As the spring season will soon be upon us, according to the calendar, mentally I’ve already begun preparing. Since I am not coaching during the spring season, I will have some free time each afternoon. While I could devote that extra time to work or relaxation, I’ve decided to devote it to my family. I realize that my eating and life habits are not going to put me on track for eternal life. I love sweets and I’m not a fan of exercise; however, I do want to live a long and healthy life so that I can grow old with my wife and watch my son blossom into the beautiful orchid I know he will one day become. His blooming process just takes a little longer than the average flower. So, to prolong my life, I’ve decided to put my free time to good use this spring: I’m going to train for a 5K running race. I know, running is horrible. I truly dislike running in any form unless I’m being chased by an evil monster or the tax man; sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart though. Since I haven’t done any actual exercise or running in years, I feel as though I need to manage my expectations. I can’t expect to go out on day one and run three miles. I’ll need to run a little each day, reflect on my progress weekly, and then set a new goal for the following week. It’s got to be about the process and not the product. Just like I tell my math students, “It’s the process that matters and not the answer.”
To help my students see the value in the process of reflection and goal setting in Humanities class, today my co-teacher and I spent several minutes conferencing with each student. We reviewed the reading goal they set for themselves at the start of the winter term and reflected on their progress. Did they meet their goal? If not, why? Did they exceed their goal? If so, what did they do to make that happen? Then, using this reflection, we had them set a realistic reading goal for the spring term. We asked them questions depending on the goal they set. Will you be able to achieve this by the close of the academic year? What will you need to do to meet this goal? Why are you setting your goal lower than the number of books you read during the previous term? We wanted the students to genuinely reflect on their reading progress thus far in the year. We provided them feedback on their goals and hopefully inspired them to work diligently to achieve them by June.
If we hadn’t conferenced with the students and just had them individually set reading goals for themselves, they would not have been able to reflect on their progress or receive feedback on their accomplishments. Real learning comes about through meaningful reflection. When students learn from their mistakes or growth, they can then truly apply this learning to further their growth and development as students. Goal setting needs to come about through reflection on their learning process. It’s all about the process and not the goal itself. Metacognition is a crucial part of the learning process.