This page provides guidance on setting goals for learning for high-ability students.
The importance of setting goals for learning for high-ability students
Setting learning goals based on students' ability is related to growth in learning. Setting goals has been identified as a high impact teaching strategy (HITS). Goals need to be set at an appropriate level of challenge for high-ability students to benefit from this strategy.
What we know
Goal setting is the process of establishing an outcome (a goal) to serve as the aim of one's actions (Locke & Latham, 2020). Setting goals:
- makes the direction of learning clear to the student and the teacher
- increases students' motivation and achievement levels
- works best if they are specific and require a moderate amount of challenge
- works best for high-ability students if they are co-constructed.
Teachers need to help high-ability students set goals that are appropriately challenging for them. This may mean that their goals are quite different to the rest of the class.
From theory to practice
Setting appropriate learning goals consists of several components. Teachers need to determine the student's point of need. Teachers should be aware that a number of students in the class will be at the same point of need. These students can be grouped together to work toward a common learning goal. This may not be the case for all high-ability students.
Some high-ability students may need learning goals that are different to the rest of the class. Goal setting planning templates can help teachers set appropriate goals for their students.
Students can also set their own learning goals. When students set their own goals, they have more ownership. This helps them to take more responsibility for progress towards their goals. High-ability students in particular may relish the opportunity to set their own goals. Providing high-ability students with a goal setting worksheet can help them to do this.
Strategies and tools
Strategies that teachers may use to set goals for learning for high-ability students include:
- involving high-ability students in the goal-setting process
- encouraging high-ability students to set personal best goals rather than competitive goals
- grouping high-ability students at a similar point of need together to develop a common goal
- grouping high-ability students at a similar point of need together to work toward a common goal.
Tools that can assist teachers to set goals for learning for high-ability students include:
Focus questions for professional learning
- How do you set appropriately targeted learning goals for your high-ability students?
- To what extent do the learning goals currently used in your classroom meet the needs of high-ability students?
- Are there high-ability students with similar ZPDs that you could group together to co-construct their learning goals?
Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57(9).