I took up a teaching position as a first-year seminar instructor last year at Baruch College, City University of New York. I taught a small group of 14 students along with a tremendously supportive peer mentor, who was a senior at Baruch, to assist them in adjusting to the college environment and overcome the challenges of being a first-year student.
This week I’m emailing my students with their stated goal(s) and asking them whether they made progress toward achieving them. To be completely honest, I’m not a huge fan of long-term goal-setting exercises. I find them reasonable only when they are attached to certain tangible and time-bound projects such as completion of job-related tasks, write-up of a manuscript, vacation planning, etc. In this case, I used goal-setting as an activity to end the semester with something that they can use as a milestone. Since the course was focused on teaching soft skills aimed at preparing students to fully integrate into the college environment, I found it extremely fitting to end the course with this experiment.
While most of my students wrote about academic and professional goals — achieving a certain GPA, getting into their major, finding a fair paying internship, managing deadlines better, etc. — others took liberty in expressing their personal goals such as maintaining healthy relationships, getting six pack abs, increasing the number of Instagram followers to 10k, to mention a few. What I realized is that such experiments, regardless of how much progress we make, create meaningful experiences that might impact students’ lives beyond classrooms. I would love to see some of my professors in grad school incorporate similar exercises into their classes as a way to motivate their students and push them to think about their goals.