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South African Journal of Education

On-line version ISSN 2076-3433
Print version ISSN 0256-0100

S. Afr. j. educ. vol.34 n.1 Pretoria Jan. 2014


Performance management: the neglected imperative of accountability systems in education



M J Mosoge; M W Pilane

School of Education, North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus), South Africa




The first aim of this paper is to clarify the concept "performance management" as an aspect of the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS). The second is to report on an exploration into the experiences and perceptions of management teams in the implementation of performance management. As part of the qualitative research design, the individual interview was selectedfor use in this research. Fifteen participants drawn randomlyfrom 24 schools were interviewed. The findings revealed the weakness of integrating development with appraisal since it leads to the neglect of development in favour of appraisal which is linked to incentives. A lack of knowledge and expertise on the IQMS processes such as mentoring, coaching, and monitoring was found to hamper the zeal to implement performance management. Teachers, as co-developers of education policy on the ground, act as a driving force behind the actualisation of transformation in education. The development of teachers is therefore crucial in an education system that is in the grips of transformation.

Keywords: academic achievement; assessment; development; evaluation; management; performance management; school management teams; training; performance




In the past 30 years, interest in improving the quality of education has increased nationally and internationally (Kganyago, 2004) with many countries introducing accountability systems that concentrate on making teachers more accountable to the public for the teaching and learning that take place in schools. The underlying rationale for introducing accountability systems is that teachers deliver a public service and cannot be trusted to perform this important service efficiently without being controlled. Education, as a public service, attracts government intervention on many scores. Ndawi and Peasuh (2005) and Carlson (2009) see investment of the state in education as the main reason for holding schools accountable. Accountability systems ensure that governments remain responsive to the needs, interests and desires of the people. They also assure that the expectations of stakeholders about children's progress in school are met.

In South Africa, the IQMS (Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC), 2003) was introduced as a measure to hold schools accountable. The introduction of this system was not without challenges, the major of which was the integration of disparate appraisal activities, formative and summative evaluation, into one instrument. According to South African Democratic teachers Union (SADTU, 2011), the linking of the IQMS with pay progression, distorted its developmental purpose and value. In this way, performance management did not receive due attention in the implementation of the IQMS. Moreover, implementation of the IQMS was met with resistance from teachers who considered this accountability system to be a "tough-on-schools" policy aimed at apportioning blame on teachers for the ills of education (Smith & Ngoma-Maema, 2003). The introduction of the IQMS consequently took the form of a power-play between unions and the government. However, because of the public outcry over the poor academic results of Grade 12s (Mogonediwa, 2008), the South African government had no option but to go ahead with the implementation of the IQMS.

Literature study

Accountability systems are a feature of the educational landscape in many countries, including the United States of America (USA), England, Australia and Wales. Through an accountability system, governments are able to determine whether teachers are performing according to the required standards. The assumption is that holding schools and the teachers who work in them accountable will cause them to achieve higher levels of performance thereby ensuring quality education (Naidu, Joubert, Mestry, Mosoge & Ngcobo, 2008). In most accountability systems, the measurement of performance is coupled with rewards and sanctions (Elmore & Fuhrman, 2001). In the USA, England, Australia, and Wales, accountability systems are linked to academic performance of learners based on national student testing (Linn, 2003; Ladd, 2001; Fitz, 2003). For schools to meet the public and the governmental demands with regard to the academic performance of learners as well as to avoid sanctions, teachers' performance should be continually improved through the action of performance management. Performance management is an aspect of accountability systems whereby teachers within the school are assisted by their supervisors to attain the standards expected of them.

In South Africa negotiations between the government and teacher unions preceded the introduction of the IQMS as an accountability system. Well aware of the problems of the inspectorate system that had been employed in South Africa previously, the parties to negotiations introduced the formative, developmental aspect in the IQMS in addition to the summative, accountability evaluation aspect. The IQMS consists of three related systems, namely, a Developmental Appraisal System (DAS), Whole School Evaluation (WSE), and a Performance Measurement System (PMS). The first constitutes a system whereby a teacher is developed by his/her supervisor to improve his/her performance. According to Mestry, Hendricks and Bisschoff (2009), DAS is a process for determining how a teacher performs in his/her job and then to establish an appropriate improvement plan. This implies that performance management should be carried out before a teacher is appraised and acknowledged the principle that a person cannot be held accountable without clear goals and precise measurement (Ndawi & Peasuh, 2005). The principle implies that a teacher can only be evaluated once attempts have been made to make him/her more proficient and effective in his/ her job (De Clercq, 2008).

