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Teach How to Set Specific, Achievable Goals


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Teach How to Set Specific, Achievable Goals

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
— Arthur Ashe

Setting achievable goals can have an enormous positive impact on motivation, self-confidence, and ultimately, success.

How To Apply It!

  1. Involve students in the goal setting, rather than giving them a goal. If students create their own goals they are more likely to be motivated and committed to achieving the goal.
  2. Goals should be very specific with a clear outcome and time frame so successful completion is clear. For example a goal of "getting my homework done" is vague. Alternatively, "handing my homework in on-time every day this marking period" is clear, specific and measurable.
  3. Begin with small goals and small rewards. Homework is a great example. Teach students to separate homework into pre-determined chunks to be finished without a break. When the student meets that goal, he takes an appropriate break or reward, such as a snack or 10 minutes on the computer.
  4. Goals should be a stretch but achievable. Take into account the student's age, comfort with the subject material, interest, and attention span. In other words, students' goals should be specific to where they are and their individual strengths and needs.
  5. Write down the goal where it is visible and easy to remember. Perhaps as a reminder on the student's desk. Writing it down emphasizes the importance of the goal. You can use this goal setting template as a class activity.
  6. Schedule time to reflect if the student achieved the goal. This process could be formal if in school, or informal with a parent. If the goal was not met, agree on strategies for improvement. This step is essential -- without it you minimize the importance of creating goals.
  7. Reflection should include feedback on effort as well as achievement. Good effort is essential for long-term success. If a student tried very hard but still did not meet his goal that is very different feedback from students who did not succeed because they did not try.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Parents and teachers play an essential role in helping students learn to set and meet their own goals. Taking responsibility for goal setting is a critical step toward independence. Research on motivation and emotions show that it is key to create goals that are specific and a stretch yet achievable to help students build self-confidence and apply the continuous effort needed to succeed.