The Value of Goal Setting
When students set goals, they clarify what they want to get out of class. They are more self-directed and purposeful in their learning and more efficient with their time. According to research students who set goals tend to be more persistent learners and more likely to achieve their educational goals.
Getting Students to Set Goals
At the Beginning of a Unit
- List all the objectives of the unit (They should be listed on the opening page of a textbook unit or in the teacher’s manual).
- Have students identify the top 3 items they want to learn.
- Have the class vote by show of hands. Each student gets only three votes. Now you know what students want to learn and students are aware that they may have differing priorities.
Note: If you are using a textbook, this goal setting adds no extra work, you just know to skim the less popular items and delve deep into the workbook and ancillary materials for the more popular ones.
At the Beginning of Class
Write an agenda on the board. It’s ok if it changes. As a teacher, you can model how to reasonably adjust goals as you progress.
With an Activity
Sometimes I ask students “Why are we doing this? What are you learning?” I’m usually impressed by the insight of their responses. This kind of occasional exchange allows them to think about how they learn and the value of different learning activities.
Note: I find this especially helpful with activities that some students may initially resist, like pairwork or a team project. Once students establish the value of the activity they are wholly invested in learning from it.