Topic 3: Target setting as a framework for consistent focus in schools
When setting a purpose/goal (topic 2), it is important to quantify them so that the progress in achieving these goals can be measured and assessed. And measurable goals are called targets. During the target setting process, we need to be realistic in order not to put the learners in the position of never being able to achieve these targets. The targets should be based on knowledge and rationality rather than emotions and opinions. Currently the education system is using the notion of targets, but these are often set for ‘political’ rather than professional reasons and motivations. The process of identifying these targets is ‘top down’, and totally disconnected from current performance levels of learners, i.e. the matric target is based on the performance level of learners who left the system the previous year. Therefore, the target of grade 12 learners is based on the performance level of the grade 12 learners of last year, rather than the performance levels of the grade 12 levels of this year, in relation to how they performed in grade 11.
The purpose of targets is two-fold: firstly by analysing the data currently at disposal and then to produce a set of targets to be met; and secondly by establishing targets for learners, teachers, departments and the school. The intention of these targets is to make use of the existing research results on how targets tend to assist in the improvement process at schools level, with specific focus on the classroom success:
- Individual targets for learners are the starting points for all effective target setting achievement as expressed in the individual learner expectations and achievements agreements;
- Target setting gives a visible, achievable and consistent target which assist in raising the attainments of learners, teachers and the school as a whole;
- Achievement targets are now driven by the learners and not the mediocre and ‘compliance’ target of ‘passing a subject’;
- The use of targets will necessitate an on-going assessment, feedback and evaluation procedure in the school;
- Once introduced in the school, these targets get carried forward from one grade to the next within the school.
- The basis of the targets is set on the principles that these targets are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-related. It is therefore important that teachers find time to discuss these targets with learners on an individual and group basis in order to ensure clarity, ownership, and parent buy-in into the purpose of the target-setting process.
In our methodology, the ‘promotion schedule’, which is used by the education system as the ‘end point’ every year, is used as the starting point (baseline data) of generating the individual targets for every learner, in every subject, in every grade and phase. The targets of learners are therefore based on their own previous performance levels, plus a 5% improvement (but the default minimum target will be 40%). Through such a framework, the school plans for a 100% pass (ensuring that ‘every learner will be successful’ – topic 1) if all learners achieve their targets, since the default minimum target is at a ‘pass level’. Our intention is to move the default minimum target to 50%, so that we have a ‘buffer of risk’ to work with in all subjects.