New Year

This time of year is my New Year. Partly because a large portion of my life has almost always been in sync with the academic calendar, and is set to continue that way but also because I’ve worked in woods and with growing things and in that world too, its a time to take stock, reflect and plan. There’s something wonderfully exciting to me about the first rain of autumn, the first cool breeze after summer. I didn’t always feel that way; working outside through autumn & winter taught me not to fear the cold & dark months.

This is when I make my big goals, the ones that are part of my big plan, the ones that are more like promises or resolutions. This is the third year I’ve done that consciously and its been really positive. I think if you think really hard about major things you want to achieve in your life (maybe even make them SMART) then you are so much more likely to achieve them.

I’ve also been reading and preparing for the second year of my PGCE. I’ve been looking for a way to structure my goal setting that is meaningful and useful to me. I usually take the scatter-gun approach to goal setting, separating them out into someone else’s assessment criteria after the act.

What is the relationship between personal development goal setting and being assessed? If I am constantly fitting my goals into separate columns someone else has drawn up, how much does that influence the goals I set? Or more simply, how does the need to evidence learning influence what is learnt?

I do appreciate the need to evidence my development against generic criteria, but I’ve recently been thinking about how to set my own criteria; I have my own agenda for teaching, so how do I prove to myself that what I’m doing is working towards that?

I’ve been collecting lists of criteria that I can measure goals against. Each list prioritises different concepts and could be seen as goals in themselves. But really they are questions; “How does what I am doing promote the idea of ‘solidarity’ when working towards social change?”, “What am I doing to develop my resilience”.


Beck & Percell quote Neil Thin’s four themes of social change: Social Justice, Solidarity, Participation & Security.

Gerver quotes Sybervision’s ‘ten common traits of truly great people’:  Focus, Preparedness, Conviction, Perseverance, Creativity, Curiosity, Resilience, Risk-Taking, Independence, A sense of higher purpose

Miller’s Principles of Environmental Sustainability: Solar Energy,  Biodiversity, Nutrient Cycling

The four cornerstones of Teaching for a Social Purpose:  Win/Win/Win, Embedding Diversity, Teaching to Your Values, Reflexive Practice

Popular Education Principles: Start with experience, deepen analysis, the whole person, becoming more fully human, confronting oppression and privilege, working with, not for people, apply to action, respecting people’s knowledge.

Ofstead Grading Criteria: Teacher characteristics, quality of teaching in lessons, teaching files, explanations.

If I can set up my own assessment criteria that reflects my values and overarching goals, the fact that assessment criteria might influence the content of my goals isn’t a worry any more, its a distinct advantage.

I’ve also been thinking about how goals and objectives influence what is achieved. Specifically that SMART has limited scope. A truly new idea or goal (ie one with the potential to change the world) may well not be measurable or achievable in the eyes of everyone else in the room. The objectives I set are inherently within my own understanding, so what if a learner goes beyond that?

“Teaching, however cannily progressive, tends to be within the grasp of the teacher, not outside it” This quote is Norman Potter, but I’ve lost the direct reference for it; I first discovered it about 6 years ago, that’s my excuse!

I like this as a check to make sure my objectives aren’t limiting, rather than as a wriggle out of setting them in the first place.


References from my assessment criteria scribbles photo:

Beck, D & Purcell, R (2010) Popular Education Practice for Youth and Community Development Work Exeter: Learning Matters

Gerver, R. (2013) Change; Learn to Love it, Learn to Lead it. London: Penguin

Miller, G T & Spoolman, S E (2013) Environmental Science; International Edition Cengage

Mycroft, L (No Date) About TeachDifferent – Teaching for a Social Purpose Available at: (accessed 10th September 2013)

Olds, L (no date)  Planning Educational Activities with Eight Overlapping and Interlock Popular Education Principles (Accessed 10th September 2013)


2 thoughts on “New Year

  1. I love this, Ellie – lots that I want to think more about. It has given me some inspiration for setting goals in my new position (as a freelancer), where actually it isn’t something that I have to do anymore – but I’ve found I want to! Committing goals to paper makes them real and tangible and one of the things I want to do is a CPD session (on my own or better still with others) that helps me to do this. And autumn seems a very good time to do it 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment Kay! Freelancing or any kind of work that isn’t the show up at 9 every day kind is something I’m thinking about a lot at the moment & I’m pretty sure the secret to keeping afloat is building community that shares goals and best practice.
      I’ve just been reading a book called Agri-Culture by Jules Pretty that talks about farmers collectives all over the world getting together to test sustainable practices – something too risky to do on their own. Its created incredible gains and is a model I think applies to all sorts of communities working for change against the odds.

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