Steve explains how goal setting can give students a picture of the future which can increase motivation and in turn, effort and engagement.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the teacher edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with teachers in and out of their classroom settings. I have a great respect for the complexity of teaching and I know that all great teachers are continuous learners. I invite you to join me as I explore my thoughts and insights on a variety of topics, connected to teaching and learning. Thanks for listening.
Steve: 00:34 Having students set goals is a great strategy to increase student effort and engagement in the learning process. When I get students to set a goal, have that learning outcome, they are seeing a picture of success out in the future, and that picture, it can be motivational to students. The problem is that way too often, we work with students to set goals, but we don’t take the next step, which is to translate those goals into specific learning behaviors. The goals are achieved because of what students do and the student needs to be clear on what I call the learning production behaviors. What do I do over what kind of period of time that leads to gaining that picture of success that I’ve set as my goal? I had a great example of this. Years back, I was visiting in a school and I sat down with a student and the student shared with me that he had a writing goal and his writing goal was to move his writing score from a 2.5 to a 3.0.
Steve: 02:00 And I said to the student, “Oh man, that’s terrific. What’s that going to take?” And he had a clear picture. He said, “well, my writing has to have fewer punctuation mistakes and I have to have a greater variety of words in my vocabulary.” And I said, “terrific.” I then backed up one step and said, “and what will you do to make that happen? And he said, “I have no idea.” So here, the student has this picture of a future that he wants. He’s got even a clearer picture of what a 3.0 would look like, what his work has to be, but he doesn’t have the behaviors that he needs to execute to make that happen. And I turned to the student, I said, “well, you need some learning production behaviors.” And he said, “I do.” And I said, “yes, go ask your teacher for a list of all the places commas are used and put that list inside your writing folder.”
Steve: 02:59 And then on each draft that you write, go back to that list. Look at the first place that commas are used. Do you have any of those? Look at the second place. Do you have any of those? Look at the third place. Do you have any of those? And I guarantee you, if you do that on each writing draft for the next month, you’ll begin to use punctuation, you’ll begin to use commas in the correct spot. I then said to the student, now take your paper and go to a classmate and ask them to highlight two words in your writing that they think you could come up with a more sophisticated word instead of the word that you have there. After you get those two, go back and change those two words, maybe give it to another classmate and change those two. And again, I’ll guarantee you, if you do that on each piece over time, you will begin to see those vocabulary words showing up in your original draft.
Steve: 03:56 So when students take on these actions or these behaviors, there’s two things that they need to be keeping track of. Here’s the first one: evidence of action. Can that student set up a tracking system so that each time he checks his work for commas, he can give himself a check mark and see that he is carrying out that behavior? Because in most instances, my initial implementation of my behavior doesn’t cause the progress. So I’m keeping track that I’ve one, done the learning production behaviors, then later on keeping track of my progress. Am I getting my work closer to the outcome that I’ve set? Now that I understand what the student production behaviors are, I then begin to think, well, what’s the role that the teacher has. And of course, the first role of the teacher is to be able to identify what the learning production behaviors are.
Steve: 05:04 See if you see your great athletic coaches, your strong performing arts drama and music people, what make them excellent at their work is they’re able to identify for the performer, identify for the athlete, what those behaviors are that they have to implement. Then they provide positive feedback for the actions, because initially the student is not getting positive feedback from the progress, because progress isn’t happening. It’s the action. I’m sure you’ve all experienced this. Have you done that one week diet? You started first thing on Monday morning, and you kept to the plan. You did all the behaviors all week long that you were supposed to do and come Saturday morning, you step on the scale and saw that you made no progress. And that’s why many of us in this process need to have a coach. And so very often the role that the teacher plays is a role of coach, supporting the student by identifying the production behaviors, giving the student positive feedback, and then building in those celebrations that allow the student to track towards progress. If you implement this kind of goal setting with your students, you’ll really be accomplishing two important things. One is enhancing the students’ current learning on whatever they’re building their goals around, but two, empowering learners to be able to build their own goals and develop a plan that will cause them to follow through and achieve a goal.
Steve [Outro]: 06:52 Thanks again for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley, ponders out loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.