SMART Goals for Professional Development

Published On: February 22nd, 2024·By ·

Becoming a teacher is a commitment to learning. Quality educators continue to expand their knowledge through professional development courses, adding value and relevance to their lessons while keeping their facts and information up-to-date. 

Teachers who continue to educate themselves are positive role models to students, demonstrating that learning continues long after achieving diplomas and degrees. 

Professional development elevates teachers’ performance in the classroom by providing new tools, strategies, and techniques while sharpening existing capabilities. The result is more confident teachers with stronger and broader skill sets.  

 Professional development comes in many forms and topics. There are a dizzying array of options, from in-person opportunities to online courses. But hectic lives and limited budgets mean educators have to be choosy. Using SMART goals will help teachers sift through the professional development options and utilize those that best serve their needs. 

SMART goals stands for Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Timeframe. The system provides focus within a realistic framework so teachers can maximize their professional development opportunities.

Our article will explain and provide examples of how teachers can set their own SMART goals for professional development to get the most out of their courses, conferences, workshops, and other opportunities. The more educators get out of their professional development, the greater the results in the classroom.  

Professional teachers

What are SMART Goals? 

SMART goals for professional development provide a structured framework for teachers to get the most out of their training and education. The system allows teachers to place their goals within a timeframe to provide motivation and enable a workable plan. 

SMART stands for:

  • Specific: Craft clear and precise goals. “I want to be a better teacher” is applaudable but unspecific. “I want to employ positive reinforcement techniques in the classroom” is a focused goal. Another SMART goal example is, “I want to improve parental communication.”
  • Measurable: Design a rubric for your goal. For parent communication, you can keep a tally of each type of parental communication, such as newsletters, in-person meetings, calls, and direct emails. 
  • Attainable: Ensure your goals are realistic. For instance, creating a goal of one-on-one meeting with all parents every month is not attainable. However, a weekly blog post, a monthly newsletter, and committing to reaching out to ten parents weekly by email or messaging platform are attainable goals for many educators. 
  • Relevant: Ensure your goals and plans to reach them are relevant to the school's and students' needs. Increasing parental communication helps students academically and encourages parental involvement, further boosting a school. 
  • Timeframe: Establish a time frame to set up and implement the new communication plan with your students’ parents and guardians. You can break it into pieces, staggering each new section of your plan. But give each section its own deadline. 

Teachers must develop their own SMART goals, rather than a school district issuing a blanket list. Having teachers draw up their SMART goals is empowering and ensures the goals are focused on the unique needs of themselves and their students. 

For instance, a first-grade teacher of 25 students might make a SMART goal to phone each student’s parents or guardians during the first month of the school year. However, that goal is not realistic or necessarily relevant for a high school PE teacher who interacts with hundreds of students each week.

Understanding What Matters

Teachers have ambitions and dreams and can always find areas that need improvement. New technologies, strategies, techniques, and knowledge are coming out continuously, all of which can be useful to enhance a school or classroom. Consequently, trying to upgrade, improve, and perfect everything all at once can be tempting. 

However, teachers will find more success and reduce the risk of frustration and burnout if they focus on only a few areas at a time. 

When creating SMART goals for professional development, teachers should focus on areas that will make them and their students feel better. These aims should also be something the teacher has power over and can afford. 

For example, teachers typically don’t have the financial means or the power to decide that a modular classroom should be replaced with traditionally constructed buildings with a modern HVAC system installed. However, a teacher could take a course on interactive classroom layouts and implement the one that works best for their space. 

 When teachers are trying to determine their SMART goals for professional development, they should ask themselves a series of questions, such as:

  • What are my values? 
  • Where can I grow in my current role?
  • What do I hope to accomplish in the future? 
  • What skills do I need for the future I’ve envisioned? 
  • What steps do I need to take now? 

Examples of SMART Goals for Teachers Professional Development 

Teachers are constantly striving to improve their practice and help their students learn and reach their goals. One of the best ways for educators to achieve this is by creating SMART goals for professional development focusing on improving themselves. Higher-quality teachers produce higher-quality education for their students. 

Here are 10 SMART goals for professional development examples where we take a general ambition and give it an actionable focus. 

1. Improving Student Achievement

Boosting student achievement is a laudable ambition but too broad. Instead, have a specific target, “I want to improve students’ ability to understand mathematical knowledge, apply it, and retain the content.”  

S: I will take courses this July that will provide strategies, techniques, and best practices on improving understanding of math in a way that shows them real-world application and will help them retain the knowledge. I will then apply these practices in the first term of the year and compare their work and test scores with those of the students I taught last year.

M: Note how well the students responded to the new practices on a calendar app. Also, compare the work of this year’s students against last year’s on a spreadsheet.  

A: Taking courses in the summer to apply to teaching math is a realistic goal. 

R: Increasing understanding of how to apply math to the real world is relevant to learning math. 

T: Summer to do the courses and lesson planning and the first term to test the new knowledge and evaluate. 

