Hidden Benefits of Goal Setting with Students


Have you tried goal setting with your students? Most of us have dabbled in it at least. This is my second year as a TRC team member working on goal setting with students. There are many things I could share with you about what I’ve tried and our successes and failures. What has inspired me to write this blog is my most recent revelation. Students benefit from the process of writing and reflecting on goals at least as much as they do from achieving the goal.

Let me explain what I mean. Last week on our “Mindset Monday”, students were busily typing on their chrome books and reflecting on last week’s team goals and individual goals. I was circulating the room listening to their conversations. “Hey guys, what should our team goal be for this week?” remarked one student. “I think we should keep our goal from last week, we did not make a lot of progress”, said a team member. “Ok, so let’s put, we will listen to each other as our goal for this week.”  Listening to these students and the similar conversations in other teams, I thought about the journey and where we have come with writing and revising goals. Reaching the goal would be great. It would be fantastic if they all were great listeners or achieved their goals. But I am more impressed with the process. The students overall, not just this specific team, know how to write an appropriate goal. They can assess their progress and reflect. They are becoming self-directed learners. They are taking responsibility for their goals and their progress.

When we started at the beginning of the year, students wrote goals suggested by our class norms and study team roles expectations. I was a bigger part of the process. It seemed like a class assignment, and of course it is. But now it has become more of a ritual where we spend ten minutes a week reflecting on the past week and planning for the coming week. Students seem to embrace it as something we just do. In my classroom, they turn in their goal setting forms on Google Classroom. As I read their goals on Monday night, I was impressed by their honesty and insight on the progress they made or did not make and what they wanted to achieve for the coming week. One student wrote, “My goal is to not do others’ team roles for them.”  Wow, I thought. This is a seventh-grade student who puts out effort every day. What an insight for her to see that her team would benefit if she did not step in and do another student’s role or job for them. An eighth-grade student wrote, “I will make sure I understand the math before I write it down”. This really excites me. I feel like my students are really thinking deeply about their learning and teamwork. I think that the continuous hard work teaching goal setting is helping them in ways I didn’t predict. They are learning to reflect critically on their learning and behaviors. Whether they actually achieved the goal they set or not seems less critical than their growth as learners.

Of course, I have spent a lot of time with my students teaching them to write and reflect on goals and creating a growth mindset environment where mistakes are valued. Stay tuned and I will share some of my learnings and what worked and what didn’t in future blogs.

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