Goal-setting for learners

According to a 2014 article by John Traugott, 76 percent of people who wrote down their goals and shared them with someone were successful. In comparison, only 43 percent of those who didn’t write out or share their goals succeeded.

Studies like this are one reason NCFL uses goal-setting in its programming. Learners and practitioners work as a team to accomplish tasks leading to obtainment of a goal. Goal-setting is also a way to self-monitor progress—which increases self-efficacy.

Whether we’re looking at the Financial Fitness program or Healthy Family Habits, they all begin with a desire to do something—improve an aspect of one’s life. And, when it comes to literacy, the Cultivating Readers program can do just that.

Creating goals is hard work. Targeting a specific outcome can be difficult and sometimes frustrating—are we asking enough of ourselves? Not enough? Many of us have heard of SMART Goals. Keeping our sights set on reaching Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based goals is important. If we create goals that are too broad or not measurable, how will we know when we’ve attained them?

A sample SMART goal for including literacy-based content at home might look like:

‘We will read with our child for ten minutes after dinner for five out of seven nights per week over the period of one month and will track by placing a + (plus) on the calendar for a night we read and a – (minus) on the calendar for nights we did not read.’

     Specific: We will read with our child for ten minutes after dinner

     Measurable: Track on calendar with a + (plus) for night read and a – (minus) for no reading

     Attainable: Five out of seven nights per week

     Realistic: Yes—not expecting 100 percent compliance

     Time-based: Over the next month

In the classroom, nothing is more effective than having student buy-in for goals. Even when the goals are lengthy or multi-step, using student goal-setting with SMART Goals increases student drive to complete the tasks necessary to obtain the goal. A student may have a long-term goal of completing two credits of English in a school year, but that is a huge goal and should be broken down into bite-sized chunks, so learners can see—and celebrate—their accomplishments. An intermediary objective to meet that goal would be: I will receive a grade of C or above on every English assignment for the next marking period. This ‘mini-goal’ meets SMART Goal criteria and leads toward bigger picture success.

The celebration of meeting a goal is almost as essential as the goal itself. Learners celebrate in different ways and play an important role in planning a reward for their successes. Some learners don’t need tangible tokens—they’re comfortable with intrinsic rewards. Others require a small item to feel their progress is happening. These extrinsic rewards should match their task—keep bite-sized accomplishments worth something of less value than reaching the over-arching goal.

How do you motivate learners? How do you use goal-setting in your environment? Let us know in the comments!