Appraisal and Capability: A Coaching Approach

Appraisal and Capability: A coaching approach

Teachers should be treated as professionals, with the default assumption that everyone is committed and hard-working with their children’s best interests at heart in all that they do.

The intrinsic motivation of working in a supportive high-trust high-challenge culture outweighs any motivational effect that might come from outcome targets and performance pay.

Each teacher, at every career stage should be nurtured, challenged, supported and developed in a continual process, never judged through one-off lesson performances or datasets.

Find out more about my approach to coaching on one of my courses:

The appraisal and capability process should focus on successes, areas for personal growth, team priorities and career goals NOT on outcome targets.

Appraisal meetings are there to make people feel that they’ve had an opportunity to plan out their professional growth and map out their future progression. Of course, student outcomes will inevitably be a focus but not a simplistic measure of success.

Encourage staff to keep good records of their professional growth, peer observation and research to inform the appraisal discussion BUT the compilation of portfolios of evidence to show they’ve met the teachers’ standards is not the essence of the process – it is professional growth that manifests itself in impact on our children.

Building in an element of choice even within the parameters of school, college, academy priorities, helps preserve a sense of autonomy but also encourages responsibility and ownership.

Before the meeting:
Set the date and time, get yourself prepared, clear your diary. Allocate more time than you need.

Set up the room – Do not disturb sign up, no distractions such as phones, printers and children(!), choice of refreshments, chairs side by side. Set the room up to minimise the hierarchy that may exist between you both.

Send out any documentation well in advance including last year’s documentation. When you get it back – read it, know it, make notes on it and be ready to start with positive feedback, praise and thanks.

During the meeting:
Appraisal meetings are not coaching conversations yet adopting a ‘coaching approach’ and deploying elements of coaching can make these meetings more productive and effective. So therefore, appraisers are encouraged to:

  • Focus on growth
  • Provide support and challenge
  • Provide affirming feedback
  • Ask questions that encourage the teacher to talk and reflect – Appraisers should listen more than talk. Listen in a focused way and use the teacher’s words when reflecting back to help them clarify
  • Be confidential
  • Structure the meeting to ensure a positive outcome and that you stay on track

Structure the meeting using GROW
Outline the purpose of the meeting and what needs to be completed in the time frame allowed – reflection on last year and the creation of appropriate goals for future professional growth.  Start with praise and thanks and then ask a question that invites a positive response such as ‘In reflecting on last year, what are you most proud of?’
Discuss the Teachers’ Standards and how well they have been met. This should be led by the teacher. Reflect on last year’s goals and make reach a collective decision on whether they were successfully met. Do not shy away from difficult conversations though – this is, after all, an appraisal meeting.
Discuss possibilities for this year’s growth using teachers’ standards, data, subject/year group priorities, exam analysis, school, subject or phase development plans, personal reflections, discussion of this year’s class(es)…
What next:

Agree on priorities for the coming year and set goals to ‘now’ (what will you do now to say you’ve started, by next week, by the end of the month, by the end of term, by the end of the year). Focus on IMPACT on children rather than just changing teacher behaviour. Clarify what has been agreed and confirm any follow up arrangements.

After the meeting:
Complete all documentation as soon as possible, ensure it is accurate and ask for feedback on the process.

Before the meeting:

Reflect on last year, and think about the future in equal measures, using all available sources of inspiration such as teachers’ standards, data, subject/year group priorities, exam analysis, school, subject or phase development plans, personal reflections, this year’s class(es)…

Be thoroughly prepared and complete the appropriate documentation, returning to the reviewer anything required for the meeting.

Write some notes to prompt further discussion at the appraisal meeting so that you miss nothing.

Assemble all necessary documentation to support your meetings and discussion including last year’s appraisal documents.

Draft out some possible goals that you feel the children would benefit from you focusing on this year.

During the meeting:
Honestly reflect on and share your successes and areas for growth.

Refer to the notes you have made to ensure that you ‘sell yourself’ – miss nothing out. This is your chance to shine and talk about yourself!

