Saturday, May 19, 2012

Closing the Loop

I haven't written a blog post in ages, so I'm really glad ks is here keeping things humming along. One of our new readers went back into the archive to my "Friday Flashbacks" series about the 1977 Personal Progress book and it made her feel nostalgic, and she asked if I'd post the Goal Recording page. Each of the six areas of focus had one, like this: 

It got me thinking about how the process of making and recording goals in Personal Progress has changed since then. In the old booklets, each area of focus had a list of possible goals, but the list was far too long for anyone to do all of them, so you needed to choose among them or could define your own. There was no "common core" of experiences, and throughout the book there was language that suggested YW were capable of developing their own independent, personally meaningful goals.

In the front of the book there was a section on "Setting Goals" that described a 4-step cycle of Evaluating, Planning, Acting, and Reporting. 

There was also a page that gave advice for setting "good" goals: they should be specific (i.e. measurable) and have a clear time frame for completion. As you can see from the "Goals that overlap" section, the goals were not supposed to be connected to each other.

In the current version of Personal Progress, there are just simple check-boxes by value experiences for signing and dating when each one was done, and a grid for keeping track of progress.

In that sense, the program is far more proscriptive than it used to be: it tells young women, do THIS and THIS. It creates common experiences that are similar for all young women across the whole Church. The discretion comes in choosing a project for each value (except for Virtue, where the value project is predefined). Value projects are intended to help YW practice what they have learned (application) and to be a significant effort taking at least 10 hours (persistence) and drawing on the guidance of the Holy Ghost to select.
Has Personal Progress progressed?
I ask this because in my day job as a college professor, I have to think a lot about how learning takes place and how we can measure learning. "Assessment" is the big buzzword in higher ed. Common experiences are thought to be a "High Impact Educational Practice," according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities. At my university, there's a lot of emphasis on writing "goals" for a class or for a program of study that are centered on what the student does, not on what the educators do. And those outcomes are supposed to be specific and measurable, not just "understand the concept of..." because how can you measure that a student understands something? That's pretty fuzzy. Better verbs are things like "create," "apply," "compare," "analyze," and so on. Our university leans heavily on the taxonomy of cognitive habits and multiple learning domains originally developed by Benjamin Bloom in the 1950s and recently updated to reflect 21st-century learning priorities (see here, e.g. for more on Bloom's taxonomy). The point of learning is to help students develop higher-order cognitive skills, like the ability to synthesize, connect, combine, and design, not just memorize, recognize or list things. It is interesting to me that the highest thing in Bloom's taxonomy is to "create."
Both in well-designed secular learning and in the gospel, measurable changes in behavior are not the end in and of themselves. They are means to the deeper, inner changes we hope will happen in our youth and in ourselves: the cognitive skills and spiritual sensitivities. These things take practice. The new program moves YW through a series of reflection (metacognitive) exercises along eight different value dimensions, toward what goal? Of being able to create, becoming divine co-creators: taking something "without form and void" and making into something "glorious and beautiful." Quoting President Uchtdorf: "The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul" - and one of the aims of the Church's youth programs - not to produce zombie automatons marching in lockstep off an assembly line, but individuals capable of contributing to the kingdom's beauty, growth and diversity and becoming as our Heavenly parents are."

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  1. Thank you so much! I appreciate all the pictures! As an adult, I use this process of goal setting and find it to be very helpful. I learned a lot about being leadership and being powerful from YW. It was better than a college class! Ha!

  2. This is a really interesting discussion. I am a naturally goal-setting person. I always have been. I found it too depressing to complete the Personal Progress program, because my own personal schedule was full and busy, with academic, music, and personal advancement stuff (reading my scriptures, writing in my journal, sewing dresses, etc.). I always got halfway through some project and then it occurred to me that "I needed to include it in my Personal Progress." And so I felt like I 'failed' because I felt like I needed to only include things that I started out with planning officially.

    My oldest daughter is pretty much similar to myself--she always has way more creativity and project ideas than desire to sit down and officially make goals. She is almost 14 and has never been bored, ever. I have worked very hard to gain a testimony of the Faith in God program and Personal Progress and Duty to God... I really had no idea that lots of people need that much structure to be able to move forward with productive efforts. I am still frustrated by "scripted" goal setting, but I frankly gave my children permission to include goals that they were already halfway through before remembering, so they don't feel like a "failure."


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