360-degree feedback, performance and personal development

360-degree feedback and teams

360-degree feedback, a concept that is broader than a 360-degree appraisal, provides a comprehensive indication of how successful an individual is in the totality of her or his relationships at work. It focuses on the skills and competencies that those working within organizations believe will improve organizational performance, rather than those that have been cascaded down, through, and across the organization.

Some skills, such as leadership, are almost certainly best judged by subordinates and peers rather than by managers. These co-workers understand the quality of the performance in depth better than the manager does. They know the people who really make a positive contribution and perform, and they understand the living reality of the attitudes and beliefs and underpinning values of those to whom they are feeding back information

360-degree feedback, performance

360-degree feedback comes from the systematic collection and feedback of performance data on an individual, or possibly a group, derived from a number of stakeholders on their performance. This combined judgment gives a more accurate, objective and well-rounded view of the performance. It measures in detail behaviors and competencies and can be used for self-development and individual counseling, as well as for organized training and development. Arguably teachers, just as much as headteachers, need to be given the opportunity to learn from this process. Comments are difficult to ignore when they are expressed by a number of colleagues. The quality of evidence is such that it can be used for team-building for the team as a group of individuals or as a genuinely whole team.

Performance measurement

360-degree feedback has developed strongly recently because of changes in the expectations of employees in business, the increasing emphasis on performance measurement, changing management approaches and more receptive attitudes from staff. Performance measurement in schools may be perceived to be narrowly focused on pupil performance in tests and examinations but it is possible to develop more extensive measures. 360-degree feedback originally concentrated on individuals at more senior levels but it is being extended down organizations as its power for genuinely evaluating individual performance and supporting development becomes recognized and accepted.

Feedback as a privilege

The quality and quantity of data are significant. The LPSH uses only five respondents for cost reasons and because this is the minimum number for reliability and which is sufficient to provide high-quality information. The wider development of 360-degree feedback is an exercise in open management and, though the data is confidential, those who have the courage to share the results appear to benefit more from the opportunities presented. The process ensures that individuals can know exactly how they are perceived.

The technical process of 360-degree feedback

The technical processes are always questionnaire-based and can be on paper, disc or even, if anonymity could be guaranteed, on a network. It would be possible for a network model to be developed at relatively little cost, which could then fairly quickly provide a database against which teachers could evaluate their feedback. Questionnaire design for 360-degree feedback is a new and sophisticated process but it would be possible to design instruments which could be widely used in teaching, particularly if the initial focus was on classroom teaching. It will be important to agree what high-quality teaching is and not necessarily to accept those models most easily accessible.

Pay and trust

Future applications of 360-degree feedback in the wider world are likely to focus on remuneration, strategic organizational analysis and as an aid to creating open cultures. Teachers at present may see these as contradictory. Since there is performance-related pay, it would seem important to ensure that the best possible information about performance is used to make judgments. There is some uncertainty about the validity of threshold and post-threshold processes. The use of 360-degree appraisal for pay would come at a much later stage of implementation when staff have become used to using the information for development, and certainly not within three years.

Finally Comment

The process of transferring the response data into effective reports and the presentation of the results to facilitate change will need to be carefully planned because of professional sensitivities. This provides a very strong reason for beginning the process of addressing the issues now. You will need to make your own decisions. What will be crucial will be maintaining momentum and confidentiality. This new approach to personal and professional development and performance, using 360-degree feedback, will be made acceptable in many schools.

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