What did you achieve last year, in terms of your own professional development as an educator? Can you think of anything specific? You probably achieved far more than you realise (we’ve been shouting about some of it here). However, the role of a teacher can focus so much on the growth of others that it’s hard to prioritise the same care and attention for yourself as you do for your students. But consider this: teacher development is essential, regular maintenance; without it, the support you provide year-round will not be as effective. And, if you want to accomplish meaningful progress, it makes sense to give yourself the same structure and support that you’d give your own students. A new year can give us fresh motivation and a rare opportunity to check in, which is why we recommend setting your own SMART goals this January!
What are SMART goals?
SMART goals are a tool to help you set achievable objectives and stay motivated in your professional development. There are five sections – S, M, A, R, T – that guide you in focusing on what you really want and how to attain it. Let’s say that you want to enhance your teaching skills and achieve a higher level of proficiency in educational technology next year. How can you make goals to achieve this?
Let’s look at each of these SMART goal components, with some examples:
Set clear targets and deadlines related to teacher development. This helps you stay motivated because you have specific criteria to meet. Making them straightforward and meaningful increases the likelihood of achieving them.
Examples of this for your professional development might be:
I find integrating technology into lessons challenging, so I aim to complete a technology-focused professional development module and implement at least one new tech tool in my classroom by the end of the semester.
I aim to improve student engagement, so I will experiment with incorporating interactive activities in my lessons and measure their impact on student participation.
I plan to lead a professional development session on effective classroom management strategies by the end of the academic year.
Create goals that you can measure. If you achieve them, you’ll be motivated to continue advancing. And you should be able to see how far you’ve come! Some examples are:
I aim to attend at least two educational conferences or workshops this year.
I plan to read three educational research articles a month to stay updated on current teaching methodologies.
I aim to participate in online forums or discussion groups related to teacher development for at least 30 minutes per week.
Set goals that are challenging yet attainable. If your goals are too ambitious, you might lose motivation. Create smaller goals that build toward a larger, overarching objective.
I will incorporate one new teaching strategy every month (instead of attempting to overhaul my entire teaching approach, which may not be feasible).
I will conduct peer observations and provide feedback to colleagues on one aspect of their teaching every quarter.
I will complete an online course on advanced assessment techniques within the next six months.
Ask yourself why you want to reach the goals you’re setting and why they are important to your professional growth at this moment. Ensure your goals align with your teaching philosophy and are realistic so that you remain motivated to achieve them.
Relevant goals for teacher development could be:
I want to become a mentor for new teachers, so I need to enhance my leadership and coaching skills.
I am interested in incorporating project-based learning into my classes, so I must develop expertise in designing and implementing such activities.
I aspire to take on a curriculum development role, so I need to strengthen my knowledge of educational trends and standards.
Set a time limit for your goals. This helps motivate you in the days, weeks, or months leading up to the deadline. Prolonged efforts without clear deadlines can lead to fatigue and demotivation.
Make small time-bound goals that contribute to your overall professional growth:
I aim to complete a professional development course on student-centred learning by March.
I plan to implement a new assessment strategy in my classes and gather feedback by September.
I aim to apply for a teacher leadership program by November.
Use the SMART goals template below to outline your own SMART goals for teacher development. Our advice is to write them down and revisit them after a few days. Then, assess if they still align with your professional aspirations and are achievable for you.
Share your SMART goals in the comments below.