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Leadership Appraisals, Critical Friend, Professional Learning Groups

Leadership professional learning

Principal/Leadership Appraisals

Within IPL, principal and leadership appraisal is based on an inquiry minded approach.

Alan Reid defines inquiry as: “.. a process of systematic, rigorous and critical reflection about professional practice, and the contexts in which it occurs, in ways that question taken-for-granted assumptions. Its purpose is to inform decision making for action. Inquiry can be undertaken individually, but it is most powerful when it is collaborative.” (Reid, 2004)

This model of principal appraisal is based on the notion of inquiry and reflection into the deliberate acts of leadership that are required by principals and leaders to effect significant change in student progress, success and achievement. This is negotiated as an “appraisal as learning” process.

This model also allows for providing evidence towards elements of the Careers Structure as set out in both the Primary and Secondary Principals’ Collective Employment Agreements, which the Board of Trustees is responsible for affirming that the criteria have been met.

If the principal/leader is also involved in a Leadership PLG the content of the PLG sessions is confidential to the participants and facilitator and as such will not be reported in the appraisal.

However the PLG’s inquiry and reflections could provide another opportunity for evidence of leadership skills reported within the appraisal.

Purpose of Appraisal

The purpose of principal (leader) appraisal is to assist in determining whether or not the performance criteria of the Principal’s (or leader’s) position description have been achieved.

The performance criteria are those agreed by the Principal and the Board of Trustees.

The appraisal process considers the Principal’s (leader’s):

  • learning and performance goals (Sinnema and Robinson, 2012)
  • the tasks and expected outcomes of the job description.

The following criteria are used generally to determine that the satisfactory level is met:

  • the performance and development goals that are established by the Principal and the Board of Trustees (leader/principal) and,
  • the Registered Teacher Criteria, and
  • the Professional Standards as set out for primary or secondary school Principals

Other criteria may include:

  • culturally responsive criteria for teachers of Māori students such as the Leaders behavioural indicators in Tātaiako.


The scope of the appraisal dictates the eventual cost. A typical appraisal based on $120 per hour plus GST for 20 hours, and up to 30 hours (if not part of a PLG). Would include:

  • An initial visit and concluding visit with Principal and Board Chair (leader/Principal)
  • Up to the equivalent of 2 school days (3 days if not in PLG) used to interview staff, visit classrooms and to meet with the appraisee to discuss progress towards goals
  • Online formative discussions and dialogue, sharing of e.g. school reports, using the likes of skype and e-mail
  • Analysis of data: document analysis, surveys and interview analysis
  • Writing the report Appraiser travel and accommodation, if required, is additional.

Note: Appraisals are also available with Senior and Middle Leadership Team and individual members.

Download our Leadership Professional Learning: Appraisal brochure

Critical Friend

Where PLGs may not be viable, another option is that of an IPL leadership facilitator as a “critical friend”. A purpose in seeking a critical friend would be to be challenged and supported in your development as a future focused Principal.

This could meet learning goals in your performance agreement, and be a part of informing and interrogating your leadership inquiry. This is available face to face, online or a mix of both.The number of hours involved would be negotiated.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss any queries which you might have after reading this brochure. We are aware that there is sometimes a need for flexible solutions to suit individual needs and are happy to discuss these with both individuals and groups/clusters.

Download our Leadership Professional Learning: Professional Learning Groups and Critical Friends brochure

Professional Learning Groups

Within IPL we offer Leadership Professional Learning Groups (PLGs). In the PLGs school leaders will self-select a group of 4-6 colleagues from across, or within their own school with whom they dialogue about their puzzles of practice. Face-to-face sessions are held at least once a term and continue online in between these sessions.

The PLGs are about partnerships and communities of lead learners across and within schools. They are also about partnerships with the IPL and Faculty of Education within the University of Waikato. We have groups of Principals and Leadership teams across schools and several in-school leadership teams are involved in this exciting initiative.

An experienced facilitator from IPL (or leaders within the teaching profession as of 2015) supports the process and provides material to continue to stimulate discussions and encourage critiquing of each participant's practice.

The trust that is evident through the self-selection membership process enables participants to share openly and the wisdom of the group is welcomed in the interest of supporting best practice across the community of schools. The PLG's are 'self driven' and 'self determined' by the participants.

An exciting dimension of the PLGs is an initiative the Faculty of Education within the University of Waikato is recognising as a "record of lively learning". A PLG participant could submit:

  • A record of professional practice accumulated through e.g. reflections and puzzlings of practice participating in the PLG process
  • Records of with what they are engaged in as the leaders in their school which demonstrates they are meeting the expectations of Level 8 learning (NZQA framework)

This professional leadership record would be submitted to be considered for Recognition of Professional Learning for a Masters paper in Educational Leadership.

Download our Leadership Professional Learning: Professional Learning Groups and Critical Friends brochure

For further information about Leadership Professional Learning Groups please contact us at consultancy@waikato.ac.nz.