One of the first things I like to do each new year is make a vision board to help me set personal and professional goals and post that visual reminder somewhere prominent so that I can be continually reminded of the things I hope to accomplish in my life short term. Throughout the year, I am challenged through glances at my vision board and by reflection on accomplishments and opportunities. Sometimes, I even decide to abandon or postpone ideas I had originally posted on my vision board at the beginning of the year. Whatever the outcome, I have treasured my vision boards as tangible guideposts and affirming reminders of positive progress in my life.
Setting Goals in the Classroom
When I was teaching, my district emphasized the idea of “SMART” goals:
Reflecting on this approach now, I suppose my vision board goals have included these components, but I don’t think I have ever consciously chosen the goals I want to represent visually in terms of them being specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. That being said, a quick review of my 2018 vision board does reveal that each individual goal I posted was, in fact, a smart goal. However, my vision board included graphics depicting things and events that I was looking forward to in the coming year, not just goals for the year.
Unlike a vision board that one might create at home that is more related to personal goal setting, creating goals in the classroom usually takes two forms:
- Goals developed by the whole class for the whole class
- Individual student goals
If you’re accomplished at developing goals in the classroom, be not dismayed. This post will still be valuable for you; you may even want to scroll ahead down to the section entitled “Using Written Goals to Support Learning.”
Developing Goals for the Whole Class
Again, this probably takes two forms:
- Behavior Goals
- Academic Goals
My teaching year always began with developing behavior goals along with my students that would insure a safe and happy classroom for all of the stakeholders involved–usually titled “classroom rules.” If this is a new idea for you, check out this link as a starting point.
I had specific expectations for these classroom rules goals:
a. all students would agree and be able to abide to them
b. the expectation were equally applied to both students and teacher
c. there would be five or fewer classroom rules
Once developed, these behavioral goals should be displayed prominently in the classroom, referred to regularly to keep reinforcing their importance, and updated as necessary (if well developed in the first place, rules did not usually need to be updated or revised).
Academic goal development, with the purpose of involving students, may be a new idea for some teachers. This endeavor will require more teacher preparation than behavior goal development.
First and foremost we need to understand the difference between teaching goals and learning goals. Teaching goals refer to what the teacher will do and accomplish as a result of a lesson. Learning goals refer to what the students will know and/or be able to do as a result of the lesson.
Obviously, students are not qualified to help set teaching goals. Likewise, learning goals are not up for debate, since these are pre-established by means of curriculum and standards. This is not to say that students and teachers do not benefit from the sharing of this information. In my classroom, teaching goals usually manifested themselves in the posted day’s agenda and learning goals were explicitly recorded into student planners as well as indicated on printed activities, handouts, and notes.
Academic goal setting in the classroom that involves students and teacher in planning together must necessarily take the form of vision development.
“A vision is your big picture of the way things ought to be…” (Community Tool Box)
In terms of the classroom, then, academic goal setting means developing statements that encapsulate ideals of the stakeholders concerning what learning should look like. Here are some ideas for what academic goals for the classroom may look like:
- 100% of students will turn in 100% of their assignments.
- The class will read 25 books each month.
- We will increase the percentage of homework completed and turned in by 50% this month.
- All students will develop an artist’s statement for the second semester art project.
- All students will maintain a graph recording spelling test results.
These kinds of goals might be written each quarter or for each unit. Developed too often, they might lose their impact, but written too seldom these academic goals might not pack an impact. Like with behavioral goals, academic goals should be posted and referred to regularly.
Guiding Students to Write Individual Goals
The Teaching Community has developed fantastic guidelines for assisting students in writing personal goals. In fact, the article I link to here outlines exactly the way I have assisted students in developing goals, so I won’t attempt to reinvent the “goal writing wheel.” However, I do have a few ideas to enhance the ideas set forth in the linked article:
- Make sure that students understand the difference between a goal and an action plan toward achieving a goal. The goal should reflect an intended result…an action plan would outline steps toward achieving a goal.
- Have students revisit and reflect on their goals regularly so that the goals will not be forgotten. Goals should serve as guidelines that influence behaviors. If goals are written down then stored away and forgotten they, obviously, lose their impact.
- Consider having students develop their goals visually (think vision board ideas here) using a graphics program like Pic Monkey or Canva (both free programs), using a provided template and importing clip art that makes their goals more visual. Once developed, electronic vision board/goals can then be downloaded and printed, or saved as wall paper on students’ individual computers.
Using Written Goals to Support Learning
Both classroom goals (behavior or academic) and individual goals are always ripe for reflection, elaboration, or simply conveyance. They can be fodder for informative, argument, or narrative writing and they can be the basis for collection and analysis of statistics.
Here are a few ideas for using developed goals to support writing and thinking development:
- Write an editorial about a specific goal
- Write a reflection on personal contribution to a classroom goal
- Write a paragraph about the positive impact about a particular goal
- Create a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting two goals (classroom vs. individual, individual vs. individual, or one classroom goal vs. another classroom goal)
- Write a paragraph elaborating on the benefits of working toward a particular goal
- Write a newspaper article about a particular goal that was met describing the steps to achieving that goal
- Write a personal letter to a new class member describing how either classroom behavior goals or classroom academic goals contribute to the overall good of the classroom
- Create a classroom handbook for a substitute teacher that includes/explains classroom goals
One Last Thought
As 2018 passed and I either did or did not meet the goals I had set for myself on my 2018 vision board. In either case, I did not feel the need to reward nor punish myself for goals achieved or abandoned. The satisfaction of achieving my components of vision or the resolve to postpone or delete other components was reward enough.
Totally resist the impulse you may feel to extrinsically reward students for achieving their goals. You don’t want to end up setting a precedent that may end up with preposterous outcomes. Students, like adults, need to develop and intrinsic reward system.
How do you guide students in setting goals in the classroom? Please share your ideas in the comments…I would love to hear from you!
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