We’ve been reviewing feedback from our customers over the past few months and wanted to let you know how this has been carried through to new functionality in the BlueSky platform.

Many of you have been asking for a way to support a reviewee-led approach to appraisal. Up until now, all Overview Statements had to be created by the Reviewer before a Reviewee could draft their statement. We have now made it possible for schools to create an Overview Statement Template that Reviewees can use to originate their self-reviews. While the statement is in draft, it is only visible to the Reviewee, so they can continue to work on it privately until they are satisfied with the content. Once the Reviewee’s statement is complete, they can submit it: the Overview Statement is then saved as a record and made visible to the Reviewer who will comment.

A large number of our customers are beginning to move to a more dialogistic and coaching approach to the professional review process. Some of you are embedding this into your Appraisal processes, and some are even moving away from an annual review process altogether. Central to this shift is a consideration of the role of the teacher and exploring their contribution to the dialogue.

We are now seeing schools using our Overview Statements in many different ways. There is certainly a groundswell of opinion that suggests it is a useful mechanism for recording a professional dialogue at any stage in the cycle of professional reviews, as well as to provide a summary of the year’s activity and the individual’s impact at the end of the review period. With this in mind, let’s consider the reviewee-led review for a moment.

    • Firstly, why are schools beginning to move away from a reviewer-led approach? The current reviewer-led review process used in many schools could, if taken to extremes, be viewed as a top-down affair, in which the reviewee is a passive participant in a substantially one-sided communication. The decoupling of pay and performance that we are seeing in many schools is enabling a “low stake” culture, which in turn gives teachers greater freedom and encourages them to take risks.
    • A reviewee-led review enables the reviewee to lead the dialogue about their achievements and possible next steps. This clearly also encourages professional engagement and drives professional accountability.
    • A reviewee-led review formalises the development of, arguably, one of the most critical skills in teaching: self-reflection – being able to recognise, articulate and adapt as a result of your own performance. This is something a great teacher is able to do ‘on the move’. By building this into the review process, organisations are reinforcing a recognition of the value of this skill.
    • For a reviewee to lead this process with confidence, the review process exists best in a low stake culture, where teachers feel confident to share their achievements and challenges across the period under review with honesty and openness. The decoupling of pay from the process aids the development of a low stake culture.
    • I would argue that it is much easier for an individual to reflect and articulate their own view of their performance when the objectives they are reviewing have been mutually discussed and agreed, and are linked directly to their own behaviours and competencies. Using school data to establish objectives can be problematic because the variables that influence pupil outcome data are not all within the control of the teacher. This makes it far more challenging for teachers to clearly ascertain their direct impact.
    • If we want our teachers to be able to review their own performance in an objective manner, it is important that there is an agreement on what success will look like, and what evidence pertains to that success, from the outset. This applies whether the objectives are being agreed annually, monthly or on a fluid programme.
    • Once the parameters of success and evidence have been defined, it provides an objective anchor around which the reviewee and the reviewer can have an impartial dialogue. This adds to the focus of the review and provides clarity for the reviewee.
    • When the performance objectives have been set within the context of the needs of the team and wider organisation, it provides a frame for the review and helps the reviewee to consider the impact of their work beyond their own classroom. A self-review, framed against the needs of team and organisation, encourages the development of professional agency.

It is an exciting prospect that teachers are becoming the agents of their own professional journey. However, it is important to ensure that those professionals who are working alongside our teachers act as a steer, critical friend or coach and don’t themselves become passive participants in the process. Their role remains vital in anchoring these dialogues within the context of the needs of the team and organisation, ensuring teachers are working with agency as their journeys are plotted.

Reviewee-led PDR with BlueSky Education

Individuals can now create their own Overview statements in BlueSky (previously only enabled for line managers). This allows your team to define their own self-reflection practice and self-led Performance and Development Reviews. Get in touch with the team to learn how to set this up.