2. Implementing New Teaching Strategies

Learning new teaching strategies can be done throughout the year and implemented one by one. For instance, a science teacher could begin by taking courses on using hexagonal thinking and then implement it for a section on climate change. 

S: Take at least one teaching strategy course per month throughout the year, starting with hexagonal thinking. Apply the strategy to the climate change section, where the students will be split into groups for the project.

M: Students will be graded on their use of terms, their web, and their explanation of their connections in the project. 

A: Hexagonal thinking is an excellent method for students to review large concepts by breaking down the terminology and discovering how these terms intersect.

R: The teaching strategy moves students out of learning by route and into critically thinking about how the different aspects of climate change interrelate. 

T: Courses will be done throughout the year. The first one will be finished in a month. Then, a project will be developed for the students to do over two weeks. 

3. Creating a More Engaging Classroom Environment

Increasing classroom engagement can improve students' focus and allow them to get more out of a lesson. If your students can’t stop talking about Google, a SMART goal for professional development would be to decide, “I’ll take courses on using Google to increase student engagement, then implement the techniques.” 

S: I will take 10 Ways Google Can Increase Student Engagement by the end of the month. Then, I will design lesson plans for next term, try these new tools, and see if they increase student engagement.

M: I will measure student engagement by observation and their work samples while encouraging feedback verbally and through questionnaires with a rating scale and checklist.   

A: Integrating free Google apps and extensions into lessons is attainable with the technology we have at our school. 

R: Google has access to relevant knowledge and tools for various lessons and encourages students to actively learn.  

T:   The course will be taken by the end of the month. The lessons will be prepped for the next term. The evaluation will be done over the course of that term.  

4. Building Relationships with Students and Families

Building a relationship with students and families is not solved by a single strategy. But you can prepare for the new school year by taking courses on how to build and strengthen communication with parents

Then, you can introduce your communication plan by starting the year with the goal, “I will hold an open house and introduce my communication strategy and methods with parents.” 

S: Take courses on building communication with parents over the summer and create a communication strategy, including choosing which tools I will use to implement it. 

Hold an open house on the Tuesday evening of the second week of school, where I will introduce ways to communicate with each other. 

Send a letter home with students after the first day welcoming the students and providing an overview of the year along with the classroom rules and procedures. Follow-up reminders will be sent by text messages on Monday before the event without sharing phone numbers.

M: I will have a sign-in sheet at the event to provide firm numbers on attendance. 

A: Open houses for the start of the year are an excellent way to meet parents and guardians and introduce ways we can communicate throughout the year. 

R: Open houses are a relevant way to begin putting strategies from communication courses into practice. 

T: Courses will be taken over the summer. An open house will be held at the start of the year. The communication strategy will be implemented, and through journaling and observation, I can evaluate which methods are proving useful and what areas can be improved or are not working.  

5. Gaining a New Skill

Acquiring new skills, such as in technology integration, can lead to new and fun opportunities in the classroom. For instance, there are professional development courses on how to make podcasts and provide students with an opportunity to amplify their voices. The project would be relevant to jigsaw learning or an English class. 

S: I will take the course on making podcasts and then spend a semester practicing the skill. The following semester, it will be used as part of an end-of-the-year project for the students. In addition to learning how to podcast, they will utilize skills such as storytelling, outlining, script writing, interviewing, and editing. 

M: A journal will be kept throughout the project, noting observations such as student enthusiasm, engagement, and aptitude. The project will be graded on their use of skills and overall presentation. 

A: The school has the relevant equipment to make this project possible. 

R: The skills are relevant to the English curriculum. 

T: A semester to take the course and practice using the technology. A semester for the students to do the project. 

6. Getting a Teaching Certificate or a Degree

A teacher certificate or an advanced degree can open doors in an educational career. Those hoping to someday take part in administration roles or influence state or national curriculums should also consider getting a master’s degree. 

S: I will research online master’s degree programs I can do while teaching for the next four months. Over December, I will apply to my top three choices so I can begin the program the following school year. 

M: The goal is measurable by completing three applications in December and selecting one upon acceptance. 

A: Staggering the steps makes the goal more achievable. Flexible, online master’s programs are also easier for working teachers than in-person classes. 

R: A master’s degree is necessary for those who wish to pursue administrative roles, such as school principal. 

T: Four months for research, a month for applications, and begin classes the following school year. 

7. Expanding Your Network 

Expanding your network through teacher’s organizations and conferences provides support, opens doors for new opportunities, and allows for brainstorming with like-minded individuals. For example, a science teacher starting a robotics team could expand their network by deciding, “I will join the NSTA and attend a conference this year.”

S: This week, sign up for the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) membership. Research conferences to attend this year and present them to the principal later this month and discuss if there is funding to assist with the cost. 

M: Keep notes in my journal to assess the benefits of NSTA membership. If funding is successful, I’ll write a report to provide to the school at the conference. Depending on the connections made and the information received, I’ll decide if future conferences are worth the time and expense. 

