Goal Setting Through Self Reflection

Goal Setting Through Self Reflection

by Bill Reed


Right now, teaching, and basically any job in education, can seem overwhelming. There are so many things we could be doing. It is very easy to lose sight of the big picture and not see the forest for the trees. One of the best ways to keep everything in perspective is to self-evaluate and set goals. 


You need to write some Professional Goals and some Personal Goals. Yes, it is important to have both professional and personal goals. Professional goals improve you as a teacher. Personal goals improve you as a person. This can help put things in focus and allow you to create a plan that defines a path for where you are going and what you are doing.


goal setting image

Celebrate the Little Things

First and foremost, you need to start by recognizing and celebrating the great things you are already doing.  Too many times we get in a downward spiral where we dwell on all the things that have not gone well, things that need to be changed, or where we need improvement. We need to make sure we also focus on the things that have gone or are going well. If we truly cannot find a single thing that is going well or that we are proud of, it is time to seriously consider getting out of the toxic situation and finding another job/career.


It is extremely important to list and acknowledge what we are doing well. Be sure not to just focus on the big items but also the small successes. The small successes can add up over time for significant progress toward our overall goals. This self-acknowledgement helps us increase our motivation to continue to do well. It also boosts our confidence that we can reach our overall goals. It allows us to see our value, commitment, and willingness to achieve our goals. Recognizing and celebrating what you are doing well acknowledges you have value, incredible skills, and a willingness to continue to improve yourself. 

A-B-C Goal Setting

Once you have listed the things that are going well, it is time to start on your goals for the year. When you start to create your goals you must remember the A-B-C of goals. The A-B-C of goals is the fact that the goal is Achievable, Believable, and you are Committed to achieving the goal. 


A- Achievable

You must have control over what is being done to achieve the goal. If you do not have control over what is being done to achieve the goal it may not be achievable for you. You need to set goals where your actions are responsible for achieving your goal. Examples of an unachievable goal is one where you state you and your colleagues will… or all students in Algebra 1 will… You do not have control over what your colleagues do or what others teaching the same subject as you will do to achieve the goal. 



You must believe your goal can be met. Saying things like 100% of your students will do anything is not possible. Remember there are so many variables you cannot control. Make sure that when you set your goal you give yourself some “wiggle” room and not expect perfection. Let’s face it, perfection is almost impossible to achieve! Keep your expectations high and do not settle for mediocracy. Stretch yourself and what you are doing when you set your goal but keep it believable.



Make sure you are committed to achieving the goal. Do not set a goal for yourself because you think someone else wants you to achieve the goal. It has to be something you want to achieve yourself. Others can give you input into areas they feel or want you to set goals, yet ultimately the goal has to be something you want to achieve. If it isn’t everyone would agree you more than likely will not achieve the goal. The key is for you to set a goal YOU want to accomplish for your improvement and sense of accomplishment.



Once you have the A-B-C determined for your possible goal, it is time to start writing your S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goal down. Most of you know about writing S.M.A.R.T. goals. George T. Doran wrote these rules back in 1981 and is still the most popular and used goal formatting method. Researchers have added the E.R. to the S.M.A.R.T. goals which have made you more committed to the goal and the goal much more attainable.


You must decide which of the three types of goals you are going to make. A Process Goal which involves executing a plan or taking action to achieve the goal. A Performance Goal which is a goal where progress can be measured quantitatively and tracked giving you reason to continue working towards the goal. Finally an Outcome Goal which is the successful implementation of a process and performance goal.


Four Steps

Before you write your goal down, be sure to consider the 4 steps that are required to have a successful goal. You will need a well developed Plan for your goal. You need to do a little research to determine what Resources are available to you to complete your goal. You will have to determine how and who you are Accountable for the progress and ultimate success of your goal. Finally, what Rewards and Feedback are you going to use to keep you on track with the plan and the timelines?


Once you determine which of the three types of goal you are going to write, draft a good S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goal. If you need help writing your goal here are some great resources for writing S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals. SMART Goal: A How to Guide by the University of California. or Writing S.M.A.R.T. Goals – University of Idaho or SMART Goals an Introduction – Eugene School District


Keep in mind S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals refer to these concepts:

S is Specific – the goal is focused and targets a particular area or practice

M is Measurable – You can quantitatively measure the goal you have set

A is Attainable/Achievable – The goal is targeted and individual to you and your abilities.

R is Realistic – the goal is something you can do and accomplish with your skills and abilities

T is Time-bound – the goal has a specific time frame to be accomplished or completed

E is Evaluative/Ethical – The goal can be achieved following your personal and professional ethics

R is Revisited/Revised/Rewarding – the goal can be revisited and revised if there is a roadblock to accomplishing your goal and when you achieve the goal it gives you a positive reward or a sense of accomplishment


Smarter goal setting

Be sure as you are writing your S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals you consider the three E’s of goal setting. They are an individual-centered change model mentioned in a journal published by the American Psychological Association (APA, 2017). The three E’s refer to Enlighten, Encourage, Enable. If you look at the diagram below the three E’s make sure your goal is tailored to you. 


E's of goal setting

The research gives some valuable insight to why you should write goals and what the goals you write say about you. A study conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews at Dominican University showed that well-planned and well-written goals impact students’ performance and achievements. Her results revealed that people who had their goals written with concrete plans of action and drew on the support of others to hold them accountable, accomplished significantly more.

Yukl and Latham published their research in 1978 where they explored the interconnections between goal-setting and individual personality factors. They found three major findings: Participants with more difficult goals achieved greater success than others. Participants with higher self-esteem did better on task accomplishments. Participants with a greater understanding of why the goal(s) were necessary for them had more chances of being successful with the target plans.


Professional and Personal

Before you wrap up this school year and finally relax and have some down time to rest and recuperate to be ready for next school year you need to determine both professional and personal goals for next year. You should write 2 – 3 professional goals and 1 – 2 personal goals for next school year. As it was said before, it is important to have both professional and personal goals. Professional goals improve you as a teacher. Personal goals improve you as a person. Here is a simple 2-page Self-Reflection and Goal Setting form you can use to ensure you are setting yourself up for the best possible outcomes.



Remember goals are the key to a positive self image and how we see the world around us. If you are focused and goal-oriented, you will have a more positive approach toward what you are doing. You can deal with roadblocks and setbacks in a much more healthy manner. You will grow and improve your skills and have a much better sense of accomplishment. Remember goals involve values. They keep us grounded in reality. Most of all they help us with self-evaluation which is the keystone to growth and improvement of who we are and what we can do.


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