Sunday, April 15, 2012

Working Memory - Part 5 - Goal Setting

Goal setting: prioritising and setting goals for the activity. 

After having an extended Easter holiday break in Sydney I had the opportunity to reconsider my long term goals. This helps me to refocus and to re-energise.

Most people would agree long-term goal setting is important for success in life. However, goal setting is just as important in the short-term. For example, when engaging in an activity people need to set clear goals so that they are more focussed and are more able to measure their achievements. By setting goals the learner takes responsibility for his or her own progress.

When clear goals are set they enable working memory to function more efficiently by directing attention to what is important and ignoring extraneous information. They also provide a measure to gauge the effectiveness of strategies that learners employ in attaining these goals.

There are two types of goals; product goals and performance goals. Product goals direct the learner to focus on learning content. For example, while reading a story about Captain Cook and his voyage of discovery the reader will be interested in answering questions about who, what, when, where, and why. Process goals, on the other hand, focus on the strategies and skills that are needed to answer the above questions. For example, a process goal in reading may be to use a compensatory strategy such as rereading a sentence when there is a loss of meaning during the reading process. An easy way to set these goals is to make two wishes.

Five suggestions:
  1. Say each goal (wish) aloud.
  2. Visualise achieving each goal.
  3. Write down each goal.
  4. Make sure that the goals are challenging.
  5. Check that the goals are realistic and attainable.


  1. After thought: It should be emphasised that goals are more effective when they are set by the learner rather than being imposed from outside.

  2. I like the idea of thinking about goals as wishes! Having both a product and a process goal could really help struggling readers. Hm, maybe a birthday cake graphic to have kids record these on before they read? Have you tried this?

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  4. Hi Emily, Thank you for contacting me again, it is always good to hear from you. Yes, I have used a form for the children to record their wishes and achievements - called two stars and a wish - I don't know where the idea originated but I picked it up from a year 5 classroom a few years ago. I have used it in my COR Reading Comprehension Framework (see the Literacy Project Link on the right). It was a great success. However, I intend to improve this - the cake idea was one - two presents, two candles and maybe something in between (a type of 3 step self-regulation strategy e.g. goal (two types), monitoring, reflection.