Using Student Conferences to Set Meaningful Goals

New Year’s Resolutions are great, and we all set them. In fact, most of us work with our students to set New Year’s Resolutions in the classroom when we come back from our winter break. But, do your students really understand the importance of the goal they are setting, or, do they really set meaningful goals? My guess, based on my experience, is that your answer to those questions for many of your students, is NO. I saw the same problem, and I found a solution that has really worked for me. The biggest difference in my strategy than others – I hold one-on-one student conferences before setting those goals!

Student Conferences are the KEY. It looks very much like your admin/teacher mid-year evaluation meeting, and it’s just as professional. I know this sounds like it will take A LOT of your instructional time, and I know we are all fighting to use every single second we’ve got, but I promise you, this interruption in your daily instruction is TOTALLY WORTH IT! Each of my own meetings takes about 10 minutes, maybe less or more, depending on the student. When you think about it, that’s really only one day, and that one day could make a huge difference for the rest of your school year.

My process is done in two steps.

Step One – Student Data: I present and we discuss their overall grade and strengths, their areas for improvement, division assessment scores and progress compared to the expectations for those assessments, attendance concerns if necessary, and discipline concerns if necessary. Next, I talk to them about their daily work habits and I give the student time to talk about their own thoughts and reflections. Then, I have the student begin to think about and discuss their progress goals and action plans.

Step Two – Reflection & Goal-Setting: Now it’s time for the student to do some independent reflection. I use a few simple questions, asking the student to reflect on what he/she is proud of and what he/she would like to make better, where they would like to be by the end of the year or in the future (the goals), and how they, myself, and their parents can help reach those goals.

Step Three – Digital Display Google Slide (optional) – Finally, I have my students create a My New Year’s Goal digital poster display. These display posters are super cute printed out and displayed in your classroom as a reminder for students as they work towards their goals each day. If you’re teaching virtually, these posters could be used as a background wall/bulletin board in your virtual classroom.

If you’re holding these conferences in the classroom, I suggest saving your conversation notes and their reflection form, to share with parents and guardians at your mid-year parent-teacher conferences. If you’re holding these conferences virtually, you could even try having parents sit in on the conference since parent involvement is SO crucial to student success in virtual learning. I also pull these back out for future conversations and mini-conferences with my students later in the year. For those students who need it, those mini-conferences happen about once a month from this point on, and for others, not as often. It’s a relevant, important, and meaningful conversation and goal that you will NOT regret taking time to do.

If you’d like a copy of the forms I use, I have a printable and a digital version in Google Sheets and they can be snagged with this link. If you’d like to see what I have my students work on to extend these conversations and get the students thinking even more about their future goals, check out this “My Future’s So Bright Career Research Project.” Read about that research project and why I believe its so helpful in building intrinsic motivation in my blog post here.

Enjoy! And as always, I’d love to hear how your conferences go if you try this strategy with your own students!

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