A Guide to Student Goal Setting for Teachers

Tal, Teacher

Goal setting is one of the most important elements of learning.

But why?

Goal setting:

  • Supports the development of high levels of self belief and self confidence;
  • Increases motivation by enhancing student voice and agency;
  • Promotes student ownership of learning;
  • Helps build imperative skills, including organization, time management and planning;
  • Positively influence school culture (Leighwood & Sun, 2018);
  • Improves performance outcomes; (Marzano, 2009);

Tips for student goal setting

So what are some tips for successful implementation in our classrooms?

1. Provide suggestions
This is especially useful for younger students.  As a class, brainstorm potential goals for students to select from.

2. Be selective
Too many goals will result in students being overwhelmed and potentially becoming disinterested in applying themselves consistently and meaningfully.  Support students to choose a small but impactful set of desired outcomes.

3. Ensure accessibility
The goals should be placed in a prominent location.  This may include a dedicated goal book, placed at the front of the classroom or laminated on their desks, for instance.

4. Review regularly
Students often achieve their goals in a timely manner.  Alternatively, they might also be struggling with said goal.  Regular reviews, each week or fortnight, helps ensure goals remain relevant and attainable.  Using Ziplet, you can regularly follow up with students on their progress towards achieving their goals.  You might like to use existing questions, such as: What goal are you currently working on with your learning? How did you work towards that today?  

Some additional questions include: 

  • How did you make progress towards your goals today?
  • What help do you need to achieve your learning goals?

5. Reflect on goals during learning

Encourage students to regularly think about and view their goals as they’re engaging in a relevant task.

Student goal setting techniques/strategies

It can be helpful to use a goal setting scaffold to best support students throughout this process.

Below are some suggestions:


Glow And Grow

This approach is especially useful with elementary school students.

It’s a great tool for student self reflection on achievements and future goals.

Students are encouraged to reflect on their successes (Glow) and weaknesses (Grow).  This should help them to improve their learning outcomes over time.

Learn more.


This well known strategy is used throughout many different professions and industries.

It provides a clear and thorough framework for goal setting.

SMART stands for specific; measurable; attainable; relevant (and rigorous, realistic, and results-focused); and timely (also trackable).

A statement is recorded for each of the letters in the acronym.  

Examples of SMART goals include:

  • ‘I will improve my reading accuracy and fluency by the end of this year.  I will do this by practicing reading for X minutes each day.  I will be able to read X words per minute with X% accuracy.’
  • ‘I will study for at least an hour every night this week so I can get a score of X or higher on the Science quiz next Thursday.’
  • ‘By second semester, I will be able to add three digit numbers.  I will achieve this by practicing for X minutes each week.’

This template tends to work well with middle and high school students.

Goal Setting Iceberg

The aim of the Iceberg resource is to help students break down their goals into manageable, achievable steps.  

It’s a great idea for you to model its creation for students.  It’s also beneficial to have individual conferencing sessions, to make sure they’re on the right page. 

Learn more.


Goal setting supports student development. It also promotes student ownership and helps foster a positive school culture. It's most impactful when the process is scaffolded by teachers, and the goals are reviewed regularly. 

The beginning of the school year is an excellent time to set students up for success by identifying learning outcomes. 


Leithwood, K. & Sun, J. (2018). Academic culture: A promising mediator of school leaders’ influence on student learning. Journal of Educational Administration, 56 (3).

Marzano, R.J. (2009). Designing and teaching learning goals and objectives: Classroom strategies that work. Denver, CO: Marzano Research Laboratory.

Sparklebox. (2017).  Retrieved from: https://storage.googleapis.com/sparklebox/sb12287.pdf

Teach Starter.  Goal Setting Template (Iceberg).  Retrieved from: https://www.teachstarter.com/au/teaching-resource/goal-setting-template-iceberg/

Template Lab. 45 SMART Goals Templates, Examples & Worksheets. Retrieved from: https://templatelab.com/smart-goals/?wpdmdl=63694

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