Author Archives: Tom Heaton

An Experiment in Target Setting

As an ICT teacher of 5 years experience in a 6th form college in Cheshire, I experience the usual problems that we all encounter on a day to day basis. Lateness, attendance and apathy have all proven a problem to me in my relatively short career but the biggest problem for me seems to be progress.Like most ICT teachers,  I teach predominantly vocational courses. Therefore, we’re focused on coursework 100% of the time. The issue that arises most often than not is that students don’t make enough progress in these lessons, they often seem distracted and poorly focused even in a post 16 environment.

In early September after a meeting with my line manager I was set a performance management target for 2012/13 to try to develop a program/project/system to tackle this issue. I initially thought of short term targets as a way to focus students right at the beginning of the lesson, at least that way they would know what to work on. This initially started as a paper based exercise at the start of each session, where a new target sheet was passed around the class. There was some clear successes with this, as student focus did seem to improve. However, there were also problems. Such as the sheet sometimes taking a very long time to circulate the classroom, and the inevitable class clown drawing genitalia on it !

This led me back to an area where I’m very comfortable, the internet. I built a simple web based database and had students enter targets onto it each lesson. Eliminating the problems with the paper system straight away. This then grew slowly in my spare time to a web based application I called Today’s Target (http://www.todaystarget.com), and I’ve now reached a point where my system is ready for the world to use it, test it and help me improve it.I now use this system in every coursework lesson, students set targets upon entering the classroom and I review these on an individual basis at the end of the lesson using an IOS app I’ve written. It’s a ready built start & plenary !

I’ve noticed a number of improvements –

  • Focus at the start of the lesson is much improved, students now come in sit down and think ‘What am I going to do today ?”
  • Students who make poor progress can see it in black and white, and are motivated to improve
  • Students know their targets will be reviewed in each lesson, so make sure they work to these targets to avoid it being marked ‘not met’
  • I can use the data collected for discussions with students on their progress and their own expectations of themselves.

I would love to invite all Pedagoo readers to try this with their classes in coursework lessons. My students now do it instinctively upon logging on and I’d be very interested to hear other points of view.