Julie Jennings considers how you can go about monitoring the effectiveness of your Foundation Stage team

How can you tell if your team is being effective? What signs can you look for and what strategies can you put in place? If you are a relatively inexperienced team leader, this article provides a few starting points. Monitoring is about learning from what we do in order to do even better next time round.

Monitoring has become a commonplace feature of school life, which means that many team members will already understand the kinds of monitoring questions that everyone should be asking as they go along, and certainly at the end of a task. For example:

  • Are we achieving/did we achieve our aims?

  • How do we know that we achieved them?

  • What went well?

  • What hampered us?

A key point is that it should not just be you, the leader, who monitors. An effective team is an active one, in which every team member has a role in reviewing the team’s success. The full impact of the team’s efforts will be interpreted more fully if everyone is involved.

As leader, you can highlight the different areas of teamwork that your group needs to consider. These are likely to include four points:

1. The task – An obvious place to start is for you all to consider whether you achieved what you set out to do. To answer this, it is imperative that at the outset of the original task you ensure success criteria are set against your aims. The evidence for each of these can then be considered in turn.It is delightfully encouraging for team members to discover that they have actually achieved more than they originally set out to.

Sometimes these achievements can be in surprising areas and lead to increased motivation amongst team members. Often these achievements will have less rigidly applied success criteria, as they were not identified at the outset as aims of the task. Nevertheless it is right to highlight any benefits that have accrued from the team’s work and this is much more likely to happen if everyone is involved in the team review. 

2. Team processes – look at the list in the previous article and consider the team’s work against it. One of the things for you to consider as leader is just how to gather such information. There are many options open to you and you may choose to use one, several or all of the following, depending on your situation and the work that you are monitoring:

  • a team meeting that focuses on discussing the team’s effectiveness
  • straightforward questionnaires or short written reports
  • individual interviews
  • gather the views of colleagues or people outside the team, who experience the impact of the team’s work
  • gather the views of non-colleagues outside the team, eg parents, children and members of the community, who experience the impact of the team’s work.

One word of caution – effective teams do not get bogged down in endless discussions or procrastinate and over-reflect. Ultimately, they are about getting things done – so don’t get too weighed down by the above, as team members will have many, many other demands on their time. Keep a strong sense of momentum.

3. Roles – were they appropriate for the task and clearly defined? Much is written about the roles people play in teams and the importance of these roles: for example, someone who mainly helps the team to cooperate, another who’s main role is to be imaginative, someone else who is conscientious and looks for the things others will overlook etc. In essence, what you are looking for at this stage is whether everyone has contributed as fully as you think they could, whether communication of ideas inside and beyond the team was strong and whether your leadership and your chairing of meetings (you may not necessarily choose to be the chair) contributed to effective teamwork.

4. How well is the team developing and what areas need to be built on? Compare the team you have now with that you led at the outset. Has the general level of professionalism been enhanced? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are the next steps for this team?

There is a great deal more that could be said on this subject, and you may choose to develop your leadership skills even further. However, one thing is definitely true – all the hard work and effort that goes into teamwork deserves our best attempts to monitor and learn from what we do, to enable us to keep on learning, together with the children that we have the privilege of  working with.

1. Leadership

2. Time management
3. Shared sense of purpose

4. Being well prepared

5. Active listening and questioning

6. Keep focused

7. Encourage a climate in which differences of opinion are normal and helpful, enabling team members to practise presenting conflicting views without open conflict

8. Value the range of talents in your team

9. Aim for consensus – although accept that you will not always get it

10. Action – agree it and record it.