Goal setting is an important skill for all of us to develop. For students who are working self-paced or self-directed through a curriculum, it’s even more vital to have a plan for how to complete your academic goals. But sometimes our goals aren’t clear enough for us to make real progress, or we wind up setting larger or smaller goals than will actually help. So how can we set effective goals? I’ve got a few tips for you!
First, let’s decide what an effective goal looks like.
An effective goal should be clear; it should be practical; it should have an end date or a clear finish line; it should lead you toward a larger
achievement, and you should be able to measure it. These are the qualities that help us to figure out if a goal will actually help move us forward on a project, or if we’re just mimicking the objectives of a lesson plan.
It is important to set goals independent of the curriculum you’re working through! You might find learning objectives at the beginning of a chapter or lesson plan, and these objectives can help you figure out what content you’ll be dealing with. But you’ll want your goals to be your own, and you’ll want to think beyond the lesson plan when you make them. As you set your goal, you’ll want to think beyond
just one lesson plan. Your goals might deal with understanding a concept, or demonstrating that understanding (through a test, project, or another way).
As you set goals, consider:
1. Is it clear?
A clear goal is easy to say and easy to understand. If you start getting bogged down
in putting steps into your goal, or too many pieces or tasks needed to complete the goal, then you might want to consider parsing that one big goal out into a few smaller ones. A few clues that your goal is clear: you can write it down in one sentence, or when you tell someone else about it, they understand it easily.
2. Is it practical?
A practical goal is one that you have the resources to accomplish and the
knowledge and tools that will be a good foundation. When you set a goal, you don’t want to
build a wall in front of yourself: you want to build a stair that you can climb, so you can build
another stair, and another.
3. Does it have an end date?
A goal with a clear finish line means that you’ll know when you’ve completed it, and it won’t stretch on forever. You want to know where that finish line is so that as you work through the goal, you can know how far away from achieving it you are, and you’ll know when you’ve successfully completed that goal.
4. Does it help you move toward a larger achievement?
Goals help us make progress and keep moving forward, but we also want to have a sense of the big picture. Setting goals that help us grow our math skills through a geometry course serve the larger achievement of helping us understand how shapes relate to each other and how to measure them, therefore giving us the skills to do things like complete a carpentry project, or understand the mechanics of a baseball pitch. Understanding the bigger picture of where you’re going can also help you figure out what your next goals should be.
5. Is it measurable?
Sometimes we measure the achievement of our goals by the test or final project that comes after; sometimes we measure our goals by our ability to move forward to the next goal. Knowing how to measure your goals will depend on the kind of goal that you’re setting, and what kind of content. As you think through the end date of your goals, and where your finish lines are, you might also discover how to make each goal measurable. Effective goals help us move through curriculum one step at a time. If you’re a self-directed or self- paced learner, it’s even more important to set effective goals because this is what gives us the structure for our learning. Effective goal-setting is an important skill beyond academics and is what will help you move through high school, higher education, and beyond.
And there you have it! Keeping this tips in mind when setting long-term or short-term goals can help you in achieving them! Whether it’s homework or buying a car, we want to set you up to succeed!