Write IEP Goals for Healthy Student Work Habits

Group of students wearing backpacks walking into the school building.

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When a student in your class is the subject of an Individual Education Plan (IEP), you will be called upon to join a team that will write goals for him or her. These goals are important, as the student's performance will be measured against them for the remainder of the IEP period and their success can determine the kinds of supports the school will provide. 


For educators, it's important to remember that IEP goals should be SMART. That is, they should be Specific, Measurable, use Action words, be Realistic and they're Time-limited.

Here are some ways to think about goals for children with poor work habits. You know this child. She or he has trouble completing written work, seems to drift away during oral lessons, and may get up to socialize while children are working independently. Where do you start setting the goals that will support her or him and make them a better student?

Executive Functioning Goals

If a student has a disability such as ADD or ADHD, concentration and staying on task won't come easily. Children with these issues often have difficulty sustaining good work habits. Deficits such as this are known as executive functioning delays. Executive functioning includes basic organizational skill and responsibility. The purpose of goals in executive functioning is to help the student keep track of homework and assignment due dates, remember to turn in assignments and homework, remember to bring home (or return) books and materials. These organizational skills lead to tools to manage his daily life. 

When developing IEPs for students who need help with their work habits, it is important to remember to key in on a few specific areas. Changing one behavior at a time is much easier than focusing on too many, which will be overwhelming for the student.

Sample Behavioral Goals

  • Focus attention with minimal supervision or intervention.
  • Refrain from distracting others.
  • Listen when directions and instructions are given.
  • Identify what is needed each work period and each day for homework.
  • Be prepared for assignments.
  • Take the time to do things right the first time. 
  • Think things out on your own before asking.
  • Try things independently without giving up.
  • Work independently as much as possible.
  • Apply successful strategies when involved in problem-solving.
  • Be able to re-state problems, instructions, and directions to help with understanding the task at hand.
  • Take responsibility for all work being done.
  • Participate fully in group situations or when called upon.
  • Be responsible for self and belongings.
  • Remain positive when working with others.
  • Cooperate in both large and small group settings.
  • Be considerate of the opinions of others.
  • Seek positive solutions for any conflicts that may arise.
  • Always follow the routines and rules.

Use these prompts to craft SMART goals. That is, they should be achievable and measurable and have a time component. For example, for the child who struggles with paying attention, this goal incorporates specific behaviors, is actionable, measurable, time-bound, and realistic: 

  • The student will attend (sit still with eyes on the teacher, keeping their hands to themselves, using a quiet voice) to a task during large and small group instruction for a ten-minute period, with no more than one teacher prompt in four out of five trials, to be measured by the teacher.

When you think about it, many of the work habits lead to good skills for life habits. Work on one or two at a time, obtaining success before moving to another habit.

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Watson, Sue. "Write IEP Goals for Healthy Student Work Habits." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/sample-iep-goals-improve-work-habits-3111007. Watson, Sue. (2023, April 5). Write IEP Goals for Healthy Student Work Habits. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/sample-iep-goals-improve-work-habits-3111007 Watson, Sue. "Write IEP Goals for Healthy Student Work Habits." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/sample-iep-goals-improve-work-habits-3111007 (accessed May 28, 2023).