Goals for students

to-do-listSo what is it that we want students to gain from a k-12 science education? What are the goals we should constantly work to promote in students?

Considering that rote memorization of scientific ideas leads to little understanding, I have identified ten goals for students that focus on life learning skills, and other traits that will be valuable to them in the future, no matter their career choice.  Each goal below is accompanied by more specific explanations of what I might see students doing who meet that goal.  I hope whatever your goals are for your students, you have thought about them extensively. We all want great things for our students, but if we do not have well articulated goals, our efforts will not be focused. I will post later on how we can consistently work to promote the goals below.

Student Goal 1) Students will demonstrate critical thinking.
A student who demonstrates critical thinking will defend their viewpoint using relevant evidence. Students will pose questions when new information does not agree with their current understanding, and look for further sources of evidence to support the new idea if necessary. Students will not accept blindly new information and be willing to question teachers, texts and other sources of information. A student who is capable of critical thinking should be able to solve problems in a stepwise sequence, and be able to revise the sequence if necessary.

Student Goal 2) Students will demonstrate a deep understanding of content and be able to apply this knowledge to problems in and out of the classroom.
Students with a deep understanding of the content will be able to clearly articulate that understanding by citing relevant evidence and sources when confronted with a question. Students will be able to make connections between various concepts and apply multiple concepts to a single problem when needed. Students will be aware of resources to find information regarding content, and use such resources when necessary. Students will use their knowledge of content when approaching a relevant problem and will be able to recognize which concepts are of value for specific situations.

Student Goal 3) Students will demonstrate creativity and curiosity.
Students who are creative will propose original ways to approach or solve problems. Students will ask thought-provoking questions during class discussion, and try to answer questions by piecing together previous knowledge. Students who are curious will come up with possible investigations and ask questions seeking explanation of ideas during class discussions. Students will develop their own ways to explain their ideas and look for evidence that supports their ideas.

Student Goal 4) Students will demonstrate respect.
Students will not interrupt others during discussions. Students will listen to other ideas and treat them as valid. Students will discuss positive aspects of ideas they do not necessarily agree with; this helps them to understand both sides of an issue, and makes them a better critical thinker. Students will follow classroom rules, and treat school property as though it were their own. Work area will be kept clean and students will remind each other of classroom rules. Each student will work cohesively with a team and treat themselves as part of that team.

Student Goal 5) Students will be responsible and conscientious members of communities.
Students will address global problems concerning the environment, energy needs, human needs, social concerns and others. Students will seek out remedies to such problems and debate which ideas offer the most effective solutions. Students will propose possible measures to be taken as citizens when a problem is found.

Student Goal 6) Students will exhibit confidence.
Students who exhibit confidence will be willing to participate in class, and willing to provide ideas, even if they are unsure of the idea’s worth. These students will be willing to try new procedures and willing to try again when they fail. Students will ask the teacher to clarify when they do not fully understand, and be willing to look for additional help if needed.

Student Goal 7) Students will set goals and assess their own learning and progress.
Students will set realistic goals for the semester, quarter, unit, and week. As weeks go by, students will become better at setting goals they are capable of achieving. Students will revise goals as needed. Students will use a journal to track their progress and to assess their own understanding.  Students will seek ways to express their learning and check for understanding of new concepts.

Student Goal 8 ) Students will be active in their own learning.
Students will look for further resources when they feel they do not yet fully understand. Students will ask questions in class to clarify points of confusion. Students will create models to explain their ideas. Active learners will look into topics of interest beyond the classroom. Students will bring concerns about understanding to class discussions, and also cite how current material applies elsewhere, besides the classroom.

Student Goal 9) Students will use communication and cooperation skills effectively.
Students will be able to communicate clearly in large groups as well as one on one. Students will be able to communicate ideas succinctly through written language. Students will use correct terminology where appropriate. Students will use correct grammar and punctuation. Students will listen to other ideas and maintain eye contact during conversation and debates, and will speak in a respectful manner during such debates and discussions. Students who are able to cooperate are willing to let others do their fair share as well as pull their own weight in a group. Students will value all suggestions of group members equally. Students will attempt to resolve problems within their group before asking the teacher.

Student Goal 10) Students will understand the nature of knowledge.
Students will partake in discussions about the nature of knowledge and compare different ways of knowing. Students will apply principles of the nature of knowledge to different content areas.  Epistemological discussions with students can help them become more reflective concerning their own thinking.  By reflecting on what it means to know something in diverse areas, students will better understand how to learn effectively.

I hope these goals are lofty, children deserve no less than our highest expectations.  Assessing these goals is difficult, but by carefully designing lessons and providing important experiences for students, we can promote these goals – however, like with anything, they must carry the goals to fruition.  I’m sure some will tell me I’m an idealist with a goal list like that, so I leave you with some John Lennon’s Imagine:

You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

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22 Responses to Goals for students

  1. Matt R. says:

    Really? The Lennon quote? Was that necessary? Hehe.
    I love the goals. Where does assessment fit into these goals? Are they all quantifiable? Not that I’m all about assessment, just raising a question that I would imagine most “experts” may raise.


