12 January 2012

How are you going with your new years resolutions?  If you are like the majority of people your goals have already fallen in a heap!  Before you get depressed, there is an answer.


When it comes to being intrinsically motivated your ability to set Goals is a major factor.  However setting goals without a system of follow-up and accountability will do nothing for your motivation.  This is why we set goals and then not keep them.

The type of goal you set is also very important because the way in which you set your goal will determine the system that goes with it.  Every one of your teaching goals needs to have the following 5 characteristics:

To help you to easily remember the 5 characteristics we will use the acronym S.M.A.R.T

[S] – Specific

[M] – Measurable

[A] – Attainable

[R] – Realistic

[T] – Time limited

Out of the 5 characteristics the most important are that your teaching goals are specific and measureable.  These are the two elements of your goal that will enable you to set up your feedback and accountability system.  The rule of thumb is that if you can’t measure it then it’s not specific enough.

In the How to Motivate, Manage and Engage Your Students course we spend a lot of time deciding what our goals will be in the following areas:

  • Attitude
  • Effort
  • Engagement
  • Behaviour

Often teachers find it hard to write specific and measurable teaching goals in the areas of engagement and effort because they tend to be more intuitive.  But your student’s motivation will increase as you learn to set and communicate your goals more clearly.

In my classes I will have goals for each lesson and spend the first part of that lesson communicating those goals to the class in such a way that there is no ambiguity as to what I am saying.

Some examples of goals that aren’t specific or measurable:

  • Behave yourself
  • Don’t be too noisy
  • Everyone has a go
  • Take initiative
  • Respect other people and their property

How you could make these goals more specific

  • Be seated with your mouth closed and all your equipment ready within the next 2 minutes
  • Speak at a level where I can speak to someone at the back of the room without needing to raise my voice
  • Everyone in the group needs to write some of the answer – this means I will see five different types of handwriting on the poster at the end of the lesson
  • If you have a problem you need to try three different strategies to solve the problem on your own before asking for help
  • When someone else speaks, you don’t.  Don’t touch other people’s property without asking first.

With each of the examples above you can measure whether or not your students are reaching your expectations and then provide feedback and apply a consequence if need be.

An increase in motivation doesn’t come from the goal but rather the follow-up and feedback of the goal.  So if you say to your students that they need to try three different strategies to solve the problem on their own before asking for help, then they need to come to you with their three strategies.  Initially they will try and get away with just one strategy (or if your students are like mine – no strategies) but as you consistently ask them to reach this goal they will eventually just do it because they know that for them to get help they first needed to display a good attitude and put in some effort.  Over time your students go from waiting for the answer to solving the problem independently and your student motivation and engagement increases.

So just to recap…as you set clear and concise goals that are specific and measurable and then follow up that goal with a feedback and consequence system you can increase your student’s intrinsic motivation.  If you just set the goal (even if it was specific and measurable) but had no follow-up then motivation does not increase.  So whether you are setting teaching goals or personal goals make sure they are S.M.A.R.T and that there is a consequence for not reaching them.


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