Neil Short looks at the second and third stages of the PM cycle: monitoring and review.

The first part of the performance management cycle, the planning meeting, is discussed in a separate article on this site (click here). Here we examine the second and third elements in the cycle.

Stage II: monitoring

Progress towards meeting the objectives agreed at the planning meeting should be monitored throughout the cycle. All arrangements relating to the monitoring programme should have been agreed at the planning meeting and where possible a timetable for action established. This could be in the form of a mini action plan for each of the objectives detailing the steps to be taken, together with the appropriate monitoring procedures, eg:

Action plan for objective……… Step 1: Complete audit of…. Step 2 : Begin to develop …

Step 3: Lesson observation….

Where possible, a brief meeting should take place at or after each of the steps. The process  of planning, monitoring and review may be likened to a series of stepping stones crossing a stream. Each of the stones represents one of the steps noted in the original plan. By continually reviewing the whole performance management  process as it is under way, any mistakes made in the original objective can be rectified in good time. If circumstances change in any way for the practitioner then the original objective can be amended.

This process may include:

  • looking at planning documents
  • sampling of children’s work
  • discussion with children
  • continual discussion between the practitioner and the team leader
  • at least one lesson observation.

The lesson observation itself:

  • requires preparation and training
  • requires a clear understanding between the practitioner and the team leader about the reason for the observation
  • should be aligned to the setting’s agreed procedures
  • should have a clear, agreed focus based upon the objectives
  • should allow the lesson to proceed normally
  • should be followed by full and constructive feedback as soon as possible.

Feedback

This is an important element of the role of the team leader and is an essential part of learning and improving practice. Feedback should promote reflection and self review and be developmental. To be effective the process should:

  • be a dialogue which invites the views of the practitioner
    recognise achievement
  • provide constructive comments
  • be based upon sufficient evidence
  • identify areas for development
  • give clear, unambiguous, even uncomfortable messages if required.

The feedback should also recognise that everyone can have an ‘off’ day. The setting’s policy for performance management should include a provision which recognises such an eventuality and allows for a repeat lesson observation should this be required.

Stage III: Review

The review process at the end of the cycle is an opportunity for the practitioner to reflect upon their performance. It should focus upon achievements during the cycle and allow a full discussion on areas for development. The role of the team leader is vital in this process. She will have access to a wide range of evidence, have an external perspective and be able to see the whole picture. She can also help to provide a positive outlook which may counteract the often negative view of the practitioner!

As with the monitoring stage, agreement should have been reached at the planning meeting about the arrangements for the final review. Where a policy for this exists, it should be followed. Good practice has shown that the following are the minimum requirements of an effective review meeting:

  • the date/time of the meeting agreed well in advance
  • an agenda for the meeting which provides focus/purpose
  • the relevant paperwork distributed well in advance
  • an environment conducive to good discussion with no interruptions
  • Time for a quality dialogue between the two participants.

The review should involve:

  • confirmation of the tasks, objectives and standards set for the practitioner
  • recognition of the strengths and achievements of the practitioner
  • confirmation of any actions taken following the informal in year discussion between the team leader and the practitioner
  • a discussion of the areas for development and how these needs will be met
  • a discussion of the professional development needs of the practitioner and how these will be met.

A written statement following the review will detail the outcomes agreed and provide the basis for planning the next cycle. This is confidential. The implications for training can, however, be shared with the person who has responsibility for CPD in the setting.

The statement itself should:

  • make an assessment of overall performance
  • include a summary of the progress made towards each objective
  • identify areas for development
  • provide a basis for the next planning cycle
  • be signed by both participants.

Asking questions:

A key part of both the feedback and the review process depends upon the team leader asking the right type of questions. It is essential to avoid the closed question as this may only bring a ‘yes/no’ response and may need to be followed up with supplementary material to provide the required information. Possible types of question may include:

  • Open questions: these are designed to elicit as much information as possible, eg ‘What part of your teaching do you most enjoy?’
  • Probing questions: these are designed to delve deeper into an issue, eg ‘How did you feel when you had completed the task?’
  • Reflective questions: these check out the understanding and reflect information back to the job holder, eg ‘Are you telling me…?’

The team leader needs to have a wide repertoire of questions available to meet the needs of the feedback process.

Timing:

During the review stage, as with all other stages of the performance management process, it is vital to allow sufficient time for all meetings, discussions etc. The right of the practitioner to a rigorous process, one which will meet their needs within the needs of the setting is one which should always be adhered to.

By following these guidelines the performance management process can be one which is enjoyed by all participants within the setting.

Neil Short is a former headteacher who is now an independent consultant.

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