Using mid-year reviews to improve performance

Denise Inwood, Former Assistant Head Teacher and Managing Director of BlueSky, creators of BlueSky Education, the leading online performance management, CPD and self-evaluation solution for schools, outlines the key principles of ensuring that mid-year reviews have maximum impact on improvement.

Conducting mid-year reviews in line with appraisal objectives can often be seen as a tick-box exercise that helps schools follow appraisal policy and procedure. However, if schools approach mid-year reviews as an opportunity to have a focused learning conversation with their staff, these reviews can inform the school’s annual programme of professional learning or CPD entitlement.

The benefits of mid-year reviews

Appraisal is a key driver in staff performance and when done well, will support staff in their performance, career prospects and most importantly, have a positive influence on how they feel professionally which usually increases job satisfaction and morale. Mid-year reviews are an opportunity for staff to reflect upon their teaching and performance, share successes and areas in which they would value more professional learning as well as formally record progress towards objectives. In doing this, school leaders can ensure that their staff receive appropriate professional development to impact positively on their pedagogy and the learning and progress of all pupils.

Using the review as a professional learning conversation

Effective pedagogy is characterised by regular and focused feedback. This feedback ensures reflection upon practice, measures the impact of learning through performance and provides a clear pathway to improvement. It makes sense to apply these same principles to professional dialogues.

Conducting mid-year reviews as professional learning conversations, rather than to ‘check how you’re doing against your objectives’, is a positive method in helping staff achieve their goals.

Ensuring an effective mid-year review

Model and train – don’t leave it to chance

All appraisers should be well trained in managing review dialogues, both mid-year and end-of-year. To make the mid-year review a professional learning conversation, it needs to be modelled accordingly by senior appraisers and given prominence in a mandatory training programme. Providing a structure for these conversations, for example, using coaching models like Goal, Reality, Obstacles, Way forward (GROW), allows appraisers to prepare in advance as to whether the conversation should be celebratory or if performance needs to be questioned.

Be prepared

Ahead of the mid-year review meeting, both appraisee and appraiser should review each objective carefully with a detailed focus on the success criteria, identified actions and any CPD and support that was identified and provided. Both parties should look at the evidence of progress so far. This should be linked to the evidence base agreed when the objective was set.

The appraisee should be ready to outline their progress, based on this evidence, and to judge whether they are on track (or not) to achieve, or exceed, each objective. The appraisee should also highlight factors that are supportive and factors that may be proving to be barriers to further progression.

And now the conversation…

A professional conversation is a dialogue that can be made effective by using a coaching style that allows the appraisee to lead the dialogue with carefully positioned questions after which the appraiser can guide and shape the review to qualify and validate the appraisee’s perception.

By detailing how they view their performance based on evidence, the appraisee can give feedback on the CPD that they have received and the impact it is having on meeting objectives and improving performance, teaching or leadership.

Finally, the appraisee can share their view on what support is particularly helpful to them and if there are any potential barriers they face.

Mirroring and recapping are helpful techniques that ensure the conversation ends with clear agreement on the judgement about progress; outlining the how to meet objectives, leaves the appraisee empowered to take those next steps.

Documenting the conversation

The appraiser records the overview of the conversation for both parties. This should detail the extent to which the appraisee is on track to achieve, not only each objective but objectives overall. It should also summarise the request for further CPD to support the appraisee’s need to meet their set objectives and improve overall performance. On the rare occasion that both parties cannot agree, then your school’s appraisal policy should be followed, which should outline what is recorded and how leaders proceed from this point.

Identifying and agreeing support

The mid-year review should be designed to formally track any member of staff who may need additional support to meet objectives. If the review identifies that further support and guidance is needed, the appraiser should write a clear plan of action, defining the support offered to help that individual succeed in meeting their objectives. Appraisers will then follow the plan of action to ensure that this support is provided.

Impact measures of support should be used to regularly update the appraisee on progress towards any objectives at risk of not being met. There should be ongoing engagement with the appraisee by providing precise, carefully-planned guidance and monitoring the recognition of success and progress. This communication should be documented for all parties.

 Moderation and monitoring

On completion of mid-year review statements, the school’s senior leaders should moderate a selection to ensure fairness, consistency and rigour. Any issues should be addressed immediately and the mid-year review statement amended and agreed. The outcome of this moderation can be reported to governors and, if appropriate, used to shape further appraiser and appraisee training before the end-of-year review.

Taking feedback from staff about the mid-year review process helps members of the senior leadership team to manage self-evaluation.

Effective mid-year reviews can provide schools valuable information such as the impact of CPD, staff views on their CPD and its impact and future professional learning requirements for individuals, teams and the whole school. It can identify what coaching or mentoring is required and where and most importantly, which staff are on track to achieve or exceed their objectives and which need additional and more personalised support.

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