Advancing Formative Assessment

A Guide for Instructional Leaders

Chapter Four - Achieving More With Focus Fostering Student Goal Setting

"...when teachers intentionally work to develop self-regulated learners who set their own goals, select effective strategies to reach those goals, and monitor and adjust what they do depending on the demands of the task and their own strengths and needs."

"Goal setting helps everyone in the classroom learn how to learn." - Advancing Formative Assessment

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" asked Alice. "That depends a great deal on where you want to get to." said the Cheshire Cat. -Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Goal Setting

Where am I going?

Where am I now?

What strategy or strategies will help me get to where I need to go?

How Does Goal Setting Affect Student Learning and Achievement?

Four Main Ways Goal Setting Helps Students Learn

  1. Goals focus student attention on the learning task and the learning target.
  2. Goals stimulate appropriate student effort.
  3. Goals increase student persistence.
  4. Goals increase a student's desire and capacity to learn new strategies.

Common Misconceptions About Goal Setting

These three misconceptions can dilute the formative assessment and goal setting process:



  • Misconception #1 - It is important that students have goals that inspire them to achieve more. (continuous, general academic aims)


  • Misconception #2 - Goal setting is a planned event to help students prepare for the next unit, report period, or part of the school year. (ongoing, continuous inform each other)


  • Misconception #3 - Goal setting is a study skill. (learn how to learn, ownership)
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Sharing with Teachers

  1. Using feedback that feeds forward
  2. Modeling goal setting
  3. Providing goal-setting guides

Recognizing Goal Setting

  1. Process not event
  2. Evidence of goal setting language and concepts
  3. Student goal sheets visible
  4. Teacher language supporting goal setting


Teacher effects:

  • Lesson plans reflect intentions
  • Assignments follow a logical sequence
  • Lessons include frequent progress checks
  • Timelines for learning
  • Students are encouraged to revise and resubmit assignments


Student effects:

  • Better at communicating learning task
  • Learning targets are goal focused than for grades
  • Independent and self-assured
  • Revise and refine their work

"Learning to tap into the power of goal setting helps all students become good students."