Step 1

Determine individual learner’s goals and purposes and identify the Standards that will help him/her achieve them. Determine the student’s prior knowledge about these goals and Standards.

Guiding Questions
  • What do individual learners say they want or need to do with their lives?
  • What knowledge and skills do they need to meet their goals?
  • Which EFF Standards would help them make progress toward their goals?
  • What does the learner already know and what can he/she do in relation to his or her goals? In relation to these Standards?

Step 1 is the anchor for the entire EFF teaching/learning cycle. It makes explicit the purposes students have for returning to school and uses these purposes to ground all the curriculum development that follows. These opening discussions about where the student has been and where he or she hopes to go are key because they introduce students to EFF’s approach to instruction. Being clear about goals and the skills and knowledge needed to reach those goals supports purposeful and transparent learning.

Although it may seem quite straightforward, effective goal-setting is a complex process that calls upon students to keep their long-term dream in mind as they identify the short-term steps, to explore their beliefs about adult roles and responsibilities, and to reflect on their expectations of adult learning. The tools for Step 1 support students through this process, helping them examine and take responsibility for their own learning goals. Likewise, the tools support teachers in collaborating with students about how they will work together toward those priorities.

Although this step is focused on individual goals, many of these activities are designed for group settings. That’s because sharing and discussion with peers is an important strategy for honing individual goals. It provides an opportunity to weigh possibilities that one may not have thought of as options before, or to hear pros and cons that hadn’t been considered. Pick and choose among the tools based on your students and your classroom context.

Starting with Skills Many adults enter programs with a clear idea of the skills they want to work on. Skill-related goals are also on the minds of DOE-funded programs because the NRS requires that each student have an identified skill on which their progress will be measured.

Identifying the skills and knowledge required by their goals gives students a picture of what they’ll need to know and do. Assessing their strengths and limitations in regard to those requirements, gives students information about what they’ll need to practice and develop. Based on this information, students identify the standards most pertinent to their learning needs.

The Standards Wheel is EFF’s tool for thinking about all the skills we need as adults, how the skills work in combination to do real things in the world, and where our particular strengths and weaknesses are. After the student has clearly identified a learning goal, the student and teacher identify a Standard, or in some cases a combination or profile of Standards, that will focus their work toward that goal.

This is an important step in the standards-based process because it highlights the difference between a curriculum that prepares students to carry out a particular goal and one that develops the underlying skill competence that will enable students to achieve this and many other goals. By focusing on a Standard, students develop skill expertise that can transfer to new and changing needs. The challenge, for educators, is to focus on a Standard without separating (decontextualizing) it from the “big picture” of real-world goals. This kit provides tools and examples of how to do this.