Section 4: Evaluating your professional skills and impact  print

Mon 6. Jun 16 08:27

Evaluating your professional skills and impact on the workplace

Working through this unit should enable you to complete the final section of your portfolio as part of the assessment requirements for this module.

The first part of this asks you to summarise your reflections on your professional skills in leading and managing as a school business manager. The focus is on these three areas:

negotiation skills and managing conflict
communicating effectively using presentation skills
evaluating systems for professional development

The second part of your work for this unit is to produce a summary of your professional learning through the module as a whole.

Further guidance on the completion of the assessment requirements for this unit is to be found in the module study guide

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:

demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key skills related to the role of the school business manager
apply those key skills to your own professional practice
demonstrate the skills required to evaluate school systems and your own professional practice to identify areas for development
report on the findings from the evaluation of school systems and professional practice in an appropriate manner

Section One: Fostering good working relationships

School business managers have to deal with an increasing number of stakeholders and agencies in order to lead and manage a wide range of school and community projects.

They therefore require highly developed skills of negotiation, consultation, delegation and conciliation so that they can foster good working relationships and achieve the most effective education service possible on behalf of all learners.

Note: Two quotes here have been omitted for copyright reasons. They were from 'The Management Guide to Negotiating' (Keenan, 1996).

You may wish to look at this or other works for some basic rules to remember when entering into a negotiation situation.



Sometimes negotiations take place in order to resolve conflict. You may find it useful to read Milligan's article on conflict resolution to appreciate the underlying principles to different approaches.

He contrasts traditional 'win-lose' models of negotiation with a more collaborative model of 'win-win'. He calls this 'mutual gains negotiation'.


4.1: Evaluating your negotiation skills

To help you consider what type of negotiation skills you currently use, and your effectiveness in using them, complete the two parts of Diagnostic 5: Negotiation skills.

Record your reflections on your negotiation skills, your preferred negotiation strategies, and the scope for further development of these.

Reflect on a time when your negotiation skills have worked very effectively, and then a time when they did not.

What changes in behaviour, if any, might you have to introduce to help you to become more effective in using this skill?


Section Two: The importance of presentation skills

As mentioned previously, school business managers are expected to work with a wide range of stakeholders.

As schools become more complex organisations, good communication is essential not only to maintain efficient and effective processes but also to ensure there is cohesion in presenting the values and vision of the school. The school business manager plays an important role in ensuring this communication is of the highest quality.

Communication manifests itself in a variety of media and schools must be adept at selecting the most appropriate means of communication for the intended audience.

The school business manager needs to develop skills of research, presentation and persuasion in order to communicate clearly sometimes complex ideas in an appropriate manner to an increasingly diverse range of stakeholders and audiences.

In this topic, we now consider a more formal aspect of communication: presentations.

What constitutes a good presentation?

A good presentation usually has some, but seldom all, of the following characteristics:

information is clear and easily understood
the audience is led through a sequence of ideas
facts are presented visually in graphs or charts
the presenter has a sense of humour or uses other techniques to keep the audience interested
the level of information presented is geared towards the needs of the audience

Preparation is the first step to ensuring a good presentation. For this, you need to consider how you will:

select the content of your presentation
structure the presentation
choose your visual, auditory and computer aids
prepare the notes you will use during your presentation

When selecting the content for your presentation you should:

list the information you have about your presentation topic
be ruthless and identify just enough: background material that helps the audience understand what the topic is about
information about the main topic to get your ideas across
examples to support the points you are making

Once you have selected the content you should consider how the presentation itself will be structured. The following points outline the basic elements you should try to include:

outline of content
main content, section by section

It is worth bearing in mind how people absorb information. The majority of people prefer to see information as well as hear the information from the speaker so it is useful to think about what type of aids you may use in a presentation:

  • visual: pictures, graphs, slides, animations, overhead projector (OHP) transparencies, objects, handouts
  • auditory: pre-recorded music, speech, sound effects
  • computer display: usually an enlarged computer screen
When showing statistical data, it is easier for audiences to access the information if you:

transform numbers into graphs, charts or diagrams
eliminate all lists of numbers and complex tables
ensure pie charts and bar graphs are understood easily and can communicate complex information
display trends by use of simple graphs

Delivering presentations becomes easier with practice but even an experienced presenter needs to plan what they want to say, prepare appropriate materials and rehearse beforehand. With greater use of technology it is becoming more common to be asked to deliver presentations via webcam or online web conference, which is a combination of telephone conferencing and sharing what's on your computer screen with a group of people.

All the information above is still relevant for planning your presentation but you need to be mindful of the subtle differences between face to face delivery and delivery of a presentation via online web conference. You may find the following points useful to remember when planning for a presentation online:

Keep the content succinct - remember the adage 'less is more'.
Think visually – there is a much greater emphasis on use of visual images in this type of presentation so consider carefully the message or information you are intending to share. Keep this information focused and relevant.
Make use of bullet points rather than blocks of text.
Ensure graphs and charts are uncluttered and in appropriate colours.
Consider using images or photos occasionally instead of words.
Avoid animated slides.
Be aware of your virtual body language by avoiding monotonous vocal delivery.
Present to people – not to the computer.
Do not read notes – your audience will be able to tell when you are reading rather than speaking naturally.

