Setting Goals with Students to Boost Learning

Put the ball in their court! Setting goals with students leads to progress and a sense of ownership that will amaze them! Learning goals for students should definitely be a part of your teaching!

Setting Goals with Students so their Own their Learning

A New Approach

As teachers, we want our kiddos to think for themselves, be excited about their own learning, and celebrate their accomplishments.

I started thinking about what works for me and how I learn best. What makes me a better Literacy Coach?

Insights About Setting Goals with Student

I began the goal-setting process with just one student, meeting daily to practice reading and thinking strategies.

Through reflection, I realized that my student had to take ownership of his learning, assess his academic level, set his own goals, make a reasonable plan, document his growth, and celebrate his successes.

Goal Setting Process

Here is the basic process that worked best for us:

  1. Look at the Data with Your Student
    • Initially difficult because I didn’t want my student to feel bad.
    • Together, we studied state-based assessment results and latest classroom assessments.
    • The student needs to see where they fall as a learner and where they should be.
  2. Guide Them to Set Their Own Goals
    • Avoid telling them what their goals should be. Let them see and verbalize it.
    • You should have your own set of goals for each student.
    • Encourage setting only one to three goals at a time to avoid overwhelming them.
    • Consider whether to set specific performance goals or study habit goals.
  3. Teach Them How to Make a Plan
    • This step requires a great deal of guidance.
    • Questions to help guide them:
      • Why did you choose that goal?
      • What can you do to achieve it?
      • Is there anything you can do during class or at home?
      • Have you learned any strategies that could help?
      • What do you notice about other successful students?
      • What skills are you already good at?
  4. Provide a Personal Tracking System
    • Tracking can be done on paper or digitally.
    • The student should document their progress to see the connection between work and progress.
    • Click here to get a free copy of the paperwork I used.
Setting Goals with Students Tracker
  1. Celebrate the Successes
    • Recognition of progress is crucial.
    • Allowing students to call home and share good news worked well.
    • Prizes are less effective than telling someone they look up to about their success.
SVG Image Map Example

The SMILE Acronym

SMILE strategy for Goal Setting

To simplify the process, I developed the SMILE acronym, SMILE folder, and documentation forms. After hard work, my student moved up six reading levels and passed state testing with flying colors!

Final Thoughts

Consider these points before encouraging students to set their own learning goals:

  • What assessments will you use?
  • How often will you meet with your student to review goals?
    • Weekly, bi-weekly, end of six weeks, end of semester, end of year
  • How many goals will you suggest they set?
  • Will your student benefit more from performance or study goals?
  • What paperwork or documentation will you use?
  • What will you do if your student is not making progress?
  • Will you involve the parents? If so, how?
  • How will your student celebrate their successes?

I hope this article helps you create a plan of action for setting goals with students and supporting their learning goals for students.

Jen Bradshaw, author of this article

Jen Bradshaw is the author of Teacher Karma. She has worked in education for the past 17 years.  She has had the honor of teaching first, second, third, and fourth grade.  For the past six years, Jen has been working as a Literacy Coach and RtI (Response to Intervention) Specialist on a kindergarten – 5th grade elementary campus.  Jen is currently providing professional development and literacy coaching for various school districts in Texas, as well as creating and selling teaching products.  You can check out her TpT store, Teacher Karma.

Clip art credits:

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