Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Post #2: Goal Setting for Inquiry Learning

“Setting goals is a powerful way to focus students’ learning.” (Davies 2000, p 8)

According to Focus on Inquiry (Alberta Learning 2004), “assessment practices should provide opportunities for students to revise their work in order to set goals and improve their learning. . . [and] assessment practices should help encourage students to set goals for further improvements” (p.31). This document also suggests using a journal to record reflections (p 37). To facilitate reflection, this journal might also be an excellent place to record goals for the Inquiry Project.

Goals should be set both for the overall inquiry project AND for each stage of the Inquiry Process. In order for students to reflect on their work, they need to have something to reflect on and goals help focus this reflection. Goals also help students strive for excellence. However, in order to set goals for inquiry, students need to know the criteria for the inquiry and they need to understand what each of the stages of inquiry entails.

If it is the first time students are engaging in Inquiry, teachers may want to do an introduction to Inquiry where you describe each of the stages and what students will be doing in each stage of the inquiry. Using the chart on page 38 and the questions in the chart on pages 39-40 of Focus on Inquiry (Alberta Learning 2004) may also help guide students towards goals they could possible set for each stage of the Inquiry phase. These could also be adapted to become the basis for co-constructed criteria for the inquiry process (see next blog post).

In Knowing What Counts: Self-Assessment and Goal-Setting, Gregory, Cameron and Davies (2000) make many good suggestions for ways to include goal setting in instruction. They suggest a strategy called “Breaking it Down” in which “teachers brainstorm lists with [their] students by answering questions such as, “How can we get better at writing?” . . . Then students select their long-term goals from these lists” (p. 43). In the case of Inquiry, teachers could ask, “How can we get better at research?” as a starting point for an overall Inquiry project goal and then perhaps, “How can we get better at planning?” as a starting point for a more focussed goal at the planning phase.

Gregory et al (2000), also suggest using planning frames like the ones found on pages 45-48 of Knowing What Counts: Self-Assessment and Goal-Setting. (I have included pictures of these frames on the eClass discussion site).

For more from the series by Gregory, Cameron and Davies check out: Knowing What Counts free online resources.

Another way to help students set goals is to use the well-known goal-setting acronym SMART. This acronym states that goals must be:




Realistic and


This is a good outline to teach students to follow when they set their own goals. Anne Davies provides an excellent example of an adapted form of the SMART goal-setting format in this slide show (see page 10). On this graphic organizer, students first set their goal by writing it in a complete sentence. They then go through each of the letters of the SMART acronym describing how the goal fits each letter. Next they describe step by step how they will go about achieving their goal. Finally, the students are asked to think about obstacles to their success and then list ideas of how they might overcome these obstacles. This might be an excellent exercise to complete with students at the beginning of an Inquiry project to help them set a long term goal for the whole project.

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