Student Goal Setting: A smart idea for 2016

As we start yet another year and head back to school after the holidays, it is important that kids, just like their parents, set goals or ‘new year’s resolutions’. Goal setting isn’t just for grown-ups! Every January before students return to the classroom, I e-mail my clients and encourage them to sit down with their children and discuss some ways they can improve at school and set some goals for the remainder of the academic year. High school students need to focus on upcoming exams and elementary/primary students could be starting some good organizational habits.

Studies show that goal-setting can help kids gain a sense of self-discipline and increase the internal drive it takes to stay motivated to complete the tasks they have been assigned both in school and in everyday life.


A goal is basically an outcome, something that will make a difference once achieved. It can’t be too ambitious or else it will be unattainable, but also not so simple that it does not challenge. A goal also has to be realistic, requiring effort and focus to achieve it. Discussing goal setting with students from an early age will encourage them to strive for more.

According to Dr. Michele Borba, a best selling author and internationally recognized educator, even kids as young as five years old can benefit from goal setting. Benefits include:

  • seeing your child start a school project–without waiting until the last minute–and finish it
  • finding your child doing his chores–without your nagging–because he knows he has to do them in order to start on his homework
  • discovering your child thinking through the jobs she needs to do for the week and making plans to complete them
  • seeing your child’s confidence grow as he/she succeeds in the goals they have set for themself

You can find more on Dr. Borba’s work here:

Setting a goal doesn’t have to be difficult. Depending on your child’s age, it could be as simple as “I will ask at least five questions per day” or “I will aim to achieve a better participation mark in gym class”. For younger students, it could even include starting to use a daily agenda or planner book to keep track of homework assignments and test dates. Organization is something a lot of my elementary-aged clients struggle with so starting them early is good practice.


I spent seven years as a secondary science and psychology teacher in London, England and I worked with my students to set SMART targets:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Relevant, Rigorous, Realistic, and Results Focused
T = Timely and Trackable

Now, it’s not super easy to write SMART targets as it is a skill that takes time to develop, but for high school students who have their sights set on a competitive college or university education, getting them into the practice of setting more detailed and relevant goals is crucial!

Successful students are well organized, active learners who take responsibility for their education and set both personal and academic goals. As always, it is imperative that the parent-teacher/tutor-student trilogy is constantly in communication with each part so that the student is confident and proactive in their learning. Be sure to set some goals for your aspiring student today!


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