Monday, September 9, 2013

What's My Professional Goal?- Part 2

In my last post, I discussed the importance of goal setting in our new evaluation plan. Setting
goals at the beginning of an evaluation cycle is new to our staff members. In the past it had been a part of the reflection after the summative rating. In other words, at the end of the summative rating.

It was nice to think about, but I wonder how many people actually set out to achieve that goal. I don't mean that people weren't sincere about their goals, but I wonder if the way goal-setting was structured made it easy to forget about once the next school year started. In addition, no one really ever followed up about progress on the goals or whether the staff member actually achieved those goals. Or, if the goal wasn't achieved, no one ever asked "why not?" I don't mean this in a negative or punitive way: learning that something isn't effective is OK, too. To paraphrase Thomas Edison, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." To paraphrase Google Education Evangelist Jamie Casap, "Iteration is the new failure." It's an iteration in the learning process, and you tweak it and try again. (Would that we always gave our students the same opportunity, but that's a different blog post).

At any rate, in my last post I discussed that our goal-setting process was designed to allow teachers, counselors, social workers, instructional coaches, librarians, and all other certified staff members to set goals that they were passionate about.  Without directly saying it, I wanted to say that these do not have to be SMART goals. I know that I will probably be sent to some Curriculum Director purgatory for saying this out loud, but I feel like I'm secure enough in what I do to finally admit: I do not like SMART Goals.

There. I said it. The curriculum police have not come to get me. The ground has not swallowed me up. I'm pretty sure I still have a job.

Sure, I get it. SMART Goals are a good structure for focusing one's objectives. However, we've been trained to think that every goal MUST be a SMART goal- it MUST be measured quantitatively, it MUST be ultra-specific, it MUST be constrained to a particular time period. Some goals certainly fit this model, but not all do, and I find the almost dogmatic adherence to the SMART Goal format extraordinarily limiting.

As we were discussing this issue with our school leadership team consisting of administrators and department chairs, our tech director came across a blog post via Twitter that describes exactly what I've been feeling for some time. It's called "Let's Get Smarter About Goal Setting" by Julie Winkle Giulioni (@Juile_WG)

And by the way, is there any question that Twitter provides incredibly timely stuff-  just-in-time learning versus just in case learning? Talk about what you need when you need it!

As opposed to SMART goals, Ms. W-G describes ACE goals as follows:

  • Alignment to what's important (to Danielson's Framework in our case)
  • Challenge (make it attainable, but DREAM BIG!) 
  • Emotional Connection (it has to be important to you). 
I definitely like the focus on ACE goals over SMART goals. Not that SMART Goals are necessarily bad, mind you. I just would like to see us work on things that are important to us, provided that they are connected to what we know are effective practices. 

The following is copied and pasted directly from her post. I suggest giving the whole post a read.

Alignment – For goals to have power and drive a sustained focus, there must be a clear line of sight to what’s important to us. Lining individual goals up against department or organizational objectives can help paint us into the bigger picture and give our work greater meaning. But goals must also be aligned on a personal level. Do your goals reflect your values? Do they support you in achieving other important outcomes?  Alignment on a personal and professional level will enhance goal achievement.
Challenge – Study after study confirms that challenging goals lead to enhanced performance. Finding the right level of challenge is key. Ridiculous, unattainable stretch goals are quickly shed and forgotten. But goals that push us to the edge can enhance attention, effort, persistence, and motivation.
Emotional connection – Attainable is boring. Relevant is ho-hum. Measurable doesn’t matter if the goal doesn’t ignite a powerful, emotional reaction. Goals that are inspiring, exciting, even thrilling will ensure the sustained focus and effort required to see them through.

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