Creating a Personal Success Plan - A Sensible Alternative to Standardized Tests by Lisa Nielsen

Though people are very different, each with their own passions, talents, interests, and abilities, in traditional school settings, most students are all given the same path and grouped with others by date of manufacture. At the age where youth are entering college or the workforce, many have never been given the opportunity to find what they love. This is because for many students, school fosters dependency learning and a false sense that if you just keep doing as you’re told, it will eventually pay off...even though there may never be time to figure out where it is you actually want to go. This holds true not only for students dissatisfied with school, but also for students with high achievement like Amy, Carlie, Jessica, Maria and this insightful Valedictorian who felt high school robbed her of this opportunity. Upon graduation, she took her diploma and hit the road literally and went on an adventure to make up for lost time and explore who she really is and what she loves. You can follow her adventures on her blog America Via Erica. You’ll notice that once she left school behind, Erica had the opportunity to set her own personal goals which she can change and update as she learns and as she pleases.

Currently her goals are:

  • attend survival course
  • buy survival gear
  • buy a van
  • learn Korean
  • avoid arrest“School is torture because I am required to spend all my time doing menial tasks, worksheets, and rote memorization. This takes too much time away from being able to discover my hobbies, interests, or passions. I’m in 10th grade and I don’t foresee having the ability to do that before I graduate high school."

-Adam Ritter, Valedictorian track honors student

Making goals for personal success is something that is often overlooked in school. Your goals are usually defined by the school and look something like this:

  • Go to school.
  • Take tests and hand in papers.
  • Get good grades.
  • Do as your told and stay out of trouble.
  • Don’t socialize unless you are given permission.
  • Get into college even if you have no idea what your passions, talents, and interests are.

Even if this is left off the school curriculum, students can still work to determine their own goals and develop a plan for achieving them. Ideally, they will have family, friends, mentors, and, if they have time, teachers to support and guide them. At they suggest there are key points that will help achieve the highest levels of success. (read the full article here.)

  1. Look into the nearest mirror.
  2. Smile back at your reflection.
  3. Positive self-esteem is the foundation for success.
  4. Believe in yourself.
  5. Desire to be a success.
  6. Associate with successful people.
  7. Avoid unsuccessful people.
  8. Do what you are best at and that which gives you the most satisfaction.
  9. Write down a vision of how you want to live your life.
  10. Write down you biggest goal, the one you most want to fulfill.
  11. Study the science of success.
  12. Every day do something that brings you closer to your goal.

These are great points to keep in mind, but how will you bring your plan to life? Joe Renzulli and Sally Reiss who developed the Schoolwide Enrichment Model also developed a great system for determining and tracking your personal success. It’s aptly named “The Personal Success Plan” and it has two main objectives.

  1. Provide a research-based, goal-oriented assessment and treatment tool that establishes student ownership of the value of his / her education.
  2. Support students in their identification and pursuit of social, academic, and ultimately economic short and long-term goals.

The plan has the following components:

  • My Interests -In this section, students are asked to carefully consider their interests and talents and think about how those strengths connect to careers and future plans.
  • My Heroes and Helpers - Heroes and Helpers are people that students believe inspire them, either the heroes who may be famous and/or helpers in their own lives that they may know personally.
  • My Careers - Students learn about Careers based on their interests and begin thinking about the type of work they might want to pursue as they get older.
  • My Goals - In the Goals section of the PSP, students identify long and short term academic and social/personal goals to help them set priorities about what they want to accomplish in school, work, and life.
  • My Plans - Students create plans with concrete steps, activities, and timelines to achieve their future goals.
  • My Projects - Finally, students have the opportunity to complete creative autobiographical projects to help them consider interests, role models, and careers. They can develop projects as the culminating PSP event, or they can use projects to better understand the earlier sections of the PSP.

A structured, standardized plan such as the Personal Success Plan could be used right now personally, schoolwide, citywide, statewide, nationally or internationally to measure student, teacher, and school success aligned to student's personal success goals. Students could see how far they've come in achieving their own goals. Teachers could see how well students that they guide come to achieving their personal goals, and schools can see how well they support students as a whole.

Once students come up with their plan. They’ll need a place to capture all the great things they are doing. My next post on ePortfolios will outline how to do just that.

Lisa Nielsen is best known as creator of The Innovative Educator blog http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.comand Transforming Education for the 21st Century learning network. Lisa is an outspoken and passionate advocate of innovative education. She is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on "Thinking Outside the Ban" and determining ways to harness the power of technology for instruction and providing a voice to educators and students. Based in New York City, Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities helping schools and districts to educate in innovative ways that will prepare students for 21st century success. Her first book, Teaching Generation Text, is set for a fall 2011 release. You can follow her on Twitter @InnovativeEdu.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.