Jun 28

Helping Your Class With Student Learning Goals

Setting and striving toward learning goals—both as a collective classroom and individual learners—empowers students to be active participants and take some control in their education process. Setting goals from an early age helps lay a foundation and promotes a sense of autonomy and independence. It develops decision-making, time-management, and organizational skills. Achieving goals helps give groundbreaking boosts of confidence that can inspire students to reach new heights. Fortunately, for students struggling with the exercise or teachers new to implementing it, there are many effective strategies for helping your class with student learning goals. Let’s examine a few strategies that are effective across various age ranges. 

Create a Positive Classroom Culture

To develop learning goals with students and foster a growth mindset, teachers should focus first on establishing a positive classroom culture. Help students see challenging subjects or difficult tasks as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles. Remind students that determined effort and steadfast persistence can build their skills in remarkable ways. Teach them to learn from mistakes and believe in their ability to improve by praising effort, perseverance, and progress rather than solely focusing on grades or final outcomes.

Students often mirror the behavior they observe, so it’s crucial to embody the values and attitudes you want to promote in the classroom. Be a positive role model for your students by displaying enthusiasm for learning, creating goals, and demonstrating a passion for the subject matter you’re teaching. 

Start Small

For younger students new to goal-setting, it may be challenging to wrap their heads around the goal-setting concept and recognize the necessary steps for proper progress.

Help students set goals small in scope and scale initially. Breaking them into attainable, actionable components relative to the day or lessons ahead helps build good habits that encourage ongoing progress. When students understand that progress is more important than immediate success, they are more resilient and develop a love for lifelong learning.

Student learning goals don’t have to be tied to specific academic achievements such as a particular test score. Instead, one easy and excellent way to develop positive habits for creating, planning, and reflecting on goals requires no more than a sticky note for each student. Give them a few moments in the morning to consider and write down a particular skill, task, or helpful behavior they’d like to focus their intentions on that day. Students can keep the notes on the corner of their desks as a reminder throughout the day.

Link Individual Goals to Group Initiatives

Individual learning goals can benefit from being part of an inclusive group activity. Setting class-wide goals shows students real examples of a growth mindset in action and offers a blueprint or ideas for the individual goals students should consider for themselves. 

Collective classroom short- and long-term goals can be:

  • Behavioral-based. For example, “We will practice respectful active listening when working in small groups.”
  • Deadline-based. For example, “Complete our independent reading assignments before Thursday’s class discussion.”
  • Assignment-based. For example, “Everyone achieves a passing grade on this unit’s math test.” 

Students’ corresponding individual learning goals can mimic the group’s objectives but should contain a personalized angle or parameters relevant to each learner’s preexisting progress. 

High-Frequency Updates & Review

Regularly reviewing, revising, and reflecting on class-wide objectives and students’ individual learning goals helps prevent them from becoming abandoned. Establishing learning goals is a common activity around the beginning of each school year, once per quarter, or at the onset of a new subject or series of lessons. Checking in with daily status updates or quick reviews of student and class overall progress helps everyone keep their goals top of mind. 

Include time to celebrate students’ successes and guide ensuing goals or new ways to enhance their learning. Promote self-reflection on students’ learning progress and, when necessary, offer constructive feedback that is specific, actionable, and focuses on productive areas of improvement or setting more appropriate learning goals. Establishing a routine for reflecting on or reexamining their learning goals helps them appreciate the significance of their goals.

Begin at the End Goal

Setting smaller goals is often a wise starting point for establishing good habits, but progress may decline if students can’t connect their goals for today with their dreams for tomorrow.

Challenge students to invert the initial goal-setting process away from small daily short-term gains and begin with an end goal or long-term dream. This exercise is often particularly effective with high schoolers starting to think about their future career paths and higher education opportunities.

If a student shows interest in pursuing a future as a veterinarian, encourage them to explore the long-term career path, higher education requirements, and ways to position themselves and begin working toward future goals today. You might not have expected it before starting the exercise, but you may inspire a student’s learning goal of improved focus and dedication in science and biology subjects.

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