Whether you are at the beginning of the school year, the middle, or even towards the end, it is never too late to teach students how to set goals. In the classroom, goals are an important way to keep students engaged and involved in their learning journey. Goal setting can help produce a productive classroom culture where students are not only tracking the progress of their learning, but they are setting goals that can help them improve in both the short and long term.
Benefits of Goal Setting
For teachers as we move through the school year and even before the school year begins a lot of times we can get bogged down in the numbers and what we have to teach students. While this is important, we must keep our students at the center of their learning journey. A Stanford University study found that students who took an active role in their learning performed better.
Goal setting is not only a way to keep students engaged and motivated, but it is also a way for teachers to move beyond seeing student growth as simply grades. In a conversation on Edweek.org, middle school principal Sanée Ed.D. stated that, “we cannot cannot rely on grades to bea a measure of growth. In fact, grades measure compliance, more than student growth.” When students set their own goals, they will work hard to achieve them and grow as individuals.
Goal setting can also help students manage stress and anxiety. Many of the goals students come up with will be in areas where they are struggling, like reading or math. As students work to accomplish their goals in these areas of concern it can help reduce their stress because they will begin to see the progress they are making. According to Sid Savara, a personal development expert, it is important to set one goal at a time, because setting multiple goals at once can be overwhelming. Once students have succeeded with one goal they can move to the next, allowing them to take their time through the goal setting process.
What is Important to Your Students?
Before going into how to teach students how to make goals, the first step is to talk with our students and see what is important to them. This can be done in a one-on-one conference, through independent journaling, or even a whole group brainstorming session. Have your students think about the following questions:
- What is important to you?
- What do you take pride in?
- What areas would you like to improve on?
If you want students to set academic or classroom specific goals add “in the classroom” to the end of each question.
Once students have shared what’s important to them, you can show them some academic data to help them figure out what they would like to improve. As you show your students this data you can ask them the following questions:
- What do you notice?
- What are some areas you feel confident in?
- What are some areas you would like to improve on?
These questions will serve as the foundation for students as they create their goals.
Be S.M.A.R.T: Teaching Students How to Set Goals
As you brainstorm ideas with your students, it is important to remember that you want them to set goals that will be able to make a plan for. This is where S.M.A.R.T goals come in.
One of the most popular and effective ways to teach students are known as S.M.A.R.T goals. S.M.A.R.T is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. This method of goal setting helps to keep students focused on their goals while also providing them with a template that can be used beyond the classroom. S.M.A.R.T goals help set boundaries for students so they do not get overwhelmed with trying to accomplish goals that are not realistic. They also help get goals accomplished in a timely manner and make it easier for students and teachers to track success and identify areas where they fell short in order to accomplish their goals the next time.
Get to Know S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Specific: Goals must be specific and concrete. Setting and reaching goals can be an overwhelming process, if the goals are too broad trying to reach them can become an anxious and stressful process for your students. Help students to create goals that are focused and specific so they do not get overwhelmed and so that they can see some success or progress at the end of the goal setting process.
Measurable: Goals must also be measurable. How will a student be able to see if they reached or exceeded their goals? In a future blog we will go into more detail about how teachers and students can track goal progress.
Achievable: We want our students’ goals to be attainable and reasonable. Are the goals that the students making reachable? If they are not, it will be harder for them to accomplish their goal. For example, a student who makes a goal to get an A in the class toward the end of the school year may not be reachable, but getting a high score on the next test is an attainable goal.
Relevant: If we want our students to be active in the goal setting process and in their learning journey, their goals should mean something to them. If a student’s goals are worthwhile and relevant, they will be more motivated to succeed and accomplish them.
Timely: Students’ goals should be timely. Setting a specific time frame can help your students keep track of the progress they make and help keep them motivated as they work towards their goal. Students should be encouraged to set both short and long term goals. Some of your students’ goals may be accomplished in a week, while others may be accomplished at the end of the school year.
S.M.A.R.T goals are an important tool for students to help them in their learning journey. Creating goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely will help keep your students motivated. It will encourage a classroom environment where students are the center of their learning and work hard to improve.
To introduce the S.M.A.R.T goal method, NexGen News has lessons available:
NexGen S.M.A.R.T. Lesson Plans:
Once students have set their S.M.A.R.T goals the next step is to create a plan to reach that goal. Look out for our future blog on how to support students as they work towards their goal.
Written by NexGen News staff member, Avery Etuk