I have been pondering over the idea of professional goal setting this last week. I’m sure many professionals are familiar with the experience of goal setting and being evaluated upon the extent to which they achieve those goals. In teaching we seem to be obsessed with and driven by goals and in many ways rightly so, if we do not have goals and desires that motivate our professional learning how do we move forward? However, to what extent do we really pause to reflect on the efficacy of the process?
Through my own experience I have seen so many teachers over the years merely go through the motions of goal setting because that is what they are told to do – they rush to complete their goals before the meeting with the principal and then near the end of the year they cobble together threads of evidence before they meet with the principal to discuss them. To me this is not effective learning and does not reflect the value of the learning process, it merely equates it to a “to do” list of things to tasks be ticked off.
I find it interesting to compare this process to the kind of work Carol Dweck has done on fixed vs growth mindsets learning. Goals can be seen as learning oriented (toward mastery) or performance oriented (driven by extrinsic factors) – are we motivated to learn or motivated to perform? To me the former is an inherent part of intrinsic motivation and the other largely extrinsically motivated. In terms of student learning this is problematic. I believe teachers need to be given encouragement and time to discover their intrinsic motivations toward learning. Furthermore, I believe this process can be strengthened through working collaboratively toward our goals. After all we know how powerful constructivist learning is for our students so why not for us? One of the ways this can be achieved is by creating systems within our schools that promote simple collaborative action research projects – teachers as inquirers!