Social Sundays: Goal Setting

I had the opportunity to visit a Montessori K-8 as a researcher and was very impressed with student ownership of learning.  Students worked independently at their own pace.  They set weekly goals, and there was a very strong sense of accountability for their own learning.   When these students went on to high school, the majority of the students were successful for completing assignments in part because they had always been doing it. 

I don't teach in the Montessori style, but I do love to have my students set goals. I've done everything from weekly to monthly to annual goals with students.  

My experience has been that successful goal setting requires two components: self-designed goals and strategies for achievement.

  • Self-designed goals:  We tell students all the time that they should go to college, do well in school, engage in lots of activities, and, and, and...  We have their best interests at heart, but at some point students need to be empowered.  I ask students to set goals in three areas: academic, personal, and life.  All the goals are truly their own.  If they want to remember to bring in their homework every day that's fine.  If they are aiming for Harvard, that's fine, too.  They may even have goals not related at all to my class like getting an A in English.  Regardless, students set their individual goals.    By setting their own goals, they take ownership and more importantly, VALUE them.
  • Strategies for achievement:  It's easy to set goals, but much harder to get to them.  Every year I have students tell me they want an A, but they really don't know how to get there.  So, step 2 is helping students strategize ways to achieve that goal - breaking it down into achievable steps.  This is the fun part.  Students feel so much better when they have tangible ideas about how to get to that goal.  I have students paste their goals and strategies in their notebook so that they can easily reference them.

I have a couple of goal setting tools here if you are interested.  In the meantime, what are your goals for yourself this year?  Write them down and strategize.  And check out the resources below to help you get there in your class.

Social Sundays is a weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message on Facebook or at the store in the question and answer section.



  1. This is a great reminder for the start of the school year--if students take ownership of their learning, they succeed. I've taught several students over the years coming from Montessori schools, and they have all been remarkable students.


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