I believe that all teachers should be accountable. It’s important that we maintain a standard expected of us however how this is done is wide and varied and in many cases based on ‘one off’ examples of teacher performance such as observations.
These observations are a tiny snap shot, often pressurised and therefore unnatural. They are high stakes, being used as the only/main evidence for performance management. Yet they don’t really show if a teacher is being a ‘good’ teacher or not.
If we list what our duties are as a teacher we can probably use the Teacher Standards as a basis;what we should all be doing as a minimum.
So instead of making a judgment on someone in the equivalent of 3 hours of their working year, how about we look at how a teacher is fulfilling their job role regularly and in all aspects of their job? Accountability over time. But not an increase in pressure just spread over the year, a genuine dialogue of what a teacher is doing and if appropriate, not doing.
If you wrote a list of what you expect a teacher to be doing, how can you monitor this without creating more work and without putting additional pressure on a teacher? Literally, are they doing what they should be doing?
Some don’t like the term ‘accountability’ but I feel that we have a responsibility as a teacher to do the job we’re paid for and there should be some way of checking that this is happening. It should never be ‘hoop jumping’ it should only be looking at what is already there.
This means no:
- Written lesson plans just for the purpose of being checked by leaders
- Use of marking systems that are only there to show leaders that some thing is being done
- Once a term observations that judge a teacher or progress
But these don’t mean that we shouldn’t be:
- Planning & teaching lessons that ensure all students can learn
- Checking student work for understanding
- Seeing what is happening in classrooms
If teachers aren’t writing these things then how do we know they are happening? Some would say ‘trust’ them; it’s their job to do so. It’s not always that simple. How else do we know that a teacher is effectively doing their job?
Suggestions might be:
- Speak with students about their learning, their understanding etc
- Look through books. Not for specific markings but for clear development in writing or understanding or knowledge
- Looking at books to see that agreed schemes of learning are being followed
- Looking at homework tasks and if they are appropriate. Asking the teacher how they link to schemes. Did they work? why?
- Have discussions with the teacher. Asking why they’ve done certain activities or how they’ve used student book work to assess, in the wider sense, that students are learning.
- Popping into lessons. Discussing with the teacher what was happening, why and how it links with their learning.
The whole process should take place throughout the year. It could focus on different year groups at a time. Line managers should do this for their team. They are accountable for ensuring that their team are being effective teachers.
The system only works if the school has reasonable systems in place. Where the systems are unreasonable, inefficient or extreme, the simplicity of low stakes accountability becomes unachievable. The ideal requires less prescription and more dialogue with reasoning. Asking how and why a teacher knows how a child is progressing is not the same as asking them where their students’ purple pen DIRT time work is.
The beauty of this system is that where there may be issues, they are highlighted over the year and in different areas. Support can directly be put in by the line manager instantly. There is no need to wait for a performance management meeting to then suddenly panic and in some cases there be extreme consequences. When a teacher may be struggling with year 10 their year 7/8/9/11 may be spot on. This would easily be picked up and specific support can be given. No harsh generalisation about them as a teacher due to one issue.
This system also negates the need for teachers to run around collecting ‘evidence’ for their PM. The evidence has been collated throughout the year. No PM is a shock or surprise; it’s an accumulation over a year. Have you as a teacher been fulfilling your teacher duties throughout the year?
I believe this system, whilst not perfect, can be implemented with no extra work for teachers. Nothing special should be done. Dialogue with a teacher is essential at regular intervals. Minimal paperwork used but high frequency of low stakes accountability can really show how a teacher is fulfilling their teacher duties. Teachers shouldn’t shy away from this. We should be proud of what we’re doing.