The approaching kick off to Euro 2016 has got me thinking about learning goals.

As we approach the kick-off for the European Championships 2016 there has been a lot of talk of the inclusion of Marcus Rashford in the England squad. More than once I have heard the phrase “steep learning curve” mentioned in the discussions resulting from this decision and it got me thinking about the phrase “learning curve” and what it really means.

The phrase is normally used to represent how a body of knowledge is learned over time and the phrase “steep learning curve” to mean that a learning experience will be difficult and a lot will have to be learned in a short space of time. It seems to me that Rashford has all the necessary skills and attributes to hit the ground running at Euro 2016 but does he really face a “steep learning curve?. If you look at a graph of learning plotted against the time taken, a steep slope at the start would actually indicate fast progress rather than the difficulty in achieving the learning. 

Does Marcus Rashford really face a steep learning curve at Euro 2016?

Marcus might well be about to embark on his first major international tournament as a senior player but this will hopefully not prevent him from scoring lots of goals in the physical and proverbial sense. From a supporter’s viewpoint, we might want Marcus to score lots of goals and if he doesn’t, his inclusion in the England squad would not be considered a success. What if, however, Marcus has set himself personal goals/milestones that he wants to achieve and it is these by which he will measure his success? Perhaps these drive him more than the appreciation of the fans and pundits? It would be interesting to see if he had set himself the target of scoring on his England debut or perhaps to play for Manchester United before he turns 19? You can’t argue with the fact that he has already achieved a lot for a young man and this might be because he is determined to reach targets or personal goals that he has set himself.

Goals for Learning

Returning to the idea of personal and learning goals, it is a fact that setting yourself some SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed) goals makes for a more successful learning experience. Take a distance learning qualification like the City and Guilds ITQ Social Media Certificate which is a qualification that is “learner-directed”. This means that the learner takes responsibility for setting their own timetable and learning schedule. Our approach at Concise Training is to guide the learner through the creation of this schedule and then support them in achieving their aims and it is very obvious when somebody has thought carefully about their own personal targets and goals. Those that work towards their own targets almost always complete the qualification faster than those that just pay lip service to the idea of a planned approach to their study and tackle it on an ad-hoc basis.

Personal Development Planning

To organise your targets and learning goals, consider creating a personal development plan or PDP. This will involve reflecting on your own learning, performance and achievements and planning your educational development. Creating a PDP will help you to identify skills and experience that you already have and those that you need to get to where you want to be. By providing you with a clear sense of direction, it will also help you to feel more in control of your studies.

A personal development plan should start with a high-level look at what you want to achieve and once you have identified the training or qualifications that you need, you can apply a similar approach on a course level  – setting yourself target dates, for example, to complete defined parts of the course.

You can start your own PDP by using this free template downloadable from Bath University.

Study Planning

On a course level, you can break your course down into defined stages and use these as your targets. For example, a course consisting of 19 tasks like the ITQ Social Media Certificate we mentioned earlier, lends itself nicely to setting a target date for the submission of each task. These target dates should be documented and revisited regularly. Put the dates in your Google Calendar (or equivalent) and set reminders for each one so that you never forget that a deadline is approaching and put a copy of your target dates on your fridge or somewhere where you will see them regularly.

You not only need to set yourself targets for achievement but also plan when and where you will study. It is a good idea to give yourself a set regular routine. For example, you might have a window of a couple of hours on a Tuesday evening when you would normally watch TV while everybody is out of the house. This would be the perfect opportunity to schedule a study session. Make sure that you document your study plan and make others aware that you will be busy during your study periods. The fewer distractions the better.

To help you along you can use this free study plan template.


As part of planning your study approach and setting your learning goals, you should think about things that could prevent you from achieving them. Have you any holidays booked? Are these going to prevent you from completing a task on time? When you have identified obstacles, then you can start thinking about how you can overcome them. If you know a holiday is coming up at the end of the month, perhaps you could spend a bit longer on your course before you go so that you can finish a task ahead of time and be ready to relax and enjoy your holiday knowing that you will still be on track when you return.

The Goal of Goals

So if Marcus Rashford is a goal driven individual, perhaps he is now reviewing his own PDP reflecting on achievements so far, setting himself some personal goals for Euro 2016 and trying to identify before the tournament what obstacles might prevent him achieving his goals. Planning a strategy for overcoming these obstacles can build further confidence in his own ability which leads to better performance and ultimately (hopefully) a successful tournament …. and more goals.

Do you have a personal development plan? Do you plan out an approach to your education/study? When was the last time you stepped back and thought about what you want to achieve and how you are going to get there?