32 SES 08 A, Organization as Threat to Professional Identity
Two dichotomous perspectives on organisations such as schools can be identified.
The first perspective is that organisations can be easily separated into their component parts and that these disaggregated parts can be measured and controlled, and the nature of the interactions between them easily understood.
The other standpoint is that organisations such as schools are complex and therefore cannot be so easily reduced to their constituent parts. Therefore measuring, controlling, and understanding inter-relationships between the constituent parts is very difficult (Boulton et al., 2015; Stacey and Mowles, 2015).
Our starting point is the latter view and it has led us to develop a perspective on schools as complex, evolving, loosely linking systems (CELLS) (Hawkins and James, 2016a; 2016b). The CELLS perspective accepts as axiomatic that schools as institutions are made up of multiple autonomous agents, such as staff members, pupils, parents, who are linked to, and interact with, each other in different ways. This interaction within and between the systems which constitute the whole-school system impacts significantly on system evolution (Hawkins and James, 2016a; 2016b).
The nature of schools as CELLS has implications for their organisation and how education policies are made, interpreted and implemented. Arguably, the most problematic challenges facing education policymakers and those responsible for the organisation of schools on a daily basis relate to managing the performance of those who work in them.
The performance management (PM) of teachers has a long history (Bartlett, 2000) and in England teacher PM in various forms has existed for over 30 years (James and Mackenzie, 1986). PM, which is sometimes referred to as appraisal, is: “the evaluation of teachers to make a judgement and/or provide feedback about their competencies and performance” (OECD, 2013, p.321). The PM process holds teachers to account for their practice and typically also aims to support teachers’ development/career advancement. National teacher PM processes/policies vary but PM’s role in holding teachers to account is increasing in countries in Europe and further afield (OECD, 2013).
Typically, PM systems are linear in nature and founded on a cause and effect rationale. That is, a particular change will have a predictable outcome to which it is directly related. Further, the scale of a change relates directly and in a linear way to the scale of the outcome. However, complex institutions such as schools are essentially non-linear in nature. Further identifying cause and effect relationships can be very difficult and indeed a change implemented to improve matters may have the opposite effect to the one intended. (Stacey and Mowles, 2015; Snowden and Boone 2007; Goldspink, 2000). Thus, the way teacher PM systems are currently constructed would appear to be inappropriate for the organisational context in which they are to be implemented.
Despite these challenges, schools in England and in many European countries are required to implement PM systems. It was to explore how schools implemented national teacher PM policies in the complex setting of the school that the research we report here was carried out.
- How do members of staff in a school experience the complexity of their working environment?
- What are the problematics of implementing performance management policies in schools given the nature of schools as complex, evolving, loosely linking systems?
Objective of research:
- how the complex nature of schools is experienced by the members of school staff
- the problematics of implementing performance management policies in schools given the nature of schools as complex, evolving, loosely linking systems
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