Collective Goal Setting with We Can Statements

Goal setting as a team helps with motivation and supports learners along the way
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About This Strategy

Students need to own the tasks we are asking them to complete with the true understanding of how and why it might apply to their lives and future development.  Often learning targets are centered around individual goals, while students learn best from each other when they feel open to asking for help. This strategy will help students build collective goals called We Can statements as well as support each other in meeting these targets.

Implementation Steps

  1. Develop the learning targets for your students into I can statements. 

    • Unpack the standard to show the “what” and the “how” a student must understand. See the Unpacking a Standard template in the resource section below for more information.

  2. Provide a list of these targets to student work groups and ask them to sort them according to what they do and do not know to mastery. 

  3. Ask students to think of and list the ways they can show mastery in each of the targets they claim to know well. 

  4. Lead groups in presenting the list and the ways they can show mastery to each other. 

  5. Suggest each team choose two of the learning targets they do not know to mastery and develop a goal together called a we can statement.  

  6. Record the two learning targets in a shared Google Doc as well as the ways the students plan to show mastery.  See the "We Can Template" in the resource section below for more information.

  7. Host a conference with each group and discuss the learning targets they know to mastery as well as the goals they have set to learn the We Can statements. 

  8. Check on the progress of the group and then repeat the process each time new standards are introduced. 

    • Students will work to turn their I can statements into We Can statements by discussing and modeling the learning for each other. 

    • Groups can be self-selected at first, but can also be restructured in response to the various skills of team members.  In order to spread around the skills students know and can show each other, work to establish a mix of proficiency levels.

Special Education Modification

Students will benefit from the structure of a group to support common goals over time.  


  • Students may provide examples of understanding that a student and teacher agree reflect the knowledge required of a specific learning target.

Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Considerations

Students who set goals as a community are more likely to engage with instruction as they feel members of a team that is valued and respected for who they are.  We can statements foster goal setting and allow for students to voice how they can show mastery of  a particular topic or skill. 


  • Students can suggest specific ways they can demonstrate mastery of a given topic or learning target.

Suggested Reading: Youth Culture Power: A #HipHopEd Guide to Building Teacher-Student Relationships and Increasing Student Engagement (Hip-Hop Education) 

Questions to Consider

  • What are the ways we currently use learning targets? 

  • Do students know what ways they can demonstrate mastery?

  • How will we unpack standards to help support student awareness of their learning targets?

Teacher Tips

  • Discuss learning targets in PLC conversations and determine those that are considered “priority” or power standards. 

    • These standards have the most relevance and longevity of use. 

  • Include students in conversations about their own goals and suggest We Can as a powerful solution to trying it alone.  

  • Students are not used to asking each other for help and will be reluctant at first. Once it starts to become aware to the student that they are learning this way, it is likely to continue and grow.  

  • It could also become a goal to list the We Can statements that are true of the majority of the class as some form of “Wall of Fame.” When people visit the class, students can reference this display to brag of all they have been learning, instead of struggle to answer in such a pressured moment.