Developing Self-Awareness and Self-Management through the Goal Setting Process
WHEN MOTIVATION DIPS
I always said that I don’t want students to do work for me, but for their own learning. Completing assignments and turning in work is not to prove something to me -- not meant to be an accountability ‘gotcha’ -- but rather a chance to practice and apply content while working on time management skills. The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework even begins with the role of Engagement to ultimately develop purposeful and motivated expert learners. I mention this because getting grades up is one part of motivation, but our ultimate goal is much larger than that!
A current problem you may be seeing with students is that their sense of self-worth and ability to self-advocate have been waning in today’s pandemic schooling. There has been a decrease in students’ ability to complete and turn in assignments. Teachers are scrambling to connect virtually, find new ways to reach their students, and work with families to keep motivation up. Whatever your learning scenario (full remote, hybrid, or in person), you are still teaching through a pandemic. And the trauma effect on students, families and educators is leading to more and more burnout and absenteeism. It has become more difficult for (some) students to keep grades up. I have spoken with some hard-working high school resource English teachers trying new methods daily: grade checks, using digital and paper planners, emails and phone calls home, 1:1 video conferences, connecting with other teachers. We decided to approach the problem differently.
In a new attempt to motivate students, we decided to put ‘more’ of the load on the learner, in a way that would encourage self-awareness and self-management. We know that a critical component to a child’s wellbeing is self-perception -- how they see themselves -- and that can have an impact on learning. Instead of discussing course content and grades, we shifted to how students are learning and what can be done to maximize personal strengths! Motivation was waning in multiple students, but they are not all motivated by the same things. Building on the CASEL core competencies, we explored self-awareness and self-management as focus areas. Developing these will empower students to take control of their own assignments and grades!
SELF-AWARENESS: Know Thyself
One of the best things we can do to support a learner of any age is to help them to know themselves. Gifted athletes like Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors would go back to read the draft reports that were written about himself. He learned to see the criticism as feedback, and grew even more in his professional practice. Below are some of my favorite tools to look inward:
- Strengths Chain activity (ages 5-10) from Understood.org
- Character Strengths Survey (ages 10-17) from VIA Institute on Character
- Creative Types from Adobe Create
SELF-MANAGEMENT: Goal Setting
This goal setting resource can be used with students in grades 4-12, and easily adapted. The purpose is truly to help students identify their own needs, but also to remind them that a key component of their schooling is determining specific needs -- which might include tracking down deadlines and reaching out to teachers as needed. Many teachers report that Office Hours pass by without students showing up? Perhaps the first step is to help secondary learners find the language to say what they need (see “Let’s Connect” below).
This version of the goal setting doc is meant to give students the specific language to describe their strengths and barriers. Kids might initially say that they are good at math, but not be able to articulate that they are also good at working with others on projects. Use the lesson below to go even deeper with self-awareness.
LESSONS LEARNED: Tips and Tricks for Integrating these Core Competencies into Everyday Practice
- I have learned how valuable it is to help students do some backwards mapping to see when assignments are due. Then, they can set calendar reminders, set up notifications on their device, etc. This is a life skill, to see how much time on task is needed, and juggle various deadlines. I am still working on this skill, myself. : )
- I have learned that we need to actively teach students how to speak up. A student will grow their self-efficacy and feel empowered when they can advocate for themselves, which often means reaching out as needed. Students might need to learn how to ask clarifying questions, how to reach you, or how to rely on a study buddy/classmate. Ask your students what methods of communication would work best for them.
- I have learned that reflecting and goal setting do not need to be separate, isolated lessons. Check out this 9th grade Bio teacher and how she integrates self-awareness and self-management strategies into her unit launch on cell energy. She circles back at the end of the unit to help students identify which tools/strategies were most effective for their learning. There is little focus on the content itself, but rather on how the learning happens. We need to invest time teaching students ‘how to do school,’ not just how to learn content. This could then provide guidance in ‘how to do life after school.’