At this time of year, when talk always turns to New Year’s Resolutions and goals, I am reminded of a clip I watched on the YouTube channel ‘Big Think.’ Here, Adam Alter tells us that it’s much more useful to set goal systems than goals.
Think about it. On a personal level, this could mean that instead of telling yourself that your goal is to lose 2 stones in weight – and then spending 3 months in a state of perpetual failure – you might instead set a target of working out for 40 minutes a day. One day into this and you’re already a success! There’s nothing to stop you having a goal in mind, but if you’re more invested in the goal system, then it’s your daily action that defines you.
Consider too – the implications for children in school. In this target-driven culture, how many children live in this state of perpetual failure, always feeling that they are behind target? What about children with special educational needs in mainstream education – children for whom the system isn’t designed; children who aren’t even going to sit the exams that their peers will be judged by; children that are often fully aware of how completely unreachable their end goals are?
It’s no coincidence that as our teachers express distaste for the data-focused exam culture in UK schools, the media report on an ever-increasing myriad of mental health woes faced by our young people.
So what’s the answer? Even if we are powerless to change the focus on testing, we can ensure that the language we use around students is based on goal structures. We can praise use of full stops in a piece of work, rather than the reaching of a certain level. We can reinforce the notion that tests provide only a result of how you achieved in that hour, rather than how you perform in class each and every day. We can create our own targets, based on the individual needs to students; targets that are actually realistic and achievable.
Furthermore, what if we stopped the emotional battery of our teaching and support staff when our students ‘don’t make the grade?’ I doubt we’d be having the recruitment crisis that we’re currently facing.
Agree/disagree? Are you a teacher who has faced this issue themselves? Are you writing your New Years Resolutions and looking to try something new? Have you had success with goal structures in the past? All comments welcome: