Staff centred appraisal, development, and professional learning

Ulink College Shanghai, China

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Ulink College of Shanghai (UCS) in China was founded in 2005 and is the flagship school of the Ulink Education Group which has eight schools in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, Suzhou and Wuhan. UCS offers A Level and IGCSE courses through Cambridge International Examinations and has IB World School status. It has an experienced international faculty and takes pride in its provision for staff professional development.

"The support service is really, outstanding. I’ll send an email, and even though we are eight hours ahead, before I know it there is a reply. The time difference is not an issue. If I have an urgent enquiry we have a phone call otherwise we set up a video chat or email."

Emmanuel N Barthalomew
Academic Principal

The Challenge

Emmanuel N Barthalomew, Academic Principal, had just redesigned their performance evaluation system and was looking for an online platform. They wanted a teacher-led, evidence based platform to make it easier for teachers to document their practice.

"We were dealing with the challenge of having a paper-based system. There was a lot of paperwork and we needed something to ease the workload on the teachers and those doing the evaluations."

"BlueSky makes the process more developmental rather than judgemental. It means that staff can track their progress and highlight areas they are struggling in, or show what they have done so far, backed up with evidence and reflective practice, and it struck me that this is exactly what we were looking for," says Emmanuel.

BlueSky's Role

"We record all our observations and learning walks, both formal and informal. The way it has been designed makes it so much easier. There is immediate feedback for staff which helps to support professional development."

"We use BlueSky for our appraisal process to set our goals - individual, departmental and school goals. Initially we had performance evaluation for teachers and then I introduced another form for Heads of Department which was easily adapted and incorporated into the system. We also introduced 360 Reviews," Emmanual continues, "and we use BlueSky to support our PD provision for our professional learning communities. It is integral to the life and running of the school."

The Impact

"It has created a sense of ownership, which helps with staff reflecting on their practice," says Emmanuel. "When I log in I can see my goals, what I have achieved, and to move forward, what I need to do next. I can see my observations, peer observations, and 360 reviews with meaningful and genuine feedback."

"BlueSky focusses on being developmental rather than judgemental. A developmental appraisal system is much more beneficial and tangible when it comes to incremental learning. It helps teachers grow and reflect on their practice," says Emmanuel.

"BlueSky is a management system to help and support staff to reflect on their practice, document their progress and cater for individual needs whilst at the same time providing managers with information to help with school and departmental evaluation," says Emmanuel.

"It has helped to standardise everything from teacher observation, lesson plans, feedback, appraisal etc. One of my major challenges was aligning standards, I didn't want departments having different standards. If you are saying to me that a teacher is underperforming then the criteria for that is the same across the school. We have our own six bespoke school standards which are contextually appropriate, blended and taken from the UK eight standards, various international standards as well as Cambridge International Examinations (CAIE) standards."