    • jerridkruse says:

      Come on, any chance to include music references and i’ll take it :) As far as assessment, I believe we need to shift from student assessment to teacher assessment, so the question is, how do I assess whether or not I am promoting these goals? Because that is all we can do, that is what we have control over, we don’t have any legitimate control over our students, all we can do is encourage them in certain ways. (self-assessment shall be a future post)


  2. Matt R. says:

    Data-driven decisions seems to be the flavor of the month in education. How do we address this issue while maintaining these important goals for our students, since most of them seem to be an abstract concept/subjective? For example, how do you measure confidence in a student and therefore know if a student has sufficiently exhibited confidence? Again, playing devil’s advocate here. In my experience, teachers are trusted less with their own ability to make their own decisions about the education they provide and more emphasis is placed on the data they can collect to justify their decisions. I guess the major question is: Is education a truly quantifiable thing? And if so, what is the best way to get a true measure of it? I think if you can answer that, you’ll get rich.


    • jerridkruse says:

      I think we can answer it to an extent, but there is always something that eludes us. however, most decisions are based on ease of measurment – real assessment is much more difficult to pull off. (by real, i mean much greater than a multiple choice test – ie: essay’s, class discussion, etc. Imagine how many elementary teachers assess their students, they look for students to be exhibiting certain traits – why do we give this up in higher grades?)


    • Matt R. says:

      i agree. I was just talking with Abbey about that. We just received our spring report card from Olivia’s pre-school. It was a list of observable traits, no tests taken. Also, we discussed why is it that in the early years we focus so much on tactile learning or learning by experiencing or just exploration learning and by the time they reach upper elementary/middle school that is dead. Definitely by HS any passion for learning is thoroughly destroyed and the student’s role as a passive “learner” is clearly established.


    • Matt R. says:

      PS: if you want to check out Olivia’s report card you can see it here: Olivia’s report


  3. Michael Clough says:

    I bet you are not surprised I would weigh in on this. :-)

    I suggest changing goal number two to:

    Students will demonstrate a deep understanding of fundamental science concepts and apply this knowledge to problems in and out of the classroom.

    Not all content is worth deeply understanding. Minutia may be easily looked up and understood IF fundamental ideas are deeply understood. I also eliminated the “be able to” in regards to application. I’m betting you don’t simply want your students to be able to apply knowledge, you actually want them to DO it!

    Seems to me that goals 4 and 5 are after the same thing and could be combined in the following way:

    Students will be responsible, respectful and conscientious members of communities.

    What you have written under goal 4 fits nicely under this.

    I understand your rationale for Student Goal 8 ) Students will be active in their own learning. However, given that learning IS an active process, I think the goal needs to be rewritten to avoid a tautology.

    What is your rationale for not including a goal such as “Students will effectively identify and solve problems”? Effectively identifying problems is a necessary first step in moving forward.

    I like your Lennon quote. Idealism is the beginning of anything worthwhile.


  4. I’m a 6th grade teacher, but I have a passion for critical thinking and inquiry based instruction both of which I think must be demonstrated and addressed in any Science curriculum. I would only ask and add that answers for k12 scientists are overrated…aggregating, collecting and exploring data is a priority. Stoking the curiosity and providing the tools to research and learn need to be addresses. We are doing a disservice to the kiddos as well if we don’t use the tools available to us in technology and expect the same writing and reading proficiencies that our Literacy teachers do. Great post thanks.


  5. Matt T. says:

    Is there any way you could transform these into SMART goals?
    S = Specific
    M = Measurable
    A = Attainable
    R = Realistic
    T = Timely

    I see many of your suggested goals as being immeasurable and not very attainable. Idealistic and theoretical, definitely so. Curious what your thoughts might be in following these goals up with more specific ones.


  6. jerrid says:

    Most of the actions under each goal are observable=measurable. If these goals are not attainable, then why have school? And for those which might not be measurable, the most worthwhile activities are beyond measure, but we can work to promote them. Thanks to all for comments! Sorry for short reply, on phone.


    • Matt T. says:

      I’m not sure if I understand what you mean about about each being measurable/observable. Do you mean at any given time? As a culmination of ‘schooling’ or a ‘course’? Take for example the following goal:

      “Students will demonstrate creativity and curiosity.” Does creativity in art count? Does this creativity necessarily carry over in to the math classroom? How does one measure “creativity”? That question alone could create pages worth of commentary by people much smarter than me.

      “Students will understand the nature of knowledge.” You’ve definitely got me on this one. I can’t think of too many ways this can consistently be observed and measured.

      I’m honestly not trying to be too critical, but rather keep the conversation going. I agree that these goals are lofty, just as you offered up. I’d like to suggest that they are much too ambiguous and potentially immeasurable to the point that having them as “goals” seems to fit a mysterious purpose.


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  12. Sheila says:

    Me as an afterschool teacher and Facilitator I think all of these goals are well stated .The critical thinking gives each child the opportunity to use their knowledge to create and explore in every subject in and out of class. Creativity in art I think counts, because I think if you are being creative you have to use your imagination to put everything in perspective the way you want it. If it’s with a piece of paper and you want it a certain size then you have to use math. If you are drawing and it has to fit on a certain size piece of paper you have to measure. I think this is really good . How do you measure ones creativity? By what each individual puts in front of you and you say wow how creative this is!!!


  13. Sheila says:

    A mind used is a mind used creatively!! In all aspects


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