Tag Archives: Tataiako

Teacher Inquiry, Appraisal and Portfolios for Staff

This year we have recrafted our approach to teacher as inquiry (TAI) and its relationship to the school’s performance management process for teachers. There had always been a relationship between the two but now rather than being two separate systems and/or sets of documents, they are one in the same with a professional blog/portfolio being the container for all the important bits such as reflections, evidence and next steps.

Why have we done it this way? The approach is based on the underlying philosophy that a well planned and responsive TAI allows all teachers to demonstrate, first and foremost, the attributes of being an effective teacher of their students, and secondly, to show how they are meeting the various Professional Standards, Registered Teacher Criteria and Tataiako Cultural Competencies. So our starting point for an effective performance management process is an effective TAI, not a checklisty/compliance approach. It is strongly embedded in a ‘teacher agency’ professional autonomy approach too.

What does it look like? We retained all the successful things that were part of the previous inquiry approach. These included:

  • Three in-school PLG meetings each term dedicated to teachers sharing progress towards their TAI targets
  • Funding for each staff member to purchase professional texts and resources to support their TAI
  • Personal Learning Opportunity (PLO) release for staff to research and/or visit expertise and sites of best practice related to their TAI

We also added in some additional components to inform our theory of action:

  • Release for staff to deliberately gather student voice.
  • Videoing of teaching for analysis.

Finally, we clearly set out the timeframe so that Term 1 was put aside for the focusing and teaching inquiry, terms 2 and 3 for the learning inquiry, and term 4 is all about summarising, sharing and celebrating progress.

You can check out this diagram to see what the process looks like over the first couple of terms in the year.

What did we get rid of? Nothing has been removed completely i.e. appraisal meetings, observations and walkthroughs still feature, it is just that hese have been streamlined and aligned to TAI. The major change that we have made is that the focus of the teacher’s TAI is the focus of their goals – their are no unrelated goals. Additionally, the term ‘goal’ is used quite broadly – there are no actual documented goals, rather there is a theory of action and falling out of that are the actions (i.e. goals) a teacher is working towards achieving.

So how does fit with performance management/appraisal? Individual teachers still have an appraisal document (overseen by the school’s  Teacher Performance Appraisal Procedure) which like any, summarises the process, their position at the school and provides a timeline. But that is all it does, everything else, including reflections, observation notes and professional learning  is in the portfolio.

The ‘usefulness’ of the TAI blog i.e. its ability to show how teachers are meeting their inquiry expectations, professional standards (PS), registered teacher criteria (RTC) and cultural competencies (CC) – all for their ongoing development, appraisal and registration purposes, is based on the approach that every time they post to their blog (evidence, a reflection, student voice etc), teachers critically reflect on which of the PS, RTC, CC they are meeting and show this in their blog.

This is done by using the labels feature in Blogger (our logical tool as a Google Apps for Ed school). Labels are like tags or key words related to a post. Teachers can use labels to show which of the PS, RTC and CC they are meeting. By approaching and setting up a blog in this way, teachers will essentially create an index, allowing them and their appraiser the ability to find evidence of progress and achievement against the PS, RTC, CC as well as their inquiry. The appraiser can also jump in there and add comments, post observation narratives, images and video too.

Tbroughtout the process, teachers need to ask themselves these questions:

  • What professional standards am I working towards/meeting/demonstrating in this post?
  • What Registered Teacher Criteria am I working towards/meeting/demonstrating in this post?
  • What cultural competencies am working towards/meeting/demonstrating in this post?
  • What aspects of TAI am I working towards/meeting/demonstrating in this post?

There is a full breakdown of how to set up a blog as described above and also how to make it private and readable by only those you choose.

What are the implications? This process puts the PS, RTC, CC into the everydayness of a TAI. Therefore teachers need to have a good grasp of what the PS, RTC, CC  are, what they mean and what they look like in practice. For us that means unpacking certain elements of these and listing the everyday teaching and learning approaches and strategies that reflect that areas to bring them to the forefront of consciousness.

To date the other major implication, which is not at all exclusive to this context, is the questioning of staff to each other to encourage us to continue, to force us to be honest, to suggest alternative interpretations and to prevent us from getting stuck.

Finally, this has not been an issue at all for us, part it has been questioned how this system would work if there was a question of competency with a staff member. While this has not been tested I do not see it as an issue. The process includes a ‘measure’ against the professional standards and other relevant criteria and when combined with the day to day observations and conversations that take place in a school, there is plenty of scope to identify an issues of competency.

What have been the outcomes to date? Here are a couple of screen shots of the portfolios to date.

What next? The system is established and time is required to allow the portfolios to develop and show their potential as teacher use them to show progress towards their TAI targets.

The challenge for me is to ensure that I regularly get into the blogs and provide encouragement and feedback/feedforward to teachers, supporting them and acknowledging the great work that they are doing.

Getting to Know our Learners

The teacher inquiry and knowledge building cycle critically ask us: What are our students learning needs?

