Newbie (me) needs help with"unwilling" student and Goal setting PLEASE!

Hi internet world of Group Discussions/Forums!

I am hoping the all CAPS in the "please" at least brought you in this far.
You are dealing with a double whammy at my end:  a tech dinosaur as well as new to the ABE world ( I am hoping this is going out to the Assessment Group within Teaching and Learning, BUT I am not even sure of that)...Geez.

Ok, here is where I need your help:

Background:  I taught in a public high school for 33 years, but my new role is as an ABE teacher/helper/Instructor...whatever I am supposed to call myself. now. As all newbies to the field in VT, we have to take an on-line, professional development course/experience on Assessment, which I felt I knew a fair amount about coming in, but am pleased to say I had plenty to learn and re-learn.  I was in the public school for the prelude to PBL, but was gone for the implementation phase.  As such, students having a direct hand in writing their own "graduation plans", starting  with goal setting is a new experience for me. As a newly certified teacher in the WBLC field as well (Work Based Learning Coordinator) I am "all in" when it comes to Flexible Pathways (Act 77 here in Vt as of 2013), but actual plan-reading. to say nothing of goal-writing within the plan is foreign matter to me.  I have read (and taken copious notes) on the course readings on Goal-setting for the student:  it's value, timing, reflecting, re-writing or adjusting, importance to buy-in and persistent, alignment  to instruction, anticipating and addressing obstacles, positive vs negative visions, etc (like I said, I am a good  note-taker).

MY PROBLEM:  I have been working with a few new students (to me therefore), who have ALREADY been in the ABE world before I came along, and I had no training/exposure to plan writing/reading and the critical piece it seems of goal setting by the student (with teacher help).  As I have somewhat missed the boat, I am now playing catch-up, to no fault of anyone but my "ignorance" alone, on trying to get these students to buy into the goal-setting piece (maybe I am being naive, and it would be just as difficult if I had been with them since day 1, with goal setting as my first task just after saying "hello?" 

In particular, I have one 19 year old drop out who, even though I have been using my kid gloves, trying to build up a working relationship with, wants NOTHING to do with Goal-setting (I have tried to give her simple examples (I think) such as how many times she wants to meet this week, how many lessons she hopes to successfully get dice.  It often comes down to just wanting to get the next problem done, asking how many hours left to get to the minimum 40 hours to re-TABE, etc.  Leaves me a little frustrated at times...I can't be the only one to jump into this boat mid-stream (i.e student came in to the ABE system before teacher,  who knew nothing of goal setting at first)?

QUESTION?  How do I get the student to buy into this critical goal-setting complement at this point (I should mention she is in the skill development phase of ABE help, not in the HSCP program yet, and is below 30  hours since starting over 5 months ago....big gaps in her Center time but is getting more consistent at  least in coming in to work with me).  Afraid if I push the goal-setting part too much she will drop out, and if I don't she will never be ready to assess successfully in the  TABE, whether or not that is being used as a formative or summative piece.

There it is.  I am not too old or proud to pull off the road and "ask for directions."  Until then, I am idling in the pull-off spot, stretching my legs (and mind).

Peter A




How about taking the goal-setting from what your student has accomplished.  Meaning if she meets with you three times this week, use this as her goal and encourage her to meet more often.  If she completes 20 math problems and they are done well encourage her to try 5 new ones with a different twist.  Yes, you are in this method in the driver's seat but slowly you can wean yourself out of it.  Many students really do not understand goal setting for one and for another all their lives they have been told you need to do this for homework, write so many pages, etc.  In a way, the system is at fault as it has trained them really to not think.  In the adult, world reality sinks in and it can be a really a=scary place.  I too have a student like yours but with lots of encouragement and yes with steps backward at times she is making progress.

Goal setting is scary, what happens if they don't make the goal, will someone be disappointed in them?  Will there be consequences?  I sat with a young man and his mom the other day.  He knows that high school is not right for him so he left (with parent approval).  Now he just wants to get done and get out into the adult world, which scares the crap out of him.  But he asked me to arrange a meeting with his mother so that he could explain what he wanted to do and why.  That it did not close the doors to going to college, etc..  Finally at the end of the meeting, I asked him if there was anything else he wanted help saying, he looked at his mom and said that they made him feel like a failure.  Long story short, mom admitted having a hard time when her friends were dealing with going to graduation etc, and they would not be,  After the meeting in the parking lot they cried together and hugged,  Not every student has the courage or people in their court to do this.  But this took time, to build a relationship, to encourage and yes at times to say um, I think that you may need to rethink.  But it works.  I am also willing to state that not everyone is ready for this, some it takes time to mature and grow.  I hope this helps if not maybe I will see you on March 10th and we can talk some more.

Hi Suzanne;

Thanks as your suggestion not only makes sense, but is a great starting point where I feel it won't scare her off, build some confidence in goal -setting (for BOTH of us) and well as continue improving the trust factor.

She is out today, but I will try it next week for sure...wrote it in my planner!



Perhaps, with your goal setting, as your student is coming in more often than previously, you can use goal setting first with her attendance. Such as coming in the same number of days as she did the previous week, then if she can accomplish that talk about adding a day each week, or adding time to each day.  Or, maybe, as I used to do with my 16 and 17 year old students, I would ask them to tell me how many lessons they thought they could finish in a specified time frame... the next hour, before break, before lunch, before you leave for the day. Then, of course, if they are projecting a far lessor amount that they could do, I would say something like "I think you can do at least one more lesson than that. So, try x number of lessons." Then I would check with that student when that time frame was up. 

I realize this might not be the type of goal setting you are looking for but, it might get your student starting in actually doing some guided planning for herself (goal setting). I try not to let my students have it too easy but, make it a bit challenging. Say, well, yesterday you stayed 3 hours, can you stay and work for 3.5 today? Or, yesterday, or earlier today, you did 3 lessons in a hour, can you try to get through 4 this next hour?