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Teacher Development: Are goals important?

September 2022

It’s September, which for many working in schools, colleges and universities across the UK, heralds the start of a new academic year. A new exercise book presents the opportunity for a blank page, the time to start afresh … so, what goals have you set for yourself in the year ahead?

Maybe you just haven’t had the chance to think about this yet, or it could be that you’re just not a goal setting kind of person. Whatever the case may be, I think there are lots of reasons why goal setting is a useful exercise. For me, three things come to mind immediately:


  • provide a focus and give me clarity.
  • help me to prioritise.
  • are often stepping-stones to something bigger.

Can you think of any more advantages?

An image visualising the act of setting teacher goals.

I think it’s also important to recognise that goals may only be useful at certain times or stages of our lives. For example, if you’re contemplating a move to another school or joining the profession as an early career teacher, then taking the time out to think about what you really want and how you are going to get it is time well spent. The process of goal setting, planning and reflection utilises and develops metacognitive skills. These skills help us to evaluate our successes and failures, giving us the opportunity to adjust and modify what we’re doing to get even better results next time.

Working with a coach or mentor

Many people find that working with a coach or mentor is beneficial when it comes to goal setting, and it’s an activity that is commonly incorporated into the coaching process. Working with a coach or mentor can help someone to unpick what their goal is, decide if it’s realistic and identify what actions are needed in order to achieve it.  The goal setting process forms a key element in the design and implementation of many coaching models. Some commonly used models are outlined below, although the process and path taken may not be as unidirectional as these models suggest.


There’s really not much research out there that has definitively shown that one model is better than another in a teaching/educational context. Subsequently, model choice is often decided according to the preferences of the coach and/or coachee. Instructional coaching is proving to be an effective and popular choice for many, although the definition of what exactly this type of coaching entails remains open to interpretation.

Goals are not always appropriate for everyone and they can be problematic. For example, Ordóñez et al. (2009) found that some people ignore important aspects of their performance that are not specified by the granular nature of the goal setting process, causing them to “focus myopically on short-term gains” thereby losing sight of the bigger picture. To avoid this potential problem, goals may be set that are more focused on gaining experience and fulfilment from the journey taken, rather than hitting a target set .

The scenario-based learning tools provided by TSP e.g. T-Insight and T-Attract, can be used to stimulate coaching conversations, supporting the goal setting and reflection cycle. Please get in touch to find out how we can help you.


1. Schuster, C., Stebner, F., Leutner, D. and Wirth, J. (2020). Transfer of metacognitive skills in self-regulated learning: an experimental training study. Metacognition and Learning, 15(3), 455–477.

2. Whitmore, J. (2009) Coaching for Performance: Growing Human Potential and Purpose—The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership. 4th Edition, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London.

3. van Nieuwerburgh, C. (2020), An Introduction to Coaching Skills A Practical Guide, 3rd Ed., SAGE Publications Ltd.

4. 2008. CLEAR Coaching Model By Peter Hawkins. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 13th September 2022].

5. STRIDE Coaching Model by Will Thomas (2002). Available at [Accessed 13th September 2022]

6. Sims, S., Fletcher-Wood, H., O’Mara-Eves, A., Cottingham, S., Stansfield, C., Van Herwegen, J. and Anders, J. (2021). What are the Characteristics of Teacher Professional Development that Increase Pupil Achievement? A systematic review and meta-analysis. London: Education Endowment Foundation.

7. Knight, J. (2007). Instructional coaching [electronic resource] : a partnership approach to improving instruction / Jim Knight. Thousand Oaks, CA: NSDC : Corwin Press.

8. Ordóñez, L. D., Schweitzer, M. E., Galinsky, A. D. and Bazerman, M. H. (2009). Goals gone wild: The systematic side effects of overprescribing goal setting. The Academy of Management Perspectives, 23(1), 6–16.