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The Goal Indicator

How to illustrate what a student needs to know to achieve a certain level of competence?

The Goal Indicator is a concrete tool for learning. It helps the student to understand the objectives and assessment criteria of a course. With the Goal Indicator, the teacher is able to use differentiation in teaching methods and to interact and work better with the students.

Finland 100


HundrED has selected this innovation to

Finland 100






March 2017
The Goal Indicator provides students with an in-depth mapping and understanding of their own skills and development possibilities.

About the innovation

What is it all about?

Assessment is the most important factor guiding student learning. Therefore, it must be transparent: students need to know what a grade or final evaluation of a particular unit is based on and what they have to do in order to achieve the grade they want.

Each student's learning process is unique. Others need more and others less time to attain goals and to grasp learning content. In this case, it is important that teaching allows personalized learning and that students can progress towards the set goals at their own pace.

The Goal Indicator is a tool that allows the student to gain a complete understanding of what they are aiming to learn. They also form an understanding of what they need to learn in order to achieve their own goals. The student themself chooses what they want to pursue during each learning unit and progresses systematically towards these goals using the indicator, knowing what grade and final evaluation they will eventually get.

Developing the Goal Indicator began when it was noticed that the best results are not achieved by teaching all students the same contents with the same main goals and that not all students need to reach the same skill level. Students can also have personalized goals, and the task of the teacher is to create a possibility for the students to differentiate their skills.

The Goal Indicator has been developed for high school mathematics education, but it can be applied to other subjects as well, according to the same operating principles.

If a personalized learning path isn’t possible in a subject or course, the Goal Indicator will then function as a criterion for assessment only. As a student progresses with their studies, they can follow the indicator to see what grade each stage of competence corresponds with.

The following steps will help you create a Goal Indicator for your own lessons.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


The easy-to-apply model makes goals identifiable and easy to track for the students.


Students learn to set goals themselves and proceed towards them independently.


The indicator is easy to implement in different subjects, provided that the criteria for the grading system are clear to the teacher.


Implementation steps

The Goal Indicator’s Structure
The structure of the Goal Indicator is based on the fact that the very basic knowledge and skills needed to understand the whole learning unit are distinguishable.

After gaining basic knowledge and related skills, these are then applied and practiced. After this, the level of knowledge and skills will be deepened, i.e.know-how is built on previous knowledge.

Metaphorically, the structure of the Goal Indicator could be illustrated by the following simplified example. Picture that your main goal would be to learn to drive a car. The indicator would be constructed in the following way:

The Basics: The student understands how to start the car, which pedal is gas, which is brake and how the car works in theory.

Applied: The student learns to drive the car and knows the road signs and rules. In order for a student to complete this part and pass, they must be able to drive a car well enough to get a driving license.

Advanced: The student can drive the car in challenging situations, apply the lessons learned in such situations, and know enough about the basic mechanics of the car in order to react to a problem or even fix one on the spot.

Setting the main goal
Consider what the objectives of the learning unit are – how to name it.

An example from mathematics: In mathematics, the main goal can be, for instance, learning the Pythagorean Theorem and the characteristics of a right-angled triangle.

Putting skills into words
Consider the goals of each practiced skill. Write down all the skills that are needed in order to learn the main goal of the unit.

Additionally, it is good to have the criteria of a good grade visible somewhere for the students to see. These criteria indicate the objectives of the applied section in relation to the Goal Indicator.

An example from mathematics: The goal for gaining applied skills is that the student is able to apply the Pythagorean Theorem.

The skill set could be as follows:

  • The student is able to define a right-angled triangle and name its sides

  • The student knows what the Pythagorean Theorem is and when to use it

  • The student is able to apply the Pythagorean Theorem in resolving the length of the sides of a right-angled triangle

  • The student is able to apply the Pythagorean Theorem in challenging situations, such as in calculating the space diagonal of a cube

Division into basic, applied and advanced skills
Divide your skills into three parts. The basic level of competence includes the skills that comprise the absolute basics of the main goal.

The level of applied competence is determined by the criteria for a good grade. Finally, consider what is required for advanced know-how, which equals getting an excellent grade.

The learning unit can include several content goals.

An example from mathematics: The set of required skills is divided into three parts. For learning and applying the Pythagorean Theorem, the skills can be divided in the following way.

The Basics

The student is able to define a right-angled triangle and name its sides

The student knows what the Pythagorean Theorem is and when to use it


The student is able to apply the Pythagorean Theorem in solving the length of the sides of a right-angled triangle


The student is able to apply the Pythagorean Theorem in challenging situations, such as in calculating the space diagonal of a cube

Creating assessment tasks
Create tasks that measure and reflect each section’s goals and learning content.

An example from mathematics: The tasks can consist of doing math, but students can also be guided to work in groups or information retrieval tasks.

Comprehending the goals
The students get acquainted with set the goals before getting to work.

When students study while being aware of their own goals, they can find out about study-related issues for themselves. In this case, teaching is easier to organize in small groups and students are given opportunities to teach each other.

Organizing interim tests and assessing skill levels
Organize intermediate tests for each level separately, so that they measure the management of all skills in each level.

The student will take the test when they feel they have gained a full understanding of the set goals for each level.

Tracking progress
The student studies one goal at a time alone or in a group.

The teacher's job is to keep track of the students' progress and discuss goal management with them. The teacher's job is also to help the student understand what their current skill level is and what they can do in order to reach their personal goals.

If the student wants, they can continue studying and exceed their own goals if they have set them too low.

An example of using the Goal Indicator for peer assessment and discussion: When the student has completed the test, the teacher reviews it. After this, the teacher assembles a small group of students who have completed the test. The students’ task is to compare their answers and the group still has an opportunity to correct them. It is essential that there is discussion and argumentation and that the students can explain their answers.

When the period ends, the student will discuss the achievement of the goals and the grade with the teacher. Discuss the grade together with the student.

When the grade is given, always discuss general goals and go through what kind of transversal competences were practiced during the period. Also, pay attention to how the student should develop their skills in the future.

The role of the Goal Indicator during the learning period
This step introduces one more example of the role of the Goal Indicator in a mathematics learning unit.

The mathematics learning unit begins with providing each student with an indicator specifically designed for the unit. Go through the main goal of the learning unit and other important things with your students.

After a general overview of the course, the students determine their own goals, i.e. what grade they want to achieve and what skills they want to practice during the course. These skills include working practices, discussion skills, and information retrieval skills. Learning the basics gives you a pass or an adequate grade. Learning the applied skills will give the student a satisfactory or good grade. Reaching and completing the advanced level equals an excellent grade.

After setting the goals, the students begin studying. Utilizing the indicator, proceed together with the students who need more guidance. Other students will want to figure things out for themselves and study independently.

The teacher's job is to guide the students to figure things out as independently as possible and to encourage students to study in groups. The teacher also continuously assesses students' progress during lessons and has short discussions with the students in order to find out what goals they have already reached.

For a student to achieve a good grade, for instance, they must reach the learning objectives of the required level. It is a good idea to base the learning goals on the curriculum and the equivalent criteria.

The goals are written down in the indicator. Tasks that measure goal management are written under the indicator. When the student feels they have achieved a certain goal, they will take a test to assess their goal management.

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