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What are the Different Types of Professional Development Goals?

By M.J. Brower
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Professional development goals vary depending on the field a person works in, but usually fall into three broad areas. Job-specific goals have to do with tasks that are part of an employee's job responsibilities. Skill-set goals are broader than job-specific goals, but are still related to what a person does. Educational goals are about gaining advanced knowledge in a subject.

Job-specific goals are directly applicable to the job a person is currently doing. A goal such as to call five potential new clients in a week might be a job-specific goal for someone in sales. A web designer might have a goal to write a contact info page for website.

Skill-set professional development goals are generally about improving a complex set of skills rather than one particular task. A goal to improve proficiency in a broad area such as project management, which includes skills in time management, planning, and sometimes personnel coordination, would be a skill-set goal. Such goals are often easier to achieve if they are broken down into smaller steps.

An educational goal might be something specific to a job, such as taking a class in a particular software application or business method. It might be working toward a professional certification or other professional credential, or it could even be earning a college degree. Some employers offer in-house or outside training or tuition reimbursement to help their employees pursue these goals.

In some fields, professional development is required and has specific parameters that must be met. Teachers in many districts are required to have professional development plans, for example, and continuing professional development (CPD) or continuing professional education (CPE) is usually required to maintain a professional license in fields such as medicine, nursing, and law.

Even when professional development isn't mandatory, many people set their own goals. Some want to keep up with advancing technology, in general or in their field, while others want to increase their employability and get a better job or a promotion. There are also employees who just want to be better at their jobs, or improve the "soft skills," like team-building and time management, that can help them in any job.

One frequently recommended method of setting professional development goals is the SMART method. SMART is a mnemonic device for remembering five characteristics of a desirable goal. The exact word that corresponds with each letter varies, but a common variant is Specific, Measurable, Achievable (or attainable), Relevant, and Timely. A goal to "get better at networking" does not meet the SMART criteria, because it is vague and has no deadline or a way to tell when it has been achieved. "Go to the conference next Wednesday and talk to three new people" meets all the SMART criteria: it is a specific action that will be completed by a particular time, it is relevant, and all elements of it are within the goal-setter's control.

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Discussion Comments

By mutsy — On Oct 14, 2010

Comfyshoes-I know that there is a lot of online professional development for teachers. University of Phoenix offers Bachelors and Masters in elementary education.

This is a great program, for busy professionals that are looking to make a career change. Online education has really exploded. I know that the University of South Florida offers a Masters degree in Gifted Education.

It is really meant for teachers that already have a teacher’s license because there is no classroom internship component to the program.

They can continue setting goals for professional development and consider what area of teaching they prefer. Some people develop goals and seek advanced teaching degrees in educational leadership or curriculum development.

Setting personal goals and writing them down actually makes the goals more concrete and attainable.

By comfyshoes — On Oct 14, 2010

Cafe41-My son’s school changed their math curriculum to a spiral approach. They use Saxon Math, but use one year ahead per grade.

For example, if the children are in second grade they would use Saxon 3, which would actually correspond to third grade math.

I personally think that all professional development for teachers should include some research on newer curriculums. With all of the advancements in education, it is important to stay abreast as to what the most up to date curricula are and what types of technology can be used to enhance the learning environment.

For example, in many private schools the teachers use smart boards and white boards with touch screen technology in order to enhance lessons in class.

By cafe41 — On Oct 14, 2010

Latte31-I think professional development schools often looks at improving the curriculum in order for the school to seek higher academic gains.

I know a few years back, my children’s school wanted to improve the writing skills of the children which are usually one of the harder subjects to improve.

They changed the reading program to include a holistic approach in which the story of the week’s theme was tied to other subjects.

In addition, daily writing, proofreading sentences and performing book reports along with writing summaries of stories has really raised the writing ability of the children and has made subsequent writing easier.

I think focusing on a skill like this early on is important because it makes each subsequent grade easier.

By latte31 — On Oct 14, 2010

I know a lot of teacher professional development goals include seeking advanced degrees. Teachers working in the public school system are compensated based on instructional steps.

An entry level teacher would begin at step one and depending on his or her degree would receive the beginning teacher salary stipulated by the county.

Many private schools offers tuition reimbursement and the public schools offer loan forgiveness programs for teachers seeking degrees in critical shortage areas. Teachers that earn advanced degrees always make more money and often earn more responsibilities.

Some become department heads on seek leadership positions within the schools.

I know that many private schools offer seminars on teacher development or workshop days on classroom management as well as working on a developing writing skills and project ideas for the children.

This is an opportunity for teachers to offer input and even introduce ideas on new curriculum that they would like to try.

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