Sunday, February 19, 2012

Helping Students Set Goals

I have recently begun a series of discussions with groups of middle school students about setting and attaining goals.  While I have been having such discussions for years, I recently read a fabulous book about goals setting and attainment, Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halvorson.

Below is a graphic I created to help organize my discussions and to help students follow along in the conversation.

For students, I find that many need help with determining when to have "be good" goals and "be better" goals.  In addition, Dr. Grant Halvorson writes in Succeed about two other powerful ways to help attain your goals.  Both can have a big positive impact on student success.

  1. Use of "if/then" thinking
  2. Taking a moment when you have a task to think about "when and where" you will perform it
"If/then" thinking helps students avoid procrastination.  While reinforcing the need to get started, "if/then" thinking also sets up the subconscious to guide your actions.  For example, students can begin to think in terms of "If I am finished dinner, then I will review my notes from the day for 15 minutes."

Thinking "when and where" is also a powerful tool.  When students are given an assignment, in stead of only writing it down in an assignment book, they should also tell themselves exactly when and where they will do the assignment.  This has shown to have a significant effect on completion and quality of assignments.  For example, "I will do my homework in the dining room after dinner and before 9:00 pm."

Both "if/then" and "when and where" thinking should also be self-chosen by the student for the best chance of these thinking models to work.  Of course, teachers and parents can model such thinking, remind students to do so, and check in on how well the student is sticking to their goal.

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