Ready to Set Goals With Your Students? Six Tips to Get Started

In an earlier blog post we discussed a number of benefits to students when we engage them in setting meaningful goals related to their learning. In this post we will discuss a half-dozen tips you can use to assure that the goals you and your students set will generate the benefits you seek.

Tip #1:  Involve the Learner
Actively involve the learner in setting and writing goals for their learning. We might think that we know what the goal should be and need to play a dominant role in the process, but unless we give students an authentic voice in the process and help them to commit their goals to writing, we can expect minimal commitment and less than full effort. Students need to feel ownership in the goal if we are to expect them to persist, especially when it would be easy to give up and abandon the work.

Tip #2:  Keep Goals Positive
Frame goals positively and keep them within reach of the student, especially at the beginning. Think, “I will improve my computational accuracy” over “I will make fewer mistakes.” Effective goals draw students forward and build strengths rather than lessen deficits.

Tip #3:  Give Students Control
Be sure that students have control over the factors that will contribute to goal-related success. Students need to see what they can do to achieve their goals and be confident that their efforts will make the difference, not an outside influence or factor over which they have no control.

Tip #4:  Co-construct an Action Plan
Actively involve the student in construction of an action plan that will lead to accomplishment of their goal. Help them break the process into manageable steps and sequence them to build a path to success. At first, students may need considerable support with this process, but be sure to listen and include their ideas as well as yours. Eventually, students will be able to build effective action plans without assistance. When they reach this level of skill, we may need only to review and comment rather than co-construct.

Tip #5:  Make Goals Measurable
Be sure that goals are stated in a manner that is specific enough to allow for measurement of progress and success. When students can see and measure their progress, motivation grows. When the desired outcome is defined in a specific, measurable form, success becomes clearer and the goal is more likely to be achieved and celebrated.

Tip #6:  Involve Learner in Measuring Progress
Involve the student in measuring progress and deciding when adjustments to the goal or action plan are needed. Monitoring progress can be a good source of ongoing motivation for students. Further, when students are monitoring their progress they are more likely to see when they are becoming stuck and may need to abandon some steps and strategies in favor of others. Our co-monitoring of their progress also positions us to be ready with support, suggestions and guidance when goals need to be adjusted or action plans need revision.

The process of setting learning goals with students is a key strategy for personalizing learning. When students are able to be active partners in building effective action plans, monitoring progress and measuring success, we create with them a clear sight line to success.


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