How do we have students take ownership of their learning? How do we get students to be more engaged learners? How do we help them realize their progress, or lack thereof?
Student Goal Setting
When I first heard about student’s setting their own goals, I was skeptical. Initially, it just felt like one more thing to fit into an impossibly tight teaching schedule. Then, I tried it and loved it!
I first tried it with my students with disabilities who have Individualized Education Plans. I actually got so into this goal setting thing that students ended up leading their own IEP meetings that year! It was awesome! Watching the students present their IEPs in front of their teachers, parents, and administration made me so proud. They were clearly articulating their strengths and struggles and explaining their plan to make progress. You should’ve seen the look on the faces of the parents and teachers there. They were my favorite IEP meetings ever!
How to get students to set their own goals
I have come up with a simple and clear Student Goal Setting packet to walk students through the steps of setting a goal. Here’s the basic run down:
- They identify their strengths and weaknesses.
- They pick a weakness they want to make progress on.
- They come up with a plan of how to make progress.
- They need to decide how they are going to know they are making progress.
- They need to decide when they want to meet their goal by.
Notice that each part is decided by them. As a teacher, you can support them by giving suggestions and ideas but let them pick. The more they decide, the more ownership they have, which makes the goal more motivating!
Real Life Example
My most recent example I have of students writing their own goals is with a High School student. She is so motivated this year to be independent, which is exactly what we want students to be! Here is how she set her goal using the sentence starters on my Student Goal Setting Packet:
- At school I am good at getting my work done.
- At school it is hard for me to get good grades on my tests and quizzes.
- I want to get better at tests and quizzes.
- I will get better by studying with pictures, making flashcards, and studying 3 days in a row before the test.
- I know I am getting better because my grades will go up.
- I will reach my goal by the end of 10th grade.
I’m a big fan of student goal setting because of how it helps the students! They monitor their own progress, take ownership of learning, learn how to make a plan, and it’s fulfilling for them to work towards something meaningful.
How to start
You can first start by having each student pick one goal. To make it manageable, you could even pick the subject. For example, have all the students come up with a math goal. At the end of every week, or whenever it works, have the whole class collect and graph their data. Start small and in a way that feels manageable for you!
How to differentiate student goal setting
- Have ideas for specific students written down on a sticky note. If you have students in your class that have a difficult time making decisions or paring down information, give them a sticky note with some ideas. This way they can pick from your ideas instead of it feeling overwhelming.
- Use my Student Goal Setting packet that includes sentence starters. As you can see, the first page walks them through how to write a goal. It includes sentence starters for each section so they don’t get stuck on how to get started. I have also included 4 different data collection pages. Since each student’s goal might be different, they can pick which one is best. There is one data collection page with no supports on it for students who want a challenge!
- Use small groups to write the goals. You can teach the concept of goal setting and introduce what a goal is as to the whole class but then write their goals in a small group setting. This will allow you to give more support and feedback to each student. I found this book, Salt in His Shoes, to introduce the idea of working towards your goal!
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Happy goal setting!