Six Reasons You Should Start Setting Learning Goals With Your Students

At every turn it seems we are seeking ways to lift student performance and improve their learning. We want them to take more ownership of and responsibility for their learning. Some of the techniques and strategies we try work; others do not.

The good news is that there is a process with substantial power to lift student learning and help to personalize their learning experience. This process is goal setting and action planning with learners. Setting learning goals with students, if done well, can offer ample academic learning benefits, but it also can generate a number of other positive outcomes. Let’s review six of these benefits and how we can use goal setting to tap them.

1. Build confidence
Setting and pursuing learning goals builds confidence in students that their efforts can lead to important outcomes. Experience with the pursuit of goals helps students connect persistent, focused effort, good strategy and use of available resources with progress and accomplishment. Our coaching can help students to see these connections and tap their power in learning and life.

2. Improve Academic Performance
Setting and pursuing learning goals also helps students to improve their academic performance. According to the findings of researcher John Hattie, when students set and pursue goals related to their learning they typically accelerate achievement, leading to more progress than would otherwise be expected in an academic year.

3. Establish a Long-term Vision
Goal setting helps students to establish a long-term vision while generating short-term motivation. Both aspects of student behavior are important. We want students to think long-term. However, we also need them to be motivated to engage in today’s work. Goal setting can help them to accomplish both.

4. Challenge Students
Setting and pursuing challenging goals helps students to see that they can accomplish more than they might think. By focusing on achieving a challenging outcome or overcoming a difficult task, students begin to see that they do not have to live with limits they may have placed on themselves and their potential. As a result they become more open to taking risks and aiming high when it comes to their learning.

5. Instill Self-Efficacy
Setting and achieving goals gives students a sense of pride and can lift their self-confidence related to life in general. Once students see that they are capable of doing more than what they previously believed, they begin to feel better about themselves, they are more open to pursuing other life goals and often are better able and more confident when interacting with others.

6. Gain Life Skills
As students set and develop action plans for achieving goals they gain an important life skill they can take with them long after leaving formal education. Goal setting builds focus, and invites the development of progress paths and measuring progress, all key skills for life success.

(Next up: tips for effective goal setting with students.)


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