Personal learning goals are the behaviours, knowledge or understandings that students identify as important to their own learning. They may relate to general work habits, specific curriculum areas, strands of learning, or a combination of these.
Personal learning goals aim to improve students’ learning and achievement and build students’ capacity to learn. They enable students to become more active participants in the learning process, empowering them to become independent learners, and motivating them to achieve their full potential.
Previous research into the motivation and efficiency of students has indicated that students who set their own learning goals tend to achieve more than when working on goals set for them by the teacher.
Students who set their own learning goals have more confidence to take on more challenging tasks, regardless of their ability. Their motivation to improve and master a task is improved and their self-esteem remains strong, even in the case of failure.
When students are assisted to delve into their own thinking and learning processes, they are drawn to think about the effectiveness of the strategies they used to achieve the learning goals they set. Planning what to do, monitoring progress towards achieving it and evaluating the outcome can help students take more control over their thinking and learning processes and equip them with learning to learn skills.
The stages of developing personal learning goals
The development of personal learning goals involves the stages of:
- identifying personal learning goals (and strategies to achieve them)
- monitoring progress
- reporting on progress made
- refining or developing new goals.
Developing, monitoring and reporting on personal learning goals
All stages of the cycle are important, and in practice they overlap. As the diagram above demonstrates, the process is ongoing and cyclical. The teacher’s role is pivotal throughout the process, not just at the development and reporting stages.
Schools will decide the best way to manage the development, monitoring and reporting of student personal learning goals. This will vary and depend how the school is organised. Developing, monitoring and reporting on learning goals will generally work best when the process is clear and common across the school.
The process of developing, monitoring and reporting on a student’s personal learning goals involves conversations about learning between the student and the teacher. Planning for such conversations to occur in a productive and purposeful manner is at the core of this process. These conversations should be carried out in a spirit of openness and cooperation and should allow for student diversity.
In the Foundation stage of schooling (Prep to Year 2), personal learning goals may also relate to the five outcomes of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF).
Conversations about learning encourage students to think about:
- their own learning and thinking processes and challenge them to articulate the way they have gone about learning
- what their next steps might be
- how they are going to proceed with those next steps
- how they are going to know they have achieved success
- whether or not the method of learning was effective
- what they need more help to understand
- how they might achieve better understanding.
Before working with students to develop their personal learning goals, it is important for teachers to work together to discuss and define what learning goals are, and then consider examples of appropriate learning goals, and goals that are inappropriate.
Developing a common understanding of learning goals gives staff a common language to use in the classroom. Setting goals, taking personal responsibility for learning, and self-evaluation can then become part of normal classroom discussion.
Goal setting may take place whenever the school considers the process to be of most benefit to students' learning.
For information about feedback and reporting using personal learning goals, see: VCAA Insight Assess Portal.
Storing, retrieving and editing student personal learning goals
How each school organises the safe storage and retrieval of students’ personal learning goals and comments will vary.
Students should be able to record their learning goals in various formats depending on what processes are practical at their school. These processes should be secure and ensure the privacy of the individual student in communicating their personal learning goals to the teacher/s.
Some schools offer a secure online file storage and sharing where students can store a copy of their personal learning goals that they have created. Teachers and parents can access these documents and provide timely feedback to the student as required.
The student can add to and edit their document and save it for safe keeping. At an appropriate time each student can add their evaluation of how they have progressed towards meeting the learning goals they set and write future learning goals.
The teacher can then input the student’s personal learning goals and comments into the student’s report if the school chooses to report on this.
Including personal learning goals in students’ reports
As schools have the flexibility to determine the timing, frequency and format of reports the process of developing personal learning goals will be a school based decision. Schools are advised that, if personal learning goals are to be included in students’ reports, then adequate time should be made available for students to set their goals, reflect on and revise their goals, and set goals for future learning within the timeline set by the school for reporting to parents.