Goal Setting for Secondary School and Beyond

Secondary school is a critical time for developing life skills like planning, working efficiently, and managing time well. Without these skills, a person will struggle in school, college, careers, and life in general. Unfortunately, they’re not taught these skills in most secondary schools. In Quest Forward schools, we’ve made them a priority. 

Learning how to plan, identify goals, and make progress towards goals is a Quest Forward Learning Work Skill (“Plan and Achieve Goals”). To help students develop this skill, Quest Forward mentors provide students with goal setting training. Mentors help students learn how to plan, be efficient, manage time well, and achieve their goals. 

We need our students committed and motivated in achieving their goals, so we emphasize writing them down. Every student receives a goal setting template that we designed. We also provide examples of effective goals. Mentors guide students as they write their daily and weekly goals and track and reflect on their progress. Students write directly on the template or use another preferred format.

A notebook page displays a week's worth of goals handwritten by a student.
A student’s daily plan using a prior version of our planning template, handwritten in the student’s notebook.

This year we piloted a new planning process and templates at Mtakuja and Shilela Secondary schools, two Tanzanian Quest Forward Schools. Students identify daily goals at the start of the day in their dormitories or classrooms before they begin classes at 8:00 am. Later, they reflect on their progress at the end of the day before going to bed. Students identified separate personal and course goals. Personal goals included getting better at singing, preparing certain meals, or improving personal and environmental hygiene. Course goals are goals like completing the Introduction to Biology quest, completing activities 1 and 2 of the Introduction to Biology quest, or completing an artifact. Students also reflect on something they’re grateful for and record a win or success each day. This supports students with practising the “Reflect” Learning Skill and “Manage Yourself” Essential Habit; they practice self-awareness and positive thinking.

“Goal setting helps me to be able to check whether I am heading towards the right direction or not in whatever that I want to achieve.”

— Diana Jeremiah Luku, Student

Students are assigned advisors, mainly their mentors or expert fellows, to help them improve their planning skills. Schools set aside intentional time in their schedule that enables students to meet once a week with their advisors to review goals, identify whether they were achieved or not, and determine reasons for not achieving them. They also discuss ways to improve. For example, a student might have not achieved goals because of the change of regular school activities. A mentor may advise the student to have fewer goals, perhaps two or three, that the student should achieve despite the changes.

Setting goals gives our students direction and a sense of purpose in their life at school and beyond. Students clarify priorities, gain focus, and manage their time well. They’re also becoming more aware of their strengths and weaknesses in accomplishing tasks.

When you practice making plans for your future life you will [succeed] the same as you practice learning because knowledge without practice is like wax without honey.”

— Andrew Luca, Student

A daily planning and goal setting template for students, including spaces for a checklist of tasks, areas of improvement, and spaces to write a few words about what the student is grateful for and a "win" for the day.
Quest Forward students in Tanzania began using this updated template in July 2021.

For the remainder of 2021 and in 2022 we are supporting students in developing the “Plan and Achieve Goals” Work Skill by practising goal setting with their student-mentor advisory groups. Schools will continue to set aside intentional time for students to meet with their advisors once a week for reviews and feedback. For schools with a large number of students, student leaders will help others set goals and review them before meeting with their mentor advisors. Student leaders will receive additional training from mentor advisors to prepare them for this new role. 

Goal setting is a skill that improves with regular practice and feedback. No one masters it after learning about it once. By using our templates and through the student-mentor advisory groups we hope to help every Quest Forward student improve their skills to help them succeed in school and career.