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Achieving Our Goals with Purposeful Engagement

Achieving Our Goals with Purposeful Engagement

“But whyyyyyyyyyyyyy?”

Have you ever heard this as a parent?

We all find it easier to persevere when we see the point of doing something – be it our work, study or otherwise - when we have a goal that is of interest to us. Without a goal that we buy in to, we often ask ‘why should we bother?’

The world of the classroom, and even at times our homes, is most often about externally set goals or targets or objectives. Our children are asked to ‘begin the task’, ‘work on the task’, and ‘complete the task’ multiple times a day. Whatever the word the way in which they are viewed is as something that is given and required by someone else. The truth of the matter is, however, that these are not our goals, and if we are unable to adopt these as our own, we will forever be pursuing a goal in which we have little interest.

Here is where it gets interesting – we could consider that the goal is simply not the end product, but rather our personal growth in the process of learning. The beauty about progressing through our learning through a dispositional lens is that we are now ALWAYS achieving our goal – getting just a little better each time. The trick is to pause and take notice of the progression, and enjoy the roses along the way!

This term in our own professional learning as educators we have focused upon four phases of learner behaviour, where a student progresses through these stages by:

  1. doing as they are asked;
  2. acting more willingly;
  3. valuing the learning behaviour;
  4. organising themselves to use the behaviour effectively;

The question for us as parents and educators is ‘how can I help my child/student progress?’

  1. Does as they are asked: Avoid doing all of the ‘thinking’ and consider asking your child what they might like to achieve – set a small and reasonable goal and have them articulate what they are trying to achieve with the end in mind. Step out of the struggle and encourage your child while they are in the middle of it using prompts only, such as ‘what if you considered…?’ or ‘have you thought about…?’ This shifts responsibility for learning to your child and encourages them to work their way out of the learning pit. Let them imagine their success!
  2. Acts more willingly: They are beginning to set their own goals and create their simple plans to achieve them. Encourage your child with your own stories about how you might have had to work through an issue, and dialogue your considerations with them – we are encouraging them to emulate for success!
  3. Values the Learning Behaviour: When our children value the learning behaviour, they grow in their own belief that the behaviour is of great benefit to them – this step is a big hurdle worth pursuing! Picture this in the classroom: ‘Why should I draft my essay?’ now move to ‘Planning improves my essay?’ The student now sees value in the learning habit!
  4. Organises themselves to use the behaviour effectively: here we start to see greater autonomy and a shift in responsibility for learning. Our child is reviewing their plans and making adjustments as necessary to keep the main goal on course. We can help them to revise their goals by asking if they are still on track and prompting an evaluation of their progress.

The difference between normal ‘goal setting’ and ‘purposeful goal setting’ is the intentionality around growing our children’s learning dispositions, where the process is valued alongside the product. Over time, as we grow these ‘learning muscles’ they grow stronger and simply become part of our toolkit – we are said to ‘embody’ them. An approach like this one that is common at both home and school will help to grow our children and young people as capable, confident and independent learners.

Mrs Geraldine Paynter
Director of Teaching and Learning


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