Goal setting for learning

Introduction to goal setting

Here we introduce you to another technique – goal setting.

Goals are specific tasks or activities concerned with the “how” of getting things done. Goal setting is an important method of motivating yourself and of improving self-confidence, based on achievement. It includes:

  • What the goal is and why it is being pursued
  • What can be done to achieve the goal 
  • Timescales for completion

Goals can create vision and motivation for learning. They often form a focus for scheduling or action planning and, through setting well-defined goals, enable measurement of achievements.

Let us look at some ideas for formulating these and shaping them further.

A simple and tested formula, which helps to draw up goals and makes them user friendly, is the mnemonic – SMART – perhaps you have heard of it? For learning goals to be meaningful, they must be SMART like this:

  • SPECIFIC – the task to be undertaken is clearly defined
  • MEASURABLE – the task to be undertaken is qualified in terms of a measurable outcome
  • ACHIEVABLE – the task must be realistically achievable within the parameters of the resources available
  • RECORDED – the task to be undertaken must be recorded or “trackable” so that correct monitoring and tracking can take place
  • TIMED – the task to be undertaken is qualified in terms of a timescale

Setting your goals

You need to record your goals somewhere – perhaps in a Word or written document that you can refer to when scheduling, action planning or writing a to do list.

It is most constructive to express your study goals positively. So for example, instead of your goal being “not to fail my exam”, it could be positively expressed as “to achieve a pass or higher in my exam”.

Set a precise goal for learning, making it time or date relevant and/or giving it some other quantifiable measure of achievement, perhaps a percentage pass mark.

If you have a number of learning goals, you will need to make sure you do not overwork or overwhelm yourself and so it will be important to prioritise. You will also need to prioritise your learning goals alongside your personal and professional goals. We will learn about prioritisation in more depth in a later Bite.

Be sure to manage your learning goals; it is important to be realistic and not take on too much, especially if you have family and work commitments. Achievement of small learning goals in stages will lead to consistent development and the potential to continue goal setting.

Your learning goals will only be achievable if you have control over them. Be realistic when you determine your goals and do not aim too high. A thorough understanding of the design or components of the learning solution(s) you are planning to engage in will help you establish what is realistic. 

And of course, remember to celebrate your successes. When you achieve a goal, it is a great boost to your confidence and often in the context of learning, a big relief!