Performance Related Pay?

October 18, 2013

I hear Tristram Hunt backed Gove on performance related-pay last night. Just in case anybody’s forgotten why it won’t work, here’s an old video from Gove’s (and my) favourite cognitive psychologist.

Scenes From The Battleground

I think the following, the latest video from the great Dan Willingham, gives a pretty good summary of what’s wrong with trying to pay teachers by results:

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  1. Funnily enough, I’m against performance related pay, but I don’t think these arguments make much sense.
    There’s a few different things in there:
    1) None of the available measures are perfect. Clearly that’s true, but not being perfect doesn’t necessarily stop something working. If PRP or sales commissions work for sales people, they can work for sales teachers. The issues in sales are just as complex: some salespeople have better clients in their territories; some sales are better than others because they lead to ongoing purchases; some sales are worse than others because they are “channel stuffing”. Sales bonuses or commissions ignore these complexities, and companies have to find other ways to handle them. Doesn’t mean PRP cannot work.
    2) Other colleagues might affect how well a teacher performs. Boohoo, live with it. That’s what everyone else does.
    3) Some things which may be valuable are not measured by whatever measure you use. Yeah, sure. So PRP should not be the only management tool – but it was never going to be. Teacher training and observations and all the other stuff will continue.

    All of these arguments are saying that PRP cannot produce a *perfect* reflection of a teacher’s competence, therefore should not be used. But that’s a silly way to argue, because obviously PRP isn’t perfect. Nothing is.

    The question is: is there a significant problem in the teaching profession which could be solved by introducing PRP, without creating too many other problems at the same time?

    And this is why I think PRP is a bit laughable. What problem is it trying to solve? Is there a lack of commitment among our teachers? When you see what they live with and how hard they work, does anyone really believe that giving an extra five grand to the “best” few is going to inspire everyone to give another 20% of effort?

    And I would imagine that the problems it could create are significant problems. One of my best school experiences was seeing a well-coordinated group of people with shared goals cooperating equitably to achieve them. I don’t know that PRP would destroy that, but it certainly introduces an element of competition. Plus all the extra administration that will be required. Plus the psychological effect: do I teach the kids better because I’m committed to it, or to get more money? It’s widely recorded that adding financial inducements *can* reduce performance.

  2. I hope we never reach the point when pupil progress (or lack of it) affects our pay so measurably that we’ll no longer be thinking about how to teach well enough so that the pupils make progress, we’ll be thinking just how much each one is worth in monetary terms. Pupils sitting there with imaginary price tags attached to them – if you like.

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