I took a management course and one of the assignments was to write about managing poor performance.

I thought it would be useful to share a case study I produced.

Introduction

I have decided to focus on line management of a teacher as opposed to a member of the local staff as this is a major part of my role as senior teacher. I think by looking at the relationship between teacher and senior teacher and, in addition, observer and teacher, I may gain a better insight into performance related issues and be better equipped to deal with similar issues in the future. I feel it is important for me to deal with practical aspects that I can replicate in different circumstances thus developing my ability to line manage staff across the organisation. I have chosen to focus on poor performance in the classroom as this is an area that I feel is under looked but perversely is the fundamental aspect of the profession we are involved in. Teachers spend most of their time in the classroom however are seldom evaluated by managers or peers in this aspect of their work. I am also very interested in developing my ability to provide feedback and support particularly with regards coaching and using the GROW model. I feel that looking at this case study will help me to develop my ability in this area and reflect upon the effectiveness of using this style of support.  

Staff member profile and background information  

For the purposes of this assignment I will call the staff member Jason.  

Jason has worked for the British Council for 6 years and has worked in his current position for 5 ½ years. He is the longest serving member of the Sathit Chula Primary teaching staff and holds a degree in Law, a Certificate in TESOL as well as a CELTYLX. He is very familiar with the systems and procedures used within the centre and has contributed to building up resources and developing assessment systems. He is IT proficient and helps out staff when they have problems in this area which is appreciated by all. He is popular among staff, students and parents. In the time I have managed Jason I have found him to be helpful and to have the best interests of the centre at heart. However he can, at times, lack self awareness with regards to listening to other points of view and receiving feedback from colleagues both from the administration staff, teachers and YLAs. This was evidenced in a recent observation and feedback session I held with him. This lesson observation will form the basis of my assignment.  

Performance evaluation and lesson observation 

The main driver for the need to provide a performance review was a recent observation of Jason. 

Class context  

I observed a Primary 4 class of high level (relative to the year group), 9 year old students of mixed gender. The class size was 19 and Jason had been teaching the class 5 times a week in 50 minute periods for close to an academic year. It is assumed at this stage he will be very familiar with the students and aware of the different strengths and weakness of each individual and as a result be able to conduct the class effectively in terms of classroom management.  

The observation 

The procedure at the institute I work in for formal observation is to agree a date and time with the teacher of the class they wish to be observed. I then ask for a lesson plan in advance of the lesson and we agree to sit down 10 minutes before the lesson to run through what is about to take place. The lesson plan template is provided to the teacher and although he is free to use his own he is required to follow the guidelines such as writing aims and procedure, writing down anticipated problems and solutions and including a timetable fit. The timetable fit is important as the classes are part of the mainstream curriculum and not extra curricular as they are in the centres. At this stage I do not provide any feedback but am just looking to see I have all the materials and a grasp on what is about to take place. I will also use this opportunity to talk to the teacher about my seating arrangements and to preempt the teacher on what I am likely to be doing throughout the lesson.  

Pre - observation

Jason provided me with a lesson plan one day in advance, however at this stage I wasn’t happy with the work he had done. I spoke to him immediately on receiving the plan and discussed my concerns. There were as follows 

  • No aims to any of the stages of the lesson

  • No anticipated problems

  • Typing errors in some of the materials produced.

     

I asked him if he felt happy with the plan and he, at this stage, said he was not, but would submit it anyway. This made me question his motivation and I asked him if he felt he could produce a better plan as this was a formal observation and part of his evaluation. He reluctantly said he would and produced a better plan although this was not in my opinion up to the standard I expect of someone with his experience and more importantly the standard of the organisation. As time was a factor I accepted this new plan and we moved on to the lesson and the observation.  

The lesson 

The lesson I felt was a very disappointing lesson from someone with the experience of Jason. The lesson plan was not of the standard I expected. Major problems were  

  • The main aims were written from the point of view of the teacher and not the learners.

  • Too many aims that were not relevant. 

  • The lesson was basically a list of activities that did not tie in together and form a cohesive lesson.

  • Sub aims were not actual aims but a description of what the students would be doing.

  • The timetable fit was not adequate and did not include any reason as to why they would be doing any of the activities at this time.

  • The lesson contained no feedback stages which are vital to check understanding and provide real meaningful communication to the students.

As a result of the above I failed to see any underlying principles behind the activities or lesson as a whole. Some of the activities listed in the plan were omitted from the actual lesson.  

In reality Jason had some really good activities to hand and while they worked and were for the most part successfully executed he never set the scene, activated schemata or involved the students in the lesson apart from completing the tasks.

I would expect the teacher to do this and make the lesson more personal to the learners and therefore make it more memorable.

Feedback

In my experience observation can be a stressful endeavor for the teacher and because if this I wanted to provide feedback as quickly as possible. Also due to the nature of the lesson and the fact it was below standard I wanted to discuss issues while they were still fresh. The final reason for a speedy feedback session was to try to correct the bad practice as quickly as possible to ensure the teacher is aware and is able and has the resources to make changes to further classes.

I arranged to meet Jason after his lessons on the following day. My feelings about his reaction to the lesson indicated he felt everything was fine. He spoke to other staff and commented that he thought the lesson was successful. Because of this I was aware that he might not feel the same way as me and have a negative reaction to the less than positive feedback I was about to give.

