Goals can be a powerful motivator and tool for accountability. Several different years when I was teaching and preparing my students for external exams or just trying to motivate low performers, I asked each student to come up with a goal (a percentage) that they wanted to hit in the subject. I tried to steer them to set a goal that was challenging but achievable. Then I gave each student a number and created a class chart using those numbers. Each month I plotted on a the chart the score each student got and we watched together as those scores went up. Some when up gradually, others significantly increased for a certain month.
When you expect great things out of students and get them to expect them out of themselves you’ll see they rise to the challenge. The first key in effective goal-setting is that they take part in setting the goal.
Second, you ensure the goal is possible and provide the necessary supports for them to be successful. It would not be a good idea for a C average student to set a goal of getting all A’s on the next report card.
Then, there needs to be follow-up. How many times do we set goals and then never look at them again? In order for the goals to be successful you need to continually remind students about them. Meet with them to review their goal and check their progress. You could put up a visual remind of the goal and their progress (like the line graph I mentioned above).
Finally, provide an incentive. Students are much more likely to buy into the goals if they have an incentive outside of just “the joy of getting a good grade”. The incentive might be as simple as a popcorn party, sitting anywhere you want for a day, no shoes in the classroom day or extra recess. The incentive is tied to them achieving their goal, whatever their goal was.