One maturational development feature of the transition from childhood to adulthood is the emergence of the capacity to perform executive functions (McCloskey, 2009, 2012). The executive functions are found in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The importance of the work of the executive function in the process of maturational development cannot be overstated. A key factor in the success of an individual’s maturing capacity for self-regulation can be found in the individual’s ability to: 1) set goals, 2) make plans, 3) “make it happen” and, 4) finish what he/she starts.
Digital Badges/Goals is a program for training participants in the development of skills and attitudes of goal orientation and self-regulation. Although the processes are being developed concurrently, it is through the simultaneous interaction of goal setting and self-regulation that the commitment to “do the work” occurs. Without this commitment to invest their personal energy in the learning, practicing and internalizing of what is being learned, the participants’ adherence to the meaning of the learning (the choice to adhere to a health-promoting lifestyle after the training program is over) will be only perfunctory.
To flourish and enjoy success within today’s programs and schools, we must teach students the basic skills and attitudes associated with intentional goal setting and purposeful self-regulation. Both goal setting and purposeful self-regulation can help students to maximize their potential, and this is an element in the intervention that ensures that the participants become fit in body, mind and heart.
Goal orientation and self-regulation are two key factors in the successful achievement of each individual’s healthy eating and physical activity goals. But, learning the content and having the knowledge is not enough. More importantly, the desire is for our youngsters (digital badge earners / water polo players / Jedi-like Lifeguards) to choose to live in more healthy ways. Without emotional coherence, also know as commitment, that comes from the integration of goal orientation and self-regulation, students stumble. This type of positive integration can be observed in each individual’s choices and behaviors. These factors support the goals of the CDC’s Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model.
CLOH.org and the Digital Badges/Goals give program leaders in schools an enriched repertoire for teaching specific skills related to self-regulation. This comes with a scaffolding of the maturation process when needed. By challenging students to set goals within a carefully tailored, individualized, self-care-oriented instructional program, students have the opportunity to develop the capacity to set goals, make plans and assume personal responsibility for their own behavior (McClelland, 1985).
Kay Atman, Ph.D., the goals coach, can serve as a part-time employee during the implementation of ths proposal, devoted much of her career’s work in the field of education on goal-setting, striving and volition topics. She developed, researched, validated and published a clinical evaluation tool that is central to the Digital Badges/Goals mission, goal orientation. (Goal Orientation Index, 1985. Pittsburgh, PA: Curriculum Innovators & Implementers, Inc.) Also see: http://aforathlete.wikia.com/wiki/Digital_Badges/Goals/References
In the process of completing the activities of the Digital Badges/Goals, the participants learn about goal-setting and self-regulation skills.
Goals/Level 1: Set goals and assess what the participants have “going for them” as well as a potential hazards that may interfere with their progress toward success. They set goals, visualize, make a plan, make it happen and finish.
Goals/Level 2: Participants name a four member support team, contact them and enlist their encouragement and help with accountability.
Goals/Level 3: Participants add systematic self-monitoring of progress toward their goal-pursuit regimen. For example, this might include length of practice, number of practices and increasing levels of difficulty with practice routines.
Goals/Level 4: Participants identify and assess areas of stress in goal-routine regimens and design corrective measures to alleviate problems. The purpose is to strengthen participants’ capacity for self-evaluation, self-monitoring and self-regulation.
Goals/Level 5: Participants take a self-assessment instrument, Plan and Reflect for Success. It helps improve one’s capacity for goal accomplishment. Advanced self-assessment skills and reflecting on elements of personal performance is a significant factor in the development of self-care agency, the willingness to take an active role in one’s personal well-being. (Atman, 2015)
Goals/Level 6: Called Goals/Master, the last digital badge in the series, reinforces intentional agency and the mentor’s model. Participants are trained in mentoring skills (The Mentor’s Model: Atman, 1992) and are then able to facilitate the development of goal-orientation and self-regulation skills for an aspiring goal-setter. Mentoring skills include an understanding of the processes of striving and volition in the motivational make-up of an individual. The understanding includes the concept of Intentional Agency (Atman, 2015), a key factor in an individual’s commitment to long-term goal accomplishment.
At all levels, participants are encouraged to make regular reports to the members of their support teams. They keep track of their progress toward goals with provided charts and in an optional smart phone app. Students are mentored throughout the process by coaches involved in this project who have been trained in the processes of goal orientation and self-regulation. (Atman, 1987)
The process of teaching goal orientation and self-regulation skills to the participants in this project parallels the set of personal skills found in the concept, Self-Care Agency, a well-known concept found in the field of health-care. Constructs from the Goal Orientation Index (Atman, 1985), used in this project as the model to frame the goal-related activities in the Digital Badges/Goals, have been used to predict significant attributes of Self-Care Agency. (Atman, 2015)
Numerous studies have been undertaken related to self-care agency. (Kearney and Fleischer, 1979; Hanson and Bickel, 1985; Riesch and Hauck, 1988; McBride, 1991; Cutler, 2003; Sousa, Hartman, Miller and Carroll, 2008; Baker and Denyes, 2008; Skidmore, et al., 2010; DeVito Dabbs and Song, 2013).
Evidence-based research in 2015 supports this project: Goal Orientation and Self-Care Agency, in the journal, Progress in Transplantation, Volume 25, No. 3, pp. 230-242. Kay Atman et al. attempted to predict a patient’s surgical outcomes from their ability to follow-through, or compliance, with post-operative instructions. Data obtained from this study indicated that several characteristics were significant predictors of success. It documented the importance of goal orientation as a predictor of Self-Care Agency.
This intervention concerning health, wellness and academic success ties together inter-generational aquatics activities with a sustained, focused and supportive devotion to personal behaviors, executive functions, goal setting and self-regulation skills. This intervention helps chart a course for youngsters that blends the fun of swimming and water polo with honest introspection. The sequence of the Digital Badges/Goals makes each individual accomplishment more positive and empowering. It can also be used to enhance team performance as its members strive toward common team goals and encourage each other to perform at higher levels.
There are no boundaries for re-use of the Digital Badges/Goals. This method can go viral.
Professionals within the teams, schools, school districts and health departments can monitor progress. Digital badge bestowing records, app downloads, and summary reports can ascertain both the reach and the levels of success for this intervention.
Pittsburgh’s aquatic programming provides a feel-good story worthy of sharing to personnel at other school districts. Professional development sessions for teachers, coaches and school administrators can share the GOI.
Spreading fitness, water polo, SKWIM, and digital badges throughout the nation are missions of this endeavor.
We expect that the real catalyst for commitment to healthy eating and long-term physical activity lies in the pride that participants take in their own performance that is accompanied by an increase in over-all capacity with excellent goal accomplishment. Self regulation is a key ingredient. With the commitment to do the work required, on a continual basis, excellence is within reach. The goal-setting process enables a practical type of reflection on their process of being and becoming.
More can be accomplished with physical activities when one battles in those struggles to obtain experiences based upon energy management with others. Teamwork is something to strive to obtain. Successful journeys include goal setting fun and working together. When students, teachers, coaches and adults work on a goal-setting process together, particularly in the areas of healthy eating and physical activity, Jedi-like advancements can occur.