Goal setting and job-embedded learning
Cole, Jennifer Sue
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This qualitative study sought to understand how teachers perceive the pursuit of individual professional goals in a collegial group setting as a form of job-embedded professional learning. The gap that this study hoped to address examined teachers’ perspectives of their participation in goal groups an emerging professional learning process at Edge Elementary School. The teachers at Edge Elementary School developed annual goals at the beginning of the year as part of the teacher evaluation system within the school district. The goals determined teacher placement in the topic-based learning groups called goal groups. Through the lens of communal constructivism, case study methodology was used to discover teachers’ perspectives of goal setting, collaborative professional learning, and the subsequent impacts on teachers, students, and school culture. The study was conducted at one elementary school in Georgia. Ten teachers participated: five teachers engaged in two interviews and five teachers participated in one focus group. Each teacher was a member of one of the six goal groups for the 2013-2014 school year. Findings were explicated from five different data sets: (1) interview transcripts; (2) a focus group transcript; (3) participant observations; (4) field notes; and (5) artifacts from goal groups. Five themes emerged revealing teachers’ perceptions of their participation in goal group professional learning. Teachers valued the collaborative process of goal groups while they encountered barriers related to time, increased difficulty in planning, and frustrations with group members. The continued development of teacher relationships and networks connected to professional practice created positive shifts in school culture. The synergy between individual and collaborative work propelled learning forward at the individual and group levels. Goal group professional learning supported coherence among evaluation, goal setting, and professional learning. Teachers not only made lasting changes in their teaching practice but they also made shifts in their beliefs about teaching. Findings had implication for further research, particularly in the areas of teacher goal setting, teacher professional learning, school culture, and teacher leadership.
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