Part of any curriculum should involve goal-setting. Students who attach learning to a purpose tend to become more intrinsically motivated to learn. Ideally goal-setting should occur at the beginning of the school term then be revisited at the end of the school term. For many of our students the school term is ending. Have we helped our students revisit their learning goals? Have our students set learning goals for the summer? After all, learning should be continuous.
Before students begin goal-setting, they should reflect upon their reasons for learning. When students realize their purpose for learning they become intrinsically motivated to learn. They learn to reach a goal and not just to achieve a grade. Their purpose for learning should be tied to their real world experience. One way to do this is to help students reflect on what they hope to achieve by the end of their schooling. Do they hope to attend college? Do they hope to establish themselves in a career? Even students who have rarely showed any motivation for learning can be convinced to set a learning goal for themselves. No student would like to acquire a job that pays below minimum wage.
Reflection is key to establishing these goals. Students must reflect in order to set goals that will intrinsically motivate them to achieve. This is where Wallwisher helps. Wallwisher is a free and easy Web 2.0 tool that acts as an online bulletin board where students can place sticky notes by simply clicking on the board. The words they type can be followed by a link to a motivational quote, picture, song, podcast, or video. The educator can then embed this bulletin board on a wiki. Below is an example of the goal statements my English language learners made at the beginning of the semester. Visit my wiki to view the rest of the lesson.
At the end of the class term, my students reflected on these goals and we discussed what they had and had not achieved. For my students these goals were tied to personal reasons. We discussed why they wanted to learn English. For your students, they should reflect on why they want to learn your subject. If students struggle with this question, then ask them why it is important to learn the subject. Have the students provide real world examples when they have used the knowledge in their everyday lives. Making these connections helps students realize the importance of the learning.
Successful student goal-setting must translate into action. Students can create a Wallwisher in which they have to list interesting ways they can continue their learning during the summer. This learning can tie into their personal goals. For example, a math student can write on the Wallwisher the goal is to keep fit for the summer and to calculate the distance and calories burned. The same student can link to a website that helps them keep track of these measurements. An English student can write the same goal and choose to keep a daily journal of the running experience. Both are common personal goals students have during the summer. As an educator you have now helped your students think about ways your subject has tied into that personal goal. You have helped your students make real world connections to their learning.
Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a freelance technology teacher trainer, the VP of Educator Outreach for Parentella.com, and an English language teacher based in Germany. Explore her Teacher Reboot Camp Blog for tips on professional development and integrating technology effectively into the classroom. She can be reached via Twitter, @shellterrell.