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Three Steps to Supercharge Student Goals

Why should students set their own goals?

Research suggests that appropriate student goal-setting with timely feedback can lead to higher achievement, better performance, a high level of self-efficacy, and self-regulation (Moeller, Theiler & Wu, 2012).

“Goal setting in isolation cannot be assumed to produce positive outcomes for students.” - Surr (2018)

The most well intentioned goal-setting practices can still lead students to produce a wish list that ticks all the boxes. Yet, these pieces of paper often end up in the filing cabinet, never to be seen by the student again.

Can teachers actually make a difference in helping students achieve their goals? The short answer, yes!

What makes an effective goal?

Effective goals have a combination of difficulty, specificity and proximity. Knowing what makes an effective goal can help teachers guide students in the correct direction.

  1. Difficulty- Goals that feel challenging but attainable are more likely promote students to give it their best effort (Locke & Latham, 2002)
  2. Specificity - Goals relating to specific skills as opposed to general goals help students to stay on task and track progress.
  3. Proximity - Goals with short time-bounds are more effective for immediate task performance than longer timebounds (Schunk, 2003).

Start with these three actions

Here are three actions to help your students reach their goals.

1. Guide students to chunk goals

Support your students to break down their large goal into smaller nested goals.
How? Ask students to backward plan and identify what they can control and then list their steps out with a peer. Show an example of a backward mapped plan.
Why? Having an action plan is likely to promote action when challenged, particularly learners with limited goal-setting experience (Schunk, 2003).

2. Provide students time, process and space for reflection

Signpost to clear times when students should pause and reflect on progress and evaluate.
How? Structure reflection time in fortnightly cycles and instruct students to record their self-evaluation on a persistent place.
Why? Records of ongoing self-evaluation and reflection can help students to see the value of their effort leading to increased motivation (Zimmerman, 2008).

3. Build-in timely, corrective and task-based feedback

Create explicit, task-specific feedback points during the course of the term
How? Embed formative assessment and feedback routines into your teaching plan. Model how to identify areas for growth and take next actions.
Why? Feedback serves an important function of giving students direction to take corrective action towards their goal (CESE, 2021)

Reference List

Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (2021). Growth goal setting – what works best in practice

Husman, J., & Shell, D. F. (2008). Beliefs and perceptions about the future: A measurement of future time perspective. Learning and Individual Differences, 18, 166–175.

Moeller, A & Theiler, J & Wu, C. (2012). Goal Setting and Student Achievement: A Longitudinal Study. The Modern Language Journal. 96. 153-169.

Schunk, D. H. (1983). Reward contingencies and the development of children’s skills and self-effi cacy. Journal of Educational Psychology, 73, 93–105.

Schunk D (2003) ‘Self-efficacy for reading and writing: Influence of modeling, goal setting, and self-evaluation’, Reading and Writing Quarterly, 19(2): 159-172.

Surr, W. (2018). Student Goal-Setting: An Evidence-Based Practice. American Institutes for Research.

Zimmerman B (2008) ‘Goal setting: A key proactive source of academic self-regulation’, in D Schunk and B Zimmerman (eds) Motivation and self-regulated learning: Theory, research, and applications, Routledge, New York.

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