, rituals, practices, pedagogy of the school, and school structures are set up to give the greatest opportunity for the students to score. Thus, while students scoring is an important measure for the entire team (the school and its staff), it is an incomplete measure for measuring the value and ability of individual team members (teachers).
In middle to high socio-economic circumstances there are many factors that allow for a student to score (learn), just as the richer sporting teams have a greater ability to perform.
Given all of this – what could be structures, habits, pedagogy, etc  that teachers and schools can implement to improve the ability of their students (the ones they have come to their school – not some imaginary perfect bunch of kids) to score?
What is your experience and thoughts?


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