Setting Personal Learning Goals

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In this learning module you will develop understanding of your reasons for learning, your personal learning profile, and you will develop a learning strategy that is coherent with your learning needs.

Your personal learning profile

Your personal learning profile is defined by your background, your character, your motivations for learning, and your preferred learning style(s).

Learning-centred autobiography

Being clear about your reasons for learning, and what you want to achieve from your learning is important if you want to get the most from your educational experience. To be clear about this, you must understand where you have come from, and where you are going to.

Reflecting on the following questions will help you to get started on the process of identifying your reasons for learning.

  • What is your background?
  • What are your goals in life?
  • Why are you studying?
  • Where do you see your study taking you?
  • If you were to envision your occupation 1, 2, 5 years after graduation, what would it look like?
  • What are your strengths & your weaknesses?

Once you have identified clearly your motivations for learning, take a moment to write a couple of paragraphs summarizing what you know about yourself. Using Microsoft Word, Open Office, or another text-editing program, record any significant findings.

Learning Styles

There are many different ways that people learn. Each of us have our own strengths and weaknesses, our personal learning preferences. Completing the following self-assessment questionairres will help you to get a better picture of how you learn.

Take some time to reflect on how the learning preferences that have been identified through this process relate to your experiences of learning in your life. Record your results and your reflections in the same document that you were working on previously.

Setting Learning Goals

Now that you have some idea of why you are learning, and what your learning strengths and weaknesses are, you are ready to create some learning goals.

For learning goals to be effective, they should be

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Challenging
  • Reliable
  • and have a completion date

Both long-term and short-term goals are important. If you are to be motivated toward the achivement of your short-term goals, these short-term goals must be consistent with your longer terms goals (in this case what you are moving towards after your course of study).

In the document you were working on before record your

  • Long-term goals
  • Short-term goals (It's recommended that your short-term goals are based on the semesters or terms of your programme of study)
  • Campus, community, or other resources that are available to you to help you accomplish these goals.

List as many goals and resources as you wish.


The next task is to determine what obstacles may be in your way. Basically, you must ask yourself how you will go about accomplishing your semester goals given your skills, resources, and abilities. Then examine each obstacle and try to see it as a successful milestone or marker for that goal. You might also want to do the same thing for your long-term goals.

Download and complete the Skills, Abilities, Resources worksheet (PDF).

Now that you have outlined obstacles and thought about how they relate to your abilities and resources, take another moment to write a couple of paragraphs summarizing what you have learned. Using Microsoft Word, Open Office, or another text-editing program, assess these elements and reflect on the obstacles and the challenges you face.

Developing a Learning Strategy

The reason for articulating goals and identifying obstacles is to develop a strategy for achieving your goals. For example, one of your semester goals might be to accumulate twenty hours of community service during the semester that will count toward the eighty hours required for admittance to your degree program. Obstacles to this goal may include not being familiar with the local community as well as finding the time between now and the end of the semester. One strategy might include a visit to the Student Service Leadership Center, or to your advisor to talk about what opportunities might be available.

Try developing your own strategies for the goals and obstacles you have identified. List the goals, obstacles and strategies for overcoming each obstacle on a piece of paper.

Goal :
Obstacle(s) :
Strategy/Strategies :

Bringing it all together

Using Microsoft Word, Open Office, or another text-editing program consolidate your autobiography, skills and resources, goals (both long-term and short-term), and any obstacles to these goals and strategies that you may employ to overcome these obstacles.

Try to ensure that you make the relationships between all aspects clear especially the links between your autobiography, long-term and short-term goals.

Planning as part of your study programme

It's important that you don't just file this in a drawer and forget about it.

For planning to be effective, it should be done regularly. You need continual reminders of your long-term goals. Consider putting them on your fridge, above your computer, at your desk - wherever you will see them. You should also review your short-term goals on a weekly and monthly basis. Are you meeting your goals? If not, what do you need to change in order to meet them? Do you goals need to change to fit the new context of your study this week/month/semester?

A commonly stated maxim in small business training is "A business which fails to plan, plans to fail", and this is also true outside of the business world. Keep focussed on your goals, and you will achieve them.