Seek feedback on how you and your class(es) have done this year.

Expect to lead the discussion on last year’s work.

Propose your areas for growth this year and be prepared to state your case. Focus on the impact on the children. Be concise and precise.

Present a case for how the school, college, academy may be able to help you with these goals

Be prepared to set goals to ‘now’ (what will you do now to say you’ve started, by next week, by the end of the month, by the end of term, by the end of the year).

After the meeting:
Read carefully any documentation and sign it off


Coaching for schools

Coaching For Schools https-2F2Fcdn_evbuc__com2Fimages2F309290162F442396428262F12Foriginal-800x400

What does effective coaching look like, and how can coaching be introduced into schools?

On Friday 15th September 2017, Ross McGill and I will be piloting ‘Coaching For Schools’: a pragmatic training day for leaders of teaching and learning; for those interested in moving towards a coaching culture for observations.

Why Attend?

Some of the issues to be tackled on the day include: how can we use feedback more effectively in professional learning? Ideas for solution-focused approaches – scripting dialogue, as well as ideas how to kick-start coaching in your own school.

We will explore the most up-to-date ideas from research and practice to re-boot your thinking so you can return to school, equipped with strategies to use immediately. We will also give you the tools to deliver the training yourself so that you can share the resources with your colleagues and kick-start coaching in your school.


You can purchase a place at the event here for just £59.00. The location will be in Central London and the venue will be confirmed to ticket holders. Read draft details about the day.

If the event is a success, we hope to arrange more – once every half-term – around the U.K. So, if you can’t make this one, do let us know if you are interested in us organsing a similar event at a location near you.


To make the training day as useful as possible, we suggest that you focus on a particular area for personal development from your own teaching repertoire. If possible, a particular class and/or group of students.  It may help you to bring some information about the current observation framework you are using and information about the students to support your action planning. E.g, class data and a lesson observation proforma.


Led by:

Get in touch if you’d like more details or would like to sponsor the event or offer a venue.

Follow the hashtag, #Coaching4Schools and thank you for your interest. If you’d like us to lead this same event in another location, please leave your details below and location.

Lesson planning: the basics

Lesson planning: the basics

Here are 6 main questions to consider when planning your lessons. Included also are some hints and ideas to help and further questions to consider.

lesson plan

What do I want the children to learn or start to learn?

  • Begin with the end in mind. What do I want the children to leave with that they didn’t arrive with?
  • Am I going to share this purpose? Don’t waste time getting them to write the objective out in their books though!
  • Might the purpose be best articulated in the form of a question to answer?
  • Pitch it high – avoid ‘must-should-could’ as it signifies low expectation. A possible alternative is…‘We are learning… (objective) so that we can…’ (tangible outcome).
  • Base the purpose of the lesson on their precise need. What have they achieved recently that informs today or this series of lessons? What are they understanding less well?
  • The clearer you are about where you want them to get to in this lesson or in a series of lessons, the better you’ll be able to help them get there.

How will they show me they’ve learnt it?

  • Have a tangible outcome. Remember this may not be achieved within this lesson. An end task or exit ticket may work well here. Flag this up at the start so that they are aware of the direction of travel.

How will I explain and model it so that they have the best chance of getting it?

  • Understand how limitations in working memory may influence the manner of your explanation and modelling. Less is more so be clear, concise and ‘choose the shortest path’.
  • Consider the impact of dual coding (pairing words with graphics). Think about how you make the abstract more concrete and therefore make sense to them e.g. drawing diagrams, using manipulatives, providing demonstrations…
  • Find out what they already know and then build on this. Possibly through a ‘quick review’, ‘do now’ or ‘cold task’ at the start.
  • Use a worked example if they are novices moving onto problems if they are more proficient.
  • If you use a WAGOLL (what a good one looks like) deconstruct it, ensuring that you ‘call your shots’ and articulate your expert thinking out loud to the children. A visualiser may be helpful in some subjects.
  • Spend more time thinking about how you are going to explain and model than anything else.
  • The ‘I We You’ approach from Doud Lemov’s ‘Teach like a Champion’ is a helpful structure to consider here.

