How to Set Goals with Students


How to Set Goals with Students


Goal setting helps students choose what direction they want to go and achieve what they want to do. The process of setting goals also helps them determine what they have to focus on and improve. Moreover, it motivates them to become successful not only in school, but also in life. In this article, we will provide tips on how to set goals with students.


Effective Goal Setting for Students

In our role as teachers, we need to take every opportunity to help students achieve their goals. Goals should be “SMART”. This acronym stands for:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Realistic

T = Trackable


Create an Action Plan

For students to accomplish their goals, they need to follow an action plan. Here are 10 tips for setting goals and creating action plans with students. 

1. Use verb-noun structure – Action plans should drive a student to action, with each item beginning with a verb. For example, “Finish assignments each night”.


2. Plan strategically and tactically – The strategic part of goal setting requires students to plan with the big picture in mind. For example, “Get an A in English”. Meanwhile, the tactical part of an action plan requires students to break the big picture into smaller parts. If a student’s action plan is “Get an A in English,” the action items must include the steps needed to achieve that goal. For example, “Read 5 book pages each night“.


3. Recognize when help is needed – There are times when a student may not be able to accomplish his or her goals without the help from other people. For example, if the action item is to earn 700 on the Math SAT, the student may need to get a tutor to reach that goal.


4. Stop and reassess – Stop and reassess action plans with your students about once a month. Circumstances and variables can change, and those changes may have an effect on students’ goals. Ask students if they’re still on track to achieve their goals.


5. Review action plans regularly – It is important to review action plans. There are many ways to do this. For example, tell students to keep action plans in front of their binders so they can be reminded of them often. Another way is to keep plans in the Notes section of their smartphones.


6. Include a timeline – Some action plans may be ongoing, while others have a specific time requirement. Sometimes, there are deadlines to be met. To achieve the best results, make sure the students include timelines when applicable, and tell them to sync the timelines with their calendars.


7. Identify obstacles to success – Identifying what stands in the way of success is an important piece of the puzzle. For example, a student may have a goal of raising his/her grade from a D to a B. If the reason why the grade is low is because the student isn’t doing enough homework, find out why. Is the student spending too much time playing video games or using social media? Once students identify obstacles, help them determine how to circumvent those roadblocks.


8. Include parents into the equation – Parent-teacher conferences are a good opportunity to involve parents in the goal setting process. Discuss action plans that foster a collaborative spirit between students and their parents. Parents naturally want their children to do well in school, and there’s no reason why they would refuse to cooperate.


9. Track progress – Students can monitor progress each day or week using notes or a checklist. It could be content they mastered, a new vocabulary word, or a new concept they now understand. Imagine how they’ll feel when they reflect on a month’s worth of progress! This will allow them to celebrate achievements, maintain perspective, and continue persevering toward their goals.


10. Have fun – Goals don’t have to be always academic. Students can create goals for fun and relaxation, too. “Join the Theater Club so I can take part in the upcoming school play” is a good example. Or, “Try out for athletics team next week”.



As with any new strategy, once is not enough. Aside from knowing how to set goals with students, you may need to review the goal setting process every now and then. Adjust if necessary. Teach your students to dream big and provide them with the tools needed to make those dreams a reality. With motivation and perseverance, you can help students achieve their goals and reach their full potential.


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