Carlson (2009) suggests there is a difference between evaluation for accountability and evaluation for development. On the one hand, evaluation for accountability has a negative effect in that it is a public process in which schools and individuals are more likely to hide rather confront their shortcomings for fear of app earing bad in the public eye. On the other hand, evaluation for development is an internal process where shortcomings are addressed. The linking of development and performance measurement is, therefore problematic. According to Maphutha (2006), professional development is neglected when formative and summative evaluations are applied together because teachers will focus on summative evaluation only if it is linked to salary progression. Indeed, extant research in South Africa (Maphutha, 2006; Nkambule, 2010) shows that performance management, aimed at developing teachers, is neglected in favour of summative evaluation. Teachers are tempted to focus on satisfying the demands of summative evaluation in order to gain salary progression, grade progression and affirmation of appointments (ELRC, 2003).

SADTU (2011:96) argues that the linking of appraisal for development purposes and appraisal for remuneration purposes has put the teachers in the position of both players and referees and it insists that those in charge of development cannot be the same people who are in charge of appraisal for remuneration. Hence Draft 4.7.of the Teacher Performance Appraisal (Department of Education, 2011) proposes a delinking of appraisal for purposes of salary progression and teacher development.

As indicated above, the development of the teacher before being appraised is an inherent feature of the IQMS. Performance management is defined by Liebenberg and Van der Merwe (2004:262-263) as "a process during which the team leader plans, organises, leads and controls the performance of team members". Performance management is an on-going cycle (not an event) that involves the continuous action of planning, monitoring and review on the part of both the teacher and the team leader (Haynes, Wragg, Wragg & Chamberlin, 2003). The team leader, usually a Head of Department, meets on a one-on-one basis with the teacher to discuss teaching goals and to chart a path of how to achieve these goals.

There is paucity of research on performance management nationally and internationally with the overwhelming majority of research dealing with teacher appraisal. Research in South Africa focuses mostly on the weaknesses of the IQMS as an accountability system (for example, Weber, 2005; De Clercq, 2008) while others investigate aspects of the appraisal system or assessment of teachers (Bisschoff & Mathye, 2009). Some research deals with professional development as an aspect of the IQMS but focuses mostly on the importance of continuous professional development (Mestry et al., 2009). The international trend follows the focus on appraisal. David and Macayan (2010), for example, explored the meaning and process of assessing teacher performance. A deviation from this trend is found in the research by Ohemeng (2009), which deals with constraints in the implementation of performance management in Ghana. The current research presents a different view from the above studies in that it deals with performance management per se within the IQMS. It focuses on management within an evolving system of education in South Africa where the search for quality education is an on-going concern of the government and the public. Performance management is at the centre of the controversies presently raging in educational circles in South Africa. The concept performance management will be discussed fully in the next section.

Statement of the problem

From the above discussion it seems there is no agreement in the literature about what exactly performance management entails. This disagreement is played out among those responsible for implementing performance management. In a school it means that the implementers lack a clear understanding of performance management and how this should be implemented. Because the effective implementation of performance management is hampered, the major aim of the education system is not achieved. According to Carlson (2009), there is tension between the measurement of performance and a commitment to developing human capacity and skills. Thus the integration of formative and summative evaluation in the IQMS instrument leads to the neglect of the formative aspect. Implementers therefore focus on the summative aspect because it is linked to pay progression.

The major problem examined in this research centres on the neglect of the formative, developmental aspect in the implementation of IQMS in South African schools. The first aim of this paper is to clarify the concept "performance management" (Lebas, 1995:23) as an aspect of the IQMS because of the confusion that exists in the literature concerning this concept. The second aim is to explore the experiences and perceptions of school management teams in the implementation of performance management.

To achieve this aim, the remainder of the paper is structured as follows: The conceptual-theoretical framework on which the clarification of the concept of performance management was based, is presented in the next section. This will be followed by an explication of the research method, followed by a presentation of results. A discussion of the findings and a conclusion rounds off the paper.

Conceptual-theoretical framework

The conceptual framework of this study encompasses an explanation of what performance management entails against the backdrop of structural-functionalist and conflict theories. It will be argued that performance management as such is not considered comprehensively in the available literature, as the emphasis is on the IQMS itself. It will also be argued that conflict theory explains performance management more succinctly than the structural-functionalist perspective despite the fact that the latter has important effects in a particular context.

