The way schools/centres have done appraisal in the past has reduced psychological safety in workplaces

The upside of a traditional evaluative appraisal system is that you can say you have data on your teachers; that you have an accountability system in place. But that’s about it. There are multiple downsides:

  • Yields poor and ethically questionable data
  • Erodes and diminishes relational trust
  • Encourages teachers and leaders to ‘game’ appraisal


  • Rating others yields poor data
    One of the most compelling reasons why rating others in the workplace is flawed comes down to the ‘Idiosyncratic Rater Effect’, a term coined by researchers Michael Mount, Steven Scullen and Maynard Goff. 

    Their 2000 study – Performance App Scullen/Mount/Goff is arguably the most comprehensive research on what ratings of employees actually measure.

    Their study involved rating 4,492 managers. Each manager was rated on clearly identified performance dimensions by six people, (two bosses, two peers and two subordinates). They discovered: Wildly fluctuating and varying perceptions of how each manager was rated by each rater; 62% of the variance in rating each manager could be accounted for by each of the six individual rater’s peculiarities and perceptions (their world views); Actual performance of managers accounted for only 21% of the variance.

    They concluded, “Although it is implicitly assumed that the ratings measure the performance of the ratee, most of what is being measured by the ratings is the unique rating tendencies of the rater. Thus ratings reveal more about the rater than they do about the ratee.”

    “Using an entirely nested design we find that, on average, the idiosyncratic rater effects account for over half of the variance in performance ratings. Given that performance ratings are the most frequently used measure of performance, this presents a major challenge to the field of industrial-organizational psychology.”

    Marcus Buckingham provides a summary of the Idiosyncratic Rater Effect

  • Undermines relational trust
    Our work over 25 years in schools consistently shows how the idiosyncratic rater effect contributes to destructive conflict, defensiveness, unprofessional behaviours and interactions. Rather than contributing to a psychologically safe work place traditional evaluative appraisal systems have done the exact opposite.

    Traditional appraisal systems tend to be corrosive and over time, like rust, undermine high levels of relational trust required for teachers to talk openly and honestly about their teaching practice with a view to closing gaps between actual and desired performance.

    The vast majority of teachers who are very good practitioners put up their shields, defending themselves against the idiosyncratic rater effect brought to the process by the appraiser. The objective is survival, not improvement and learning.

  • Encourages teachers and leaders to ‘Game’ appraisal
    Appraisal / Performance Management Systems framed as evaluative consistently fail to engage teachers in professional revitalisation, regeneration and inquiry because they have not been designed with that in mind. Evaluation and learning are not the same thing.

    Rather than assisting teachers identify and develop a ‘learning edge’ traditional evaluative appraisal has tended to limit teachers by defining them by what they do and don’t know. As opposed to leveraging their aspirations as a creative, productive force, teachers have found themselves exposed to systems providing an evaluative, limited and fragmented sense of self.

    Appreciating the difference between evaluation and learning, teachers and appraisers ‘game’ the process. ‘Gaming’ decreases levels of psychological safety for both appraiser and appraisee. Teachers can tend to treat appraisal as a high stakes test by carefully manicuring lessons and by providing answers to questions they believe their appraiser wants to hear. The appraiser, fearing damage to their relationships with teachers, can choose often to focus on the positives rather than tricky to discuss developmental areas. Such behaviours do much to undermine the professional nature of teaching.


The evaluative nature of traditional evaluative appraisal has scarred many teachers over many years and contributed to reducing the psychological safety teachers require to talk openly and honestly about their teaching practice. A new way of appraisal is required.

We believe whatever aspirations you have for improving appraisal and creating a high impact professional learning tool, your success is contingent on convincing teachers it will be valuable and meaningful for them.

To do this, after exploring every other conceivable possibility… and failing… we have come to believe convincing thoughtful and intelligent people like teachers that appraisal is meaningful begins by exposing them to a new way of thinking; a new way of doing and a new way of feeling. For most nothing else will do. Teachers have to believe there is a clean break from the past and that fresh new thinking and ideas underpin and drive the process.

InterLEAD Connector™ ticks all these boxes. Whilst traditional appraisal systems seek answers to questions such as, ‘What is the simplest view of you?, ‘What do you and don’t you know?’ and, ‘What can and can’t you do?’, InterLEAD Connector™ takes a different angle, asking, ‘What is the richest view of you?’.