How to engage in an effective appraisal

Written by: Sonia Gill | Published:
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How to handle appraisals is something every teacher must think about. Sonia Gill offers some tips to help you survive and thrive

When it comes to our appraisal, it is a great time to take the lead on how we have done and what we want from the next year of our professional lives. However, most of us have not been shown how to go about this so here are some tips to help you take greater ownership of your appraisal.

Be clear on the criteria you are being appraised on

First and foremost, know what you are being appraised on. That might be last year’s targets, Teachers’ Standards, job description, any projects you have taken on – it could be one or several of these. If you are not sure ask your line manager, there should be a process for your appraisal and it should be transparent – after all, the aim is for us to continually improve and transparency helps this.

I would also include performance related pay (PRP) criteria – most schools have descriptors for each pay level and you need to know what these are if you want to get a pay increase.

Honestly assess your performance and behaviour

Let’s say you are using the Teachers’ Standards, targets you were set at last year’s appraisal (or mid-year review) and the PRP criteria for your school.

Assess how well you are doing on these. PRP criteria can be very useful for this and I have seen PRP descriptors which let you hone in on where your performance and behaviour currently are and what your next steps might be to get a pay rise.

Be careful not to over-inflate your performance, you will have a much better discussion if you are as accurate as you can be. By the same token don’t deflate what you have achieved either.

For behaviour use whatever your school focuses on, that might be the first page of Teachers’ Standards, or your school’s code of conduct, both of which usually focus on professional behaviour and are a key part of the role.

You might want to ask others what they think of your skills in some areas to help check your own assessment and, as always with feedback, try to ask those people who will give you kind, honest feedback (not just what you want to hear).

Collect evidence

Start with your targets and gather evidence that shows you have been an active part of reaching that target. If you haven’t reached it, evidence the efforts you have made. Some will be measurable (like grades) some won’t be, that’s okay, you can still evidence them. For example, if you have led a whole-school project you might share how you have improved your influencing skills by getting a group of people on board and working on the project in addition to their usual workload.

Second, look for other areas you have excelled in or moved forward that were not targets, for example you might have developed your teaching skills by focusing on your questioning in class and can demonstrate the impact of that. Cherry-pick some gems!

Have an opinion on what your pay should be and talk about it

Do assess where your pay is and where it should be in light of your self-assessment. You might be able to present a good case for a raise but if your performance doesn’t warrant an increase I would advise you not to try to get one, it will undermine your credibility.

If pay is reviewed at a different time to your performance then, in your appraisal meeting, your conversation can be around whether you are on track for a pay increase. If not what do you need to demonstrate, for how long and how can the school help you gain the opportunity to show this?

It is worth noting that pay won’t often be increased for showing that we can do something once or for a few months – so do ask what would be a good enough amount of evidence for your line manager to feel you have moved to the higher level.

You are not looking to get them over a barrel with this but to get guidance on what you need to do to improve your pay. This should be something you work on together and is a win/win: they have a higher performing member of staff and you get a pay increase to recognise that.

Know what you need to do to improve and what support you need

This is a chance to shape what you want to achieve in the next year. How do you want to improve further? What do you believe will make you better at your job and also make it more enjoyable? What do you believe your targets should be?

I am a fan of having a few areas of skills to develop and a few strengths to grow further – the latter is often missed but there is a lot of research to show how engagement and fulfilment increase when we use our strengths and that any time spent developing strengths has a greater return on the time invested. Put simply: we get better at our strengths more quickly than we do our weaknesses.

Write your own appraisal...

This might sound crazy but I believe everyone should write one appraisal: their own. Of course line managers need to do their homework and this shouldn’t be an abdication of their responsibility but as continually developing professionals we need to own our development; we sell ourselves short when we wait to be told how we have done. So have a go at putting together your own appraisal – it can be a very empowering thing to do.

...and send it to your line manager!

A few weeks before your appraisal send your self-appraisal to your line manager so they know where you are coming from. This will help them and, as long as you have been honest, it will show them how committed you are to your development. From my experience very few people actually do this and most line managers are actually quite pleasantly surprised to receive a good self-appraisal. You could even ask them to share their appraisal of you, they might not be quite as prepared as you so don’t be deterred if they don’t (bear in mind they will usually have quite a few to prepare for).

Then go into the meeting with your copy and be ready to hear their assessment of you in what I hope will be a meaningful discussion between two professionals about your performance and how you can improve further.

You can take the lead in your appraisal and own your own development – I believe writing an honest self-appraisal puts you in the driving seat of your development and pay. Good luck!

  • Sonia Gill is the founder and director of Heads Up Limited, an education leadership consultancy which specialises in supporting schools to become outstanding.


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