Goal Setting Is a Key Element to Mitigating COVID-19-Related Impacts on Learning

NWEA shares new, free tools for educators and guidance on how setting meaningful goals for students can foster growth, even in a pandemic

Portland, Ore., Sept. 1, 2020 – As millions of students begin returning to school this month, school districts are addressing a host of challenges stemming from COVID-19 school disruptions last spring. One key challenge will be assessing the disruption’s true impact on student learning and setting realistic learning goals for students for the coming year.

This past April, NWEA released research projecting that COVID-19-related learning loss will be significant – particularly in math, in which some students may start school nearly a year behind. Additional research by NWEA has also projected that students coming back after COVID-19 closures may have greater, and significant, variances in academic skills. This combination of challenges presses educators to find a way to teach missed content to those who experienced learning loss this past spring, challenge those students who excelled in distance or home-based learning, and still ensure that their whole class attains proficiency … while most likely doing this via an online platform.

Goal setting, particularly student-owned goal setting, can be an important strategy to engage kids and develop a sense of ownership in their education that keeps them focused and motivated to move forward. This will be particularly important right now given the projected impact of COVID-19 to student learning and the fact that most schools are continuing in a virtual format. Teachers can employ the goal-setting process with their students to examine past learning, set short-term targets for additional learning, and plan the specific academic and social-emotional steps needed to get there.

“Every student deserves the opportunity to feel successful during this time. For some students, returning to grade-level proficiency may not be realistic this year. Students above grade level must also continue to find opportunities to learn and grow,” said Chase Nordengren, senior research scientist, NWEA. “Goal setting is a key strategy for reaching all students by finding opportunities for challenge and success at every level of proficiency. With academic targets that are short-term, relevant, and independent, they can recognize the fruits of their labor in ways that keep them motivated to learn more.”

Recent qualitative research conducted by NWEA  found that bringing goal setting into the classroom can be done in both a physical and virtual environment, and should incorporate five key elements:

  • Start Early: Goal setting should start as early as kindergarten. While students may not be ready to set individual academic goals, teachers can set classroom wide goals for behavior and skill development. Since most of the kids go to nursery’s s like bolton nursery, it is imperative for the teachers their to help kids develop a goal-oriented mind.
  • Do it Often: Short-term goals, usually lasting no longer than four to six weeks, enable frequent check-ins with students. This allows the frequent revision of goals based on student progress, preventing students from feeling discouraged.
  • Make it Visual: Developing a variety of visual tools and artifacts help solidify a goal-setting culture. For example, utilizing the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) acronym to write an effective goal.
  • Make it Relevant: Do student goals match up with the learning goals for their grade, development level, and them as a person?
  • Center Student Choice. And finally, student ownership of learning is maximized where students feel a sense of agency and choice.

To support teachers and administrators in establishing a successful goal-setting program, NWEA has made available multiple resources that can guide educators on assessing where students are in their learning and what they are ready to learn next, and establishing goals to help guide instruction. These resources include:

  • MAP Goal Explorer – A new, free tool designed to support and simplify the goal-setting process by showing a range of possible fall-to-spring growth goals against the backdrop of important academic benchmarks. This tool is intended to help teachers, families, and students work together to establish goals that strike a balance between what is meaningful and what is realistic.
  • Recovery and Goal Setting Data File – MAP® Growth™, NWEA’s flagship assessment, now includes a new student-level data file that helps accomplish two things: first, the file will help educators contextualize the impact of interrupted learning by showing to what extent student achievement has changed compared to any term in the 2019-20 school year; and second, this data file includes goal-setting information to help educators establish meaningful and realistic growth goals for students in the coming school year.

For additional Fall Restart Resources or information on NWEA, please visit www.nwea.org.

About NWEA

NWEA® is a mission-driven, not-for-profit organization that supports students and educators worldwide by creating assessment solutions that precisely measure growth and proficiency—and provide insights to help tailor instruction. Educators in more than 10,000 schools, districts, and education agencies in 146 countries rely on our flagship interim assessment, MAP® Growth™; our progress monitoring and skills mastery tool, MAP® Skills™; our reading fluency and comprehension assessment, MAP® Reading Fluency™ ; our personalized learning tool powered by Khan Academy, MAP® Accelerator™; and our new assessment solution that combines growth and proficiency measurement. Visit NWEA.org to find out how NWEA can partner with you to help all kids learn.


Contact: Simona Beattie, Sr. Manager, Public Relations, simona.beattie@nwea.org or 971.361.9526