Student Empowerment: Goal Setting and Grit in the Classroom

SMART Goal Graphic

Mind tools describes the acronym SMART goals in the following way:

“S – Specific (or Significant), M – Measurable (or Meaningful), A – Attainable (or Action-Oriented), R – Relevant (or Rewarding), and – Time-bound (or Trackable)”

I like that there are multiple interpretations of these categories according to this definition.  For example, in any context, goals that are significant, meaningful and rewarding are factors that should be considered if one is going to take the time to plan and reflect on a new practice or strategy.

A few weeks ago, I worked with Laura Garber in the classroom on a lesson where she wanted students to explore grit as a way to meet meaningful SMART goals.  The lesson had the following learning targets:

  1. Students will explore the elements of grit and and assess their own “grittiness”
  2. Students will establish personal SMART goals and reflect upon how they may meet those goals.

Students began the lesson by completing this 12 Item Grit Scale used in multiple studies to measure one’s grit level.

We then reflected on this definition of grit:

“Perseverance to accomplish long-term or higher-order goals in the face of challenges and setbacks, engaging the student’s psychological resources, such as their academic mindsets, effortful control, and strategies and tactics” (vii).
-from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology’s report on “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance”

First, students paraphrased the meaning of grit, and we shared those out. I knew from using this definition previously in classrooms that students are usually able to paraphrase the first part about overcoming challenges but that they struggle more in paraphrasing the resources to do so, an important part of grit.  This proved to be true again, so then we broke down the three categories more:

  • Academic mindsets
  • Effortful control
  • Strategies and tactics

In small groups, students defined each of these and came up with examples of what each might look like when one is “gritty.”  For example:

  • Academic mindsets: mindsets or ways of thinking that contribute to one’s success
  • Examples: Believing one is capable of learning (growth mindset), believing learning is important, making learning a priority

After small group discussion, students shared out ideas and we made a collective list on the board which students copied down in their own personal notes.

We then made some connections to real life via a quick write.  Students were given the following prompt:

  1. Imagine a long-term goal you have accomplished or are currently trying to accomplish.  
  2. Imagine the most difficult moment during the process of accomplishing that goal.  This should be a point at which you doubted you would be able to continue working.  
  3. Now, put yourself back in that most difficult moment.  What are you thinking?  What are you feeling?  What are you doing that helps you to continue?  In other words, how did you get through this moment and keep going?

Students shared out these experiences in small groups and then as a larger group with the goal of gathering strategies and mindsets that might help them move forward with goals in the future.

After the discussion, students set their own SMART goals and outlined some struggles and strategies to overcome this struggles that might be helpful for the future Personal Goal Setting Sheet.

Goal setting is an important skill that aligns well with the concept of intentions in mindfulness practice.  When I set an intention for the day or for an activity, it is more likely that my vision will be seen through to fruition.  Neuroscience confirms, too, that attention magnifies and strengthens pathways of thought and action; lack of attention lessens and withers the same pathways.

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3 responses to Student Empowerment: Goal Setting and Grit in the Classroom

  1. Why Have Goals? | commoncorediva

    […] Below, Lifelong Learning Labs has this definition of SMART for education. As you can see it’s not too far removed from the business model (‘SMART’ in […]

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