Foundations of Education and Instructional Assessment/Involving Students/Set Goals
Helping Students Set Goals and Monitor their own Learning 
by Elizabeth (Betsy) Donoghue
Learning Targets 
The reader will be able to explain the benefits for students who set goals and monitor their learning.
The reader will be able to list strategies to help students set goals and monitor their learning.
It’s a teacher’s dream: curious students, motivated to learn, are each reveling in their own progress. Rewind to a common scene where students are daydreaming, heads on desks, while a teacher is expounding on the importance of knowing the dates of Civil War battles. How can a teacher avoid inactive students and create a dream classroom with students involved in their learning? This article will describe ways to involve students in setting their own learning goals and monitoring their own progress.
The Active Learner 
Rick Stiggins and Jan Chappuis (2005) from the Assessment Training Institute in Portland, Oregon, have emphasized the importance of involving students in setting their own learning goals and monitoring their own progress. “When [students] are involved in collecting evidence of their achievement, charting their growth, and setting goals for future learning, students develop insight into themselves as learners. In addition, both the achievement and their commitment to learning increase” (Stiggens & Chappuis, 2004, in Condition #4 section).
In order to begin to set personal learning goals, Chappuis suggests having students ask themselves, “Where am I going? Where am I now? and How can I close the gap?” (Chappuis, 2005, p39). Chappuis (2005) suggests seven strategies to help teachers create assessments that help students learn:
- 1. "Provide a clear and understandable vision of the learning target.
- 2. Use examples of strong and weak work.
- 3. Offer regular descriptive feedback.
- 4. Teach students to self-assess and set goals.
- 5. Design lessons to focus on one aspect or quality at a time.
- 6. Teach students focused revision.
- 7. Engage students in self-reflection and let them document and share their learning."
(Chappuis, 2005, pp. 40 – 42)
Setting Goals 
Having students set their own goals is easier said than done. In fact, many students find it difficult to set their own goals. McDevitt et al. (2008) found that middle school students wanted help setting goals that were not too easy and not too challenging. Schleomer and Brenan (2006) also found that college professors needed to guide college freshmen in setting goals that contained the right amount of challenge.
Rather than assume that students know how to set goals, Rader (2005) suggested that schools teach students exactly how to set goals. “Schools are labeling record numbers of students as attention deficit disordered (ADD), because those students are unable to focus, and yet the schools spend virtually no time teaching those students how to focus. Because goal setting is a crucial skill for success, it needs to be introduced” (Rader, 2005, p. 123).
"Goal Setting for Students and Teachers: Six Steps to Success"
(Rader, 2005, pp. 124 – 125)
Tips and Ideas for Goal Setting and Self-Monitoring 
Here are a few ideas which may help teachers guide students in setting goals and monitoring their learning:
- • Give the students a list of the school’s established learning targets, so each can choose one as his or her own current goal. (Schloemer, 2006)
- • Use a traffic light concept to let students indicate how much help they need. Green = I’m going along fine … Yellow = I’m a little confused … Red = I’m stuck. (Chappuis, 2005).
- • Have the students list their strengths and what they need further work on before they turn in an assignment, so that they will be monitoring their own learning (Chappuis, 2005).
- • Well before a test, have students list what they will be tested on, what they know well already, what they still feel uncertain about, and a plan for preparing for the test (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005).
- • Have students set a classroom goal, such as reading a certain number of books per month, and monitor it, in order to demonstrate goal setting (Rader, 2005).
Making Math a Winning Event
“Gail is a 5th grader who gets her math test back with ‘60%’ marked at the top. So her losing streak continues, she thinks. She’s ready to give up on ever connecting with math.
… But then her teacher distributes another paper – a worksheet the students will use to learn from their performance on the math test. … Column one lists the 20 test items by number. Column tow lists what math proficiency each item tested. The teacher calls the class’s attention to the next two columns: Right and Wrong. She asks the student to fill in those columns with checks for each item to indicate their performance on the test. Gail checks 12 right and 8 wrong.
The teacher then asks the students to evaluate … if they made a simple mistake … or if they really don’t understand what went wrong. Gail discovers that four of her eight incorrect answers were caused by careless mistakes that she knows how to fix. But four were math problems she really doesn’t understand how to solve.
Gail discovers that all of her wrong answers that reflect a true lack of understanding arise from the same gap in her problem-solving ability: subtracting 3-digit numbers with regrouping.
The teacher then provides differentiated instruction to the groups focused on their conceptual misunderstandings. Together the class also plans strategies that everyone can use to avoid simple mistakes.