  • What do they already know?
  • What sources of evidence have we used?
  • What do they need to learn and do?
  • How do we build on what they know?

In our data driven, numbers rule, National Standards world the answers to these questions run the risk of being data driven and reducing students to a numbers game. Thank goodness for the final question prompt: How do we build on what they know? This squarely directs the focus back on to the student as an individual and opens up learning to be personalised and build on student voice and identity.

This was the focus of our most recent literacy PLD session which targeted our underachieving writers. More specifically it broke it down into 3 sub questions, leading us towards thinking about the impact this would have on our teaching practice:

  • What are our students strengths?
  • What are our students needs?
  • What are the student practices that may contribute to underachievement?

It proved to be a worthwhile activity which focused directly on the learner with not a percentage sign or OTJ in sight. I took this back to school and adapted the context to fit in with the work we are doing unpacking and the reflecting against the cultural competencies as outlined in Tataiako.

With a focus on critically examining how well we know our Maori learners staff noted and articulated their thoughts. This is what it looked like, sorry just the template due to student privacy:

Inquiry Cycle What are our students learning needsI have already mentioned that I thought this was a valuable exercise, especially as teachers have already taken some of the discussion outcomes and put them into practice.

However on deeper reflection, what it lacked was a more thorough focus on the ‘impact’ to teaching practice and simply going on what we know as a teacher would be the ‘next sep’. So below is a new updated version for the next session.

Inquiry Cycle What are our students learning needs v2

Added in are 3 columns which align to our teacher’s inquiry into practice:

  • Craft Knowledge: What ideas and strategies you know as a teacher
  • Mentor Knowledge: What ideas and strategies your mentor or an expert knows
  • Research Knowledge: What ideas and strategies research tells us works

With this extra layer of thinking, proactive engagement in professional dialogue and research, a teacher should have a range of approaches to explore and implement to better meeting the needs of their learners.

Walking the talk with Professional ePortfolios

The last couple of years have seen me do a bit of thinking and presenting in the area of eportfolios. Most of that has been when I am working alongside schools rather than in them. So now as a principal at Kumeroa-Hopelands School I am faced with the coal face of implementation. At this point in time we are not in a position to consider implementing eportfolios with our students. However as part of the school self-review, performance appraisal system was reviewed and updated which gave us a timely opportunity to have a go.

Step one was to co-construct with staff the relationships between teacher inquiry, the Registered Teacher Criteria, the Professional Standards and the cultural competencies as described in Tataiako. Staff created a model, using an inquiry model as central to their thinking and adding on the competencies and criteria to show how they all came together. This was a hugely worthwhile self-review process especially when teachers articulated the reasons why they placed or showed the relationships between the 3 areas. Justifying their choices painted a really interesting view on their beliefs about teaching and learning. An example of this is shown below.

As to the reason why we did this is pretty simple, I believe that an authentic and rich teaching as inquiry approach to teacher practice will demonstrate all of the registered teacher criteria and the cultural competencies and in doing so will provide all of the reflective evidence that teachers require to demonstrate their competency. Especially relevant when two of your teachers are PRTs.

KHS Performance Management Graphic
KHS Performance Management Graphic

Step two for me was to use the outcomes of the review clarify the processes, relationships and key areas of the performance management process. I think in pictures so created a graphic to show these relationships. Central to the performance management is teachers engaging in teaching as inquiry. This relates directly back to their performance agreement which in turn relates back to the annual and strategic goals in the charter which in turn relates back to the teachers analysis of student achievement data both formal and informal. The key relationships to me are that the whole process is supported by relevant professional learning and development and that all relates to improving outcomes for learners.

Step three saw this feed into a matrix which showed the relationship between the performance standards, RTCs, teacher inquiry and Tataiako (big thanks to Regan and staff at Koputaroa for some great work here). This provided a more linear and usable view.

Step four involved transferring the all elements to an online space which for us is a Google Site. This best demonstrated by having a look at the basic empty site template which illustrates the matrix and how there is an expectation that staff are aligning their reflections to the PS, RTC, TAI and Cultural Competencies.

So what have we learnt so far?

  • Having an online space to collate all of this documentation for both registration and appraisal purposes has many benefits including anytime, anywhere access, the ability for mentors to provide feedback, and the ease at which evidence can be linked to, uploaded or embedded.
  • That we have lots of ongoing unpacking to do around the relationship between our practice and the PS, RTC, TAI and Cultural Competencies. At the moment we are skimming the surface of acknowledging these in our practice and require more practice and support in getting this right.
  • Acknowledging that teachers reflect in different ways and through different methodologies. For example would you prefer to simply list the cultural competencies as outlined in Tataiako and reflect against these on a given schedule? Or would you prefer to reflect as and when required and then indicate if these reflections demonstrate or fit with the competencies?

And where to next?

  • Engaging external expertise, especially in the area of Tataiako, to deepen our understanding of the Cultural Competencies.
  • Develop some kind of micro self-review system so that we can clearly identify areas of weakness and where we need to develop further.
  • Review the whole set-up with staff towards the end of 2012.