Your child’s strengths and learning goals

acd resource learning together 42

Getting your child’s learning goals right in their Individual Learning and Support Plan is a crucial step.

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A key part of planning through the SSG is discussing your child’s learning goals. This should include academic goals, but it is likely to be much broader.

Getting the goals right for your child is crucial. If your child can succeed in their goals, this helps them to feel good about themselves as learners, and members of their school community. This success promotes resilience, and the confidence needed to achieve greater learning.

All children and young people deserve the opportunity to experience success and achievement.

Work out where your child is at now

The first step in setting the right goals for your child is to get a good understanding of your child’s strengths and their ‘entry level’ skills and abilities – where your child is at now.

An accurate understanding of your child’s current level of ability is essential for the SSG to develop achievable goals for your child and to measure their progress.

By measuring your child’s progress during the year, the SSG can work out your child’s ‘entry level’ for the following year at school, to plan their learning for that year, and so on.

The SSG identifies your child’s entry level skills from:

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The right goals for your child

Goals are specific statements about the skills or behaviours that the SSG would like your child to achieve within a set period of time for a particular curriculum area. Larger goals can be broken down into smaller steps.

One very positive strategy for engaging any child or young person in learning is by enabling them to pursue their individual interests and passions. Many schools incorporate project or enquiry-based learning, where teachers support student to strengthen core skills in research, reading and writing (for example) by investigating a subject of interest to them. Specialist subjects that your child enjoys (such as art or music) can also support learning in mathematics, literacy, communication, physical development and technology.

This is a key area where your knowledge and the teachers’ expertise can come together. You can share information about your child’s strengths, interests and passions, and the school can use these to plan learning approaches that will engage your child.

An important part of this is for you and the school to seek input from your child about what interests them, and what goals they want to set for the coming term. The opportunity to have input into setting their own learning goals is a great way to build your child’s motivation to learn. Indeed, asking students to set personal learning goals is an integral part of the planning process for many schools.

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Achievable, measurable, challenging and flexible

Goals should be based on the progress that your child can reasonably expect to achieve, rather than a comparison with other students of the same age. It’s very important to set goals that are realistic and achievable, but also challenging for your child, so that they are stimulated and engaged in their learning.

Goals must be measurable in order to monitor your child’s progress. Goals that are linked to the curriculum are more easily measured, even if your child is at a different part of the curriculum than their peers. Many bigger goals (for example ‘learning to read’) should be broken down into much smaller goals. A lot of learning comes about through the slow build-up of many smaller foundation skills, which support larger learning goals. This is how the curriculum and class plans are often structured.

Goals should also be flexible enough to be adapted as needed. For example, goals that turn out to be too easy for your child can be made more challenging, and goals that appear to be too difficult at this stage of your child’s learning journey can be modified or reconsidered.

It might be more difficult to set very specific long-term goals when your child is in their first year or two at school. However, broad statements – such as to become as independent as possible – can provide a starting point for thinking about the journey to achieving these goals.

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Linking goals to the school curriculum

Goals for students in mainstream schools should be set in relation to the AusVELS curriculum (the curriculum for all mainstream schools) using the guidelines for students with disabilities to whatever extent this is relevant to your child. Other goals might relate to your child’s non-academic development, including, for example, their physical development (gross or fine motor skills), communication skills or social development.

Goals for students in specialist schools will be set in relation to the school curriculum. Depending on the school, its student population and its focus, this is likely to incorporate the AusVELS curriculum, for example in relation to literacy, numeracy, art and music, sports and technology. It might also incorporate other areas of learning and therapy, such as independent living skills, personal care, social learning, communication and physical development.

Whatever school setting your child is in, the school should engage you in planning their learning and supports, in relation to goals that are right for your child, and for where they are in their learning journey.

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