A: NSTA has low-cost membership options even if I can’t afford the top tier. If I can’t get funding to attend conferences this year, I’ll seek grants to help pay for it next year. 

R: NSTA is relevant to being a science teacher and may help with robotics. I’ll select conferences that directly relate to robotics and look to reach out to teachers who are also leading robotics teams.

T: I’m joining the NSTA now. I am researching conferences this weekend and presenting to the principal later this month. If funding isn’t available, I’ll spend the rest of the year looking at grants to pay for a conference next year and maybe upgrade my NSTA membership. 

8. Taking Up Leadership Responsibilities

Taking up leadership responsibilities within the school district and community can help a teaching career and strengthen relationships with colleagues, students, and parents. However, not everyone is a born leader. Thankfully, there are leadership courses to help you succeed. 

S: I will sign up for an online leadership series to take throughout next year. Then, I will look out for opportunities to put my new skills and knowledge into practice. 

M: My success is based on meeting my targets and completing the courses in the leadership series. I will keep a spreadsheet to ensure I meet my goals. 

A: By spreading out the online series over a year, I can fit in the courses while still teaching full-time. 

R: The leadership series will equip me with relevant knowledge, strategies, and tools to put myself forward in the future. 

T: I will talk to my mentor and other colleagues this month and ask if they have any recommendations. I will also do my own research, draw up a schedule of application deadlines, and apply in time to meet my goal. 

9. Finding a Mentor

Mentorships can help elevate teaching by receiving advice and feedback and being granted permission to sit in as your mentor works. Sometimes, mentorships can be arranged through official channels or programs. Other times, it’s as simple as talking to a colleague you respect and admire and asking them to mentor you for a semester. 

S: I will invite Ms. Pérez for coffee this month and discuss mentoring me for a semester. 

M: I will take notes and keep a private blog about the experience to note progress, new knowledge, strategies, and skills. 

A: Ms. Pérez has always been encouraging, so I suspect she will agree. But if she can’t do it, I will inquire if she has some suggestions for other colleagues I can approach. 

R: Ms. Pérez also teaches math at our high school like I do, so her experience is highly relevant. 

T: I will reach out to Ms. Perez this week and meet for coffee on the first mutually available date. If she agrees, we’ll compare calendars and see which semester works best for us both.  

10. Deeping Job Satisfaction Through Innovative Ways

Deeping job satisfaction as a teacher can come in many forms, such as gaining classroom management skills, committing to get to know your colleagues, or starting a school club you’ve always been passionate about. 

One area frequently overlooked by teachers is drawing boundaries. But making them can help avoid burnout. 

S: I will draw up communication policies so I no longer answer messages after 8 pm or before 7:30 am. I will also keep Sundays free from school communications. 

M: I will use a goal-tracking tool to measure my progress.  

A: I will use settings on my computer and phone, such as Do Not Disturb and Personal, to help filter communication and manage alerts to help me stick to my boundaries.

R: Drawing boundaries will help me rest, giving me more energy at work which will increase my enjoyment.  

T: I will begin drafting my new communication policies this week and then discuss with my mentor the best way to implement it at their earliest convenience. 

How to Track Your Progress

Teachers should track their SMART goals to ensure they stay on task and have a record of their progress. The records are useful to refer back to when learning new strategies and skills and also help you evaluate and measure the endeavor's success. 

Tracking SMART goals, examples include:

  • Keep a journal.
  • Use a private blog.
  • Create a goal-tracking app.
  • Use a spreadsheet.
  • Keep an audio diary.
  • Make notes on an online calendar or app.
  • Use a desk planner.
  • Create a chart.

Tips for Setting Goals for Teachers

Teachers can raise their success by remembering certain things when creating goals. These include:

  • Be realistic about your goals.
  • Seek feedback from students, parents, and colleagues.
  • Be open to changes.
  • Divide your project into milestones. 
  • Celebrate your wins.

Benefits of Setting SMART Goals for Teachers

Setting SMART goals is crucial for teachers to achieve personal and professional goals. They help educators clarify their objectives and hone in on the specific areas of improvement. 

SMART goals provide teachers with focus so they can prioritize their actions and effectively allocate their time and resources. 

SMART goals for professional development provide motivation and continuous growth. Many teachers find it helps reignite their passion for their vocation and reduce frustration as they enhance their teaching practices, expand their knowledge, and improve their instructional strategies. 

Set Your SMART Goals

SMART goals are an excellent way for teachers to enhance their personal and professional growth. Teachers that invest in themselves are investing in their students. The enhanced job satisfaction and enrichment of knowledge, strategies, tools, and skills result in more dynamic lessons and a better-run classroom. 

So what are you waiting for? It is time to raise the success of yourself and your students by creating SMART goals for professional development. SimpleK12 has some excellent courses to get you started on enhancing your career. We’re also happy to answer any questions to assist you in setting your SMART goals. 

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