Proxies push toward long-term goals

If your learning goals are long-term, say four or more years down the road, it is useful to use proxies to help you see on an annual basis whether you are shaping the behavior you want.

Let’s say you want students who enter eighth grade in September 2015 to be able to adapt to a variety of writing situations by the time they graduate from high school. You cannot test whether you met your goal until after students have graduated from high school. You can, however, substitute annual objectives that are inherent parts of the desired behavior. Here’s are the two steps you need to take:

First, develop a list of writing situations you think students are likely to encounter after high school.

Next, for each year prior to graduation, develop progressively more difficult objectives requiring students to adapt their standard writing style.

Achieving all your proxies does not guarantee that you will meet your goal; however, your chances of success are better than if you didn’t systematically attempt to move toward your goal each year.

A version of this post appeared in the December, 2011, Writing Points.  © 2011 Linda G. Aragoni