Does Engagement in Goal Setting Impact How Feedback is Processed?

Lorena Kelly

Over the past fifteen years, Lorena Kelly’s passion to enhance learning for all students has led to several different educational positions and partnerships on projects such as Excellence through Equity: Five Principles of Courageous Leadership to guide Achievement for Every Student. She is currently an assistant principal in Virginia Beach, VA.

Have you ever noticed the different ways you respond to feedback?

The other day I was folding laundry when my sister stopped by for a visit. As I was folding a shirt, she told me that the way I was folding the shirt would leave wrinkles. She gave me some suggestions, but I do not remember what she said. I was not interested in improving my folding techniques and completely disregarded the feedback.

The same day, I went to the gym, and one of the trainers gave me the suggestion of placing my feet about two inches further forward and bending my knees to make a 90 degree angle when squatting.

I started to wonder why I received the feedback from these two situations so differently: one I completely disregarded and the other I not only immediately implemented, but am monitoring as I continue to do squats.

Personal Goals Affect Feedback Impact

Increasing the strength and improving the look of my glutes is a personal goal of mine. When I received feedback on something that was related to a personal goal, I paid close attention.

Folding shirts better is not a goal of mine. Sure, my shirts would look much better if I followed the feedback provided by my sister, but it is not important to me and did not result in a change in my practice.

If this is similar to the way you receive feedback, think of the implications to our practice as educators. We provide feedback every day, focusing on descriptive feedback because we know that research shows it is most effective.

Is the Feedback We Are Providing Falling on Deaf Ears?

Student engagement in the goal setting process makes a big difference. Just like us, students are much more likely to listen and apply feedback when it is related to a personal goal. The idea of interest and relevance impacts us on many different levels. Here it makes the difference between attending to and disregarding feedback.

When students are part of the goal setting process, they create goals that are relevant to them and they are interested in improving.

  • Are you providing students the opportunity to goal set?
  • Do they have academic and social emotional goals?
  • How might this impact the way you provide feedback?

Will students always select goals in all areas for which they need feedback? No, but if they are constantly receiving feedback on goals they were not a part of creating and not committed to reaching, their attention to feedback and change in practice will be limited. Will they then be equipped with the goal setting necessary in adult life to continue to grow personally, professionally, physically?

Think About Your Own Practice

Whether you are a teacher, coach or administrator:

  • How are you providing and receiving feedback?
  • Have you had the opportunity to make goals?
  • Are you receiving feedback based on your goals?

Participating in the goal setting process results in a commitment to reaching the goal. Therefore, feedback provided in service to reaching a goal is received through a different lens.

Creating goals, providing specific feedback, monitoring goal progress and creating new goals is certainly a process. It takes time and commitment; however, it is an important part of helping students develop into adults that will continue to engage in the process.

Imagine the impact on engagement and the potential growth possible by simply engaging students, teachers and ourselves in the goal setting process.

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