Goal-Setting Helps Students Invest In Their Growth

Jay Briar, Head of Middle School, explains why goal-setting is a priority in our classroooms at this time of year. 

The beginning of each school year provides our students an opportunity to set goals for the year ahead. While the style and substance of these goals changes as students grow older and develop a greater sense of self, the purpose is the same at all levels: to help students invest in their own academic and social-emotional growth. As part of the Responsive Classroom model, students learn to reflect on their own strengths and challenges in order to take age-appropriate ownership over their school life. Once set, these goals inform the creation of the classroom covenants which establish shared responsibility among students for a productive year. During conferences, teachers help students report on successes and continued challenges so that the goals develop and remain vital over the course of the year.

We do this because research clearly demonstrates that students who reflect on their learning develop a growth mindset, allowing them to continue learning new skills throughout their lives. Rather than believing their basic qualities and skills are fixed, learners with a growth mindset look for new areas of inquiry and development. They are more resilient and learn to persist even when there are bumps along the road. (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck is an excellent resource if you are interested in learning more about growth mindset theory and research.)

This mindset is key to learning in the 21st century and goes hand-in-hand with the concept-based approach to learning that is central to Sheridan’s program. In order to think big thoughts and ask difficult questions, students must first have a solid sense of themselves; an ability to articulate what they do and do not yet know. This outlook starts by looking inward, by learning to reflect on personal attributes so that growth is a lifetime skill applied every time a new challenge approaches.

Families are an important part of goal setting and the growth mindset. Parents are encouraged to ask their children about goals and their progress toward achieving them over the course of the year. And whenever possible, show your children how you are continuing to learn by setting goals and working to reach them!