Summertime Reflections: Knowing What to Do Next

Vol. 11 No. 10



As spring has turned to summer, we hope that you are enjoying a more leisurely pace—one that permits both renewal and reflection. The relative calmness of summer often allows one to sit back and ponder developments that have occurred in the past year, and to look forward to what might be on the horizon come September. It is in this reflective frame of mind that we would like to share a few thoughts on ways to improve your HR practices once school is back in session in the fall—most particularly, through the use of very brief surveys.


ISM has written a great deal over the years regarding the value of faculty and student culture surveys. Today’s thought, however, has to do with a much more narrow topic: very targeted, function-specific surveys. Our thought here is simply this: If you want to know if a particular employee process is working well, what better way to find out than to ask (“survey”) the employees who are affected by the process. By designing a series of very brief, targeted surveys for each HR process, you can gain invaluable information about the success (or failure) of that process—which you can then use to fix (or discontinue) the process.

Examples include the following.

  • New Hire Survey
    Shortly after a new class of teachers begins work in the fall, survey them to make sure they have the information and tools that they need (from classroom keys and supplies to knowing what their benefits are and whether or not they’re set up for direct deposit of their pay). Assuming that “We covered it in orientation, so they know the process” is usually a dangerous assumption.
  • Pre- and Post-Induction Survey
    Before your new teachers enter into your year-long induction process, survey them on a few quick points—their knowledge of the school’s culture; their familiarity with how they’re expected to interact with parents, students, and colleagues; and their confidence level in planning their lessons in a way that aligns with the school’s expectations. Then, survey them again at the end of the year to see how much progress has been made—so that you can asses how much additional support is needed to close gaps in their understanding in the coming year.
  • Pre- and Post-Performance Evaluation Survey
    Many performance evaluation processes are not well-communicated to teachers—or, if they are well-known to teachers, they are not viewed to be meaningful or helpful in supporting them become better teachers. One way to start to remedy this is to survey them briefly before this year’s round of evaluations occurs. Find out of they aware of the process the school uses; do they know what they will be evaluated on; do they see this linking to their professional development in any way; are they nervous or eager for the evaluation? Then, after the process concludes, survey them again. In doing so, the efficacy of the process—and where improvements or outright overhaul is necessary—should be very clear.

Each of the surveys should be five questions or fewer, and your teachers should be able to complete them in five minutes or less. These aren’t comprehensive, soul-searching exercises. Rather, they are “quick hits” that go a long way toward targeting your process improvement efforts—which will ultimately improve your support of teachers and enhance their ability to deliver your mission to the students with excellence. (Note: Each of the brief surveys and related processes described above is discussed in more detail in ISM’s new book Comprehensive Faculty Development.)

Additional ISM articles of interest
ISM Monthly Update for School Heads Vol. 11 No. 1 Surveys: What You Really Know Makes You Stronger
ISM Monthly Update for Human Resources Vol. 11 No. 1 Do You Have a Trusting Culture?

Additional ISM articles of interest for Consortium Gold members
I&P Vol. 30 No. 15 Survey Faculty to Enhance Your Mission-Based Advisory Program
I&P Vol. 38 No. 7 Distributed Leadership in the 21st Century School
I&P Vol. 37 No. 2 A 21st Century Teacher Evaluation Model

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