Growth goal setting - what works best in practice

This paper was originally published 9 June 2021.

The key resource is the Growth goal setting practical guide, which is accompanied by a reflection guide and a poster.


When students set growth goals, they are more likely to persevere, to be engaged in
their learning and to aspire to further their education. CESE’s practical guide for schools
Growth goal setting – what works best in practice provides a synthesis of research, including new research from NSW high schools using Tell Them From Me data. It explains why growth goal setting is important and provides practical suggestions for schools and teachers to support their students.

Main findings

  • Growth goal setting involves striving to meet personally-set academic challenges,
    aiming to outperform one’s previous best efforts or performance.
  • Research shows that growth goal setting improves achievement and
    student engagement.
  • Students who set growth goals are more likely to experience gains in aspirations, perseverance and homework behaviour.
  • Growth goal setting bolsters student outcomes, particularly for students of low socioeconomic backgrounds and with low prior achievement.
  • Growth goal setting can be fostered through explicit teaching, provision of feedback
    and relevant content.

Students can benefit most from growth goal setting when they are taught how to set and work towards achieving effective goals. Teachers can help students to:

  1. Understand growth goals: they are specific, challenging and focused on
  2. Pick a type of goal to set: different stages in the learning process require different types
    of goals; growth goals should be adapted by focusing on learning or on practice.
  3. Define the goal: effective growth goals are positive and measurable.
  4. Assess against previous experience.
  5. Specify a timeframe: goals can be nested in daily, weekly, monthly and long-term goals.
  6. Break the goal down into components.
  7. Monitor and assess progress: measurement can be teacher- or student-led.
  8. Seek help and feedback: reflect on what can be done to progress towards the goal.
  9. Determine if a goal is achieved.
  10. Set the next growth goal.


  • Practical guides for educators
  • What works best

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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