What practice will they need to do?

  • Plan in adequate time, during the lesson and over a series of lessons, for the children to practise using their new knowledge and skills.
  • Be clear about what you want the children to achieve / produce during independent practice time. What are the key tasks children need to do during independent time?
  • Relentlessly check their work. Prioritise who you visit – possibly monitor first fast starters and those who may need support.
  • Allow for at least 5 minutes struggle time – no input from teacher or TA so that any support is required rather than assumed. Ensure they start well before any intervention.
  • Align independent practice to the assessment – match the rigour of the upcoming assessment.
  • Consider how many children should receive feedback from you. How could you increase that number? Who might you prioritise?
  • During practice time constantly check all children for understanding – avoid traffic lights or thumbs but utilise instead observations, mini whiteboards, exit tickets and hinge questions.

What if they struggle and find it difficult to learn?

  • What strategies should we be teaching children so that they can better cope with struggling?
  • Some will need focused questioning; some might require a clear or different starting point; some might rush and have to redo the task.
  • Some might need you to re-explain but possibly not all. Use ‘drop in clinics’.
  • Who is most likely to struggle? Knowing your class well will help you to prioritise.

What if they find it easy?

  • How will you be ‘responsive’ if some children seem capable of working beyond the objective?
  • Some will reach the objective more easily and need to be challenged further – what constitutes a good challenge without just doing more of the same work? A ‘sideways stretch’?

Raising the bar

Incremental gains for professional growth

In my role as a senior leader, as a SLE and as a consultant I am constantly looking for more efficient, effective and realistic ways to help teachers be the best they can be. In order to fulfil this quest, I have frequently looked beyond education for inspiration, direction and solution.

Over the last few years these are just some of the books that have influenced my thinking.


Who has inspired or influenced you?

As a young child in 1969 I distinctly remember watching, on a small black and white TV with my family, an event that had a big impact on me. The first man on the moon. I Picture2.pngremember my mum putting me to bed that night and saying, as she pointed to the bright moon, “there’s a man up there!” This sparked in real interest in science for me; I wanted to be Neil Armstrong.

Over the years several people influenced and inspired me. They were mostly from the world of sport: Bobby Moore, Bruce Lee, Daley Thompson and Sergey Bubka.


In the dim and distant past I was, amongst other things, a pole vaulter. I learnt it at school, developed it at club level and successfully took part in several competitions. The first time I saw Sergey Bubka, a Ukrainian pole vaulter, was at Crystal Palace in 1984 where he broke the world record. He was still vaulting when all other athletes had gone home! A supreme athlete, Bubka went on to break the world record 35 times (17 outdoor and 18 indoor). An extraordinary statistic fuelled undoubtedly by incentives such as world record bonuses. As much as $100,000 each time has been mentioned. In less than two years between 1991 and 1993, he improved his previous mark an astonishing 14 times. Bubka’s final record of 6.15m stood for two decades. A consistently high and sustainable standard over a long career.

By the time I watched Bubka in action my vaulting days were over (PB 3.89m!). For me his influence wasn’t and isn’t one related to my own athletic performance but to how I approach working with teachers to help them to grow; training of the basic skills, specific practice, focused feedback and, most pertinently, small ‘1cm’ bar raises to ensure continuous and sustainable ‘performance’ and improvement.

The bar is higher now and raising it even further is harder.
Where does our next 1, 2, 3, 4cm bar raise come from?

Picture4There has been much talk over the years of ‘marginal gains’ (Sir Dave Brailsford), 1% gains (Sir Clive Woodward) and Critical Non Essentials (Australian dentist – Paddy Lund) but much of these approaches relates to small tweaks to every aspect of performance to bring about changes.

In my experience of working with teachers, they are too busy and do not have the capacity to address EVERY aspect of their ‘performance’. So, instead I take the approach of 1cm bar raises; the relentless pursuit of one aspect of practice that when habitual and routine is added to with another 1cm bar raise and another and another…over a substantial length of time. Usually in the same area of practice too; for example, explaining, questioning, formative assessment or modelling.