When that work is complete, the teacher gives students a second form of the same math test. When Gail gets the test back with a grade of 100%, she jumps from her seat with arms held high. Her winning streak begins”
(Stiggins, 2007, “Scenario 2” from Stiggins, Arter, Chappuis, & Chappuis, 2004).
In this scenario, Gail initially received only a letter grade as feedback for her test. However, the teacher has Gail evaluate her performance on the test, and categorize the type of math concepts she understands well and those she needs more help with. She then sets a goal based on the results of this test, and determines the concept she needs more help with and also that she needs to beware of careless errors. Focused teaching then helps Gail to get the extra instruction she needs. On the next test, Gail shows that she has met her learning goals.
Gail’s experience with math testing and instruction is a good example of helping students to set goals and monitor their own learning. The teacher has guided her to evaluate her test so she knows which skills she has mastered and which she still needs work on. She has set a goal for learning a math concept based on this evaluation, and she has focused her learning, with the teacher’s guidance, on her weak areas. The second test allows for a new assessment of skills. Hopefully, as the year goes on, Gail will be able to evaluate her performance with less guidance from the teacher and will continue to set goals on her own.
To improve this scenario, the teacher could include a chart of some kind to help Gail monitor her learning over time. In addition, starting the year out with Rader’s (2005) goal setting skills training would help the students understand the process of goal setting more completely.
By including goal setting and self-monitoring in the daily classroom routine, a teacher can create a learning environment that increases student involvement and motivation. (Stiggins & Chappuis, 2005) It is interesting to note that throughout this process, students continue to set new goals frequently as they monitor their own learning. Teachers and administrators need to be familiarized with student goal setting and self-monitoring so that they can use it and intentionally teach it to their students (Stiggins, 2007). Once students begin to use this method, they will become more in charge of their own learning.
McDevitt, T., Sheehan, E., Sinco, S., Cochran, L., Lauer, D., Starr, N. (2008). These are my goals: academic self-regulation in reading by middle-school students. Reading Improvement, 45, no 3, 115-138.
Chappuis, J. (2005). Helping students understand assessment. Educational Leadership, 63, no 3, 39 – 43. Retrieved on March 3, 2009 from http://shop.ascd.org/infocon/
Rader, L. (2005). Goal setting for students and teachers: six steps to success. The Clearing House, 78, no 3, 123 – 126.
Schloemer, P., Brenan, K. (2006). From students to learners: developing self-regulated learning. Journal of Education for Business, 82, no 2, 81 – 87. Retrieved on March 3, 2009 from http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/hww/results_single_fulltext.jhhtml;hwwilsonid=F03QBDDIJC5ZVQA3DILSFF4ADUNGIIVO.
Stiggins, R. (2007). Assessment through the student’s eyes. Educational Leadership, 64, no 8, 22 – 26.
Stiggins, R., Chappuis, J. (2005). Using student –involved classroom assessment to close achievement gaps. Theory Into Practice, Wntr. Retrieved on March 3, 2009 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_MONQM/is_1_44/ai_n13807464?tag=content;col1.
1.What is NOT an expected benefit to students who set goals and monitor their own learning?
- a. The students will achieve more.
- b. The students will be more motivated.
- c. The students will get A’s on all tests.
- d. The students will understand their learning needs.
2. Which is a strategy will help students to understand what their learning goal is.
- a. Give the students a report card each semester.
- b. Provide examples of strong and weak work.
- c. Remind the students about the test at the end of the chapter.
- d. Tell the students what mistakes they made.
3. Mrs. Tiggs teaches 1st grade. She notices that the students are not remembering new reading words she has taught. She wants to motivate them to practice their new reading words so they will retain them better. What can she do to motivate them to work hard on the goal of learning the new words?
- a. Give A’s on the report card to students who learn their words.
- b. Keep reading the same stories until they learn the words.
- c Let students add their words to a poster when they can read them to the teacher 5 times.
- d. Send home letters to the parents of students who are not learning their words.
4. Ms. Nelson is the principal of a middle school who wants to motivate her students to learn. Her teachers complain that the students seem to do fine on homework, but do not seem to master the material for the test. What strategy would she NOT suggest to the teachers.
- a. Guide the students to list what topics they need more study on.
- b. Have the students chart their progress on practice tests.
- c. Keep students after school if they fail the final test.
- d. Teach the students to set goals.
1. c ; 2. b ; 3. c ; 4. c