I always try to start out my lessons by talking to my students about the importance of goals and steps on how to achieve them. This is part of my way of creating a needs analysis of my students. I ask them what they think of how people learn a foreign language and get them to talk about how they see themselves as language learners. I follow through by getting them to set personal goals about their learning path and how they will achieve this. This helps them get the feel of what to expect from my lessons and what is expected of them.
Stating the above though, I can say that the results and the feedback I get from this activity aren’t that idealistic as you would at first think. Even though I have tried quite a few different techniques to help students set goals in class like getting them to set SMART goals or other types of goals, the reflective feedback I usually get from my students is that they find this activity not so relevant to learning English and thus they don’t actually say it but, I can sense it that they feel that it wasn’t a very helpful learning activity for them. I know this is set in their beliefs of how they should be learning a language and just want to get straight into the bits of language that might help them supposedly learn. It’s not all doom and gloom though because I know that their way of learning is not always the best way of learning and that this has not been so successful for them in the past.
Having to prepare for my next new class, I thought it would be a good idea to design and plan something more solid and more useful for all my lessons and for my school. So, I did a routine I always do when I am trying to learn something new, I indulge in immersive online research and reading. This usually takes me a couple of hours or so, and to tell you the truth it racks my brain and I mostly end up overloaded. You could say that I end up with an information-overload feeling. So, this morning I thought I would straight up reflect on what I have been researching and maybe this way would help me shape what I want to do next.
I decided I wanted to create a new needs analysis form which I would fill in with my students online. I chose a generic form from ISL Collective that I found will be just right. Have a look at it here.
Next up I did some Internet research on setting goals. By doing some keyword research for goals and setting them, I touched on the idea of setting smart goals. One thing that I was interested in by the use of smart goals was how to set them and what questions should I have in mind when facilitating this activity. Here are a few interesting bits’ n bobs I found.
Goal setting guidelines:
- Your goal must be conceivable
- make your goal believable
- Your goal must be achievable
- Make your goal measurable
- Be sure to set one purpose only
Setting SMART goals:
S-Specific. Don’t confuse wishes with specific goals. Don’t over broaden your goals. I often hear goals like, “I want the Proficiency”. Why? “to have the qualities I need to get into Greek public service”. And then I usually tell them, “What if I could help you learn the language in such a way that it would be interesting and meaningful to you and as a consequence help you ace the C2 level exam too?”, most of them usually like that idea.
M-Measurable. I usually tell them to measure what is success to them. I try and convince them that an honest return on Investment after taking part in language learning would be to attain the desired outcome and have learnt a way to sustain and improve language learning. So here I would say things like, “What about watching a movie without subtitles and understanding most of it?”
A-Achievable. So how do you define achievable. I suppose the example I use in my classes be the most relevant unachievable goal for myself a bit too extreme. I tell them that I want to go to the moon as an astronaut, but given my age, not that I’m old or anything, it would be a very difficult task to achieve (my philosophy in life is, nothing is unachievable- but that’s wishful thinking!). So, I prefer them saying things like, I want to be able to speak fluently with as little as errors possible than the typical, ” I want to sound like and American native speaker”.
R-Realistic. This one is a difficult issue. Most of my learners come to me and wanting to achieve a fluent “Received pronunciation” like British accent, without the thinking about what fluency really means to the world now. So, here is where I get into the ideas of “Who is a true Brit and what is their accent like?”, “Globalization and keeping your local identity”, “English as a lingua-franca and the ideas of correct pronunciation over native like accents.
T-Time bound. There should be a start date and an end date.
Like this presentation from SlideShare here.
And found some questions to facilitate this activity here. Examples shown below.
- What is it you want to accomplish?
- Who wants to accomplish the goal?
- Why do you want to achieve this goal?
- How are you going to make it happen?
Finishing, I also like talking to my students about motivation and ways to stay committed. In the past, one area of interest in which I have looked into is Zoltan Dornyei’s L2 Motivational self-system. This system lies on the belief of a student’s motivational language learning behavior, that is their efforts, choice and persistence will be largely affected by three variables: their ideal L2 self, to what extent can students imagine themselves and highly proficient language learners, their Ought-to L2 self, which is what outside pressures students acknowledge throughout the learning process, and finally their language learning experience, which influences attitudes their classroom processes (Dornyei).
So, questions I want to ask my students are:
- How do you vision your ideal L2 self?
- How is your life affected by getting a certification and by knowing the language?
- What is your ideal classroom experience?
There’s more… so to be continued…but until I do, what do you do to set goals with your students?