Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday Soapbox: I don't know where to start when you write a goal like that.

My Soapbox Saturdays were focused on goal pet peeves this November.  Learning to write effective long term goals and objectives is difficult.  Sometimes you write something that seems to make sense at the time, but when you go back to measure it or plan for it, it doesn't work in the way that you thought.  It's worth taking time to think about it thought.  Well thought out and easily measurable goals/objectives make our lives easier when it comes time for treatment planning and writing progress reports.

Writing broad or generic long term goals/ objectives.
  • Johnny will improve expressive and receptive language skills to be 90% accurate.  
  • Sara will exhibit age appropriate receptive and expressive language skills.  
What?????  I have absolutely no idea what I am supposed to do with this student.  Do they have vocabulary needs?  Syntax?  Narrative issues?  How would I ever chart on this?  Many of my clients will never be age appropriate, so a goal like that would be impossible to achieve.

Long term goals should be met within a one year period, so we need to think about what is reasonable for a child to achieve in one year.  You can check out my post from last week regarding creating laundry lists of goals for some more ideas of how to determine what goals to write.  In general, it is less than what you might think.

A good long term goal should be specific enough that you know when you've met it.  Your short term objectives will describe the steps for how you will reach that long term goal.

For example, maybe my long term goal for a student is that they will answer literal questions related to paragraph level material.  The student has some difficulties with attention.  So I might write the goals like this:

LTG:  Within a one year period, Johnny will answer literal questions (who, what and where) related to paragraph level material during structured activities with 80% accuracy.  

How am I going to get him to answer these questions?  What skills does the student need to succeed in this?  I decide that he needs to have better listening strategies and that he needs to learn to listen for specific information.  In this case my short term objectives might read:

"Following direct teaching on listening skills, Johnny will exhibit attentive behavior when listening to 3-4 sentence length material as evidenced by the following: looking at the speaker, keeping hands and feet quiet while the speaker is talking, and not talking while the speaker is talking within a three month period"  This goal may be a little too wordy.  My plan with this goal is to focus on teaching the whole body listening approach and hoping that I can cue the student during our sessions to improve attention.

The next goal is that I want to train them to listen and recognize who, what or where words.  I'm going to do this by having them raise their hand when they hear a certain type of word within a paragraph.  So the goal might read:

"When listening to sentence or paragraph level material, Johnny will identify who/nouns or location words within a six month period."

My final objective might be very similar to the long term goal but at a lower rate of accuracy.  I might write it like, "Within 10 months, Johnny will answer who, what and where questions with 75% accuracy using a graphic organizer."

The short term goals are where we individualize our treatment plan based on how we think the child will learn best.  There are lots of other options for goals.   Maybe you want to work on sorting tasks for who, what, where answers or maybe you want to work on visualization to help improve auditory comprehension.  Maybe you are going to work on answering basic who, what and where questions in single sentences and then increase to 2 sentences, 3 sentences etc. until you are at paragraph level material.

Writing specific goals that are too specific:
There is nothing better than getting trained in a new technique or having an awesome resource that you can use in a variety of settings.  But I try to use caution when writing these techniques into your goals.
  • Given PROMPT paramater cues, Johnny will produce a CVC word with appropriate lip rounding and jaw gradiations.  
  • In order to improve expressive vocabulary, Jackson will identify the  5 out of 7 categories on the EET tool.  
These goals are specific enough that I know what I am going to be working on.  However, I see two problems with these kind of goals.  First, you've limited yourself.  Now you've mandated yourself to using these specific tools/materials within your therapy sessions.   What if they aren't the most effective tool for your student or client?  What if you go to a new CEU course and learned some strategies that might be even MORE beneficial to your client.  Now you are stuck.

The second reason for not incorporating specific techniques or materials into your goals/objectives is that you don't know how long this student will be on your caseload.  Maybe next year you will be at a different school.  Maybe the student will transfer.  What if his or her new speech language pathologist doesn't have the training or access to the same materials that you had?  Now they are stuck.

A better way to write these goals is to focus on what type of cue or assistance the specific techniques/materials provide for the student.  So you could write:

  • Give tactile kinesthetic cues, Johnny will produce a CVC word with appropriate lip rounding and jaw gradation.
  • Given a visual cue, Johnny will describe an object using a minimum of 3 descriptors with 80% accuracy
Have you had students who came in with goals that were too generic or too specific? How did you figure out what to work on with them?  Next week I'm talking about long term goals that use standardized assessments as a measure of a progress.  If you liked this post or found it helpful, please consider sharing it with others by clicking on one of the buttons below!  


Mary said...

Communication Station has a nice guide for writing objectives. The freebie she included is for nonverbal PK children, but you can make it applicable for any student.

annied said...

This is a very interesting discussion. I will admit to writing more broad based goals and very specific objectives relating to the goal. There is a method to my madness, however. First, I have 70 students on my caseload, so when writing progress reports, writing an anecdotal on each goal via our web-based system is painstaking. While I realize this reason may be viewed as flimsy at best, it is realistic. Second, when I started working in my present position, I wrote several more specific long-term goals and was asked not to by the Special Ed. teacher. Her reason? Ready? On the surface, it looked as if the students speech problem was more significant than the academic difficulties! My solution was highly specific short-term objectives that support the long-term goal and attainable in a one year period.

Speech2U said...

Mary-Thanks for leaving that-I will definitely check that out-She has great information on her blog!

Speech2U said...

Mary-Thanks for leaving that-I will definitely check that out-She has great information on her blog!

Speech2U said...

Annie-I think it's tricky and every district is a little different. I don't mind a vague long term goal as much if the short term goals are specific. But I've seen goals like Johnny will improve vocabulary skills by completing vocabulary tasks. That makes it a little tough to figure out :)

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