Goal Setting: An Ongoing Method for Channeling New Energy
Every January 1st, we all receive a chance to start fresh. While many of us set a New Year’s resolution, often we only manage to stick with it for a week or two! What if there was an approach to starting fresh in the new year that actually produces results? SMART goals—goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound—are a way to bring a reflective, purposeful energy into your classroom and help your young adolescent students increase performance, sustain long-term investment, and foster success in the classroom.
Setting a SMART Goal
The first step is for students to articulate one or more SMART goals. These goals can be behavioral, academic, or social. This step can be challenging for young adolescents, who can be self-conscious and may defensively set superficial goals. Guiding questions can help students develop a clear picture of expectations and where to focus their time and attention. Here are some examples of reflection questions you can use to help students brainstorm:
- Think about a success you had last year in school; what do you think helped lead to that success?
- How do you think this class will stretch your thinking this year?
- What is a skill or type of support that you might need in order to be successful in this class?
- What do you think are some qualities of a healthy friendship?
- How can you demonstrate learning in a particular unit?
- What skills might help you stay focused and on task during class?
Using SMART Goals as a Teaching Tool
Once students have set SMART goals, use their new goals to help them feel invested in the classroom rules. When middle schoolers understand how the rules are designed to support them and their classmates in reaching their goals, they are more likely to be intrinsically motivated, confident, and perseverant as they take on new challenges.
This investment takes four steps. The first is for students to set a SMART goal. Then, guide them through the process of connecting their new goal to the rules in order to understand how the rules are designed to support them. Next, show students how rules connect to concrete behaviors. Finally, make the rules come alive by using the rules regularly in your language and making the rules visible as a display in the classroom. Use our Investing Students in the Rules Planner as a resource as you help students make this connection between their goals and the rules.
Goal Setting as an Act of Communicating Hope
Much like turning the calendar on a new year, setting a SMART goal can provide students with a feeling of hope and renewal. Progressing toward their goals can boost students’ self-esteem and persuade them to aim higher. SMART goals also get them actively involved, which increases the amount they learn and sharpens their decision-making skills. Finally, setting goals encourages students to picture their own future successes and name positive outcomes, which has a similarly positive effect as when you use envisioning language in the classroom.
Goal setting is an ongoing practice. As students meet their goals, guide them in creating new goals. Let’s move from making New Year’s resolutions to helping students develop short- and long-term plans of action that build momentum and skills for life.
To learn more about helping students set goals in the new year, check out: