Students setting goals – both short and long term – is an effective way to raise aspiration, and contribute to increasing motivation in students.

Many girls struggle to see the connection between their long-term goals and their day-to-day choices. In the ‘Setting goals’ section of the Confidence Workshop I support teenage girls to define their own goal, and then make a step by step plan to achieve this goal. And then reflect on what they are doing on a daily basis to make progress on their plan.

The starting point is to support students to develop their own goal – one that matters to them. It’s empowering for students to have the time and support to really think about where they want to go in life.

The crucial next step is to then create a plan to achieve this goal.

As Stephen Covey says, we “Start with the end in mind” and then work back, to the day-to-day. And we can use this approach for students setting goals.

For example, in one workshop Chloe* shared that she’d like to be a vet. But being in Year 7 she couldn’t see how what she was doing now, day to day at school, was relevant to this long-term goal of becoming a vet. I supported Chloe to break the job of being a vet down, and think about how she could develop skills for this career. What hobbies did she have now (or could she develop) to show an aptitude to caring for animals? Turning to her school work, how is she getting on with her maths currently? She admitted it was a subject she found difficult. I supported Chloe to understand why her maths matters – because it was crucial for her goal of becoming a vet, as a crucial part of that role would be to calculate medication doses correctly for different sizes (and shapes!) of animals. I asked her to reflect what could she do on a day-to-day basis to make progress in her maths, so it became a strong subject for her? What new attitude or approach could she bring her to maths classes, to improve her concentration, engagement, and ultimately her grades?

I asked “So Chloe, knowing your goal is to become a vet, what will you do differently in your maths lessons?”

Chloe thought for a moment, and then reflected back that she would ensure she focused and listened in class, ask her teacher if she didn’t understand something, and ensure she completed her homework to the best of her ability.

The key to taking this coaching approach with Chloe is that she developed her own strategies and ways that she could work towards her own goal, in this example by adopting new habits to enable her to make progress in her maths.

Students setting goals for themselves is an effective way to raise aspirations – but goals need a plan to make them a reality. What’s key is to support teenage girls to find the goal that motivates them, and then support them to build their own plan to work towards that goal, step by achievable step.

At the end of the session, girls completed their workshop feedback forms, their comments included:

“I’ve learnt what my goals are and how I can achieve them by planning them out”

“Setting goals” is a key part of the Confidence workshop, where we also explore the importance of role models to motivate and encourage students.

This Confidence workshop is now available as online training and resources for teachers, so they are able to run these sessions with their students themselves at school.


Please visit Teacher resources for building girls’ confidence,  for full details including a video tour of the resources.

(* name changed)