From elementary to secondary schools, professional development is a fixture. Usually held once a month, professional development days are designed to target areas of weakness within a school faculty or to prepare educators for new initiatives. These days are necessary and important; however, in addition to this collective professional development, schools often require teachers to create professional development plans for themselves individually. These plans, called teacher improvement plans, enrich both individuals and school communities.
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Smart Goals and Professional Development
One effective strategy for teacher goal setting with regard to professional development is the setting of smart goals. These goals are designed to be actionable and measurable. The word "smart" stands for specific, measurable, achievable, results orientated and relevant and time bound. Designing goals around these concepts and measuring your goals through these qualifications makes them viable. Smart goals are the backbone of any teacher improvement plan.
Teacher Improvement Plan
A teacher improvement plan is the detailed, action-driven strategic plan of how to achieve the smart goals. Unlike general professional development to which teachers may be randomly assigned on professional development days, or collective professional development in which instruction is delivered to an entire school staff at once, these plans are tailored to one specific teacher. In addition to this, the teachers themselves write them. Specific professional development that supports the smart goals follows once the plan is written and approved.
Increased Job Satisfaction
Teacher improvement plans can lead to a greater sense of job satisfaction because they are designed to improve teachers' performance and to actualise teachers' strengths. In addition to this, the opportunity for a teacher to design her own smart goals and professional development plan allows her to take ownership of the goals, as well as the successes that result from the professional development.
Teacher goal setting and professional development can not only improve individuals but whole communities. Smart goals and improvement plans provide teachers with an actionable plan to maximise their own potential, which in turn maximises the school's potential.
When teachers are working hard to achieve their highest potential, students benefit directly. Smart goals and teacher improvement plans may refer to development in specific areas related to student instruction, such as differentiation of instruction or clarity of instruction. Because smart goals are designed to be achieved, goal setting and professional development of individuals teachers are in the best interest of each individual student.
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