‘Great teachers have to be treasured and not measured’. As much as I agree entirely with the concept that great teachers have to be acknowledged, celebrated and respected, I find the second half of this maxim intrinsically incoherent. In order to determine who the great teachers are – and then treasure them – one needs to establish some kind of measurement system first. Otherwise, just by becoming a teacher, one would automatically, and without needing to make any effort or show any commitment to the career, be considered great. The widespread idea that teachers’ performance should not be monitored or assessed makes the job of managers and leaders extremely challenging. How do you identify the great teachers if you cannot measure them? After all, if consistent and reliable tools are not implemented, how will managers make decisions regarding staff? Promotions, dismissals, sponsorships will rely merely on one’s subjective opinion or will be based on how long a practitioner has done their job. And we all know this is not necessarily fair.
Teachers, managers and professional development
Managers and leaders need to understand the importance of taking a more active and direct role in the supervision and the development of teachers. From my experience, EFL managers and coordinators tend to either rely on their individual subjective perspective when looking at their staff and recommending developmental needs, or trust teachers will take the initiative spontaneously. We often expect that teachers, inspired by an urge to learn, will engage independently and willingly in the enhancement of their work. This would be ideal and is a poetic concept. Fullan (2014), however, when looking into the history of education management and assessing the attempts to implement a transformative leadership, says that ‘Evidence shows that the transformative leadership concept and movement simply didn't work. (...) Basically they found that creating a general inspiring vision and instilling motivation in teachers to join the cause were not specific enough to produce actual results.’ On top of that, if managers shy away from implementing indicators to follow up on teachers’ performance for example, they might also end up feeding an over-romanticized view of the teaching career, assuming that teachers will autonomously engage in continuous growth and reinforcing the idea that all teachers are alike; everyone is great because no effective system to monitor results and performance is in place. Hall & Simeral (2008: 16) claim that ‘It is commonly believed that because one works in the realm of education, one is open to learning new things. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Often, educators are even more resistant to tackling something new, which is ironic, really, when one of the primary purposes of education is to teach students to value learning.’
But only the simple implementation of performance indicators and a systematized focus on results are not enough either. Both Fullan (2014) and Hall & Simeral (2008) highlight the importance and effectiveness of peer collaboration and the power within creating learning communities. The challenge is then to strike a balance between opening up to teachers’ free initiative to identify their own training needs, inspire the staff to collaborate freely but also act as an instructional leader (Fullan 2014). An instructional leader will suggest and guide more assertively, considering the results of the company and monitor teachers’ performance through the implementation of a well-structured system that includes transparent and valid performance indicators.
Key Performance Indicators in Education
Key Performance Indicators, also known as KPIs or Key Success Indicators (KSIs), help an organization define and measure progress toward organizational goals. A language centre is an organization and therefore can also establish KPIs in order to assess effectiveness despite the frequent claim that education should not be measured. In his article How an Organization Defines and Measures Progress Toward its Goals, Reh (n.d.) discusses the importance and the characteristics of KPIs in a very straightforward way. According to him, an organization should analyse its mission, identify all its stakeholders, define its goals, and then find a way to measure progress toward those goals. After defining the Key Performance Indicators, the company should refer to the same definition year after year and set new targets for each Key Performance Indicator. Key Performance Indicators:
are quantifiable measurements,
are agreed to beforehand,
reflect the critical success factors of an organization
differ depending on the organization.
Many things are measurable but not all of these things can be considered key to the organization's success. In selecting Key Performance Indicators, it is critical to limit them to those factors that are essential to the organization reaching its goals. It is also important to keep the number of Key Performance Indicators small just to keep everyone's attention focused on achieving the same KPIs.
