Clustering Students’ Individual Goals

To arrive at a shared priority that builds from the needs of individual students

To plan purposeful group learning activities, you need to find a focus that captures the interest of the varied individuals in the class. One way to arrive at a shared priority is to cluster students’ goals into overarching categories that describe their common interests. The following activities illustrate how to use three different components of the EFF framework to organize this clustering.

Clustering Goals by Broad Areas of Responsibility
If your students' goals are all related to one role and you want to find out which aspect of that role they are most interested in, you might use the Broad Areas of Responsibility (BARs) in that Role Map as a tool for clustering their goals. Students in family literacy, workplace education, or EL/Civics classes, for example, are likely to have role-related goals that would be well-captured by the BARs.

For this activity you need a poster-sized copy of the relevant Role Map up on the wall, a paper copy of the Role Map for each student, and sticky notes.

  1. Ask students to write their goals on sticky notes, one goal per note. Have them go up to the posters and stick each goal on the BAR that best describes it.
  2. Then ask each person to look at all the BARs they’ve marked and choose the one that is most important to him or her right now.
  3. Have all the students that chose the same BAR sit together and talk about why that BAR is important to them, and then briefly report out to the large group.
  4. As a whole group, brainstorm real world goals related to each BAR that could be addressed by the class.
  5. Have students vote on the goal that interests them the most.

Clustering Goals by Common Activity
You can do basically the same activity using EFF’s Common Activities*. These are activities that occur in all of our roles, not just one (for example, the Common Activity “Develop and Express Sense of Self” is important in every role). The Common Activities can be used to help students find the commonalities and connections among what seem to be unconnected role-specific goals or priorities. For example, the individuals in a class might be interested in learning a wide variety of things – how to bring family members here from another country, how to communicate better with a teacher, how to navigate the bus system, how to get a promotion, etc. How do you find what these disparate goals have in common? If, similar to the steps in the BAR activity above, you ask adults to stick their written goals next to the Common Activity that best describes what they’ll need to do in order to reach the goal, the class might find that many of their goals require the ability to “Gather, Analyze, and Use Information.” This might become the “common ground” – the shared priority. What can focus the class is the common task of learning how to find information. Once they have each found information about their topic of interest, the class can work together on figuring out what the information means and how it can be used. While addressing the many individual goals, they can be learning an important set of common underlying, transferable skills.

*There is no poster of the Common Activities, but you can enlarge a list of Common Activities.

Clustering Goals by Standard
The Standards Wheel is useful for clustering when students have identified particular skills as their goals. For this activity, use a poster of the EFF Standards Wheel to review the Standards. Or, if the text on the Wheel is too difficult, use illustrations of the Standards (click on a standard and choose the 'drawing representing the standard' option).

  1. Have students review the Standards on the Wheel and identify which ones feel most important to them.
  2. Of those, select one Standard and brainstorm some real life activities that require that skill. Draw out examples for all three roles and chart these on newsprint. Talk about the aim of preparing adults to do real things with what they learn.
  3. If it would be helpful, give them the handout to see some ideas of what might go into the chart.
  4. On the Standards worksheet, have students find the other Standards that they had identified as important and, in pairs, fill out the ways that a person uses these in the three roles.
  5. After the whole group shares ideas, ask them to think about which of the real world uses of these Standards they would most like to work on. Vote to select the most important activities to work on in class.