What performance management entails

One of the reasons for failure to implement performance management in the South African education system is the disagreement about the definition of the concept itself. Leggat (2009), Liebenberg and Van der Merwe (2004), and Ohemeng (2009) argue that many scholars use performance management interchangeably with its associated concepts such as performance evaluation, performance monitoring and performance measurement. An argument will be mounted in this article that performance management does not equal the IQMS, and it is neither performance measurement nor an appraisal system. It is unfortunate that commentators see the IQMS as performance management since this leads to neglect in the actual implementation of performance management. For instance, Bisschoff and Mathye (2009:393) speak of "a post performance management era" and suggest that "South Africa needs to move beyond a teacher performance system as we know it" all the time referring to the IQMS. The same applies to Ntombela, Mpehle and Penciliah (2010), who speak of the IQMS as a performance management system.

Ohemeng (2009) is of the opinion that performance management stems from the idea of managerial control and accountability mechanisms, which expresses the end/ means syndrome often projected under managerialism. Indeed, on being appointed, teachers enter into a contract of service in which they agree to perform certain duties related to teaching and learning, while the employer (Department of Education) offers certain benefits such as remuneration (Roussouw & Oosthuizen, 2004). At school level the employer is represented by the principal and the school management team who are charged with the professional management of the school. The role of the school management team is to implement performance management with the purpose of improving a school's instructional programme and to satisfy educators' developmental needs (Singh, 2005). Obviously, the Department of Education, as the employer, expects the principal and the school management team to control teaching and learning and to account for the success or failure of the school.

Performance management differs from managerialism because it is people-oriented and aims at developing teachers to make them more effective and efficient so that they match or exceed the standards set for them. Performance management within the IQMS is performed by the Development Support Group (DSG) in that their task involves the mentoring and coaching of teachers. The managerialistic approach of the accountability system is somewhat ameliorated by the fact that the DSG is not a hierarchically determined structure and it is not part of the school management team. It only includes the immediate supervisor of the appraisee, in most cases a Head of Department. Otherwise, the principal and other members of the school management team do not serve on this committee. According to the Personnel Administration Measures (PAM, 1999), Heads of Departments (HoDs) in a school are responsible for the effective functioning of the department and for ensuring that the subjects, learning area or phase and the education of the learners are promoted in a proper manner.

Performance management cannot be seen to mean the same thing as performance evaluation and performance measurement. In the IQMS, performance measurement forms part of performance evaluation and represents the final or summative evaluation of teachers conducted by external agencies once a year. According to Heystek, Niemann, Van Rooyen, Mosoge and Bipath (2008) performance evaluation is a formal, structured process linked to giving recognition or incentives for outstanding performance and it serves as a basis for promotion and salary progression. In contrast, performance management is carried out continuously in the school to develop teachers and it is not linked to remuneration or incentives. It represents a way of capacitating employees in the workplace through accompaniment by a mentor. In fact, performance management may be likened to professional and cultural accountability. Professional accountability means that professional standards are set and adhered to by the professionals themselves rather than being enforced by external agencies. Performance management is professional accountability in that it is carried out by the DSG, which comprises professionals who evaluate other professionals. Cultural accountability refers to the internal development of a unique school ethic and culture of doing things to which members adhere and which is sanctioned by the community of the school (Naidu et al., 2008). In monitoring and supporting teachers, for example, the DSG has no positional power to enforce rules but depends on the ethos and culture of the school to sanction non-complying members.

Kloot and Martin (2000) note that the literature on performance measurement is more extensive than that on performance management because of the confusion surrounding these concepts. Liebenberg (2004:292) defines performance measurement as "the collection of numerical values according to specific rules and procedures", which are applied to the evaluation of behavioural characteristics and work outputs of a teacher to determine the extent of deviation (if any) from required performance standards. This is reflected in the IQMS by assigning scores to the performance of teachers according to standards set for the particular post level. Lebas (1995:34) concludes that "the processes involved in performance management and in performance measurement are not the same but they feed and comfort one another".

It appears at this point that the question of what performance management entails can now be answered. Based on the above discussion, the following characteristics of performance management may be deduced:

  • Performance management is an action taken internally by designated school members to create and support conditions under which high quality teaching and learning can take place.
  • Implementation of performance management involves the execution of the management tasks of planning, organising, guiding and controlling with respect to the performance of teaching and learning activities.