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Nurturing Independence Through Goal-Setting

Nurturing Independence Through Goal-Setting
Tanya Olander

Have you ever witnessed the moment a young mind realizes it can steer its own course? It is to witness self-motivation blossom. EAL teacher Julianne Athon and her team are helping students develop goal-setting so that students can independently work toward a successful academic journey.

During the middle school years, nurturing a sense of agency and independence is crucial for students’ overall development and academic achievement. Not only does gaining a greater sense of control help lessen potential stress but it is also one key to self-motivation.

Developing Control and Agency

One way that EAL (English as an Additional Language)  teacher Julianne Athon and her team are supporting students in developing control and agency of their own intellectual and personal growth is by teaching them how to define and set clear goals.

Ensuring that each student identifies areas for improvement and outlines actionable goals at the beginning of the semester, Ms.  Athon reminds students to continuously revisit their goals and monitor their progress.

Students in Ms. Athon's class are developing agency by setting and tracking the goals they have set for themselves. 

“Being in charge of their goals means students understand exactly what they need to do and how to achieve it, a skill they can use across all of their classes and for their personal goals outside of school. Seeing how small wins add up over time can be incredibly motivating," says Ms. Athon.

A Personal Record

Ultimately, the students’ records of working toward their goals become a kind of personal progress report, where they can monitor how much they’ve built their skills in various aspects of reading, writing, grammar, and time management.

An example of a student's goal-setting class website.

“I added a goal to use more high-level vocabulary,” shares Stacy, Grade 7, who goes back and forth between the Google website each student has built as part of the goal-tracking and her hand-written vocabulary journal, to ensure she’s working toward her goal of using more advanced words in her writing. Her most recent words include “amplify” and “insatiable.” 

Progress is a Process

More than just educational benchmarks, the goal-setting that students like Stacy are learning in Ms. Athon's class nurtures resilience, determination, and independence. By developing a mindset of self-reflection and appreciating that progress happens one step at a time, students are gaining lifelong skills that they will carry beyond the classroom walls. 


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