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Academic Success Center

(979) 458-4900 9th floor Rudder Tower

Goal Setting and Motivation

In order to learn, students need to be motivated to put in work. Setting long-term goals and breaking them down into shorter, more immediate goals drives motivation. This 50-minute lesson prompts students to explore their personal passions and values as a basis for setting goals and getting motivated to achieve those goals.


  • Identify personal values
  • Recognize the role personal values play in students’ day-to-day lives
  • Distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
  • Apply motivation to academic behaviors
  • Recognize the characteristics of SMART goals
  • Create long-term goals
  • Create short-term goals

Instructor resources 

Dembo, M. H. (2000). Motivation and learning strategies for college success: A self-management approach. Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 67-78.

Sellers, D., Dochen, C. W., & Hodges, R. (2015). Academic transformation: The road to college success. Boston: Pearson, 130.

Van Blerkom, D. L. (2002). Orientation to college learning. Boston: Wadsworth/Thomson, 13-16.

Summary of actions

(Slides explain the basic concepts covered in this lesson.)

  • Introduce the concept of personal values and how they influence everything we think and do using the slides.
  • Have students complete the Values Clarification exercise by reviewing the list of 90 values, circling values they find important, narrowing their list to their top 5 values, then ranking their top 5 values at the bottom of the sheet
  • Discuss how students experienced the process of choosing their top five goals.
  • Ask for examples of values showing up in students’ everyday life and major/career choice.
  • Ask students to make a list of what motivates college students, in groups or as a class.
  • Explain intrinsic and extrinsic motivation using this video.
  • As a class, evaluate the generated list of motivations to see if more are intrinsic or extrinsic.
  • Explain different goal types and SMART characteristics.
  • Review examples of each goal type and SMART characteristics.
  • Complete the Goal Mapping exercise page 1 and page 2.
  • Ask students to swap Goal Mapping pages with a class mate to provide feedback, make suggestions, or give encouragement.
  • Discuss the influence of values on motivation and the resulting goals.

Last Updated: 01/03/2023

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute The Academic Success Center, Texas A&M University.