A goal setting program will help students to define their path

Phil O'Regan, Head of Secondary School

Phil O'Regan, Head of Secondary School

By Phil O?Regan, Deputy Principal and Head of Secondary School

Recently staff in the secondary school have been considering the character attributes we wish to see in our students. Discussions and focus groups have explored traits and dispositions contributing to the full development of the student within the cognitive and affective domains.

The staff teams are reviewing established research in the field of learner and character development directing close attention to contemporary research in this area (references follow at the conclusion of the article). The teams are seeking to define a set of dispositions specific to the Radford context that will be explicitly referenced in the learning environment. In the coming terms the students? progress will be reviewed by class teachers and tutors will consider the patterns within and across subjects. Tutors will undertake discussions with students seeking to uncover factors contributing to and inhibiting their progress across each of their subjects within each of the domains. Students will reflect on the conversations and set about establishing meaningful goals which they will work towards during the following term.

In committing our students to a program of defining key goals and establishing actions to achieve these, we seek to provide a platform where all students, irrespective of academic performance, can experience success in learning. Thinking in this space has been informed by Hattie & Timperly (2007). They suggest ?when students have clear objectives, they are more likely to seek feedback to close the gap between their current understanding or skill and the desired goal?.

Later in the year we will move towards a curriculum embedded goal setting approach. Students will complete personal reflections on their progress within the dispositions, consider teacher observations from the semester report and together with their tutor establish purposeful learning goals.

?As students increase their goal setting abilities for learning, their ability to self-evaluate and self-regulate their participation and performance also increases?

(Saphier & Gower, 1997)

?Goals, in turn, will provide a structural benefit to self-regulation by helping students to organize, prioritize and manage their motives?

(Shah & Kruglanski, 2008)

Goal setting will dovetail neatly with the explicit teaching of the learner dispositions, focusing on higher order thinking skills and the behaviours of application and perseverance:

?Students who invest in their goals also demonstrate greater persistence, creativity, and risk taking in their achievement of those goals.?

(Dewett, 2007; Lepper, Greene, & Nisbett,1973)

The key focus of the goal setting program is instilling responsibility and agency in each student to define their path, be proactive in achieving an intentional goal and build in each student the intrinsic desire to establish and achieve relevant and purposeful goals in their lives.

?Research has shown that proactive actions increase the sense of agency ? that self-determined behaviour of goal setting is indeed closely related to people?s sense of agency and correlated with increased intrinsic motivation.?

(Lee & Reeve, 2013)

As we seek to instil in each of the students the skills and understanding to move from learner dependency to independency, the tutors and teachers will take on the role of co-pilot and facilitator, rather than instructor.

Further reading

The ACARA general capabilities; Costa and Kallick?s Habits of Mind, 2000; Selligman and Peterson?s Character Strengths and Virtues (2004); Claxton?s Learning Powered Mind; and the IB Learner Profile.

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