Middle School Learning: The Power of Setting Goals


I read a quote the other day that read: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” I believe the same is true of New Year’s resolutions. In January, we resolve to get fit, get organized, give up bad habits, learn a new skill. Setting these intentions at the start of each new year is a wonderful tradition and a great first step. But setting the intention to do something isn’t enough. It’s why gyms are packed in January and empty by mid-February. If there is no plan in place to achieve the intention, then it is simply a wish – and wishes don’t often come true unless you’re the protagonist in a fable.

This is why we encourage our students to not only set intentions, but also plan the path for how they will reach them. At the end of each term, our students are given the time to reflect on the learning they have done throughout the previous months. Students are asked to read through their report cards and highlight some things they are proud of. Then, students are asked to identify some areas for growth. Based on these areas, students will develop three goals for the next term. Their goals must follow the S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) model. Student discuss these goals with their teacher advisors and they are revisited throughout the term.

Over the next few days, each student at the Middle School will receive an email with a goal-setting template. Students will be given class time to complete these forms and they will then upload their personal goal document into their ePortfolios so they can access them and track their progress.

At the Middle School, we stress the importance of writing down your goals. The statistics on maintaining resolutions or goals if you don’t write them down are not encouraging. Twenty-five percent of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions after one week; 60% of people abandon them within six months. (The average person makes the same New Year’s resolution ten separate times without success.) The research is conclusive. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, did a study on goal-setting with 267 participants. She found that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down. (Info courtesy of https://michaelhyatt.com.)

Setting aside time to set goals and reflect on them throughout the year is an important part of the learning process. Teaching these skills is something our students will benefit from during their years as a student and beyond.

Tanya Lee teaches Humanities 6, and Communication Skills 7 and 8 at the SMUS Middle School. She is one of four SMUS teachers who dedicates a portion of their time shepherding St. Michaels University School’s plan to implement an integrated and excellent approach to personalization. The personalization team explores current best practices of personalized learning and looks at how SMUS can integrate these methodologies into our programming in a way that provides outstanding preparation for higher learning and for life.

You can also read more about personalized learning at SMUS on The Head’s Blog, written by Head of School Bob Snowden.


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