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Professional Growth Plans for Educators

STRATEGY: Set clear expectations for each teacher’s and administrator’s professional growth plan; seek feedback from teachers and use data to show impact.

Effective school leaders set clear expectations for each teacher’s and administrator’s professional growth plan; as part of that process, they seek feedback from teachers, use data to show impact, and work to build capacity in others, to operationalize high expectations and assesses progress toward those expectations. By using professional growth plans to increase knowledge of content and research-based practices, school leaders are best positioned to support alignment of individual plans with district and school goals. When school leaders set expectations through development and implementation of professional growth plans, they communicate the priority to continuously learn, reflect, and improve teaching and learning.


Setting professional growth plans for teachers and administrators reflects more than communicating intentions in writing. A professional growth plan reflects a comprehensive strategy for advancing effective teaching and learning so that learning goals of students and staff members can be attained. Professional growth plans are a call to action. Although oftentimes associated with formal appraisal processes, professional growth plans represent more; they serve to activate aspirational thinking about paths to follow so that students reach the highest level of performance possible. Professional growth plans are typically developed collaboratively in response to an individual’s or team’s reflections on teacher and student performance indicators. Professional growth plan exemplars reflect a response to varied data sources, such as teacher and student performance measures, classroom observations, professional learning community discussions, and different types of artifacts (e.g., lesson and unit plans, student work, surveys, etc.). As part of a continuous improvement cycle, professional growth plans drive learning by using standards, structures, and resources to improve instructional practices; developing growth mindsets around student potential; and formalizing expectations about implementation of research-based practices. As integral aspects of effective professional growth plans, ongoing feedback in response to varied data sources is paramount and ideally occurs in the form of frequent coaching conversations.

First Steps to Consider

An effective school leader implements a systematic approach to improving teaching and learning through development, implementation, monitoring, and assessment of professional growth plans. As a part of this work, effective school leaders ensure professional growth plans align with district and school goals, are informed by data, reflect current research-based practices, are differentiated by staff members, and are evaluated for impact based on student outcomes. Quick wins

  • Work from a common understanding of what constitutes effective teaching.
  • Observe individuals and teams in a variety of settings leading into and throughout the professional growth plan process.
  • Establish and communicate clear expectations regarding required components of professional growth plans (e.g., timelines associated with implementation and criteria by which performance in relation to the plan will be assessed).
  • Identify types of data to be collected to inform professional growth plans and determine what system will be used to track plans.
  • Approach development of professional growth plans collaboratively to facilitate personal reflection, aligned goal-setting, and identification of evidence of impact.
  • Dedicate time to interact with individuals and team members about progress being made toward goals of professional growth plans and promote shared ownership among staff members for assessing progress.
  • Provide professional learning opportunities on effective goal-setting practices and critical components of an effective goal.
  • Provide timely and specific feedback by scheduling and prioritizing conferencing with teachers.

First steps

  • Build trust so that individuals participate fully in development and implementation of professional growth plans.
  • Focus on learning in conjunction with teacher actions to identify priority areas to target for improvement.
  • Structure the process of goal-setting for student learning as the first step in developing a professional growth plan.
  • Determine what accountability measures will be implemented in support of realizing outcomes intended from implementation of professional growth plans.

Complexities & Pitfalls

Shifting culture from a compliance mindset to a growth mindset is a complex undertaking, but it is essential when designing, developing, and implementing professional growth plans. For expectations of professional growth plans to be met and intended changes realized, school leaders must invest significant time and attention to mindsets. School leaders also must address the interdependence of teaching and learning and how they interact to inform the most strategic levers for impact. Common pitfalls

  • Hyper-focusing on teacher actions versus learner outcomes.
  • Lacking an administrative process or timeframe for completing professional growth plans, feedback loops, or data collection.
  • Creating conflicting goals and purposes associated with a professional growth plan.
  • Having limited data sources to inform professional growth plans.
  • Basing professional growth plans on snapshot (or point-in-time) data versus cumulative data.
  • Offering limited professional learning opportunities aligned with priorities.
  • Assuming the individual understands the professional growth plan process.
  • Treating the creation of professional growth plans as an exercise in compliance.
  • Proposing solutions unconnected with student learning challenges.
  • Creating blanket goals applicable to all staff members that fail to differentiate according to varying needs.

Guiding Questions

  • What impact is expected from each professional growth plan?
  • What information needs to be communicated to individuals in relation to professional growth plans?
  • What skills, experience, and knowledge do individuals with professional growth plans bring to the process? How will individuals’ skills, experience, and knowledge be leveraged to achieve learning goals?
  • How will individuals be supported to ensure professional growth plan goals are stated in measurable terms?
  • What support will be provided to individuals in relation to professional growth plans?
  • Have sample exemplar professional growth plans been developed to support individuals?
  • What expectations have been set regarding professional growth plans’ alignment with district and school goals and/or established standards?
  • How do professional growth plans fit with other district and school initiatives?
  • How frequently will professional growth plans be revisited to inform support needed and assess progress? How will the school leader ensure the data collected informs progress on the goals?
  • What level of commitment will individuals and teams be required to make in relation to professional growth plans (e.g., meetings, professional development sessions, reporting, etc.)?
  • How will professional growth plans be leveraged to both improve learning outcomes and establish coherence between systems impacting individuals?
  • What structures for collaboration in relation to professional growth plans will be implemented in support of goal attainment?
  • What decision-making authority will individuals have in relation to determining goals and actions identified in professional growth plans?