How to Set Meaningful Professional Growth Goals

In many districts, the annual evaluation process for teachers involves setting both student growth goals and professional growth goals. I’ve found that professional growth goals are often fuzzier, and the administrator’s role in ensuring that the goal is meaningful and challenging is even more important. What do you look for?

1. Strong personal commitment
A professional growth goal should be something at the top of the teacher’s list – in other words, it should matter to them personally. Otherwise, the evaluation process will be nothing more than a formality.

2. Connection to school and team goals
A professional growth goal should have relevance to the broader work of the school and the teacher’s teammates. While everyone has their particular interests, the work you are supervising should have specific relevance to your school’s current areas of focus, and should involve relevant colleagues.

3. Well-defined evidence
It should be easy to determine, at the end of the year, whether the goal was accomplished or not. For example, goals such as “I will get better at…” are incomplete, because they don’t give clear criteria that enable the evaluator and the evaluated to agree on whether the goal was met. (A student growth goal should be measurable, but professional growth goals shouldn’t necessarily include quantitative measures.)

4. Growth orientation
The goal should emphasize (as the title suggests) professional growth, not just the completion of an agreed-upon project such as rearranging desks for group work.

Soccer girlIt might seem that #1 and #2 are in tension, as are #3 and #4. A good professional growth goal, though, can meet all of these criteria and provide a meaningful challenge and direction for the teacher’s efforts for the year.

Here are a few examples:

Goal: Increase skill in using writing workshop instructional model, with particular attention to modeling the writing process using my own work. By the end of the year, I will model three lessons for my grade-level team, and will develop a portfolio of my own writing that I have revised in front of students.

Goal: Increase collaborative learning in math by creating project-based lessons to allow students to work in groups. By the end of the year, I will develop, teach, and evaluate 6 lessons, and share them with our school’s math council for feedback.

Goal: Increase positive communication with parents of struggling students. By the end of the year, I will make at least 5 positive contacts with my 10 lowest-performing students’ families, and will update the student support team on their progress.

How do you help your staff develop meaningful professional growth goals?

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About Justin Baeder

Justin Baeder helps school administrators increase their impact through the High-Performance Instructional Leadership Network. Learn More »

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