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Five ways to ensure Quality Assurance in Education is improving, not rating, teachers

How do we ensure that quality assurance processes in the education sector are supporting our teachers to develop, rather than a tick box exercise?

We are all well aware that performance management practices in education are changing, not least the terminology that is used to talk about how teaching staff are monitored against school objectives. The annual review is evolving, with many schools adopting a coaching approach that employs more frequent review meetings and ongoing conversations around professional learning goals that are tailored to the individual.

However, there can still be some separation between ‘quality assurance’ and ‘professional development’ practices, and too often these are seen as ‘an extra job’ for teachers and their Reviewer to carry out, in addition to their ever-expanding daily workload. This can lead to a ‘tick-box’ mindset where such practices are performed to meet certain narrow criteria but don’t truly nurture teachers’ capabilities and the quality of teaching.

Considerations for Quality Assurance practices in Education

How can schools maintain the focus on growing, developing and improving teaching proficiency? Consider these five approaches when defining quality assurance practices in your schools.

1. Link Quality Assurance in Education with Continued Professional Development: Teaching quality is not all about data such as exam results. Nor is CPD a one-off exercise. When professional learning is clearly connected to specific development goals, teachers gain a fuller understanding of their purpose and can connect their individual objectives to achieving wider school improvement.

2. Put teachers in charge of their own development: The NFER report Teacher Autonomy from January 2020 found “perceived influence over their professional development goal setting is the area most associated with higher job satisfaction and a greater intention to stay in teaching”. Where teachers have a sense of agency over their own career objectives and appraisal, they are more likely to engage and – importantly – take professional accountability for the quality of their work.

Quality assurance, School Development Planning

3. Focus on one improvement at a time: There is a tendency to see career objectives as an ‘end goal’ rather than an ongoing developmental journey. This can result in trying to do too much at once, rather than focusing on achievable steps. This can also apply to Quality Assurance practices. For example, monitoring practices which are unfocused and attempt to ‘cover all the bases’ don’t really offer any value. If these processes aim to focus on one area, they are more likely to come up with practical recommendations.

4. Use the right words to frame your practices: As any teacher knows, semantics are critical. The choice of words we use has a significant impact on how our meaning is interpreted. This is no less true where is comes to ‘Performance Management’ which can evoke ideas of top-down supervision and grading. Labelling your Quality Assurance processes to reflect the culture and values your school is aiming to achieve, will help to shift the focus of how they are carried out in practice. For example, if ‘Lesson Observations’ become ‘Learning Walks’, the focus is on nurture and the journey, rather than passive monitoring.

You can customise the terms used in your BlueSky account to align with your organisation’s Appraisal and Performance Management practices. Talk to your BlueSky Account Manager about the terminology you want to use.

5. A coaching approach to Appraisal and Professional development: Our own research has established that professional learning and objectives are at their most effective when they are clearly aligned to the organisation context and are rooted in a repeated cycle of reflect, review and refocus. An ongoing conversation between reviewer and reviewee creates the opportunity to continually take professional expertise and pedagogy forward, with the ultimate intention of improving the quality of teaching and the education students receive.

The culture and context of each school will influence the methods of quality assurance undertaken in each school, but there has been a marked shift towards an approach that focuses on developing a teacher’s skillset and proficiency, rather than on evidence of students’ outcomes (such as exam results). Schools are recognising that when teachers feel they are being monitored and judged, they tend to focus on narrow performance indicators, and this does not result in a thriving, fulfilled and proficient workforce, nor better student outcomes. Placing professional development at the centre of the conversation about performance is critical to the success of any school.

We have created a new way to support continued professional development. Staff and line managers can record and view activities on a Timeline, making it easier to track progress towards Objectives.

Our eBook guide considers why coaching is important, how schools can develop a coaching culture, and the different ways coaching can be used to impact on the school workforce and improvement.

Tamsin Denley

Author: Tamsin Denley,
Head of Marketing and Partnerships

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