How to make a professional goal for teaching

Educators can improve their practice by setting professional teaching goals. Here are four steps to help you reflect, and set and achieve goals.

As an educator, you know you can improve your practice by reflecting on your teaching and setting a professional goal. But it’s not always easy to do.

You can set teaching goals at any time of the year. Start by reflecting on the last month, quarter, or year. What worked well for you and your students who learn and think differently? What were some challenges? Then think about how you’d like to grow as an educator. What do you want to learn more about? What would you like to change?

With those reflections in mind, follow these four steps for setting a teaching goal.

1. Pick a focus area.

There’s only so much you can work on at once. Consider your situation and be realistic about what you can take on. Then pick one area you’d like to focus on first. Here are some ideas to get you started: 

Social-emotional learning (SEL)

Many students and teachers experience high levels of stress. When you incorporate SEL into your teaching, both you and your students can find ways to cope with feelings and navigate challenges.

To learn more about SEL in the classroom, check out these articles: 

Collaborating with colleagues

Your colleagues are important partners. You share ideas. You talk about the best accommodations for your students. And you build community together.

Think about how you can strengthen that collaboration. Take a look at these resources: 

2. Set a professional teaching goal.

Once you’ve picked your focus area, set a manageable teaching goal. Try using a SMART goal. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound.

For example, if you’re focusing on SEL, a SMART teaching goal may be to include at least one community-building activity each week for one quarter.

To help you keep on track, tell your colleagues about your goals. They may have tips, words of encouragement, or questions to help you think further about your goal. You might also inspire them to set their own teaching goals. 

3. Get feedback from your students. 

Model a growth mindset by sharing your goal with your students. Depending on their age, your goal, and the time of year, try including your students in the process. Gather their feedback about your focus area through class conversations, one-on-one chats, videos, or surveys.

For example, you can meet with small groups of students to talk about ideas for building class community. Let them know you value their input. Or if it’s the end of a school year, give your students a survey to ask for feedback on your goal area.

4. Implement and reflect.

Give yourself at least a month to implement your goal. Set aside time afterward to reflect on your progress.

Use a notebook to jot down observations or add your ideas to a running online document. Try recording audio notes or short video reflections if those options work better for you. Ask yourself how your work has impacted your students. What challenges have you worked through? What successes have you found? Is it time to move on to a new teaching goal?

At first, it might feel like you don’t have the extra time for this reflection. But once you start doing it — and see the benefits — goal-setting can become a natural part of your teaching practice.

Read how one teacher set a goal to help his students give peer feedback. And get more teaching tips in our Educator Hub.


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