Setting goals – specifying what students will be able to do and know by the end point of a learning program or lesson.
A common theme in this book has been setting and working toward achieving goals. This is in part because strategies are first and foremost selected for their ability to achieve educational goals. Goals provide direction, purpose, motivation and control. When goals are not clearly set, achievement levels fall. For example, how many people would run a marathon if the goal was to ‘run as far as you can’? Most would stop running well before the full 42 km or 26 miles. Goals build self-esteem by allowing students to experience multiple successes, whether they be small micro-goals or larger long-term goals.
Hint: other terms for student goals include ‘learning intentions’, ‘learning goals’ and ‘educational goals’. ‘Success criteria’ is a term that teachers use when showing students what they need to demonstrate in order to achieve a stated goal.
There are many different types of goals, such as:
There is no doubt that good teaching practice involves an emphasis on setting goals.
There is no doubt that good teaching practice involves an emphasis on setting goals.i Why is it then, that many teachers don’t set goals for each activity, lesson, week or unit of work? One reason might be that setting goals sometimes involves rigid timelines that can stifle creativity and flexibility. However, even with more progressive and open-ended strategies that emphasise student control (such as self-directed learning, anchor activities, investigations and discovery learning), setting overarching and regular goals has its place.
In an investigation for instance, the topic may be open within the confines of certain parameters (for example, ‘it must be an historical event’). Research, note-taking, summarising, synthesizing, critical thinking, professional writing and editing may all be fine-tuned into goals. This allows both the teacher and student to monitor progress and ensures that students aim for improvements.
All student goals are linked with each other in some way. For example, annual goals determine program goals, program goals determine weekly goals and so forth. When a highly structured approach is taken, every activity is linked to the final goals of the course or year. Activities, strategies and resources are selected based on their ability to move learners toward the educational goals in the most effective manner. However, poorly chosen teaching strategies increase the risk that student goals will not be met when they may have otherwise been exceeded.
Activities, strategies and resources are selected based on their ability to move learners toward the educational goals in the most effective manner.
Hint: all goals should be clearly stated and communicated to students and parents. For example, annual goals can be hung on the wall. Lesson goals can be written on the board.
Regardless of the selected teaching strategy, age, topic or lesson, teaching the importance of goals is essential. When students practise setting goals, they learn things including:
Here is an example of a SMART goal: read 6 books about teaching strategies in 6 months and compile 1 page of summary notes from each book.
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and an author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of Fast Track Training Australia, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
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