Followership refers to a role held by certain individuals in an organization, team, or group. Specifically, it is the capacity of an individual to actively follow a leader. Followership is the reciprocal social process of leadership. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Followership). A note here that Followership was the theme of my dissertation for my MSc in Educational Leadership. A simple overview can be seen HERE. A previous post (https://yasirpatel.com/2017/01/28/followership-a-new-stream-of-leadership/) expands on the notion of Followership in more detail. (For the full dissertation with references shown, please contact me.)
This is not a post about entirely about Followership, although it uses many of its key features. The intention within this article is to focus on the concept of quality teachers within schools (in Followership, this could be referred to as Exemplary staff), in particular, measuring ‘quality‘.
Is it even possible to measure it? What cannot be counted/measured? Or how do we count what can be counted? How much weight do we give to each factor? This post is a culmination of thoughts, a mix of research, experience and intuition. Any comments, questions, thoughts, doubts etc are more than welcome to enhance the dialogue.
Educators are aware that teaching staff are multifaceted and various aspects make up the ‘quality’ teacher or the teacher we wish to have in our schools. What are these precise factors? It is hard to argue against the fact that the quality of teaching and learning is the key trait. However, think of that teacher who was (or is) brilliant in the classroom, yet something or many things just stopped him/her fitting in to that school. Why is this so?
Quality Teachers: It must be possible to structure our thinking into a more scientific and logical manner so that decisions to be taken have justification, beyond just ‘gut feeling’ or as often happens, a surface level discussion.
Proposition: A Scientific and Measurable Approach
In order of importance, the five criteria listed below are proposed as the key factors when defining quality teaching staff, in order of importance with a suggested Scoring Key after each one. The terms used within the Scoring Keys would need to be agreed upon as they can be subjective if not discussed and maybe they even need expanding further.
1. Quality of Teaching and Learning: Without doubt, the vital ingredient. Within this, a school must define what it means by Quality Teaching and Learning. Some examples are:
- ‘Sensibility and doing the hard intellectual yards are what makes a teacher great – and memorable’ (Pringle, 2002)
- ‘Quality of teaching is its fitness for the purpose of promoting learning.’ (Ellis, 1993)
- Quality teaching is doing whatever it takes, ethically and responsibly, to ensure that your students learn and that they leave your unit with a passion for learning.
- ‘Significant progress made by each student in every lesson‘ (TBSC)
Within these definitions and big-picture statements, schools may have rubrics that break down teaching into various areas (e.g. behaviour, assessment, instruction etc). A clear, open, well understood (by everyone) definition and structure is key here.
Scoring Key: Excellent = 10, Very Good = 7, Good = 4, Satisfactory = 1, Poor = -2, Very Poor = -5, Unacceptable= -8.
2. Impact on School Culture and Morale: Organisational culture is defined as the collection of day-to-day habits. This is the ‘feel’ of a school when you walk through it and a culture that all staff should fit into (in the ideal world). Teachers that do not fit in, often affect the morale of the school negatively. This can be difficult to manage and its effect on the teaching body could be irreversible, if not addressed. However, often, listening and professional development does close the gap.
Think about the culture a school has or wishes to obtain. Then reflect upon how particular teachers fit into this and thus, the impact on the general morale of the teaching body. Are they positive to this culture or the worse-case scenario, are they toxic to staff morale and school culture? This also includes professionalism outside school.
Scoring Key: Exemplary Follower = 8, Positive = 5, Neutral = 2, Negative = -2, Toxic = -5.
3. Input and effect upon School Improvement: Initiatives rolled out should generally (and once again, ideally) be well-thought out, discussed with various teaching groups and implemented with a lot of time. Often though, ideas need to be implemented quickly and without the desired checks and balances. How does a particular teacher react to change and new initiatives? “Yes let’s do it and give it a chance” is the answer you wish to hear. “Here we go again, what a waste of time” is not what one wants to listen to. Obstacles, constant rejection, argumentative, resistance to change etc result in a low score here.
Scoring Key: Positive and willing to help in order to move school forward = 8, Positive = 5, Neutral/Passive = 2, Negative = -2, Negative, not willing to try, resistant and can result in negative school improvement = -5
4. Relationship with Parents: Maintaining a pleasant and positive relationship with parents is important. However, it has to be within school policies and guidelines. This is an important trait that can affect the day-to-day operations if not taken into account.
Scoring Key: Excellent = 4, Very Good = 3, Good = 2, Satisfactory = 1, Poor = -1, Very Poor = -2, Unacceptable= -3.
5. Time Served: In line with professional development, the above should be worked upon before a tough decision is taken. For example, it is different to obtain a low final total score in the first year of service than in the fifth year. Leadership has a professional obligation to work and develop staff, give them the time to improve and help all teachers fit in to the school.
Scoring Key: 1st year at school = 10, 2nd year = 5, 3rd year onwards = 0.
Add up the points. Suggested final score and interpretation of the results:
- <6 (RED) = Not the right fit for the school/Time to move on/Do not renew contract.
- 6-10 (PINK) = Serious consideration to be given not to renew contract/Advise to look elsewhere/Not a good fit for school.
- 11-15 (YELLOW) = Serious discussion as to whether the school is for them/Consider not renewing contract.
- 16-20 (Dark Green) = Can develop further/Worth retaining for now.
- 21-25 (Green) = Retain and renew/A good fit to the school.
- >25 (Light Green) = Retain and renew at all costs/Perfect fit for the school.
Try the above with a fictional (or real) personality.
To make life slightly more difficult for school leaders, they also need to ensure their recruitment policy and procedures pick up greens at the point of hire (again this is idealistic!), or staff are hired that will be give the correct professional development to guide them towards green (of course, a strong Retention Policy also comes in to play). Recruitment is tough, getting harder by the day and needs a lot of thought. See the post on recruitment for further details (https://yasirpatel.com/2016/11/19/recruiting-against-the-odds/).
Comments? Amendments? Questions? Will this approach work for other organisations, outside of education? What tweaks would be needed? What is missing? Ideas and opinions welcome.