Goal Setting in Student Focused Assessment Model (pt2)

Goal Setting

This is the second of six articles on the assessment and reporting practice used at my school for the past 15 years This post covers the Goal Setting element.

While things have evolved over time, and recent changes to our provincial reporting requirements are challenging the way we do things, this is a snapshot of the ideal, our grand goals, and in most cases, the practice. 


There are a couple of phrases I use with my students to introduce and talk about goals:

"Plan your work, then work your plan."

and the one I used so much I asked our graphics guy to make a vinyl cut for my wall:

Students take time at the beginning of the school year to review previous portfolios and report cards / growth statements. They are looking for next steps, opportunities for growth, and explicitly stated expressions of concern on which to focus for the upcoming year.

As they compile statements of their intentions for the coming year, we see things like, "I'll try to keep my locker clean", "I'll try to keep my binder organized" or "I will try to get better at math." Obviously these are not very lofty or articulate goals but that is part of our process that we are teaching - getting them to think, dig deeper, and understand goals, actions, and outcomes. We approach it as a writing exercise with many revisions before the final statements are made.

Many of us use the SMART goals model to facilitate the process. In this framework, goals are:

  • Specific - the who, what, when, where, and why of a goal
  • Measurable - criteria against which achievements are measured
  • Attainable - realistic and within the realm of possibility
  • Relevant - worthwhile and meaningful
  • Time Specific - there is a time frame for completion

We work with students to determine which of their statements are goals, and which are actions that lead to goal achievement. Students develop a few academic and behavioural goals as we want them to consider learning strategies as well as content knowledge.We also talk about the learning community - how sharing our goals makes it easier to support each other. Eventually students have well stated goals and a number of actions that will contribute to success.

This element of our assessment practice has evolved over time. Initially it was a very formal process with an evening set aside a few weeks into the school year to share goals with families. A considerable amount of time was spent guiding the students through the process and we generally considered the exercise part of our Language Arts program in terms of meeting curricular outcomes.

Years later we ended the formal goal setting night and sought to integrate the goal setting process into the day-to-day work in the context of assignments and projects. Goals are now integrated in students reflection statements. Short term goals may also be articulated from one period to the next or within a single period.

Individually we benefit from knowing our purpose at the moment; goals keep us focused. Achieving a goal also feels good, meeting the basic need for, what Glasser identifies as "power." Efficacy is really only experienced through hard work and dedication. Setting and meeting even simple goals at first, can help provide that sense of accomplishment and success that contributes to confidence and further growth. As a learning community, we celebrate each others' achievements as well as our own.

"You'll never achieve your goals if you don't have any."

Next in the series is an exploration of Engagement which includes constructing criteria, self-assessment, reflection, and feedback.

Other Posts in this Series

  1. Overview
  2. Goal Setting
  3. Engagement
  4. Portfolio
  5. Growth Statements
  6. Student Led Conferences
  7. Forms

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