The Impossibility of Supervision and Appraisal in the Education Sector

Despite the exercise of supervision and appraisal being conducted with the best intentions, it is often ineffective in improving teaching and learning. Supervision and appraisals are used as a form of quality assurance. Since the primary measure for quality education is teaching and learning outcomes, appraisals and supervision often centre on meeting teaching standards (Schneider & Bodensohn, 2017). In a study conducted by Marshall (2013), teachers did not believe that appraisals contributed to improved teaching and learning at all. Supervision, on the other hand, was noted as being of some value (Marshall, 2013). If supervision is conducted with an improvement focus and incorporates formative feedback, it is more likely that a teacher with be receptive to the exercise (Khachatryan, 2015). Therefore, perhaps it is the way in which the supervision and appraisal is designed and conducted, coupled with the tone and quality of feedback, which determines relative success.

A recent trend has emerged in the UK and the US of applying a performance related pay (PRP) scheme to teachers’ salaries. The method with which salary increments are determined are derived from supervision, appraisals and student outcomes. More specifically, pupil progress is used as the primary measure of success (Atkinson et al., 2009). According to Atkinson et al. (2009), PRP acts as a method to motivate teachers. However, Gius (2013) detected demotivation and dissatisfaction in teachers who were paid based on their performance, which was largely quantified by student attainment. Teachers who experienced performance related pay were “less enthusiastic, did not think teaching was important, and were more likely to leave for better pay” (Gius, 2013, p. 4444). This dissatisfaction may be due to the external influences that exist; teachers have no control of these variables, and yet they still affect student attainment (Belfield & Heywood, 2008). Thus, it is important to consider the structure of appraisal systems to avoid causing demotivation in teachers. Any change in the attitude of teachers will ultimately lead to impacts on teaching and learning. Therefore, care must be taken in determining the appropriate design and structure of appraisals.

Supervision and appraisals often spark great tension between managers and subordinates. This tends to be because appraisal documents are created by organisations, so they are designed in a way which is helpful in meeting the objectives of the organisation. Teachers can therefore view the system as one which is unfair, because it supports the case of self-interest and arbitrary action by an organisation (DeSander, 2000). This disparity in perceived fairness is heightened by the possibility of conflicts of interests and poor implementation. Koski (2012) highlights the range of inequities that could emerge as part of an appraisal system. These include careless observations, personality conflicts and inappropriate measures (Koski, 2012). To reduce the possibility of these inequities arising, teachers often demand a rigid system which is more likely to remove bias (Mette et al., 2017). Creating and implementing this type of system can be costly and arduous for an organisation (Mette et al., 2017). As a result, tension continues to increase because of the differences in expectations and perceptions between individuals and organisations.

In my experience in teaching in secondary schools within the UK, the main forms of supervision and appraisal came from classroom observations and routine summative appraisals with standardised criteria. During this time, I felt an intense feeling of tension and distrust between teachers and administrators. This, I believe, was due to teachers feeling judged and threatened due to performance related pay initiatives and government cutbacks in the education sector. Teachers saw supervision and appraisals as a mechanism for schools to demote and dismiss employees. This perception led to hostility and demotivation of staff.

Conversely, in Australia I have taught in registered training organisations and the higher education sector. In these teaching experiences, I have not felt the same sense of animosity. Equally though, I have not experienced classroom observations or any formal appraisals. Rather, my experiences around supervision and appraisals have been limited to student feedback and informal discussions with line managers about improvement strategies. This is an authentic example of the way supervision and appraisal can have positive or negative effects depending on its design and implementation. My experience is inconsistent with the view that Mette et al. (2017) suggests, which is that teachers prefer rigid supervision and appraisal systems, since they can decrease bias and inequity.

Supervisions and appraisals are, and should be, intertwined in practice. Despite there being a serious lack of trust and cynicism with regards to their purpose and usefulness within the education sector, they can be beneficial for both teachers and schools if designed and implemented in an appropriate way. There is an outdated perception of what appraisals and supervision are, which is probably due to the outdated practices which still occur within the education sector. If the purpose of supervision and appraisal is scrutinised to consider the potential value-added, then perhaps they will begin to become an effective tool for improving the quality of teaching and learning.


Reference List

Atkinson, A., Burgess, S., Croxson, B., Gregg, P., Propper, C., Slater, H., & Wilson, D. (2009). Evaluating the impact of performance-related pay for teachers in England. Labour Economics, 16(3), 251-261. doi:

Belfield, C. R., & Heywood, J. S. (2008). Performance pay for teachers: Determinants and consequences. Economics of Education Review, 27(3), 243-252. doi:10.1016/j.econedurev.2008.01.002

DeSander, M. K. (2000). Teacher Evaluation and Merit Pay: Legal Considerations, Practical Concerns. Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, 14(4), 307-317. doi:10.1023/A:1011113304279

Gius, M. (2013). The effects of merit pay on teacher job satisfaction. Applied Economics, 45(31), 4443-4451. doi:10.1080/00036846.2013.788783

Khachatryan, E. (2015). Feedback on Teaching From Observations of Teaching: What Do Administrators Say and What Do Teachers Think About It? National Association of Secondary School Principals. NASSP Bulletin, 99(2), 164-188. doi:

Koski, W. S. (2012). Teacher collective bargaining, teacher quality, and the teacher quality gap: toward a policy analytic framework. Harvard Law & Policy Review, 6(1), 67.

Marshall, K. (2013). Chapter 2 : Supervision and Evaluation : Why We Need a New Approach. In K. Marshall (Ed.), Rethinking teacher supervision and evaluation : how to work smart, build collaboration and close the achievement gap (pp. 19-41): Jossey-Bass.

Mette, I. M., Range, B. G., Anderson, J., Hvidston, D. J., Nieuwenhuizen, L., & Doty, J. (2017). The wicked problem of the intersection between supervision and evaluation. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 9(3), 709-724.

Schneider, C., & Bodensohn, R. (2017). Student teachers’ appraisal of the importance of assessment in teacher education and self-reports on the development of assessment competence. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 24(2), 127. doi:10.1080/0969594X.2017.1293002

2 thoughts on “The Impossibility of Supervision and Appraisal in the Education Sector

  1. This topic has been discussed for a long time. For both teaching and managing, it is a very controversial topic. The analysis is valid and valuable in this article. Supervision and appraisal do causes pressure and segregation, and eventually leads to a low quality work. On the other hand, lack of trust was actually caused by some issues happened during teaching sector; thus, the concern of different virtual standards of teacher and administrators and the stability of certain areas should be inevitable.
    To most circumstances, people do not appreciate supervision and appraisal of course. Additionally, appraisal to teaching could be hard, for the standard of teaching in western countries is variable and various.


  2. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment Noah.
    You raise some interesting points about how people often do not appreciate supervision and appraisal, and about the varying quality of teaching in different countries. Thanks, Laura


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