Regulation Matters 2021 - Issue 2, September

SDL Tool Resources: Writing SMART Learning Goals

Are you looking for resources on writing SMART learning goals as part of the process of completing your SDL Tool by October 31, 2021? The College's Professional Practice Program hosted Reg Talks webinars entitled Writing SMART Learning Goals for Professional Development in July and August. Now we have made those resources available to you.
The webinars examined guiding questions for reflection and a review of writing SMART goals, including supportive new resources — the SMART learning Goals Writing Template and Writing Guide. In addition, we discussed strategies to make sure goals are SMART, including criteria for evaluation. The webinars featured practical examples and a question-and-answer period.
You can read more about the webinar and survey feedback from fellow dietitians or skip ahead to Frequently Asked Questions about SDL Tool Completion. Visit the Self-Directed Learning (SDL) Tool webpage to access all resources for Writing SMART Goals or click on the following to access specific resources directly:
Writing SMART Goals Resources Additional Resources: Writing SMART Goals  Examples of Self-Directed Learning Goals

Webinar Survey Feedback

One hundred and eighty-six members of the College participated in the Reg Talks webinars, and 32 responded to the College's feedback survey. The following comments may help you in your own writing of SMART learning goals:
Dietitians' "Aha! Moments"
  • The a-ha moment for me was a recognition of the need to identify learning versus a work task.
  • Reflected on my ability to self-reflect. Thanks.
  • A task is not a goal but can be included in a goal's action plan.
  • Becoming aware of the resources that can be useful in developing the learning goals.
  • The practice – helpful to work through the template and guide.
  • Once my goal is written, reviewing to confirm my goal is SMART and using the criteria for review.
Comments Shared
  • Good synopsis of a necessary topic. Appreciate the resources.
  • I appreciate the virtual learning and encourage you to continue this format. The presenters are fabulous.
  • I would like to see more scenarios in clinical nutrition in LTC, public health and foodservice management.
  • I liked the inclusive tone of the presenters.
How Dietitians Reported They Will Change Their Practice
  • I plan to use the template in writing my next goals, and after writing my goals, I will check to confirm they are SMART and meet the criteria.
  • I have not had issues to date, but your presentation was reassuring!
  • It was valuable to confirm that I was doing this correctly!
  • I will implement the cross-check to confirm my goal is SMART.
  • I will increase detail in my goals and how I will accomplish the goals and demonstrate my learning.
  • I will follow the suggested steps and make the goals learning-oriented – last time, I was getting confused with work tasks vs. learning.
  • I'm going to approach it from a different angle to look at more than just 'what will help with my job' and self-assess looking at overall learning that will help me be a better dietitian, not just a better at my job. 


1. How are Self-Directed Learning (SDL) Goals reviewed?

Every year, a random number of SDL tools are selected for review. This also includes the SDL Tool from any dietitian whose SDL Tool submission had been previously assessed to be inadequate or incomplete in the past year. Tools are screened for completeness (i.e., are they SMART?) and adequacy (i.e., do they meet the established criteria of the Quality Assurance Committee?).
A Quality Assurance Committee panel reviews the SDL tools using the established criteria of the Quality Assurance Committee. Dietitians whose tools are incomplete or have inadequate content are provided feedback to re-write and submit their learning goals. After the re-submission, if the goal remains incomplete or inadequate, dietitians are required to attend a mandatory webinar.  

2. Where can I find the new resources?

The resources to support dietitians in completing their SDL Tool can be found on the Self-Directed Learning (SDL) Tool webpage

3. What if I am unable to meet my learning goals? 

The evaluation of learning goals in the SDL Tool allows dietitians to have flexibility in guiding their learning. When evaluating the learning goals written in last year's SDL Tool, you may choose "yes," "no," or "currently pursuing" for the goal completion.
If you have not been able to complete a goal, there is an opportunity to indicate a new learning goal that you have achieved or that you were currently pursuing and explain why in the appropriate section of the SDL Tool. 

