Helping students overcome obstacles and reach their goals

As more classrooms shift their focus from teaching to the test to preparing students to be career-ready, teaching lifelong skills — like goal-setting — is becoming popular in some school districts and showing positive results, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. The importance of teaching students how to set goals is evident in the results from last years Gallup Inc. survey:

  • The majority of U.S. students don’t believe they have the ability to reach their goals.
  • Even though children start to form ideas of what they can and cannot achieve by age 7 or 8, only 42% of students in the 10-18 age range are energetically pursuing their goals.
  • Only 35% of students strongly believe they can find ways around obstacles to their goals.
Schools that have implemented goal-setting programs are seeing higher grades, test scores, and school ratings. Some such programs will use a test in the beginning of the semester to assess what challenges the student will face during the semester. The student and teacher decide on a date the student will have overcome this obstacle (concept, subject, the act of doing/turning in their homework) and break the obstacle into smaller steps to be taken over the entire semester.
One student profiled in the article had been struggling with fractions for years. His teachers proposed they break the obstacles into smaller steps, and in that semester he raised his scores from a 33% to 90%. His baseball coach also noticed the difference his goal-setting skills had on his game. The approach “taught me to out-do other people,” Jackson Sikes says. “Even though they might be better physically, I think I might be a little better mentally.”
A goal-setting method — known by the acronym SMART — was first introduced by project managers in the business world, followed by educators and recently has found its way into the classroom. SMART helps goal-setters remember their path by: setting Specific, Measurable, Attainable goals with clear Results in a set Time frame. But setting a goal is only the first step. When goals and behaviors don’t align, students are setting themselves up for failure, says assistant professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University. She gives the example of a student who is attending school to become a pediatrician, but who is taking drugs and not attending classes. It’s important for students to have goals and it is equally important that they have support from friends, family and/or teachers.
In LifeBound books, curricula, and trainings we take a strong focus on goal setting for students, educators, and parents. Show students the power of setting goals by example. Is there something that you have always wanted to do? Further your education? Learn to ballroom dance? Challenge your child or student to pinpoint one obstacle they want to conquer in their life and share your progress.


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