TSP-3D-Covers-1-UP-72dpi_LEFT_001Jack Canfield in ‘The Success Principles’ refers to +1s.

Over a substantial time these small, sustainable and manageable improvements add up to BIG changes and great habits.

In Japan they call this approach ‘kaizen’; change for the good, change for the better – continual improvement.Picture5.png

Using kaizen, great and lasting success is achieved through small, consistent steps. I have discovered that clear, slow and steady is the best way to overcome a resistance to change too.

One of the mantras of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s phenomenally successfully rugby union team, as outlined in James Kerr’s wonderful book, Legacy, is…

The challenge is to ALWAYS IMPROVE, to always get better, EVEN WHEN YOU ARE THE BEST. Especially when you are the best.

Change for the good is for everyone, every teacher.Picture6.png

These changes may even be daily! The legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, used to extol the virtues of becoming a little better every day.

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens—and when it happens, it lasts.”

John Wooden was also a fan of FOCUS and DETAIL.

One of his basic principles for success was the focus on basics. At the first practice new players were taught how to tie their shoe laces! He actually taught them how to put on their socks first. Wooden had a reason for this; if you don’t put on socks and tie your shoe laces properly, it will affect your performance. Improperly put on socks can cause blisters and untied shoes can cause injuries or problems during games. Court time is lost, team performance is affected, as ultimately is league position.

The same principles hold true for teaching. Focus on the basics. Focus on the detail. Don’t get caught in the flash of social media, or the next shiny object. While many of these tools may be valuable and may help contribute to your goal, you can’t ignore the basics of teaching.

Little changes lead to BIG changes.compoundeffectbook

In Darren Hardy’s book ‘The Compound Effect’ he suggests that the formula is simple:
“Small, smart choices + consistency + time = radical difference.”

Focus on the daily disciplines. The magic is not in the complexity of the task; the magic is in doing simple things repeatedly and over a sustained period to instigate this ‘compound effect.

Jeff Olson, in his book, ‘The Slight Edge’ urges us to focus on…
…the things that are EASY TO DO but also EASY NOT TO DO.

Charles Duhigg in ‘The Power of Habit’ refers to a ‘keystone habit’; a habit that, when we change it, will have the greatest positive impact on our lives.

Designer Ray Eames said:
“What works good is better than what looks good, because what works good lasts.”

41baXFvN4UL__SX332_BO1,204,203,200_So focus not on the flash but on the stuff that works: the basic skills of teaching. The things you do in your classroom when no one is looking. The kind of skills that Shaun Allison (@shaun_allison) and Andy Tharby (@atharby) so deftly describe in their book ‘Making every lesson count’; explaining, modelling, questioning, feedback, challenge and so on.

Choose well – focusing not on just changing your practice but on having an impact on the children you teach. Choose what works therefore – cognitive science is now helping us hugely with making this choice.

Break these well-chosen strategies down into small achievable bits and practise them until they become routine, habitual and efficient.

However, we aren’t musicians or pole vaulters who perform occasionally and practise in the interim – we are always performing! So to counter this issue, book in time to practise. Plan for specific practice with a particular group. Seek the honest feedback from a colleague – ask them to focus on the impact on the children of the strategies you are practising.

IMG_1520Visual prompts
A pole vault coach I had many years ago used to write brief reminders of things I had to remember on pieces of card that were left by the runway – a visual prompt to help me keep focused and remind me about what we had been trying to do in training. I use this idea in my own school and all staff have these on their walls as a reminder of what they need to focus on. Teachers are also learners!

link-back2.pngIt doesn’t have to take this form of course and recently I read about a post it in a teacher’s classroom at Shaun Allison’s school which was used as a visual prompt.

Equally as effective!

The important thing here is to have a FOCUS.

Herbert Alexander Simon said ‘a wealth of information leads to a poverty of attention’. So narrow it down.

Look for the better you. The believable possible: the slightly better version of yourself. Focus on getting better rather than being good.

