Goals – Private or Public?

Disclosure: I am enrolled in the Innovative Teaching Academy. Although enrollment for this first round is closed, you might be interested in going to the link above to get detailed information about the Academy; it might entice you to join when it opens up again in six months! This post is about something I’ve been thinking about today as a result of required reading for the Academy.

In one of the #ITA17 lectures, A.J. Juliani talked about the importance of setting goals, which I agree with, but then he said something that completely threw me into left field. He said that recent research has uncovered that we do better at accomplishing our goals if we keep them private. Boom!

In the classroom, allow kids to set goals and keep them private. Apparently, when we make individual goals public, we are less likely to achieve them. Not so with classroom goals. These should be made public and shared among all members of the classroom community.

OK. I need to pause for a moment in order to process this again.

First a little background about how goal setting works in my class.

My students write weekly goals in math, reading and writing. We started by brainstorming goals together and posting these on chart paper. These charts are taped to the wall below the SmartBoard. But, if truth be told, I’ve never seen the kids refer to them for ideas. Despite this, most students have had little trouble setting goals. Or at least it appeared that way until I asked them how it was going. They told me that it was easy to set goals in reading, but harder in math and writing, in that order.  (I won’t expand on this now because that’s a bigger topic for a future blog post.)

At first, students wrote their goals this way, “I am going to…”
This evolved into: “I will…” This second iteration positioned goals as something to accomplish rather than as a wish or hope.
Recently, I asked my students to write their goals this way: “I will…so that…” My hope was that by writing a “so that” they would be more intentional and aware of their goals. It’s still too early to tell if this is working. (Again, another topic for another blog post.)

After students write their goals, they post them in a square space on a chart with their name. We don’t do much else with the chart other than that I will occasionally take down sticky notes in math, reading or writing (mostly in reading) and talk to students about how they’re doing with their goals. At the beginning of each week, they discard the goals they’ve accomplished, write new ones or carry over any goals they are still working on.

Now what?
I’m not sure.
I have two choices.

  1. We could keep doing what we’ve been doing thus far. After all, the year is almost over and I’ve changed this routine several times already. It would be easier to just let things stay the way they are. Don’t rock the boat.
  2. Or, I could take down the goal setting chart and give kids individual charts to keep in folders that are private. Then, we could use the chart to write classroom goals instead. 

Not sure.
I need to keep thinking about this.

Ha! And, I thought I had it all figured out…

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