If you are a public school educator, your time is extremely valuable. If you are teacher/case manager for students with intellectual disabilities, your free time is likely nonexistent as you have academics to teach, IEPs to write, parents to call, meetings to schedule, and personal needs to attend to. Let’s kill 2 birds with one stone and look at how goal setting can simultaneously help you and your students.
High Leverage Practice (HLP) 11 addresses effective goal setting by educators. It stresses the use of data to establish meaningful instructional and IEP goals for students. For goals to be meaningful, they should not only be student-centered, but must also be a collaborative effort with the student. Goal setting is one of the elements associated with self-determination.
Contemporary research says:
- Students with disabilities are less self-determined than their non-disabled peers.
- This is not necessarily due to learning capacity, but due to educational opportunities afforded (or not afforded) to students (Nota, Ferrari, Soresi, & Wehmeyer, 2007).
Self-determination is knowing and believing in yourself; knowing what you want your future to be and how to make plans to achieve this future; and knowing what supports you need to take control of your life (Moore & McNaught, 2014).
HLP 11 discusses goal setting in terms of teacher actions: prioritizing what is most important for students to learn, using assessment data, and developing goals accordingly. Instead of doing these actions to or for our students, let’s foster self-determination skills by doing them with our students. Here are a few strategies:
- Use the I’m Determined Project’s Goal Planning Tool as a graphic organizer for short or long-term goals. This tool is powerful because it not only asks students to identify their goals (the what), but it teaches the importance of identifying steps toward reaching the goal (the how), individuals who can help with the goal (the who), and anticipated outcomes (the why).
- Incorporate a think-aloud strategy when modeling goal setting of your own. Use phrases such as “I think that I need to set this goal because…”, “If I need help, I can ask…”, or “Some important steps to help me reach this goal might be…”
- Utilize gradual release of responsibility. It may not be effective to simply hand a goal setting tool to your students and leave them to their own devices. After you have modeled your own goal setting opportunities for the students, practice setting some class-wide goals together. After many repetitions of setting a great goal together, your individual students may be ready to create a goal of their own.
- If you have students who are 13 years-old or older, encourage them to apply for the 2020 I’m Determined Youth and parent Summit. Goal setting will be a major focus of sessions.
Nota, L., Ferrrari, L., Soresi, S., & Wehmeyer, M.L. (2007). Self- determination, social abilities, and the quality of life of people with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 51, 850-865.
Shogren, K. A., Wehmeyer, M. L., Palmer, S. B., Soukup, J. H., Little, T. D., Garner, N. & Lawrence, M. (2007). Examining individual and ecological predictors of the self-determination of students with
disabilities. Exceptional Children, 73, 488-509.