HITS: Setting goals and learning from them

Goal setting – one of 10 High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) – is a fundamental technique for teachers to make learning visible and relevant for their students.

John Hattie's extensive meta-analysis of thousands of research findings demonstrates that establishing challenging goals, rather than 'do your best' goals, is a more effective way of setting expectations for students. Difficult yet achievable goals have an energising effect which motivates students to strive to the highest levels.

'I personally get students to set goals for the subject in the first class of the year and at the start of every term,' Grovedale College Teacher Angel Rogers said.

Clear learning intentions and success criteria for each learning task also help students to track their own progress and more easily identify where they may need additional support to succeed.

As a technique, it would be well-known to teachers. What is not always appreciated is the tremendous impact a deliberate and consistent focus on setting goals can have on student achievement.

I also get students to break those larger goals down into small, achievable steps that they can tick off throughout the year. At the end of the year we reflect on these goals.

This practice of self-evaluation is considered one of the key benefits of goal setting as a strategy, in that it encourages students to provide evidence they believe demonstrates they have achieved their goals, while recognising the areas they need to improve in.

'The value of learning goals extends beyond a checklist of content/skills covered, they provide students with a focus,' Tara Dunston, Essendon Keilor College Teacher, said.

They also provide a chance to receive feedback which is a powerful force in improving student outcomes. Feedback can occur in assessing the learning goal at the start and end of the lesson. This encourages students to take command of their learning and engage in metacognitive processes.

HITS have emerged from the findings of thousands of international studies into teaching methodology, and are recognised as best-practice by us, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) and other industry bodies.

How to use this resource in your classroom

Goal setting is one of the 10 High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) that emerged from thousands of studies around the world into teaching methodology.

The key to this strategy is to set goals and provide success criteria that help students commit to the learning, and provide the appropriate mix of success and challenge.

By explaining the connections between learning goals, learning activities and assessment tasks, teachers demonstrate the purpose of classroom tasks, making the learning visible to students. This helps students become self-motivated and use learning goals to monitor and progress their learning.

Supporting FISO priorities: Excellence in teaching and learning

By implementing this High Impact Teaching Strategy, schools like Grovedale and Essendon Keilor College are applying the best available evidence, gained from scientific methods, to educational decision-making.

This approach supports the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO) priority for excellence in teaching and learning as it ensures that the school has made what teachers do in the classroom and how they interact with students, central to their work.

Further information

For further information on goal setting and other HITS, refer to our High-Impact Teaching Strategies Guide (pdf - 6.88mb)