Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Goals and goal making

Until recently I had an idea about goals that I tell my students, and it was a story about setting goals using a SMARTER system. I won't go into great detail here, but I do not think it is how I or others make their goals. Maybe some people have, but it is not how my students make their goals. I have tried and even over the course of a semseter, they don't get the hang of it.

In the first semester this year I asked each of the students to make goals using the SMARTER system. The name is an acronym for specific, measurable, appropriate, relevant, timed, entertaining, and rewards. The students were to create their own goal, which they would write about in their action logs. Only about twenty percent of them were able to make credible goals using the system, but there was a bigger problem in the logic of the exercise.

There was an inconsistency between what I said, "Focus on now, " and "If you believe it, it is true." Students would write in their action logs, "I want to be good at English." My reply was to suggest that they say instead, "I am good at English," focusing their attention not on the wanting to be but on being. They liked that idea, and adopted it. They needed to be reminded now and again, but for the most part, they said it, and over the course of our class, they came to believe it. They can speak English. Unfortunately I also suggested that they make goals that force them to ignore their belief that they can, and realign themselves with their previous belief that being able to speak English will be something that happens in the future, always in the future, never now.

I had to think of another way to encourage them to build goals. I don't use the SMARTER system in my life. It is too time consuming. Also, and more fundamentally, the SMART system was hard to figure out. A large percentage of the students never understood the system, other than remembering the acronym.

In a recent class I took the opportunity to think about what they want kinds of English skills they want and act in the present :
1. as if they already posses the skills,
2. to improve their already considerable abilities.

In this way they will be keeping the end in mind, even if the end is not crystal clear at the moment.

1 comment:

EFL Geek said...

Dan,
I've been using S.M.A.R.T goals with students for ages and in the last 18 months switched to S.M.A.R.T.E.R but my acronym is a little different than yours.

S - specific
M - measurable
A - Acceptable
R - realistic
T - time oriented
E - exttendable
R - recorded

I also wrote about it the original system (SMART) on my blog almost 4 years ago.
Goal Setting March 2004
Goals Presentation February 2005