Aligning Program and Student Goals

All programs have goals. Some may be goals that an organization has set as part of its mission; others may be goals that are outlined by funding requirements. Family literacy, workforce development, citizenship, and GED programs, for example, all have specific objectives for which they are funded. If program goals are already determined, how then can such programs implement EFF's approach to student-centered goal-setting?

First, programs can describe their goals clearly and explicitly during recruitment so that students can choose the program whose goals are most consistent with their own personal needs. EFF programs also aim to be clear about their focus on learning for real purposes, so that students know from the beginning that their learning will be connected to real-life activities. This up-front transparency allows program and student goals to be well-matched. (For more information on aligning program and student goals, see the EFF Program Improvement Handbook.)

It is more challenging, however, to set authentic goals in programs where student participation has been mandated. In these settings (some corrections, some welfare-to-work, etc.), students may not have chosen the program based on their self-assessed needs. In these contexts, it can be helpful to openly acknowledge the limitations of the situation, understand that there may be some resistance from students who have not chosen to be there, and then use whatever room you have to help adults consider their educational aims. Teachers and students can use the EFF Role Maps, Common Activities, and Standards Wheel to set personal and class goals that are meaningful to them.

Second, programs with a particular content focus can take a broad view of what adults need. Students in a workforce development program, for instance, may want to talk about finding high-quality, reliable daycare as a precursor to their being able to focus their attention on work. Although this may not seem like a workforce development goal, an EFF program with a holistic view of adult learning will see that the adult roles cannot be addressed in isolation and will find ways to incorporate a wide range of student goals.