Setting Social Emotional Goals for Yourself & Students

Although education has typically been viewed as being about giving students academic and technical skills, there’s an increasing recognition that social-emotional development is important, too.

Data suggest that IQ is not a complete predictor of job performance. EQ, or a person’s emotional intelligence quotient, is possibly more critical because of the growing role of collaboration, teamwork, and interpersonal skills in the modern workplace.

The question for educators, therefore, is how to set better social-emotional goals for themselves and their students. In short, what can educators do to foster emotional development among the people in their care to help them get to where they want to go?

Recognize That Goals Should Be Unique To The Individual

When it comes to our emotions, people are different. Some people have issues regarding anger, while for others self-attack and rumination lead to mood disorders, like anxiety. Any suitable goal setting strategy must reflect the individual needs of the person concerned.

Use The SMART System

Setting goals shouldn’t be a blind process either for you or your students. It should be couched in a framework derived from the science of behavioral change, like the SMART system.

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.

Goals should be specific in the sense that they should refer to a particular social-emotional circumstance, like how you or your students feel while in group situations. For instance, a student might want to address his or her feelings of fear or laziness while working with other people.

Goals should be measurable. That is, a person should be able to use a method to ensure that they are making progress.

Goals should be attainable. When goals are perceived as too difficult, then people are less likely to want to strive for them. Goals should be challenging enough to provoke real progress, but not so hard as to appear impossible from the start.

Goals need to be relevant. Relevance refers to the idea that developing one’s social-emotional status is something that is worth doing. Here it’s worth highlighting the benefits of better social-emotional skills, including the ability to form lasting, sustainable relationships, advance faster in a career, or make more progress doing something entrepreneurial.

Finally, goals should be time-based. Time creates pressure to achieve goals sooner rather than later so that they are not put off indefinitely. A time-based social-emotional goal might be to overcome one’s frustrations about something before the end of the year.

Spend Time Reflecting On Goals

Once you and your students have established a set of goals, it’s a good idea to reflect on them. The purpose of reflection is to evaluate whether the goals meet the SMART criteria. An individual may initially believe that their social-emotional goals do conform to the requirements, but following discussion with you and other students, it could turn out that they don’t. Useful goal setting, therefore, requires a degree of reflection and external moderation. Sharing goals helps to improve accountability and develops support between group members. Goals can be a team effort, with mutually-interlocking support structures.

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