Using Learning Goals to promote self-directedness: the LEC experience, Part 2

by on November 17, 2009 in 2009-2011 with Comments Off on Using Learning Goals to promote self-directedness: the LEC experience, Part 2

By Jaya Kannan, LEC Director

LEC observations about student learning in the context of goal setting: So, what is working?

One thing that is working is that all students jot down a goal in the first session. Irrespective of the goal’s quality (more about this in the next section), this first step helps in empowering the student take responsibility for their learning and define their learning path. Embedded within this process of goal setting is the need for self-assessment and engagement in a detailed dialogue with the math or writing specialist about their learning intentions.

  • It is heartening to note that more than 50% of the time, the student drives the goal even when the tutorial discussion is facilitated through a collaborative dialogue. This is indicative of a high level of motivation and desire for learning that the LEC would like to build on further.
  • When a student in the LEC creates a goal, that student is respected for the unique learner that he or she is and is given the opportunity to carve out their own path, comparison to any other student or limiting them to the objectives of a course or a program.
  • On many occasions, students tend to pick a goal for themselves (e.g., subject-verb agreement) that they recognize to be transferable to other areas of learning. Assessment at the end of the term becomes ipsative and also recognizes the cumulative aspect by referring to student’s learning in previous terms too. [A minimum of 3 sessions is required to prepare a learning summary].

LEC observations about student learning in the context of goal setting: Serious concerns that need addressing:

  • Writing a good goal doesn’t automatically ensure successful learning. When students don’t follow through by continuing to visit the Centre, it is hard to know if and how the student is making progress. A good 40% of the students who visit the LEC do not meet the minimum requirement of 3 sessions for us to prepare a learning summary.
  • The language of goal writing is an art and science in itself. We have struggled at the LEC to create standards that strike a fair balance between allowing for creativity in the discussions and yet aiming to meet minimum requirements to achieve a good goal. [For example, a good goal is clear, specific, complex and measurable].
  • Writing a good goal can be a tremendous challenge. Bridging the gap in understanding between the specialist and the student in what makes a good goal calls for serious pedagogical discussions on our part. It is on very rare occasions that a student almost independently writes a clear, concise, specific, and measurable goal. Especially in the very early sessions, the specialists’ input while engaging in a dialogue and then arriving at a goal is very high. It is our intention that over time and with practice, students will show greater autonomy in writing a good goal.

More than anything else, getting the student to develop this need for self-directedness as a value is our biggest aim. Learning to use goal-setting as an effective tool is part of the overall learning process.


  • Elliot, A. J. (2005). A conceptual history of the achievement goal construct. In A. J. Elliot, & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 52-72). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  • Grant, H & Dweck, C. S. (2003). Clarifying achievement goals and their impact. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 541-553
  • Hayes, S. C., Rosenfarb, I., Wuifert, E., Munt, E. D., Korn, Z., & Zettle, R. D. (1985). Self reinforcement effects: An artifact of social standard setting. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 18, 201-214.
  • Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P (1990). A theory of goal-setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal-setting and task motivation: A 35 year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705-717. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Schunk, D.H. (1990). Goal setting and self-efficacy during self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 25, 71-86.


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