All of Washington’s teacher evaluation rubrics reference student goal setting. And while all teachers are expected to set goals for students, more proficient teachers are referenced as having students set their own goals and directing their own learning.
In reflecting on successes and areas for improvement at the first major break of the school year, I can’t help myself from going back to student goal setting again and again.
I believe as long as I’ve taught I’ve had student expectations. And I remember having students ‘set goals’ about behavior from even my first year of teaching. Looking back though, at that point, I was using this ‘goal setting’ as a management technique. It wasn’t a bad use of time and I believe I helped students find accountability for their choices. But these choices go beyond how they act within the school day.
I’ve improved my practice in my time in the classroom. I’ve gone from goals being about behavior, to goals being provided to students, to students setting their own goals. This was a daunting task for me, because while one of strengths is setting clear goals for students and explaining learning targets, I had huge concerns about kids as young as 5 directing their own learning.
In the past several years I’ve conferenced with students about simple things like their reading goals. While I was still ultimately setting the reading goals based on data for students, the conversations with each child were helping them buy into the goal setting process and voice their celebrations and concerns. Based on my conversations, I was able to provided incredibly differentiated one-on-one instruction for students during these meetings.
From there I moved to student self-assessments in math and other content areas. When I stated our learning targets, students would pre-assess their skill set, generally using a ‘3-2-1’ circle activity or a ‘smiley face – straight face – frowny face’ circling activity. Our lessons would close with this same activity, looking for student growth.
While at some point I began to have some guilt about the heavy hand I left in this process, I now realize that this scaffolding was important for my students. Intentional guidance has helped them be successful with this process and my guidance can gradually be released.
Now, I’m ready to grow as an instructor again in this area. Looking back at the fall, I see that students are most excited for our one-on-one goal setting meetings. They are capable of very accurately assessing their own growth. They’re ready for more. And so I am I. This leaves me thinking about my next steps. That’s my goal for Winter Break. I’m committed to returning to school in January with a way that all of my students, kindergartners – 5th graders, can self-direct their own learning.
Anytime students are in control of their own learning, I can’t help but believe that the most learning happens. After all, don’t we work harder for what we can control?
Do you have any ideas for me?
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.