How to Increase Student Achievement Through Goal Setting

Hockey is a simple game really with one ultimate goal: put the puck in the net more times than the opposing team does.  Everyone knows the goal, everyone helps get to the goal, and everyone knows when the goal has been achieved.  The tricky part is in the strategies; many great coaches and hockey-minds have developed hundreds of different strategies to reach the goal.  There is no one right definitive way, in fact there are many factors that good coaches will take into consideration before choosing the right strategy.  No strategy works with all people all the time.

So is the game of education.  There is one ultimate goal, or is there?  Last time I checked I found numerous different curriculum areas, each with dozens of goals, that changed every year.  How is any one every to know the goal?

With the shift over the past several years to including formative assessment, student goal setting has been found to be highly effective in supporting students in academic achievement.  In  his book Visible Learning (p. 164) John Hattie summarizes that the right kind of student goal setting can have a positive affect on student learning;

“… goals inform individuals as to what type or level of performance is to be attained so that they can direct and evaluate their actions and efforts accordingly.” pp.164

Student goal setting works best when the parent, the teacher and the student work together to develop goals.  Thought is given as to:

  • where the student is currently functioning;
  • what level of achievement would challenge the student;
  • who would support the student in what way;
  • when progress toward the goal would be tracked or monitored.

Once this information is recorded, it is now up to the teacher to create learning opportunities, design lessons, and engage students in tasks that will support them in reaching their goal.  After all, if a student goal is to add descriptive vocabulary to their writing assignment, teachers must create opportunities for the student to learn, practice and develop these skills.

Empty Net

Empty Net (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In turn, this becomes the essence of Teacher Goal Setting.

The work of the teacher is to support the student in achieving their goals.  However, the strategies a teacher uses; the learning opportunities, lesson design, and tasks must do this.  To set goals designed to support students, teachers must:

  • Know their learners; where are they currently functioning and what is their learning goal?;
  • What data will I collect along the way to ensure the teaching strategies I am using are supporting my students in achieving their goals?;
  • In what ways will I analyze the data, and adjust my strategies?

The answers to these questions then forms the deep work of the Teacher Professional Learning Communities.  When teacher goals are tied to student learning, we will see an increase in student achievement.

As you set your teaching goals for yourself this year, ask yourself,

“Is the work I am doing going to directly support my students in putting the puck in the net?”

If not, maybe its time to shift.


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