Focus On Your Own Personal Best

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Ask any teacher, educator or parent of an adolescent and they’ll likely tell you that these years are filled with major ups and downs.

Research in schools has shown that young teens tend to be lower in positive aspects of motivation such as self-confidence, valuing their education, persistence, planning and learning to focus. They tend to be higher on negative aspects of motivation such as anxiety, fear of failure, helplessness, and disengagement.

In some ways, these findings may come as no shock to anyone working with this age group. This period of life for students is filled with significant physical, social and emotional changes as they go through the gradual transition from childhood to adulthood. So what can we do as educators and parents to help our children navigate this tough terrain? Let’s talk about Personal Best Goal Setting.

Personal Best Goal Setting

A personal best approach to learning is when a student aims to do as well or better than their own previous best efforts. Personal best goals are different from general goal setting, in that they are:

-Specific (a student identifies exactly what they are aiming for).

-Challenging (a student raises the bar on himself).

-Competitively self-referenced (a student competes with himself rather than competing with others).

Personal best goals are about creating a personalized level of excellence with a specific plan for how to get there. Recent research has shown that personal best goal setting in the education space can help enrich student motivation, persistence, classroom participation, enjoyment of school, engagement in tasks and resilience.

Discussing your child or student’s values with him or her can help them to initially identify their personal best goals. In a student’s academic life, some question to discuss could be: “What is learning for?” “What do I want to get out of school?” “What do I care about”?

Once students know what they care about (their values), they can then focus their energy in that direction (their goals). This means their decisions or actions are based on things that are personally relevant to them ­– an important factor in successfully striving and meeting their goals. 

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Every student has a different learning style. For an individualized plan customized to your child's needs, please contact Dana Aussenberg at or email