15. Setting goals for students

If people have something to aim for, they will achieve more.


Imagine you set a goal for a student: ‘Improve’. Discuss if this is a good goal or not? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it?

Setting useful goals

When setting goals, it’s important that they are useful. Let’s look at a few goals:

   ‘Improve’: This is not a good goal because it is vague. How much should I improve? What should I improve?

   ‘Improve in math’: Better, but still doesn’t say by how much to improve.

   ‘Improve from 10/20 to 20/20 in math’: Better but it is not very possible to achieve.

   ‘Improve from 10/20 to 12/20 in math’: A realistic goal, but how do we achieve it, and how quickly should we achieve it?

   ‘Improve in three months from 10/20 to 12/20 in math by reviewing lessons when you get home, asking friends when you are unsure of something and doing homework with friends’: This is a great goal. It is clear what we need to do to succeed, how quickly we will do it and how we will do it.

A good goal is:

            Specific: It is clear what to improve.

            Measurable: There is a clear way of measuring if the goal has been achieved.

            Achievable: The goal includes a method to achieve it.

            Realistic: It is a goal the student can achieve.

            Time-Bound: There is a timeframe for the goal.

As a teacher, you need to help your students set goals for themselves. You can suggest goals, but a goal only works when the student wants to achieve it. I recommend setting aside some time for students to think about what they would like to improve and help them come up with realistic goals and ways that they can achieve them. Students could share their goals with their parents or other people to keep them accountable.


1) In your subject, what sort of goals might students set?

2) In your subject, what sort of things should students do to improve?

3) Discuss your answers with other teachers of your subject.