Performance Development Systems

Strong instructional leaders know that fostering teacher professional growth is one of the most important investments schools can make to ensure student success. Over the past five years, we have worked with some of the top international K-12 schools in Turkey to develop a Performance Development Process that supports teacher learning through structured reflection, professional growth planning, classroom observation, student and administrator feedback, and instructional coaching.

Through our work with each of these schools—all of which have their own unique culture, history, and context—we have developed a process that can be customized and used to guide implementation at other schools - whether there is an existing system or none at all. 

Unlike traditional teacher evaluation systems, which tend to be a source of anxiety for teachers and an administrative chore for principals, our Performance Development Process keeps learning at the center by adhering to the following best practices:

  • Teacher participation in system development and decision-making
  • Recognition and encouragement of collegial contributions to overall school success
  • Valid evidence of teacher effectiveness using multiple measures against a standards-based framework for effective teaching
  • Links to ongoing, high-quality professional learning opportunities that enable all teachers to meet the standards within the system

While schools may invest in developing or integrating comprehensive teacher evaluation systems for a variety of reasons, it is widely agreed that the focus of this system should not lose sight of one ultimate end—student learning.

Whereas there are many factors that contribute to student achievement, none is believed to be of greater importance than that of the teacher and what the teacher does inside the classroom and in the school community.


A clear and transparent chain between the performance assessment and continuing professional-development opportunities is essential for improving teaching practice.

The Logical Chain: Continuing Professional Development in Effective Schools
 Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED), UK

Therefore, to improve student achievement, the most important investment to be made in education is to improve the quality of teaching, which most often happens through pre-service training and continuous professional development. The challenge this raises for schools and school systems is, therefore, to make the right investments in the professional growth of their greatest asset—their teachers.

Identifying individual teachers’ strengths and weaknesses helps to determine which professional-development activities meet the teacher’s own needs as well as the school’s priorities. It is important for teachers to see appraisals as the basis for improvement and growth in their profession, regardless of their current level of performance.

Marlène Isoré
 Teacher Evaluation: Current Practices in OECD Countries

On a systems level, this means ensuring there is a link from school leadership behaviors through to student achievement. While each student’s level of achievement is ultimately determined by their own choices and actions, those are based on the actions of teachers. In order to change teaching behaviors, there must be adequate support from both within the school community and from school leadership. The following chart illustrates this model of school change, which we use as the foundation for teacher involvement in the PDP system development.

The value of using a standards-based approach, whether it be across departments or multiple schools, is that it allows for each group or school to implement their own localized system (including unique language to describe high-quality teaching behaviors, rubrics and examples specific to grade level, subject area, years of experience teaching, etc.) that are all aligned to the same standards and based on multiple measures of teaching practice and student learning, a critical success factor to system development.

The visual model for this framework is based on more than 30 years of research into evaluating teaching effectiveness by Linda Darling-Hammond and her team at Stanford University in the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE). The findings and recommendations in the SCOPE report are echoed by independent research from the RAND Corporation, OCED, and others. These recommendations are the foundation for policy decisions that have been implemented in countless schools and school systems around the world, from individual institutions to national education ministries and departments of education.

The Darling-Hammond framework can work with any teacher evaluation system that schools either create independently or adopt from an existing model, including those from Danielson, Marzano, and Stronge (three of the most widely used globally). What Darling-Hammond’s research and recommendations provide is a frame through which all of the pieces of an evaluation system can be developed to ensure balance in gathering and evaluating evidence of teaching effectiveness so that it is valid, fair and reliable.


We start by building on the strengths of an existing system as determined through interviews, focus groups, and analysis of current process documentation. After which, we work with the whole school to create a custom teaching framework that serves as the underlying standards for every facet of the Performance Development Process.

If your school already has an existing framework in place, such as those from Danielson or Marzano, this process helps to personalize the behavioral indicators of each, as well as create a shared understanding among teachers and administrators of what effective teaching looks like. Teacher input throughout the process shapes the policies, procedures, and implementation planning of the system.

Teachers who use the framework to reflect and honestly assess their own instructional and professional practices can benefit from personalized and differentiated professional development. In turn, school leaders can make better decisions and more targeted investments in teacher development based on genuine needs.

To support process development and implementation, we engage teachers in a series of workshop on the fundamentals of effective coaching, focusing on developing professional practices grounded in cognitive psychology. These sessions empower teachers to engage in peer observation and help to build trust and empathy with administrators through hands-on experience with the observation process.

Administrators engage in ongoing feedback and planning sessions throughout the implementation in order to address ongoing concerns and engage in professional development in the following areas (as need dictates):

  • Classroom observation
  • Conference management
  • Instructional coaching
  • Giving effective feedback
  • Communication and facilitation skills
  • Preparing for difficult conversations
  • Managing conflict and reaching agreement
  • Building high-performing teams
  • Instructional leadership skills

We started in 2011 with a mission to provide global resources to local teachers from our offices in Istanbul, Turkey.

As our work has expanded internationally and our operations grown, we continue leading and learning together as LEARNING ADVANCED.


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