We set goals within our own realm of possibility. But is this the best approach?
At the moment, I’m thinking about goal setting. We set goals to achieve things, I.e. get this group achieving the ITAF statement, to tidy up my cupboard or not drink too much coffee in the day, to stub out bad habits and take up good ones. And we ensure that our goals conform to the SMART principles: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time framed. If we’re very good, we also set mini goals to achieve on the way, which serves as a map of our pathways to achieve our ultimate goal. Now all we need to do, is the journey.
Teachers aspirations tend to focus on; what the children achieving are attaining more. As a coach, a key part of the goal setting process with teachers is determining whether or not their goals are realistic. ‘I want this group to achieve these statements by the end of April’. I look at the evidence, data and books, and as well as the strength and weaknesses of the situation - to decide whether to go 'Yep, let’s do it’ or gently recommend a revised target. What could be wrong with such a pragmatic approach to the situation?
A study conducted by the Harvard Business School concluded that when overused. Goals can do more harm than good. The authors believe that in the business context, the negative side effects of too great a focus on goal setting include over focus on one area while neglecting others, distorted risk evaluation and reduced intrinsic motivation. Extrapolated to an overly goal driven teacher that might roughly translate to neglect the broad and balanced curriculum to the rigour of the SAT testing. Sounds about right?
However, the other problem is the converse one. We don’t want our goals to be pie in the sky, so we pore over predictions charts working out what is in the realm of possibility. But such formulae have to based on norms and our genetic propensity means we’re likely to be better at some kind of intervention for these children.
I recently visited the Academies Show in London and it has loads of different suppliers that have a teacher geek like me in seventh heaven. It got me to review my personal targets for this year. Things have changed recently for me and now I am not a young teacher setting my new targets for my class. I am a former headteacher, who now thinks about how to give back to the career that I have throughly enjoyed. I have set for myself new targets which I will have to stick to the guidance that I have set myself for the next couple of months. But I have to confess I find the notion that I stick diligently to the work schedule over the next couple of months, I will achieve these targets. This give me food for thought and might encourage me to look at the the way that I coach others. If I focus heavily on the R part of SMART limit someone’s ambition and sap their enthusiasm?
My favourite quote, about setting targets if from Sir Ken Robinson - ‘For most of us, the problem isn’t we aim too high and fail.
It’s just the opposite: we aim too low and succeed. ’