Examples of organizational performance indicators might be:
A students’ satisfaction with the academic programme
B Indicators of resource provision and funding
C Class sizes; teacher:student ratios;
D Repetition rates, students’ results in tests and completion of tasks
According to Parmenter (2010: 4) ‘Key performance indicators (KPI) represent a set of measures focusing on those aspects of organizational performance that are the most critical for the current and future success of the organization’. What does a language centre consider critical to its success? KPIs are a set of criteria that will inform us whether this success is being achieved and should therefore be measured frequently and tied directly to the mission and the goals of the organization. KPIs need to be tracked on a regular basis because if they are not meeting the target then processes or systems need to be modified (Arif & Smiley 2004). Lyddon and McComb (2008) state every KPI measure should include several components:
1. the actual results of the indicator;
2. the target for which the indicator is striving;
3. the difference between actual results and target results; and
4. signal values, or benchmark.
According to Manning (2011: 16) the identification of measurements is essential to improving programs and student success. This would start with an institution asking itself the questions: ‘If we improve the institutional quality what should we observe? And if we are to improve student learning and success what should be observed?’ Parmenter (2010: 5) also suggests that KPIs cannot be financial measures and should be checked consistently.
I truly believe that KPIs can also be associated with the analysis of the development of teachers by arguing that actual professional development takes place when there is a measurable increase in the quality of the overall results that seem most relevant to the institution. In other words, KPIs will inform managers if the decisions and investments made towards professional development are really paying off.
This can be assessed by following indicators that measure teachers’ individual performance, such as students’ satisfaction with the teacher, students’ attrition rate per teacher and academic quality of teachers’ delivery (observations for quality assurance).
In order to successfully implement the use of KPIs, I would suggest the language centre should first study its mission and goals in order to decide which KPIs best illustrate what is considered to be most critical (Parmenter 2010). The second step would involve setting clear targets for each one of the indicators. These targets need to be achievable and the institution also needs to agree on how frequently they will be assessed. Only after the KPIs have been fully structured, should they be communicated to the entire staff. This communication programme would then be followed by the actual implementation. This would end the first cycle regarding the use of KPIs.
The second cycle refers to the actual analysis of results. Since these will be the first results, KPIs cannot be compared with past performances in order to create a benchmark. One can only compare the exact same KPIs and should not try to compare different results. After looking at the first results and analysing the teachers’ and the institution’s performance, the next step is to determine what gaps these teachers might have and how the institution can help them develop. The data derived from the KPIs should help managers prioritize resources (human and financial) so as to cater for the areas in which professionals seem to need more immediate support, and emphasize the areas that might generate greater results in their performance. Since their performance is directly connected to the classroom and students’ performance, the institution will be investing in the staff so that students’ progress can be ultimately impacted.
The second cycle is probably the most challenging and complex phase during the implementation of KPIs. It is during this phase that the manager will decide which initiatives should be implemented, discontinued or adapted based on the data gathered. These initiatives will later (in the third cycle) have their effectiveness assessed again through the very same KPIs. In other words, it is important to design training initiatives that clearly focus on the identified training needs and that can be monitored more closely.
The third cycle (which will then be repeated every year) is the assessment of the decisions made in the second cycle. The very same KPIs that were implemented in the first cycle and that helped managers devise training programmes will be used again. The objective is to look at each indicator and cross-reference them with the existing training programmes to try and find patterns of performance that improved. A thorough analysis needs to take place (not just the pure figures) and the first year might not provide all the answers. However, it is the beginning of a more scientific perspective regarding the return on investment to help the institution decide on the financial resources that are directed into training.
The first three cycles are represented below:
KPIs have to be treasured not censored
If indicators are implemented with the participation of the entire staff and have the necessary validity, they will certainly become an indispensable aid to institutions, managers and teachers. They will lift priceless data and enrich everyone’s performance by offering input that can guide training, development and investments. In the end, a more professional and pragmatic perspective from English language teaching organizations will only help students receive a more effective learning experience. The great teachers will keep on being great. However, those who are not quite great yet will have measures to learn from and eventually do something to achieve better results and be treasured by students, peers and institutions.
Arif, M & Smiley, F (2004) Baldrige theory into practice: a working model. International Journal of Educational Management. 18(5), 324-328.
Fullan, M (2014) The principal – Three Keys to Maximizing Impact. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.