Leading the Performance Review process: professional development or performativity

Floyd, Alan and Fung, Dilly (2016). Leading the Performance Review process: professional development or performativity. In: New Zealand Educational Administration and Leadership Society Conference, 20-22 Apr 2016, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Over recent years, as devolved funding has enabled educational establishments to become more autonomous and yet simultaneously forced them to be more accountable, the professional development review (PDR) process has risen in importance. Delivered correctly, it can have positive effects on student learning, recruitment and retention, and staff motivation. However, with the rise of New Public Management practices, the process may also be perceived as a controlling mechanism and part of a culture of “performativity”, which implies a lack of trust, an undermining of autonomy and a reliance on externally driven tasks and targets to “manage” staff. This paper explores these tensions by drawing on data from a Leadership Foundation funded study set in a UK University which included 30 interviews and a follow up survey (n=177) with both leaders and the led. While the data presented here are drawn from the higher education sector, it is hoped that the issues raised will be applicable to all sectors. The following questions will be discussed: what is the purpose of the PDR process? How can is best be delivered? And how do we ensure it is viewed as a positive aspect of professional development and not a controlling aspect of performativity?

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