Literacy 4-6

Systems Change

Goal Setting


Setting overall goals, as well as smaller goals as steps to reaching them, encourages consistent, achievable progress and helps students feel confident in their skills and abilities. When learners create their own goals, plan out steps to achieve them, and check their progress against these steps, they strengthen their self-efficacy as they build their capacity to tackle difficult challenges and be successful. For writing in particular, setting specific goals for the content and audience of a composition leads to improvements in the writing process.

Use It in the Classroom

Watch this fifth grade teacher use SMART goals with her students. By sharing examples of her students' goals, this teacher provides a concrete overview of what makes up a SMART goal. Through this process, students are able to reflect on their learning and goals, maintaining them in their Short-term Memory.

  • Teachers can support students by helping them create goals for future learning based on what they do well, what they are excited to learn, and their target areas, then help them monitor their progress towards these goals. Learners feel more Motivation to tackle challenging reading and writing assignments with the support of goals and micro-goals. For example, setting a goal of reading one chapter a night can help a student feel confident that they can read a longer book. In the same way, setting a goal of providing four examples in a persuasive essay can make a long paper seem more doable.
  • Design It into Your Product

    *Videos are chosen as examples of strategies in action. These choices are not endorsements of the products or evidence of use of research to develop the feature.*

    See how products, such as Toodledo, allow learners to create tasks or lists of goals and self-monitor their progress. With functions like reminders and shareable lists, learners are able to stay more accountable to the goals they set.

  • For a developer, incorporating milestones or goals that are realistic and pertinent can be highly motivating for learners. For their work to be relevant, learners must also have the opportunity and agency to set at least some of the goals personally. A potential framework to follow for giving learners this agency in setting meaningful, attainable goals for learners is SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Based, and Time-Bound.
  • Factors Supported by this Strategy