Meaningfulness of Goals

Goals should be meaningful and valuable.  Even though the goals may be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely), if we don’t perceive them as meaningful or valued, our engagement with goal attainment progress will diminish (Wigfield & Eccles, 1992). When people know the value of the task to be completed, they will be more willing to work longer and harder. In classrooms, one way to achieve meaningful goal setting is to relate the assignments and topics to students’ beliefs and values. Instructors should making connections between current events and learning objectives as well as assignments to establish task meaningfulness (Lang, 2013).

Another way to set meaningful goals is to make a clear connection between what students will learn and how this learning goal is important outside of that particular course. For example, instructors can show how the material may be used to solve issues in society. In addition, similar to the goal writing practice in Ferguson and Sheldon’s study (2010), students may benefit from writing why they choose goals to affirm the meaningfulness of their goals before they commit. Writing down the reasons to pursue course related goals helped students with higher task relevant skills to internalize their goals (Ferguson & Sheldon, 2010).


Ferguson, Y., & Sheldon, K.M. (2010). Should goal-strivers think about ‘why’ or ‘how’ to strive? It depends on their skill level. Motivation and Emotion, 34, 253-265.

Lang, J.M. (2013). Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wigfield , A. , & Eccles , J. (1992). The development of achievement task values: A theoretical analysis. Developmental Review, 12 , 265 – 310 .



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