Alex Wood's comments last week on appraisal and classroom observation were timely. Appraisal schemes are usually based on a line management system. In the classroom, the principal teacher or principal teacher (curriculum) is in the best position to observe the weaknesses and strengths of any member of a department.
The idea behind creating a principal teacher (curriculum) was to have someone with a deeper understanding of the learning process and of changing teaching methods than the traditional principal teacher. Can we be sure that all teachers, not just those struggling, are being made aware of the best approaches to learning and teaching?
A system which allows the best in teaching to be observed should be available to all teachers and form part of teachers' continuing professional development. Many new teachers will have been introduced to the latest thinking on learning and teaching, which could be taken on board by the main grade teacher. Experienced teachers could demonstrate techniques of classroom management, which would allow pupils to learn in an enjoyable atmosphere.
Time for "live" observation may be limited but, where possible, arranged. In addition, classroom sessions should be made available on DVD and teachers should have access to Teachers TV since it covers many classroom topics.
Observation and appraisal by senior managers can be problematic, as many teachers do not see them as good examples of excellent classroom practice. Classroom teaching is not a top priority for senior managers, as they have many other demands on their time. They should be involved in appraisal only when a teacher has not improved his or her classroom practice, despite the best efforts of a principal teacher.
If a teacher is felt to be beyond improvement, senior managers and union officers can review the situation knowing that all measures to improve a teacher's performance have been undertaken.
James Waugh, Nether Currie Crescent, Currie, Edinburgh.