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Helping Your Learners Set Goals

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

Being goal-oriented is a critical part of how people become self-directed as they grow from children to adults. Here are some tips on helping your learners set goals.

speech bubble with orange background and white letters; text reads "helping your learners set goals"


  1. People who set goals are more successful in life.

  2. Goal setting is linked to greater achievement, self-confidence, motivation, and autonomy.

  3. Setting goals is the first step in developing self-determination skills.

graphic of white letters on a purple background reads "success" with five people smiling and hanging out

Goal-setting theory assumes that people are most motivated when they set their own goals, rather than goals imposed by others. Difficult, yet attainable, goals help people direct their attention, be persistent, make choices, solve problems, and advocate on their own behalf.


Being goal-oriented is a critical part of how children learn to be resourceful and independent. This is particularly important for children with disabilities who may be at risk for “learned helplessness” when the adults around them want to provide supports to “help” them in school.

From young children or young adults, the first steps are

  1. Self-assessment and

  2. Selecting and defining a goal.

In future Tip Sheets, we will share how to:

  1. Analyze barriers, potential solutions, and supports;

  2. Make a commitment to action steps;

  3. Monitor progress, and

  4. Reflect in order to refine or replace the goal.

Self Assessment Examples; Satisfaction Assessment; Place an X in the box for reach column that best represents how you feel; Topics include: School Work, Family Involvement, Friends/Relationships, Personal Interests on a scale of very happy/satisfied, I'm ok, things could be better, not happy/satisfied; Includes section for Interests and Strengths; elementary students can draw pictures; secondary students can write words, phrases, or sentences; things, people, activities; my strengths and stretches, under the headings: I like, I don't like, I am good at, and I'd like to develop
text reads "define goals" with the acronym SMART defines as: Specific; state what you will achieve by using action words and defining the conditions for achievement; Measurable; the target goal can be measured in terms of how much, how many, how frequently it occurs. It is the way to evaluate success; Achievable; goals are realistic and attainable. This leads to the next question: how will it be accomplished?; Relevant; this goal is important within the school, home, or community with peers or important adults and is directly related to the self-assessment; Time-Bound; goals have time frames and target dates for achievement


  1. Youth on the Move

  2. A goal-tracker calendar from Understood

  3. National Gateway to Self-Determination

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream” – C. S. Lewis
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This post was originally written by MCIE Staff.

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