Student goal setting for 2016: Tips and resources.

As your students get into the swing of things in the new year and the frenzy of back to school is winding down, it’s a good time to get them thinking about setting positive goals for 2016.

Goal setting and the Modern Learner.

The benefits of goal setting for learning have been covered widely. Goal setting increases students motivation and encourages students to take responsibility and ownership of their own learning. Studies have found students who are invested in their learning goals show greater persistence, creativity and risk-taking in the achievement of these goals and are more likely to self-regulate their behaviour (See this study by Moeller, Theiler, & Wu, 2012).

In the context of the modern learner, the ability to be a self-directed learner is crucial as more and more learning is done within digital learning environments (think flipped learning and MOOCs) and in other spaces outside of the traditional classroom. Self-direction is also an important attribute of a lifelong learner, which is increasingly being recognised as a key competency and workforce skill in a fast-changing world that demands the ability to adapt quickly.

Goal-setting is a skill.

A lot of students may not see goal setting as an effective skill for learning. Like any skill, it can be taught and by encouraging students to start setting effective goals, they can be empowered to take a more purposeful approach to their learning.

As you work with your students to set them up for success, consider these three tips:

1. Get your students to think about themselves as learners.

A great way to start is by allowing students to spend some time getting a better understanding of their strengths and weakness and what they already know. This leads to students asking themselves some key questions and focus in on where they are, where they want to go and what they want to achieve.

As students delve into self-assessment, it’s important that they clearly understand what’s expected of them so that they’re able to assess themselves accurately and fairly. This may be a matter of developing clearly articulated learning targets with students or showing them concrete examples of quality work. Whatever the strategy, students need to have a clear idea of what they’re ‘aiming for’ to ensure the goals they’re setting are realistic, achievable and accurately reflect what you’re doing in your class.

Click on the button below to see a great resource of self-assessment strategies and tools created by the Victorian Department of Education and Training.

Go to Self-assessment resources

2. Make goals S.M.A.R.T.

SMART goals are those that are:






A number of your students probably already have a general understanding of some goals they’d like to achieve. It might look something like this:

I want to be better at history.

Let’s make this goal SMARTer:

During term 1 and 2, I will take notes during every history class and review them after class. I will arrange time with my teacher to ask questions about anything I don’t understand. When there are questions or activities that I could have done better, I will make sure to ask the teacher, or one of my classmates and then complete it again for my teacher to review.

The SMARTer goal provides students with tangible learning targets but it can initially be quite challenging for students to create SMART goals and a clear structured approach helps.

Click on the button below to see a lesson on setting SMART goals by Stile teacher, Joseph Pearson. In this lesson, students are encouraged to use mind maps to structure their thoughts about their goals before taking a step by step approach to turn the goals in their mind map into SMART goals.

Sample part 1 of the lesson & use it in your class

3. Reflect, celebrate and iterate.

For every goal achieved, no matter how small, celebrate! If they don’t quite get there, that’s ok, goal-setting is an iterative process and is all about growth and improvement. Success is an opportunity to create new goals and failure is a chance to revisit and revise old goals and try again.

Tools that bring everything together in one place, such as journals, check-lists and rubrics, can be helpful in providing students with a framework for reflection and self-assessment. They also help students gradually become more confident with taking responsibility for their own learning.

In the resource below, Stile teacher, David Beale encourages students to keep a record of their progress and reflections over the whole academic year and provides a framework for their reflection through a series of questions.

Sample part 1 of the lesson & use it in your class

We’d love to hear what you do you with your students to set them up for success for the year. Feel free to comment below on what’s worked well for you and any tips that you might have.

Wishing everyone a year of growth and improvement!

Jean Kang I Stile Education