So, teaching is one of the most complex jobs that exists – I’m sure that you agree. And every year, more seems to get put on our plates – CCSS, SEL, UDL, BIPs, CBAs…. The Alphabet Soup gets added to every year, and nothing ever seems to get taken off the plate.
So, with all of that, why am I advocating that you use S.M.A.R.T. Goals in your classroom? Isn’t that just one more Alphabet Soup- with 5 letters! Well, I think it’s more than that. I think S.M.A.R.T. Goals are the best strategy to help you accomplish ALL of the other things you are asked to do. Read on to find out why it is the one thing that I will never take off my plate!
Goal-Setting Leads to Increases in Student Achievement
Goal-setting has been thoroughly researched, and all the research points to the same thing – when done well, goal-setting helps students understand where they are, where they need to be, and empowers them to get there! Here is a quick summary of some of the research on how this powerful strategy increases student achievement.
- Visible Learning by John Hattie – This meta-analysis found that goal-setting has a .92 effect size – that is almost a whole year of growth just by teaching students to set goals. That’s a lot of bang for your buck! Imagine what would happen in your classroom if you just worked on goal-setting with one subject area – for example, Reading. Your students would grow enormously! (Check out this blog post to find out how I rolled out Reading S.M.A.R.T. Goals in my classroom.)
- Classroom Instruction that Works by Robert Marzano – This book is an oldie, but a goodie. It’s another meta-analysis of thousands of studies. Marzano found that goal-setting can help students grow by 18-41 percentile points on standardized tests. Again, that’s a lot of gain!
- Goal Setting to Increase Student Academic Performance – This is a small scale study in just one district, and I think the results are encouraging and realistic. When teachers were supported by the school district in effective strategies for teaching students to set goals, students achieved at higher rates. For example, in fourth grade, the 60% made adequate yearly growth. The next year, with the same group of students, 69% made adequate yearly growth. The difference? Their district supported teachers by teaching them how to set goals with students. That’s it! I know my principal would be delighted if my test scores went up like that!
Goal-Setting Fosters a Culture of Learning
This well-written blog post by Chase Nordengren does a great job of explaining how goal-setting with students has a positive effect on your classroom culture. I especially love the section titled “From Mandate to Ownership” which describes one school district’s attempts to roll out goal-setting in multiple classrooms. Key take aways:
- Go slow to go fast. An intentional, focused start to the process is important for building a long-term culture.
- Allow teachers and students to modify the process to fit their needs. I especially love the way the post describes the cookie-cutter worksheets that the district provided, and how those morphed into teacher-created worksheets, and eventually, into student-created work.
Goal-Setting Empowers Students
Early in my career, I tried to bring goal-setting to my classroom. I typed up a list of approved goals for my students, based on their test scores, etc. And then, I tried to “steer” students to choose the goal I wanted them to. And, it didn’t work. Students were NOT motivated by MY goals (shocker!) Students did not make the achievement gains I was hoping for. So, I gave up and put my time into other strategies. Maybe you’ve had the same experience.
Then, a few years ago, I came back to goal-setting. This time, I taught students to create S.M.A.R.T. Goals (for more on that, check out this blog post and while you’re there, grab the FREE resource!). What I realized is, R is the most important part of the S.M.A.R.T. Goal – Relevance. If you want to motivate your students, help them find goals that are relevant and important to THEM, not to you.
I created this video to help teach my students about setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals. Add it it your Edpuzzle account today – it covers the basics for students in about 3 minutes!
Student Goal-Setting Makes Parent-Teacher Conferences a Breeze!
Probably my favorite benefit is how easy it is to prepare for and run my Parent-Teacher Conferences when students are in charge. In fact, they do the prep work and they run the conference! My main job in the conference is to facilitate the conversation. I use this Student Data Binder from TPT to organize all of the data and goals, and then students run the conference. It really is that easy!
So, do you want to build a learning culture that empowers students and leads to great achievement? Of course you do! Then you are ready to teach students goal-setting in YOUR classroom. But…
Where to Begin?
That’s a great question! If setting goals with your students seems daunting, begin by starting with data collection. Start small, just one subject area if you are an elementary teacher. Download this FREE S.M.A.R.T. Goal template. Use the example included in the resource, and the video from MsCottonsCorner on YouTube to teach students the basics.
If you need resources that will help with all kinds of data tracking, goal setting and reflection, grab this Student Data Binder on TPT. And then, dive in. Even a little goal-setting goes a long way, and once you begin, your confidence will grow and you will find ways to make the process even better for your students!