Set Goals

Image Credit: Graeme Robinson-Clogg

Setting Goals to Move Ahead

Now that you have evaluated where you are in your learning journey, you can begin to set goals for the semester ahead. One common tool for effective goal setting is developing SMART goals. These goals are:

Specific: Your goal will clearly define what you are going to accomplish. You will ask and answer the what and why of your goal.

Measurable: You will identify criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. This will be the definition of how you will attain your goal.

  • How will you know when the result that you want has been achieved?
  • How will you verify your achievement/performance of this goal?

Attainable: Is it possible for you to achieve your desired goal? Can you see a path to your accomplishment? You are the who in this goal-setting process. It is your positive attitude that will allow you to draw on your current strengths and develop new ones as you meet your goal.

Relevant: Realistic goals must represent an objective toward which you are willing to work and that are relevant to you. You need to identify where this goal will take you. A goal can be both ambitious and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how ambitious your goal should be. Just be sure that each of your goals represents substantial progress.

Time-Bound: You need to create a sense of personal urgency by setting times for each step along the way. Knowing when you have to accomplish a task keeps you on track and accountable. What needs to be done by when? Be timely! For example, I could say that my goal is to become a better runner. This goal is undefined and I will not be able to tell if I have achieved it. A SMART goal would be, “I will complete a ten kilometre run in under one hour by the end of June after training with my running group twice weekly.” Note that this goal is time-bound, and includes specific and measurable criteria that help me to know if I have successfully achieved it.

A growth mindset is associated with successful learning. Why? The growth mindset principles are supported by what we know about the brain and learning. Adult brains continue to develop over time by through learning. Working to master complex material results in the development of additional neural connections. In other words, by learning difficult material, you can actually become smarter. If you believe that you are able to succeed by working hard, you are more able to persevere through the difficult moments in learning, and continue to make progress toward your learning goals.


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