Assisting with Individual Professional Development Goals for Teachers

Michele Snoke
Michele Snoke
Elementary school principal; M.S.E. in Educational Leadership
Group of teachers sitting at a table in a library talking.

Professional development is vital to the growth of an educator. Methods in education change rapidly, and due to these new developments teachers have a desire to keep their yearly lessons fresh and interesting for their students.

Differences from Traditional Professional Development Planning

As educational leaders of schools, traditional professional development plans are necessary to achieve strategic plans for developing positive growth in a school’s culture and/or in an effort to build faculty morale. Large scale professional development programs can revolve around whole-school initiatives, such as diversity challenges in a school’s population or improvement in specific academic areas due to data results from students’ standardized tests. Most traditional professional development for a whole school is based on research and created for a large group audience. Whole school professional development leaves little to no opportunity for individual growth for an educator.

While individuals may not be able to reap the benefits from a whole-school professional development, the objective behind it is to satisfy a collective need that is lacking in the whole school. Examples of traditional professional development could include training teachers in a new district or school-wide curriculum, or focusing on strategic solutions in academic areas identified with low standardized test results across the district or individual school.

Strategies for Assisting Teachers in Professional Development Goals

Upon the start of a new school year, there are excitement, new ideas, and many desired goals held by a teacher. The first few weeks of preparation allow for the excitement and ideas to be felt and formed in the classroom. However, if a plan has not been set by the teacher, there are many times the professional goals are left unmet or unsatisfied.

Teachers are busy, and with the primary focus of each school day being instructing the students and possibly attempting to achieve a specific data point for standardized testing, the time to consider individualized professional goals may be ignored or put on the “back burner.” Teachers need to grow in the field as educators just as much as the students need to grow and achieve in a grade level. When teachers attend professional development to achieve a personal goal, the professional development is more meaningful and will develop a sense of accountability for a teacher.

The following strategies can assist a teacher with creating professional development goals.

Meet with School Principal or Assistant Principal

All school administrators are educational leaders first. Teachers are the students to the principals. It is the responsibility and desire of the principal to assist teachers with growth as an educator. Discuss with the principal individual strengths and weaknesses identified in the classroom. Discuss aspirations and/or desires that could make the classroom experience better for the students. Principals want to empower the faculty. When a teacher initiates the request for guidance with professional growth goals from a principal, the impact is more likely to be successful, as the teacher may feel accountable to the principal and want to work toward the goals discussed.

Formal Observations

Don’t play it safe when formally observed by an administrator or school leader. Seek constructive criticism that may lead to professional development goals. Allow for areas that need growth to be observed. These areas should be new instructional methods, techniques, or ideas that as an educator possibly need further growth. While meeting at the post observation review, seek direction to develop necessary growth for improvement in the areas observed.

Observe Peer Teachers

Many times first-year teachers are paired with a mentor teacher for the first few years of teaching. These comfortable relationships make it is easy for a new teacher to ask questions and likely to follow a seasoned teachers’ methods. New teachers also have ideas and skills to offer seasoned teachers, and ideas between both teachers should be mutually shared creating professional opportunities for growth. The practice of learning from peers sparks professional development goals. Teachers may observe a tried and true method of teaching phonics or a digital trick, which may inspire a teacher to attend a professional development opportunity to achieve a goal.

Social Media/Teacher Gram

Many people use social media to connect with friends and family that do not live close, document experiences, share recipes, and declare opinions. Teachers have the amazing opportunity to learn and grow through the postings and messages of other teachers via social media platforms. Teachers following teachers over social media can challenge professional growth, ignite new classroom ideas, and share positive experiences by teachers that attended various professional development opportunities. Social media for teachers creates a specific community where teachers can learn from peers and seek advice for achieving individual goals in education.

College Community

Teachers may seek growth opportunities at local or online college programs. Reaching out to previous professors to ask questions about higher education opportunities can generate professional development growth for educational leadership and/or curriculum-specific areas.

As a requirement for teachers to maintain certain individual state teaching licenses, a collective amount of continued education units (CEUs) are necessary. Often times as busy educators these requirement are found to be laborious and are not embraced or used for professional growth. Teachers should change that view and take the time given to complete required CEUs by selecting professional development that will satisfy the state retirement and, more importantly, provide true learning for a teacher’s growth as a professional.

Teachers must remember to think of themselves as they think of their students. Growing is learning and learning is growing.

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