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A guide to goal setting for teachers: the path to self-improvement

By Mark Richards,

24 Jan 2020

The start of the academic year in September is the natural time for teachers to be thinking about setting goals and targets for themselves.

All teachers have to do this at the start of the autumn term anyway as part of their performance management.

However, for those wanting to set a more personal target, September is the obvious time to do it.

You could call these types of targets your teaching new year’s resolutions. You might think this is target overkill.

Nobody is forcing you to set yourself personal goals on top of whatever is decided at your professional development review.

But it’s certainly an option. Good appraisal practice Let’s deal with the performance management side of things first.

The issue of performance related pay and the professional development review cycle is a bit of a thorny one, if truth be told. It should be a professional discussion and a two-way process between the reviewer and reviewee.

In an ideal world, appraisal meetings should be all about teachers working together to review the impact the work of a teacher is having on learners.

Out of this discussion, there should be a dialogue about how best to support the teacher to add further impact – either in the classroom or at a departmental or whole-school level. Unfortunately, teachers really are at the mercy of the format that a school’s leadership team has devised for performance management and what kind of accountability regime is in place. In theory, the process should be a positive one.

The professional development of a teacher should be enhanced because of it - and it should also result in improvements in the classroom or school.

In reality, the process doesn’t always feel particularly positive or supportive. Good appraisal processes are robust and rigorous, but also transparent and fair.

It’s also important that there is a review of progress midway through the school year.

Most schools calendar this around January/February.

However, it should be seen as on ongoing process throughout the year.

Teachers need to be able to access whatever support is necessary to help them achieve their targets.

They should also work closely with their reviewer/line manager during the year. Setting personal goals Now that performance management is so closely linked to pay progression, teachers often don’t get the opportunity to include a more personal target during their performance review.

Targets have to be linked to individual performance and/or the department and school development plans.

This doesn’t leave a lot of scope for setting personal challenges and goals. And that’s a shame because there’s definitely some mileage in having goals to aim for that aren’t only related to pupil progress. Whether it’s to be better at classroom displays or to get more out of your use of social media, such as engaging with education bloggers, there are a massive range of things that you could aim for. Setting targets such as these can benefit you in many different ways and people always get satisfaction from achieving a goal – however small the goal might be.

For that reason alone, it’s worth doing.


1- How to improve our teaching skills

2- Peer assessment: Is it all that?

3- Teachers guide - 5 ways to make the most of October half term

4- Moving up - Joining the Senior Leadership Team