Performance Appraisal or Performance Inspiration?

Just recently the NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, announced a new streamlined performance review process. The Minister commented that this was part of a push to lift teaching standards and ensure "the very best teachers get better".

I would love to think that this will be the case. Sadly, the track record in the corporate world, as well as in other education jurisdictions, indicates that performance reviews are often done in less than effective, and sometimes even damaging ways. In many places they have become ‘tick the boxes’ administrative exercises or the dreaded once a year meeting that is endured with both leader and staff member relieved when it is over.

Just suppose that this necessary reflection and accountability process actually worked as an inspiring, motivating exercise that did indeed help teachers grow and learn and become better teachers. What would it take to help the performance review process become a performance inspiration process?

It seems that quite a bit of what we are learning from the positive, strengths based approaches in Appreciative Inquiry, Solutions Focus and Positive Psychology would be helpful here.

What if these kinds of questions1 were to form the basis of the review conversation?

  • Considering all of your objectives, what are you most proud of this past year? What have been your most significant accomplishments?
  • What contributed to those successes? What has allowed you to do your best work? What else? What else?
  • Think about yourself at the beginning of the year and the person you are today. How have you changed? What did you do that helped you improve?
  • Now think beyond your given objectives. In your work and as a member of a greater school community, what achievements, accomplishments, or activities are you proud of?
  • To make yourself even more effective in the future, what do you want to continue to do, do more of, do better, or do differently?
  • That support within the school do you have to do the things you need to do?

David Cooperrider, one of the founders of Appreciative Inquiry, comments…

"People live in the words our questions create.”

If he is right the questions above are likely to take people to a much more resourceful world, a much more inspiring world. And inhabiting that more resourceful place is likely to lead to a better year next year and the year after that.