Develop your professional growth plan


Professional growth plans can take many forms. They can be textual or graphical. They can include mind maps or digital elements. Whatever the format, the plan must demonstrate a relationship to the Teaching Quality Standard or the Leadership Quality Standard in Alberta and should include the following essential components:

  • Name
  • Dates
  • Goal(s) including reference to TQS or LQS
  • Strategies to achieve goal(s)
  • Resources to be used    
  • Timelines
  • Descriptors of indicators or measures of success
  • Outcome at year-end: Reflections and implications

Developing learning goals

Professional growth is a result of identifying goals to improve your professional practice and taking action toward achieving those goals.

Example: Once you have completed the self-assessment, a general goal or Teaching Quality Standard focus area you might select could be to focus on “inquiry-based learning.” As you develop your own learning goal, a more specific one would be “to integrate inquiry learning into my Grade 7 mathematics pedagogy using targeted teaching and learning strategies.”

Meaningful goals

  • have substance and meaning for the teacher;
  • stretch current thinking and practice;
  • can be achieved and, therefore, don’t lead to frustration; and
  • have deadlines that help to ensure that the goal is attained.

A common technique for writing goals is to make them SMART.

S—specific, significant, stretching
M—measurable, meaningful, motivational
A—agreed on, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R—realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T—time-based, timely, tangible

Possible strategies and resources

Once you have identified your goal(s), think about the strategies, timelines and resources you will employ to achieve them. 

  • Make sure your goal is realistic and achievable within the time and resources available in a given year. 
  • Outline the strategies and timelines you will use to accomplish your goal. For some goals, it may be better to break the goal into manageable pieces that can be part of a multiyear growth plan.

You, the learner, are in control of your learning. Since you chose your goal(s) based on self-identified needs, you also should choose the strategies and resources to achieve them. Not all strategies require you to attend a conference, workshop or other formal PD event. There are many possible forms of learning that can be considered when developing strategies to meet your needs.

Some strategies are directed by the individual teacher whereas others may involve colleagues or a learning community within or outside of your school. Other strategies involve attendance at workshops or conferences. Search out which resources might be best to help you achieve your goal and include them in your plan.

Once you have identified the strategies, you can identify the resources that you will need. Sometimes funding will be required, for example, attending a workshop or conference, whereas at other times, no budget or funds are needed, for example, a mentor teacher or coach on staff. Some possible resources available to provide support to teachers are identified in the following tool.

Meaningful measures and success indicators

An effective professional growth plan involves preidentifying indicators of success and measures or data that relate to achieving the professional development goals. Indicators of success define what the end result or successful completion of the growth plan will be acceptable to you and will look like in practice. Indicators provide answers to such questions as “What do I anticipate will be different in my professional practice as a result of accomplishing this goal? What will my students be doing differently? How do I anticipate student learning will change or improve as a result of achieving this professional goal?”

Meaningful measures identify the tools or types of evidence one will use to indicate evidence of successful goal achievement in preparation for the year-end review with your administrator. As teachers, evidence may take several forms including classroom data, observations you have made, student feedback and your own expert judgment as a professional.

PD activities for professional growth

Teachers and school administrators can undertake a range of professional development activities to help meet the goals of their professional growth plans.

Example activities

Teachers can attend workshops to learn new skills and gain knowledge in a specific area. These can be conducted online or in person.

Online seminars allow teachers to learn from experts in their field. They can be live or recorded and accessed at any time.

Online courses
Self-paced or instructor-led online courses can help teachers acquire new skills and knowledge on various topics.

Conferences bring together educators to learn about new ideas and best practices, offering valuable networking opportunities.

Peer-to-peer learning
Teachers can share knowledge and expertise through informal conversations, mentoring programs or online forums.

Book study
Teachers read and discuss a book on a topic that interests them, with meetings lasting 60–90 minutes. The book should be thought-provoking and have enough depth to stimulate debate.

Classroom/school visitation
Teachers visit the classrooms of colleagues or other schools to view innovative teaching practices and expand their own pedagogy. School boards may need to provide substitute teachers. School administrators can also benefit from visiting other schools to explore leadership strategies and facility organization.

Hosting a student teacher
Experienced teachers guide student teachers in their development of certification standards. The teacher is responsible for supervising the student’s lesson planning, classroom instruction and evaluations. Student teachers may not act as substitutes, as they lack certification.

Journalling records a teacher’s observations and reflections. The journal can cover teaching, student growth or any relevant topic.

Leadership development programs
Leadership development programs train teachers seeking administrative positions. Local or provincial organizations, such as the ATA or CASS, may offer these programs. Some programs may count as postgraduate credit.

Mentors and mentorship
Mentoring involves experienced professionals providing support, feedback and assistance to others for professional development. Mentoring is critical for new teachers in their first three years, helping them to develop classroom management and instructional skills. Mentors also help new teachers see teaching as a collegial endeavour. Mentorship is helpful for new school administrators or vice-principals, with action plans defining goals and strategies. Mentorship can also count toward professional growth plans.

Online PD programs
Organizations and postsecondary institutions offer online courses, tutorials and self-guided programs for teacher professional development with a registration fee.

Peer coaching
Educators receive feedback from a peer or other observer after being observed, with observation and assessment taking many forms. Reflective writing and discussion help educators develop ideas for their evolving personal pedagogy and professional practice.

Postsecondary courses
Teachers can register for credit courses offered by postsecondary institutions using outreach or online strategies. Check with the Teacher Qualifications Service for credit information.

Professional books and journals
ATA members can access the library’s collection of professional books and journals, as well as three online periodical databases with over 3,000 titles through the Members Only section of the ATA website.

Online PD programs
Available through various organizations and postsecondary institutions for a registration fee.

Peer coaching
Teachers and administrators receive feedback and reflect on their practices through observation and assessment.

Postsecondary courses
Teachers can take credit courses through postsecondary institutions, which may be offered online or through outreach programs.

Professional books and journals
Members can access ATA’s collection of books and journals online.

School-based professional development workshops
ATA offers workshops for school staffs as full or half-day sessions or as part of an ongoing program.

A critical skill for ongoing professional development. Teachers use reflection on action, reflection for action and reflection in action to identify and address problems in their practices.

Specialist councils
ATA sponsors 22 specialist councils for professional development in a particular specialty.

Study groups
Small groups of educators meet regularly to work on predetermined projects, such as implementing a new curriculum or researching teaching and learning strategies.