How good goal setting can support teachers & boost morale

How good goal setting can support teachers & boost morale

A happy teacher bod!
Education has undergone a great deal of change over the past few years after the rules changed in September 2012, moving the focus of performance management. The changes specify that teachers should be set individual goals that should be monitored and reported on throughout the year to drive improved performance and to give teachers a voice.

According to the Guardian at the time of the rule changes, the numbers of teachers taking stress leave had increased by 10% over the last 4 years, with 15 local authorities seeing a 50% rise is stress related absences.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) also described morale among teachers as “dangerously low” after conducting a teacher survey at the end of 2012 which said 55% of teachers polled said that morale was ‘low or very low’ – a 13% rise since April the same year.

It is unsurprising that morale and employee engagement can run low within the profession. Working long hours in a difficult job is stressful enough, but receiving no encouragement or praise makes the situation even worse.

J. Daniel Hollinger, School Start-Up Improvement Consultant and Leadership Coach believes engagement to be a very important part of teaching well. In his article ‘Why and How to Improve Teacher Morale in a School’ he says;

“Low morale decreases engagement with colleagues and students, diminishes productivity, reduces student learning and breeds cynicism”. He also adds that “when the faculty is pulling together, hard work is a lot more fun”. It seems this practice of teacher’s pulling together and supporting each other is being lost due to the stress and strain of a difficult job, and a lack of communication.

Graham Stuart, chairman of the Education Select Committee reports that it is “crucial that we have an education system that celebrates teachers, keeps more of them in the classroom, supports their development and gives them greater status and reward”.

In his ministerial statement written at the time of the legal changes to Performance Management for Schools, Michael Gove said that teachers need the “best support […] for the recruitment and retention of high quality teachers in all schools”. However, if teachers are feeling disengaged and unheard, it is clear that these intentions aren’t working or being successfully applied in practice.

So how, in a practical sense, can these problems be addressed?

It seems logical that performance management and goal setting (used in a constructive and positive way, rather than as a judgement that threatens capability procedure) for teachers could greatly improve the situation in a number of ways.

Firstly, by setting goals online, reporting on progress can be instant, and eliminate paperwork, which teachers clearly have quite enough of already.

Targets and goals can be set individually to ensure departments are working toward a shared and holistically beneficial outcome. This means that both head masters and teachers can keep each other informed and aware of their workloads, and can step in to help as and when they are needed. This opens up communication, meaning colleagues can discuss any progress or problems, and also stops teachers individually feeling like they are drowning in work or demands on their own.

Individual goal setting then not only helps teachers, but also their students. Individual goals that can be broken down into smaller sub-goals with the option of altering and amending them as situations change or develop is a great way to keep teachers engaged and boost morale.

By individually discussing and setting goals and targets with head teachers, everyone gets a level of input and ownership over the targets set, and communication between both teachers and heads can be open and on-going throughout the year. Issues that may otherwise go unnoticed can be addressed early, before either serious action needs to be taken, or the unreported stress of an unmanageable workload takes control.

Having these goals online and easily accessible also means that head teachers can keep track of progress without having to micromanage or take teachers away from the classroom. If a face to face meeting is required, having the option to instantly generate and print a report also saves a lot of time and paperwork. It means that teacher’s hard work does not go unnoticed – praise and support can easily be given when appropriate. Everyone in the school is also kept in the loop, and colleague communication is much more open, honest and informed.

However much stress or pressure you are under at work, communicating with your colleagues and feeling that your work is appreciated makes any job easier to handle. If you are feeling better about your job and the work that you do, it will benefit both peers, and students.

Performance Management can be a very positive thing when implemented in the right way.

As Hollinger advises, “providing teachers meaningful and effective professional development is fundamental for successful schools and high teacher morale”.

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