How to Set Teaching Goals that Make an Impact

I like to set teaching goals for myself at the start of each semester. Actually, it doesn’t have to be multiple goals. It could just be one goal that you want to focus in on deeply over the next few months. Setting teachers goals can invigorate your teaching, allow you to push yourself, and be deeply rewarding for you and your students.

In order to achieve a great teaching goal, you have to determine what a good one looks like. I know I don’t want just any old thing for my goals. I want meaningful ones that will make an impact on how I teach, how my students experience class, and will shape my students’ learning.

The first order of business is to consider what makes a good goal in general. There are lots of ideas out there, but these are the things that have worked for me:

  1. Make it time bound. A good goal has a reasonable time frame. Your teaching goal could be for the entire semester or a defined space within it.
  2. Make sure you want to do it. You have to really be interested in working on whatever it is you set for yourself.
  3. Make sure it’s attainable. You can always modify a goal if you set your sights too high, but try to make sure that whatever you identify is something you can achieve.

Examples of Goals From My Teaching

In thinking about setting up your goals, you may hear that they need to be measurable or outcome based. That’s fine, and it may work for you. I tend to write my goals in ways that are a little bit looser. I can talk about outcomes, but I seem to be bigger on the overall process. I’m more interested in what worked for me, what my students struggled with, and so on than if test scores improved (I also don’t tend to give tests).

I use this blog as a space to document my implementation of my goals, and that can be used to help me understand what I accomplished and what I need to work on going forward.

All that said, here are some goals from my teaching in the last three years:

  1. Learn how to use Twitter in my instruction. First, this process was heavily documented here. This also was literally my goal. As you can see, not too specific. I like that approach because it allows me to hone in on specific things as I move across the semester. I spent about two years on this goal learning how to incorporate twitter chats and simply use twitter as a way to connect with students between sessions.
  2. Use blogs with my students. Heavily documented here. As with twitter, I simply wanted to learn how to use blogging in an effective way across my undergraduate and masters level classes. Over time, I drilled down as I learned the stumbling blocks and eventually refined the approach to creating class blogs that actually had an international audience

These goals, while general, worked well for me in their design. I don’t think I would have done as well if my goal had been, “Create a blogging experience for students that draws an international audience.” I wanted my students to have an audience. I wanted them to learn skills from blogging. But, since I had never used blogs with my students before, starting with a goal to reach an international audience would have been overwhelming for me and them.

Related: My Teaching Notebook

What happened is, with both Twitter and blogging, I simply started with where I was at and went from there. Over time my goals got more specific until I reached a point where I could have, “Create a blogging experience for students that draws an international audience,” as a realistic goal. I knew what to do to get us there, and I could explain it to my classes in ways that made sense and were not overwhelming.

Setting The Next Goal

My goal for this semester is to learn how to use Flipgrid in my instruction in ways that go beyond simple introductions. I had intended for this to be my goal in the fall. However, I simply got overwhelmed. I had a new job, had moved across the country, and was teaching fully online for the first time. Outside of creating the best class I possibly could, I didn’t have a teaching goal last semester.

And you know what? That’s ok.

Sometimes we have to acknowledge that life is a bit much at the moment and there are only so many new things we can take on. But that moment has passed, and I can now turn my attention to thinking about Flipgrid.

What Are Your Goals?

What do you want to work on this semester that will make your teaching amazing? Let’s talk about it!

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