We conducted the feedback in a private room adjacent to the staffroom. I felt that because Jason lacks a certain amount of self awareness it would be better for me to be more direct and come to the point. I had prepared feedback notes and provided him with a copy and we used this as a springboard for discussion. My main aim was for him to agree to a follow up observation that would see him improve on the lesson he had just produced. The reasons for this were I believe Jason has the ability to teach effectively as his experience and qualifications would indicate as such but is lacking in motivation and is possible jaded.

Jason was visibly disappointed to hear that I felt his lesson was not up to the standard that I and the organisation expected. I asked questions and probed to try to find reason as to why the lesson was conducted in the way it was. We discussed the lack of personalisation and exploitation of activities and also relevance to the needs and interests of the students. We also talked about aims and again focusing first on the needs of the learners in order for him to have produced a cohesive and meaningful lesson.

I suggested and it was accepted that it would be beneficial for Jason to attend some recap sessions on the CELTYLX as I was aware that he had completed this a while ago but may have forgotten some of the main principles behind affective lesson planning and execution. I also asked to do a follow up observation before the end of term to look at how some of the areas discussed above could be improved.

Jason reflected well on the class and provided some insight into the principles behind the activities he chose to do. I was pleased that he agreed to the proposed action points as I feel this would certainly help with regards his personalisation of activities and providing feedback to the learners.

Personal observations and reflection from course study

While reading the set texts in my studies the following formula struck me and resonated with my feelings regarding performance particularly from a teaching perspective

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMM_80.htm (undated) states

Performance is a function of both ability and motivation. 

Performance = Ability x Motivation

Where:

  • Ability is the person's aptitude, as well as the training and resources supplied by the organization

  • Motivation is the product of desire and commitment

I think that being fairly analytical myself this struck a chord. When I analyse Jason its clear he has ability and an aptitude in teaching. The fact he is well liked by students and peers along with his qualifications indicates his teaching ability is not lacking. The organisation has provided ample resources in the form of teaching materials and INSETT and with this in mind I can confidently look to motivation as being a major factor for his poor performance.

When I analyse the motivational aspects it leads me to the same article quoted above http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMM_80.htm (undated) suggests that

You need to understand the root of a performance problem before you can fully address it. Ability and motivation go together to impact performance, and the most successful performance improvement efforts combine strategies for improving each.

For the reasons stated above regarding Jason’s teaching experience and skills, I think had I had these tools and advice in place before the observation I would have focused less on the technical teaching ability aspects of the lesson and more on the motivational side of the problem. It is clear that the root of the problem is motivational. Jason has been doing the same job for 5 ½ years and it is fair to say is possibly jaded and complacent. I feel that I have not exhausted my options with regards finding the root of the issue and will endeavour to do so in follow up learning and development plan issues. In these sessions I will try to use the GROW model of coaching as this is an area I am interested in and have had some basic training in using this method.

The first stage will be to establish a goal and a reality. John Whitmore (2009) describes this as:

Goal Setting. A positive statement of a desired outcome.

Reality. An assessment and acknowledgement of the current state relative to the goal.

The goal should be agreed mainly by Jason but with the operational needs of the centre in hand. I think it will be a challenge to discuss with Jason his motivational issues as he does lack self awareness. I will need to provide solid examples of his tendency to meet the minimum requirements and not go the extra mile. These examples will come from the recent lesson observation and a reminder of his skills and experience and a selection of teaching materials he has used recently. Jason does exemplify a ‘worksheet warrior’ type of teacher persona where the focus of his lesson is a pre prepared on stop shop worksheet. This has been commented on by a number of colleagues and I will need to be very careful and sensitive when dealing with this. The examples will act as the reality and provide assessment and acknowledgement.

Stage three is options. Again using Whitmore’s (2009) definition

Options. The coach facilitates the coachee to consider determine and evaluate options that could achieve the desired outcome.

I have looked at Jason’s qualifications and have recognised he has a background in Business and Finance law. We have a new business course running in our centre here in Bangkok and a way of improving his motivation may be to ask for his expertise on looking at materials and resources for this course. This will take him out of the centre for period of the week and give him a new focus and challenge which may then feedback positivity into his classes in school. Another option might be to provide a training session to other colleagues. This will help him with his own practice and will also help raise his standing in the office and possibly change the negative connotations regarding his perceived teaching persona. The sense of satisfaction from deliver training may provide him with an avenue to increase his levels of motivation.

After establishing the goal, reality and options we will move on to ‘what will you do?’ Whitmore (2009) describes this as

What will you do? The action plan or steps you will take to achieve your Goal.

This stage we will feed into the formal learning and development plan. After suggesting the options and listening to Jason’s ideas we will look to compose ‘what we do’ in a smart (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) learning plan point. This could actually be the base for number for points and it will be up to Jason to decide upon that.

By bringing this motivational aspect to the development plan we can hopefully improve his performance and happiness in his work. The plan is for Jason to improve his performance, deliver better lessons which leaves the students happier and in fact benefits all stakeholders. By tying it into the learning and development plan it also allows for the important aspect of monitoring and reviewing. I will be able to sit down and discuss the process at regular times throughout the year and have a formal record of Jason’s progress and feeling about his work.

The whole process has been enlightening for me and has helped me immensely in the way I view performance management.

Bibliography

Dealing with Poor Performance (undated): Mind Tools: Last accessed 25th July 2012 at: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMM_80.htm

The GROW Coaching Model (undated):http://all-about-life-coaching.com/the-GROW-model.html

WHITMORE, John (2009) Coaching for Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose - the Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership (4th Edition) (People Skills for Professionals) 97-102

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