Top 3 Characteristics of Schools with a Strong Performance Development Culture


I have had the opportunity and would say pleasure to meet with nearly 50 schools throughout Australia over the last month in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart.

The topic of these meetings has centred on each school’s annual professional growth / development process (PGDP) for their teachers, and in some cases support staff. With respect to this process, each school is on their own journey. It has been a privilege for me to listen to schools discuss how they develop a strong, ongoing teacher growth process.

One thing that I did notice however was that nearly all of the schools who have a well-developed PGDP exhibited many similar features. These features have been developed and implemented strategically over a period of time to ensure the desired culture was fashioned in regard to this process.

The top 3 features could be characterised into the following categories;
1. A Strong Implementation Plan
2. Robust Leadership
3. Accountability

1. Implementation Plan. Perhaps the most important factor in developing a positive culture around a PGDP is the implementation strategy. Steering clear of the words appraisal, review, evaluation and or any variations are most important. The very first meeting to introduce this concept to the staff is of vital importance and can in many ways make or break this process.

2. Robust Leadership. Martin Luther King Jr once said ‘The time is always right to do what is right’. Providing and implementing a strong staff’s annual growth and development is more than just the right thing to do, it is a moral imperative for Principals who are focused on improving student outcomes. At the same time, often we hear in schools such a process is met with resistance for a myriad of reasons. For these reasons school leadership needs to be robust, a trait which according to the Oxford Dictionary can be used in the following ways;

– Strong and healthy; vigorous
– Able to withstand or overcome adverse conditions
– Sturdy in construction
– Uncompromising and forceful

Given the nature of schools and the varying stages of teachers in their careers and differing world views, implementing a PGDP can entail use of the above mentioned descriptions. Robust leadership however is a must.

3. Accountability. Leaders who have developed a strong culture with regard to their PGDP have developed clear processes in terms of staff expectations and hold all staff accountable for the implementation of said process. It needs to be noted here that contrary to popular opinion many teachers enjoy being held accountable and hope for greater accountability across the board. In fact, in the 2011 report Better teacher appraisal and feedback: improving performance, Dr. Ben Jensen noted a significant teacher concern was “Under-performance is not addressed in schools: over two-thirds of teachers report that in their school, teachers will not be dismissed because of sustained poor performance and over half of teachers report that staff in their school would tolerate sustained poor performance”. Thus, many teachers welcome leaders and or processes that ensure all staff are accountable for ongoing improvement.

For the next three characteristics of a successful professional development culture, stay tuned for next month’s blog post!

By Brett Foster

Brought to by CIRCLE Central