Students and teachers who want to learn more about setting and achieving goals are in luck.
A powerful set of principles exists that has worked to help guide at-risk, special education, and regular education students on the goal-setting journey.
Choose a specific goal and write it down.
Students should be taught that there are many different kinds of goals. They need to learn about academic goals, financial goals, physical goals, and good-deed goals. They also learn about the ideas of long- and short-term goals.
They learn that a long-term goal is something they want to accomplish for the entire school year and that a short-term goal is something they want to accomplish on a weekly or monthly basis.
Students should make a list of all of the goals that they think they want to achieve after they learn about the different kinds of goals. Students should write down all thoughts without interruption and in a quiet place, being careful not to judge or dismiss any of their ideas.
After they have this long list of goals written down, they should put the list away for a few days. Some of the things that they write down may energize their minds.
Then, they should review their list about a week later to determine which goals still interest them. Anything that they do not feel strongly about is removed from the list.
Goal setting does not work if students are not motivated to achieve the goal, which explains why they are asked to accurately name their goals. Students should then choose one of the goals from the list and record it on a goal setting form.
The following is a list of activities that may be used to teach the concept of goal setting:
- Bring in pictures that represent goal achievement.
- Have a goal-of-the-day and goal-of-the-week contest as a class and as individuals.
- Establish a group or team goal by identifying an activity, such as reading ten books.
- Make an effort to learn a new word a day.
- Plan on reading one new book a week and discussing it.
- Have students meet one new person each week.
Develop a plan to achieve your goal.
Students should make a list of things that may threaten the successful attainment of their goals and what they can do to remove those threats. This is an integral part of the goal-setting process, because it takes the daunting obstacles and reduces them to a manageable size.
Once the obstacles are clearly defined, they often are more easily solved. This step is particularly significant for special education students because it helps them break tasks into more manageable parts.
This also helps students feel a greater sense of ownership for their goals, increasing their motivation and chances of success.
After students have identified the obstacles, they make a list of the things that they need to attain their goals. This list should include the people whose cooperation can help them work toward their goals.
Students should be encouraged to put together a team of parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, teachers, and friends that can help them achieve their goals. Other items on this list may include resources that help them solve or overcome the problems that they identified earlier.
Students should review their goals daily and use monthly planners to chart their progress. Each time they see this monthly planner, they will be programming their minds to take action toward their goal. The following activities can help students stay on track:
- Have groups of students talk about their goals and how they plan on achieving them.
- Play a “Jeopardy” game that asks students about what they have learned about goal setting.
- When working on class goals, vote as a group to determine the most important goals to pursue.
Decide a Time When Your Goal Will Be Attained
Setting a date for the attainment of a goal is the ignition for the goal-seeking missile in students’ minds. Students need to set a realistic date–not so soon that it is impossible, but not so far away that it is difficult to maintain interest.
Students should write down the date under their goals and adhere to it. This concept can be taught using “timed activities.” For instance, cooking timers can be used to encourage students to complete activities in a set time frame.
Visualize Yourself Attaining Your Goal.
The power of visualization is a reliable method that helps students attain their goals. Visualization sends a picture of their desires to their subconscious minds. Students first should learn that the subconscious does not know the difference between reality and fiction.
It simply creates reality based on an image in their minds. Thus, if students visualize themselves as happy and successful, then this is the reality that their subconscious mind creates.
To accomplish this, students are taught to create a movie in their minds. They become the star of their movies. Each scene represents them obtaining their goals. To help them visualize, students can draw pictures of themselves achieving their goals.
Students also can cut pictures out of magazines to illustrate their movies. Students of all ages have the ability to relate to the movies, making this step quite enjoyable for them.
Work hard and never give up.
When discussing the need for a person to feel successful, it is important to emphasize that all students require positive feedback and encouragement from the significant adults in their lives. However, encouragement should never be confused with giving false praise.
Students know when they receive undeserved positive evaluations. Positive feedback must be rooted in actual accomplishment and success, which requires the teacher to provide opportunities for students in areas that they feel are important.
The teacher needs to set aside time daily so students can mark their progress on their monthly planners. This is a particularly critical component that helps at-risk and special education students focus and remain goal directed.
When they see what they are accomplishing, students often feel an enhanced sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Teachers can use the following suggested activities to maintain students’ motivation:
- Provide e-mail motivational tips to students.
- Have students e-mail their achievements to pen pals or other classes.
- Focus on goal achievement by talking about previous accomplishments.
- Motivate students with inspirational stories of goals that the teacher has achieved.
- Decorate the classroom with inspirational banners and posters.
- Have students watch movies about successful people.
Self-evaluation refers to students’ abilities to observe and assess their own behaviors and is an essential element in fostering continual growth in students. During this reflective process, students observe their actions, assess their progress, and propose alternative models to help them achieve their goals.
This careful self-analysis also allows the teacher to better identify components of student practices that are effective in helping them succeed and areas in which students need further improvement.
This reflective process is based on Dewey’s theoretical perspective on critical inquiry and how it relates to practice.
Even from a postmodern deconstructive sensibility, Dewey’s definition of critical inquiry as “extracting at each present time the full meaning of each present experience”, wherever it may lead and however pluralistic such meanings may be, still holds true.
Thus, such critical inquiry allows students to identify effective practices through a careful investigation of their own experiences.
During this step, students receive a self-evaluation form to complete. Students who achieved their goals should take on the challenge again with new goals. Students who did not achieve their goals should change their courses of action and continue with the original goals.
However, the teacher should recognize all students for their achievements, even if they do not meet their goal. Some activities that the teacher may use to celebrate accomplishments are:
- Announce student goals over the loudspeaker to the whole school.
- Reward students with food treats and certificates.
- Invite other classes to learn about goal setting from the students.
- Have an evening of celebration with parents and relatives.
- Ask the school principal to announce student achievements during lunch.
- Send personalized letters to the students recognizing their achievements.