Click for video about student goals.
famous basketball player Michael Jordan wrote the following
about goal setting in his book, I Can’t Accept Not Trying:
Michael Jordan on the Pursuit of Excellence:
I approach everything step by
step....I had always set short-term goals. As I look
back, each one of the steps or successes led to the next one.
When I got cut from the varsity team as a sophomore in high
school, I learned something. I knew I never wanted to
feel that bad again....So I set a goal of becoming a starter
on the varsity. That’s what I focused on all summer.
When I worked on my game, that’s what I thought about.
When it happened, I set another goal, a reasonable, manageable
goal that I could realistically achieve if I worked hard enough....I
guess I approached it with the end in mind. I knew exactly
where I wanted to go, and I focused on getting there.
As I reached those goals, they built on one another.
I gained a little confidence every time I came through.
...If [your goal is to become
a doctor]...and you’re getting Cs in biology then the first
thing you have to do is get Bs in biology and then As.
You have to perfect the first step and then move on to chemistry
Take those small steps.
Otherwise you’re opening yourself up to all kinds of frustration.
Where would your confidence come from if the only measure
of success was becoming a doctor? If you tried as hard
as you could and didn’t become a doctor, would that mean your
whole life was a failure? Of course not.
All those steps are like pieces
of a puzzle. They all come together to form a picture....Not
everyone is going to be the greatest....But you can still
be considered a success....Step by step, I cant see any other
way of accomplishing anything.
I Can’t Accept Not Trying:
Michael Jordan on the Pursuit of Excellence is published
by HarperSanFrancisco, a division of HarperCollinsPublishers
An ancient Chinese proverb notes that
no wind is favorable if one does not know to which port one is sailing.
Goals provide a standard against which students can gauge their
progress, and setting goals can have a substantial impact on student
self-efficacy and achievement. Setting and measuring goals is probably
the most effective classroom modification teachers can make to increase
student confidence. When students achieve short-term goals, they
gain an initial sense of self-efficacy for performing well, which
is later substantiated as they observe progress toward longer-term
goals. Goals are effective in two ways. First, they give directions
for a student’s effort. Second, they provide a way to measure, and
thus draw attention to, previous achievement. As mentioned earlier,
past performance is the strongest indicator of self-efficacy, and
helping students set, measure, and record achieved goals draws their
attention to their past performance.
Smaller can be better
When it comes to goal setting, smaller
is better. Help your students set small, achievable goals
that can be accomplished quickly. As you work through a project
or unit, you can help them set more difficult and larger, longer-term
goals. During the initial phase of any project, short-term goals
that ensure immediate success are essential. Young students, in
particular, are not able to focus on long-term goals. One setback
during a long series of successes with short-term goals is much
easier to handle than a larger set-back with one long-term goal.
As Michael Jordan's advice at the right states, “Step by step,
I cant see any other way...”
Research on Goal Setting
Ronald Taylor (1964) compared the goals of underachievers and achievers.
He found that underachievers either had no particular goals, or
if they did, aimed impossibly high. Achievers, by comparison, set
realistic, attainable goals that were related to their school work.
Robert Wood and Edwin Locke (1987) found a
significant relationship between goals and self-efficacy: Students
with a stronger sense of efficacy also set higher, but reachable,
goals. Wood and Locke also pointed out that more challenging
goals usually prompt higher achievement. Challenge, of course, is
in the eye of the beholder. Goals the teacher considers challenging
may be seen as too stiff by some students, and laughably easy by
others. The challenge for the teacher, then, is to assist students
in setting reasonable goals for themselves.
Albert Bandura and Dale Schunk (1981) showed
that when elementary students are taught to carve up large, distant
goals into smaller subgoals, several useful outcomes follow:
They make faster progress in learning skills or content, they learn
an important self-regulation skill, and they improve their self-efficacy
and interest in the task. In every class, there may be some students
who already are skillful at goal-setting. On their own, gifted students–
especially gifted girls– make frequent use of goal-setting and planning
strategies. But all students will profit from careful thought about
their achievement goals. Dale Schunk’s (1985) study of sixth grade
learning disabled mathematics students showed that the best learning
occurred not just when the students focused on short-term goals,
but when they also had a say in goal-setting. Students showed more
growth in self-efficacy and math skills when they participated in
Specific goals are far more effective motivators
than general ones, such as “Do your best.” When a student goal contains
a clear performance standard, it cuts out a lot of guesswork about
where to aim. Learning and self-efficacy are enhanced by specific
goals, because it is easier for both teacher and student to gauge
What to do...
- Print the Michael
Jordan goal-setting basketball story and share it with your
- Work with your student to set three
goals each week. A form (My Accomplishment
Plan) is provided for the student to use. These goals should
be sufficiently specific that it is easy for the student to recognize
progress toward them. The goals should also be attainable...within
the student's reach with reasonable effort. Help the student set
improvement rather than benchmark goals. For example, the student
may decide to increase the number of homework assignments completed,
as opposed to completing twelve homework assignments. The first
promotes achievement while improving performance. At the end of
each week, review the student's Accomplishment
Plan for the week and assist the student in developing new
goals for the next week.
Check Your Understanding
- Since students with high self-efficacy
set very challenging goals, teachers should encourage underachievers
to set such goals.
Next Section: Help
Students Document Their Growth
Previous Section: Promote
Recognition of Progress During a Lesson
c. 2000 - Del
Siegle - This material may not be reproduced or distributed
beyond this website.