School self-evaluation for school improvement

Christopher Chapman and Pamela Sammons

School self-evaluation can be a fundamental force in achieving school improvement and this review establishes key debates and what the implications are for self-evaluation as a means of leading school improvement.

The review also incorporates a framework for conducting self-evaluation and case study examples from systems and schools that have previously undergone the process.

School self-evaluation is a process by which members of staff in a school reflect on their practice and identify areas for action to stimulate improvement in the areas of pupil and professional learning. The process can be located on a number of continua that define the exact nature of the process and reflect the context in which it is occurring. These dimensions include: summative-formative; internally-externally driven; and whether self-evaluation is conducted as a top-down or bottom-up process. Furthermore, schools should reflect on their context and the appropriate position and blend elements to optimise the impact of school self-evaluation on pupil and professional learning.

In terms of school improvement, teachers and school leaders are the key change agents for improvement and self-evaluation is a necessary but insufficient ingredient to stimulate school improvement. Five phases are outlined for school improvement activity:

  • Phase 1 – specific intervention and the highlighting of the importance of culture in any change process
  • Phase 2 – focus on teacher action research and school self-review
  • Phase 3 – building on the emerging school effectiveness knowledge base
  • Phase 4 – scaling up reforms
  • Phase 5 – systemic reform.

School self-evaluation should be conducted within a coherent framework and underpinned by a set of structures that support systematic processes to collect a range of data from diverse sources and inform action to improve pupil and professional learning.

The evidence within this review suggests that if individual contexts can create supportive environments, school self-evaluation has an important role to play in supporting pupil and professional learning.