The checklist below contains some areas to consider in the evaluation of presentation skills.



4.2: Evaluating your presentation skills

To help you evaluate your presentation skills, focus on a specific presentation that you have given in the recent past, probably to colleagues or stakeholders at school, although other settings could also be used. If you have not delivered any presentations recently, you may need to consider how to set one up specifically for this activity.

Draw upon the checklist above to evaluate your presentation skills. If possible, also seek feedback from others who have had the opportunity to see you deliver a presentation.

Record your reflections on your presentation skills and the scope for further development of these.

Section Three: Evaluating systems for professional development

This final skill area involves focusing on aspects of the work of the school and conducting an evaluation of the current systems in place. This is important to determine their current effectiveness and identify areas for improvement.

This systems focus is a key part of the management role of the SBM. In this case, the area to be examined is the school's systems for the professional development of staff. This evaluation will also enable you to identify the skills you need in order to support a school-wide professional development process.

Professional development in schools is derived from a combination of:

job descriptions
appraisal and performance reviews
staff development needs analysis
staff development training
evaluation and review

As a result, in practice, professional development may not always be equally available for all staff. Obviously a systems approach would address this, but schools vary in the degree to which they have embedded systems for the professional development of staff and the degree to which the specific needs of support staff have been considered. This activity focuses on evaluating existing systems in your school for the professional development of staff and identifies ways in which they might be improved.

Training needs analysis

Staff development must have a purpose and that purpose can be defined only if the training needs of the school, and the groups and individuals within it, have been identified and analysed.

Training needs analysis is partly concerned with defining the gap between what is happening and what should happen. This is what has to be filled by training and development. But it is necessary to avoid falling into the trap of adopting the deficiency model approach, which implies that training is only about putting right things that have gone wrong. Training is much more positive than that. It is, or should be, more concerned with identifying and satisfying development needs, such as multi-skilling, fitting people to take on extra responsibilities and increasing all-round competence.

Training needs should be analysed within three interconnected areas. First, for the school as a whole; second, for faculties, departments, functions or occupations within the school group needs; and third, for individual employees, ie individual needs.

The analysis of school needs will lead to the identification of training needs in different sections (for example, faculties, departments, functions or occupations), while these in turn will indicate the training required for individual employees. As the needs of individual employees are analysed separately, common needs emerge, which can be dealt with on a group basis.

Four methods of training needs analysis are described below.

Analysis of human resource plans: the staff development strategy of a school should largely be determined by its human resources plans, which in turn are derived from its overall school improvement plan.

Job analysis: job analysis for training purposes means examining in detail the content of jobs; the performance standards required in terms of quality and output; and, the knowledge and skills needed to perform the job competently and thus meet the performance standards.

Analysis of performance reviews: a performance management or appraisal system should be the prime source of information about individual training and development needs. The performance management system is based on agreed objectives, which are related to each of the key task areas in the employees' jobs. Performance reviews will also help in evaluating the success of staff development and training completed since the last review.

Training surveys: training surveys assemble all the information obtained from the other methods of analysis in order to provide a comprehensive basis for development of a training strategy and its implementation. A training survey pays particular attention to the extent to which existing training arrangements are meeting training needs.


4.3: Evaluating systems for professional development

Download and complete the 'Evaluating systems for professional development questionnaire' (see 'Resources' below).

Read the statements about the systems supporting staff development in your school. For each row, decide which statement is most appropriate to your school and tick the appropriate column

1 = statement on the left
3 = statement on the right
2 = the school's position is somewhere between both statements

Use the completed questionnaire to evaluate your school's professional development systems. Then also reflect on your own contribution to this.

Record your reflections, using the questions below to provide a structure for this:

What have I learnt about my school's systems in this area?
What have I learnt about the school's values in this area?
What have I learnt about my knowledge and skills in this area?
How can I contribute to the improvement of systems for professional development in the school?
How can I support and maintain an ethical approach to professional development in the school?

Reflecting on your professional skills

The first part of this unit has focused on your professional skills in leading and managing as a school business manager.

We have examined some of the key areas of competency that underpin much of the work of the school business manager: the ability to negotiate, manage conflict, make presentations and evaluate systems.

The assessment requirements for this unit ask you to reflect on your professional competency in these areas. In summarising your reflections, you will find it useful to focus on the following questions:

What have you learned about your skills in each area?
What have you learned about the school?
How can you extend your competency further?
In what ways could you contribute to the improvement of the school’s systems and processes?

Summarising your professional learning

As you approach the completion of this final unit of the module, you should evaluate what you have learned both personally and professionally through your work on the module as a whole.

In preparing your summary of learning through the module, you should:

summarise your learning about school business management
relate this to your own school setting
assess yourself in relation to the SBM role, focusing particularly on leadership and management skills
evaluate your progression against your Professional Development Plan
identify your priorities for further career development and professional learning

This summary of your professional learning through the module as a whole will be the final part of your portfolio to meet the assessment requirements for the module. More information on this is to be found in the Module study guide and 'DM 1 assessment tasks' document.

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