Reflect on your practice and on the children you teach.
Choose a focus. Choose well. Choose what works rather than what looks good.
Choose a challenge. The comfort zone is a lovely place but nothing grows there. Work just out of your comfort zone.
Be realistic – B is your aspiration, yet A is a realistic 1cm bar raise.
Book in time to practise.
Seek honest feedback and act upon it.

When embedded seek the next marginal gain, the next 1% gain, the next +1,

“Success is…
modest improvement consistently done”.

Sean Fitzpatrick
Former All Blacks captain


Chris is an education consultant with over 30 years of experience. He has worked with over 275 schools. Please get into contact if you would like to work with Chris.

What works well? Ask a PE teacher!

There has been a great deal of debate on social media recently about what works in the classroom. This rich professional dialogue has been helpfully supported by a plethora of insightful research on teaching, learning, cognitive science and so on. Much of this research, which is available on this blog for quick reference, highlights what has been proved to be effective and provides helpful suggestions for classroom practice. Many of the guiding principles found within this research come from three sources:

  1. research on how our brain acquires and uses new information;
  2. research on the classroom practices of those teachers whose students show the highest gains; and
  3. findings from studies that taught learning strategies to students.

They might have added…
4) From observing PE teachers in action!

Simply because so much of the information from research will be hugely familiar to Physical Education teachers as it is to me as a former PE teacher myself.

PE teachers will identify as familiar and commonplace:

  • Fast starts and ‘Do Nows’. Beginning a lesson with a short review of previous learning. Established routines, such as skill practices, games or warm ups at the start of a lesson that settle and prepare students for the lesson building on previously acquired knowledge, skills and understanding.
  • Purposeful learning guided by objectives that are not written up.
  • New material presented in small steps with student practice after each step. Practical skills broken down in manageable chunks so to limit the amount of material students receive at any one time which allow them to build confidence without overwhelming.
  • Suitably brief, clear instructions and explanations. The outside environment often demands this but activity time is, therefore, kept to a maximum through brief, yet considered use of teacher talk.
  • Tasks and skills modelled only at one level – the best quality performance to practise and replicate. WAGOLLs (What A Good One Looks Like) routinely shared so that excellence is always modelled.
  • A high level of active and guided practice for all students. Practice getting it right; encoding success as the late, great basketball coach John Wooden put it.
  • Drills and practices that are given names to speed up the students’ recognition of the next step. I have personally used drills named after football clubs and basketball teams that require, once taught, no further explanation. Naming a drill creates a known vocabulary that helps focus practice and reflection.
  • Responsive and adaptive teaching – Monitoring and analysis of student performance, checking the responses of all students, to ascertain what they can do already and therefore their starting points. Analysis of performance so that the teacher can plan the next step in their development and adapt the lesson in real time.
  • Employing a large number of questions to further check for understanding; encouraging students to explain and demonstrate what they had learned.
  • Systematic verbal feedback from the teacher (and sometimes the student) and corrections leading to further practice and, if appropriate, re-teaching.
  • Opportunity for ndependent practice and application of the new skills in a new and ever changing context; often a game situation.
  • Oh and group work! The subject demands you do group work. Sorry!

So you see PE teachers have been doing this stuff all along. Go learn from them folks!

Research articles

































Get to the point: EXTREME COACHING


No time for coaching?  Think again…but differently.

Less advice and more curious questioning in as many interactions with staff as possible.

Don’t think that coaching should be just about the obvious meetings: line management, one to ones…

Transform all your interactions to make coaching part of your daily repertoire. Make it important but not urgent. Focus on frequent 5-10 minute conversations.

Get to the point.
What are you currently focusing on?
What’s the issue at the moment?

Hold onto your own opinion as you may be wrong.
Advice-giving results in overdependence and may be overwhelming.
What’s working?
What have you done so far?
What have you tried?
What have you found out about…?
How could you…?
What would make the biggest difference?
What else?

Your conversation should always be a useful one. Get them to find the value in your interaction and ensure that they don’t miss the point of the conversation.
What next?
What are you going to do?


Read more here…