How can I help my child set study goals?

While a lot of students want to understand and explore their subject areas more, and often want to perform better in examinations and tests, their effort and hard work can better channelized if parents help them set specific study goals.
What are study goals?
Study goals are targets for learning that give students direction and add meaning to their learning. Setting study goals helps motivate students to learn, and gives them a better sense of what, how and why they are learning. Research has proved that setting effective study goals greatly enhance student performance, but only when done right. Here are some tried and tested tips from us for you to help your child set study goals:
1) Help Plan Backwards
Backwards planning is a skill we encourage students to develop at an early age. Rather than setting a series of short-term study goals such as ‘perform well in weekly test‘ or ‘get a A+ in the Formative Assessment‘, it’s always a good idea to ask your child what is it that they want to achieve in the long-run. The long-term study goal could be something as specific as ‘I want to study maritime engineering‘ to something as general as ‘I want to learn how to learn‘. Once the long-term objective is defined, encouraged your child to work backwards from this big goal to break up the mission into smaller, more easily manageable short-term goals such as ‘learn the basics of trigonometry’.
2) Is the study goal specific?
When study goals are too huge and general, they can demotivate students and make them feel helpless and overwhelmed. Students are more likely to tackle study goals when they are specific and defined. It can be helpful to ask your child to set their short-term study goals while linking them to specific chapters, units of inquiry or specific sub-skills rather than an abstract idea. It is also a good idea to ask them to specify how and when the goal can be achieved. ‘Revise Mathematics‘ is not as specific as ‘Practice 10 problems relating to laws of sines and cosines every Tuesday night’.
3) Is the study goal challenging enough? 
Children are more likely to under-perform when study goals are either too challenging or too easy. When the tasks or goals set are too difficult, the resulting frustration can put them off even trying the next time or switch to playing a more gratifying video game that gives them quick success. It’s important to not overwhelm your child and pressure them to learn beyond their ability or natural pace. On the other hand, when a study goal is too easy, children do tend to get bored and not take them seriously enough. The right amount of challenge motivates and excites students to want to achieve them.
4) Is the study goal personally relevant?
Children often don’t study because they don’t see the need to. Children are quite reasonable, however, and if a supportive parent takes time to explain and figure out with the child, why learning abstract trigonometric formula can be fun and rewarding, and how they connect to the child’s long term goals and dreams, they are more likely to be committed to and emotionally invested in achieving the goal. Encourage your child to constantly make connections between what they want to learn and the real world. This helps them realize that what they are learning is significant. This one of the reasons that the IB curriculum invites learners to ‘take action in the real world’.
5) Encourage independent planning
Too often, as well-meaning parents, we tend to set goals for our children. This distances them from their learning and reduces their motivation to achieve. Children are more likely to want to work towards goals when they feel a sense of ownership for them. This can only happen when children are free to set their own study goals, and when we don’t impose our goals on them. Setting their own study goals definitely helps them develop their self-management and regulatory skills in the long run. Funnily enough, one of the ways we can help our children set goals is by not setting it for them!
6) Make the study goal visible
Too often, study goals suffer the same fate as resolution- they are made with the best intentions and then are promptly forgotten. They are more likely to be effective if they are well-defined and then made visible. It’s a good idea to get your child to write them out and display it in a prominent place that your child usually spends a lot of time at. Is it the refrigerator? Is it your child’s study desk? Also, do consider sharing these study goals with everyone invested in their learning process. Our teachers at DRS International School would love to hear about your child’s study goals as it will help them plan better to support him or her in the process in school.
7) Review study goals together
Study goals work best when there is a sense of accountability. Take some time out of your schedule to sit with your child to periodically review progress and revisit or redefine these study goals if necessary. A little give and take goes a long way in this exercise and inspires them to get back on track.
Are you helping your child set study goals? Let us know in the comments below!