Te aromihi pouako e puta ai ngā ihu o ngā ākonga Māori

Teacher appraisal: Missed opportunities for learning

Sinnema (2005) points to the considerable evidence that data-based inquiry into the effect of teaching on student learning leads to improved student achievement. She argues that inquiry should be used within teacher appraisal, in line with what we know about effective professional development and with the legally specified purpose of appraisal.

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Instead, she found that the Ministry of Education’s Interim Professional Standards and their indicators describe preferred aspects of teaching style, with the assumption that they impact positively on students. None of the standards and indicators requires inquiry into the teaching–learning relationship, despite the fact that teachers and schools already collect much of the data that would inform such inquiry.

Figure 1 shows a typical cycle of the appraisal actions prescribed in the mandatory requirements.

Figure 1. Elements of a typical appraisal cycle (Sinnema, 2005, page 8)

Appr_fig1

In three successive studies, Sinnema investigated the appraisal policies being implemented in Auckland primary and intermediate schools. She found that:

  • The intended purpose of most schools’ appraisal policies was to promote student learning. However, of the performance indicators schools had developed to evaluate teachers, only 15 percent referred to student learning and only 3 percent promoted inquiry into student learning.
  • Only one of 11 practitioners interviewed about their appraisal discussions reported talk about student learning. The focus of the discussions was on teaching practices, with participants assuming that certain practices are associated with student success.
  • In a study involving 68 teachers, only 4.5 percent reported appraisal goals that referred to student outcomes. Instead, goals focused on teaching practices and behaviours, were often vague, and lacked challenge.

In the final chapter of her thesis, Sinnema calls for a new approach to appraisal called “appraisal for learning”. This approach has three main characteristics – it is an inquiry process, it focuses on interrogating the relationship between teaching and learning, and it uses data about teaching and learning to do so.

“Appraisal for learning” positions appraisal as an important context for teacher learning and recognises the significant potential teachers have to effect improvement in students’ learning, as a consequence of their own learning. In order for that learning to take place, educators must focus their attention, throughout the appraisal process, on student learning.

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Sinnema also emphasises the importance of aligning the elements of appraisal (including performance indicators, discussions, and goals) with appraisal systems and other initiatives (including professional development, school planning, and reporting).

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