4. Who needs to complete the SDL Tool?

All general members are required to complete and submit their SDL Tool annually. Anyone holding a general membership at the time of the renewal notification will be required to submit their SDL Tool by October 31. Any member who has signed a Voluntary Undertaking is not required to complete an SDL Tool. 

5. May I request an exemption/extension from completing the SDL Tool?

A dietitian may request an exemption from completing an SDL Tool for one or more years for circumstances such as a long-term disability or illness that prevents them from working. Complete and submit the request form at least one week before the October 31 deadline to make a request.
A dietitian may complete and submit an online form to request an extension in submitting your SDL Tool. It would help if you did this one week before the October 31 deadline. In extenuating circumstances, requests received later will be considered. Requests considered by the Quality Assurance Committee for extenuating circumstances include maternity/parental leave, personal hardship, current hospitalization, illness or bereavement.  

6. Am I required to complete my SDL Tool if I am on parental leave?

Yes, if you choose to maintain your membership while on leave, you must meet College requirements. Parental leave is not a reason for exemption for SDL Tool completion. However, an extension of the deadline to submit the SDL Tool will be considered. Extension requests must be completed via an online form at least one week before the October 31 deadline to make a request. 

7. Do you have any suggestions for completing my SDL Tool while I'm on my parental leave?

Completing your SDL tool is not meant to be overwhelming or daunting.  You may want to think about what knowledge and skill(s)  would be helpful to develop to practise competently, safely and ethically when you return to work. You may want to consider recent developments or controversies in your area of practice. If you can, your action plan to achieve your learning might include attending practice groups, dietitian meetings, reading, taking a course, or researching.  If you are doing any volunteer work during your leave, you may wish to reflect and focus your learning on something that will help your volunteer work.
If you plan to enter a new or different area of practice after your leave, you may wish to consider what areas of competence you will need. For example, will you need to develop new knowledge and skills or upgrade your current ones? Are you aware of the nutrition and nutrition-related issues in this area of practice? Speaking to a dietitian with experience may help you identify the key competencies and resources needed to practise effectively. Investigate any relevant practice group or network or use
some of the methods suggested above.
If you are uncertain about whether you will be returning to practice, consider identifying learning goals that help maintain or improve core competencies such as communication skills, use of information technology, etc. and set appropriate dietetic-related goals around these. When completing your SDL Tool, the critical thing to keep in mind is to set achievable and practical goals. It is also important to remember that learning can be achieved in many ways. 

8. I'm in a non-traditional practice setting where the learning doesn't apply directly to clients.  Do you have any suggestions for completing my SDL Tool?

As we discussed in the webinar, the reflective exercise provided may be helpful. Consider the College's definition of practising and the Integrated Competencies for Dietetic Education and Practice. How can you set learning goals that are related to dietetics? You may want to consider the core competencies that dietitians maintain regardless of where they work or what they do.
In addition, a client may include an individual, community, population, employees, colleagues, or an employer who is the recipient of dietetic services. This can be in all practice areas, and work settings and not be interpreted narrowly as "client/patient." There are also examples of self-directed learning goals for those not in direct client care.  

9. I am completing studies (e.g., master's degree, PhD). Do you have any suggestions for completing my SDL TOOL?

As a master's or PhD program student, you can set various learning goals in your SDL Tool. Remember to make your goals SMART; to select "I am working towards my Master's degree" as a learning goal and carry it forward from year to year is not a SMART goal. 
Consider your course or degree as the over-reaching goal and think about the knowledge and skill you gain as you complete your degree. Think about relevant and appropriate learning goals, such as improving your teaching skills (e.g., presentations or communication style). You may wish to consider research topics associated with your thesis as individual goals in your SDL Tool. The courses or conferences you attend or participate in during your degree can support your action plan for achieving your learning. 

10. What if I miss the deadline for submission for the SDL Tool?

Any member who fails to submit their SDL Tool before midnight on October 31 will incur an administration fee of $70.00. In addition, the Quality Assurance Committee will automatically review all SDL Tools submitted late for adequacy of the content. Please also see the FAQs for Completing your SDL Tool in a Pandemic.