Starting SMART: A Guide To Setting and Accomplishing Back To School Goals
As the beginning of the school year approaches, many parents and students are thinking about what they want to accomplish this coming year. Perhaps you or your student is seeking to improve grades. Maybe you need to reduce procrastination to accommodate an additional after school activity. Moving Mountains Tutoring and Mentorship Services provides our best strategies for setting and accomplishing your goals for this year.
Rethinking Goal Setting Strategies
If you are struggling to set and accomplish your goals, the American Occupational Therapy Association describes a problem solving method. This four step model can be applied to any person struggling to set a goal or accomplish the goals they have set for themselves. Incorporating their advice to the back to school season is a great way to get a head start on the year.
Step 1: Identify the Goal
In order to set a goal, naturally it is important to identify which goal you would like to accomplish. These goals may be as many or as few as desired, and can range from short term goals to long. Two examples of goals to apply to the back to school season include a short term goal, completing a math assignment, and a long term goal, receiving a good grade in English. K. Blaine Lawlor and Martin J. Hornyak use the acronym SMART to establish guidelines for goals. The acronym, which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely, is a useful tool for any goal setter.
Step 2: Establish A Reason or Underlying Cause
To complete Step 2, it is important to dig deeper than face value. For example, if I have a goal of completing a math assignment, my root cause for making this a goal is not “my teacher assigned this page as homework.” Establishing a reason requires you to dig deep and think of why you have not completed the assignment yet. It is good to note that there can be multiple root causes for not having accomplished a goal yet.
The Short-Term Example:
In the math assignment example, perhaps one underlying cause for not completing the assignment is that the overall homework is difficult. There can be a secondary reason that they think math is boring, and this leads them to procrastinate on the task.
The Long-Term Example:
An example of a reason for not yet achieving a strong grade in an English class could be due to having ineffective study methods. If your grading system differentiates grades based on types of assessment, observing which evaluation method your student struggles with also can aid in finding the underlying cause.
Step 3: Creating a Plan of Action
Now is the time to set a plan that addresses the root cause. Focusing on Step 2 tailors the action plan to the student’s individual needs. These plans are much more effective at accomplishing the Step 1 goal, as by eliminating the problem in Step 2, we are also eliminating the barrier to complete the primary goal in Step 1. If it is difficult for the student to differentiate between the Step 1 task and Step 2 cause, asking a friend or relative for action plans for the Step 2 cause can help give ideas without knowing Step 1.
The Short-Term Example:
One example of a short term cause could be that a student does not find math interesting. Maybe that student prefers playing games. The student can create a game incorporating math problems into the game mechanics. Consider a simple game of tic-tac-toe, modified so the student must answer a math question correctly to complete a turn. This can correct the root problem of not finding math interesting, and lead to the student wanting to complete the homework rather than seeing homework as a chore.
The Long-Term Example:
If a student is struggling with finding effective study methods, an action plan may consist of more effective study strategies so comprehension of the course material is more efficient. John Dunlosky writes several study strategies that have been determined to be the most effective. Dunlosky explains that practice tests as well as distributing practice of any individual subject rather than cramming the information into one study session.
Step 4: Review and Reflection
After completing your action plan, it is important to take time and consider how effective this plan led to accomplishing your goal. If the primary goal is accomplished, great! You can consider what went well in accomplishing the primary goal, and apply it to any future goals. If there are still obstacles preventing the achievement, perhaps revisit Step 2. If the underlying cause still exists despite successfully completing the action plan, maybe create a new action plan. Overall, it is important to review and reflect on the goals you set, and the steps taken to accomplish them.