Goal-setting for Adolescents, Part II

Two weeks ago, I blogged about goal-setting for adolescents focusing on four key areas of development: emotional, cognitive, social, and physical. This week, I offer practical ideas of how to approach goal-setting in diverse environments including blended and fully online environments.

Model perseveranceCoaches, mentors, teachers–however we want to label our roles–must not give up on the goal-setting process because student attitudes may be initially unenthusiastic. I’ve found that it takes about a month of focusing on goals for students to see the affect goal-setting has on their learning. At Virtual High School and Hekademia, we use the ePortfolio tool for goal-setting; students need time to orient themselves with this tool and decide how they will use tags, collections, and other features to personalize the experience.

Encourage students to create goals together Guide students as they develop a list of possible goals together. Let students show each other that everyone has areas of improvement and that even though we may be unique learners, many of us have the same areas of need. Create a goal-setting community. If you are working in a fully online environment, goal-setting could focus on using technological tools such as VHS and Hekademia’s Blog or Discussion Board, in a more innovative way.

Consider subject-specific goalsConsider guiding students to create goals related directly to the subject. In my English class, skills are related to the four strands in the curriculum: reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. For example, one language goal was to “use at least 5 new vocabulary words in writing this week” while another was to “assess the credibility of sources before using them.”

Keep it goingCreate a schedule for goal-setting and stick to it. Will students research strategies to reach their goal once per week, once per assignment, bimonthly? In my English Language Arts class, we reflect on goal-setting in every writing conference either with the teacher or with peers. Regular goal-setting gives students the opportunity to practice and helps them become more independent. Hekademia’s integrated learning platform has a calendar tool, which students could use to create their own schedule. When students reach one goal, help them choose another goal; the process of goal-setting should be continual to help students develop goal-setting as a life skill. Every teacher has had the experience of starting a process with everyone participating enthusiastically, and then entropy settles in as time passes. Keep the emphasis on goal setting; make that your goal in helping students establish theirs.

Track goalsSetting goals, breaking them down in manageable steps, and working towards those goals is important, but what is an easy way for students and teachers to track goals? Try using a blog tool focused solely on reflection, a goal-setting journal in which students track goals using their strengths (ie. visually or in writing), or a goal-setting center where students find resources to reach their goals. If you are working online, build a library of resources for students, or have them research their own strategies.  Can goal-setting be included on the rubric for a given assignment?

Target instructionFind a small group of students with the same goal and give them a 15 minute mini-lesson on a skill that would help them reach their goal. For example, if a group of 5 students in your Art class needs a refresher on composition, lead them through a short mini-lesson with some key reminders. This demonstrates acknowledgement of the area of need and shows students that though they are responsible for reaching their goal, you are there to support them. Targeted instruction is easy to implement in blended environments; Hekademia’s courses include a variety of mini-lessons and remedial lessons which teachers can use to supplement the process.

Help students help each otherIn developing small groups for student activities, pair one student with an area of need with another student who has that area as a strength. Teach students, in peer editing or in conferencing on projects with each other, to ask for the other student’s goal at the beginning of the activity and to try to focus on helping the student with that goal rather than giving generic responses like “Great work!” Such paired learning enables the stronger student to benefit from the experience as teaching does lead to fuller understanding. The less able student benefits from the peer’s more advanced knowledge, and the process allows the opportunity for social interaction while learning.

Celebrate growthWhen students reach their goals, big or small, celebrate! Show students that working hard to reach goals has rewards and benefits both at that moment and in the long-term. In both blended and online environments, this could translate into free reading time, the opportunity to work with a partner on an upcoming task, or the chance to choose how to personalize an upcoming assignment. Help adolescents build confidence and a positive self-image by celebrating growth in a way that makes sense to them.

Do you have goal-setting stories or tips you would like to share?  Please post your ideas below!

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