Flemish primary teachers use of school performance feedback and the impact of school characteristicsFlemish primary teachers use of school performance feedback and the impact of school characteristics
Faculty of Social Sciences. Instructional and Educational Sciences
Educational research. - London
54(2012):4, p. 431-449
University of Antwerp
Background: Schools are increasingly confronted with the challenges that information about school performance brings with it. It is common for schools' use of performance feedback to be limited. Equally, however, there are documented cases in which school performance feedback is meaningfully used. Purpose: This study looks at how Flemish primary school teachers use school performance feedback and to what extent this use (or lack of use) is determined by school characteristics. Based on evidence from existing research, we focus on four school-related explanatory variables: attitude with regard to school performance feedback, the organisational functioning of the school, performance-orientation and actual pupil performances. The research questions addressed are: (1) 'To what extent do teachers use school performance feedback?' and (2) 'To what extent can the use of school performance feedback by teachers be explained by school characteristics?' Sample: The use of school performance feedback was studied in the context of a Flemish school feedback initiative; 183 primary schools were given school performance feedback at school and pupil level for mathematics, technical reading and spelling, supplemented by data with regard to pupil characteristics. A survey was conducted in this representative sample of Flemish primary schools. In each school, all teachers were asked to complete a survey on their use of the school performance feedback and on their perception of the mentioned school characteristics. The questionnaire was filled out by 2578 respondents from 183 schools. Respondents were regular teachers or teachers that were occupied as pupil welfare co-ordinators. Design and methods: The survey results were analysed statistically. In addition to descriptive analyses, multi-level analyses were carried out to explain variation in the process and the results of school performance feedback use. The school characteristics described in the theoretical framework were included as explaining factors in both models, supplemented by the background variables on the teachers surveyed. Results: Only a limited number of respondents stated that the available school performance feedback had made an actual contribution towards promoting critical reflection with regard to school functioning and/or their own classroom practice. The analyses confirm that the way in which school performance feedback use is approached by teachers is not independent of characteristics of the school. There is a relationship between the process and result of school feedback use and the role of the school principal as culture builder and with the professional relationships between team members. Conclusion: By and large, respondents reported no or only limited results of school performance feedback use. There are, however, appreciable differences between team members within schools. We conclude that the way in which school performance feedback use is implemented by teachers cannot be seen in isolation from the characteristics of the school. Given the research findings, principals with a strong focus on culture building and strong professional relationships between team members offer a slightly better chance of getting teachers to use school performance feedback in a worthwhile and productive way.