Area of Focus Institute

Area of Focus Institute: An Instructional Goal-setting Process for Teachers and Principals

CEL's Area of Focus Institute helps teams of principals, instructional coaches and teachers develop a process to enable teachers' professional goals — or areas of focus — to be more strategic, with a greater impact on student learning. The Area of Focus Institute will lead participants through a process from start to finish.

Teachers across nation regularly set goals for student learning and for their own instructional practice. New teacher evaluation systems are prompting teachers to formalize these goals and to collect data to assess progress toward meeting them. This process of goal-setting—including setting both student goals and teacher practice goals — is called developing an "Area of Focus."

Participants in this institute build a process to identify areas of focus and ensure that teachers’ goals positively influence student learning and their own instructional practice. An area of focus can help frame a teacher’s learning over a significant portion of the school year, setting the stage for inquiry-based growth.

Learn how to:

  • Use evidence from formative student assessments and observational evidence of teacher practice as well as teacher self-assessment to ground an area of focus.
  • Set goals that are tied to the larger context of school and district learning and the professional development support teachers will receive.
  • Set goals that explicitly connect a problem of student learning with specific changes in instructional practice.

Institute Overview

Grounding Ideas:

  • Inquiry Cycle and Adult Learning Research
  • Area of Focus: Linking Instructional Practice with Student Learning
  • Kinds of Data

Process of Self-Assessing and Developing an Area of Focus:

  • Determine Learning Strengths and Needs of Your Students
  • Consider District Goals and Professional Development Offerings
  • Self-Assess Using Your Framework
  • Narrowing a Focus
  • Envisioning Look Fors and Data

Implementation and Planning

  • Timelines
  • Student Growth
  • What if…
  • Your Next Steps


This training is framework-neutral. While we will assume your district has an instructional framework as a vision for powerful instruction, it can be any framework.


“Practical and applicable ... I am leaving with actionable information for the work I do every day!”

"I predict I will see a more purposeful attitude in my own approach to learning targets, learning criterion and purposeful use of student self-assessment." - High School English Teacher


Email us at or call us at 866-577-8066 to schedule an area of focus institute for your district.