How to Write Learning Goals for Co-op and Why

By: Sara Dell

So, you landed a co-op!  Congratulations!  Now to make it count you need to do a few last things by the deadline, before heading off to your first day of the co-op job.

  1. Register for the co-op course (so the co-op will be on your transcript, and count towards graduation) and
  2. Report the co-op on WITworks (e.g. under My Account>Co-op>Report Co-op Hire or ADD NEW).

The second is to write three learning goals about what you hope to learn while on co-op. This is where most students get stuck.  To avoid that quicksand . . . here is some information on how to write these goals, why you want to, and how to do it well.

Each learning goal should answer the following questions:

On this co-op . . .

  • What do I want to learn?
  • What will I do to achieve my learning goal?
  • How will I demonstrate what I have learned?

Still not sure where to start? Try using the SMART format. SMART is an acronym you can use as a guide to]] creating your goals.  It stands for:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable)
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic, and resourced, results-based)
  • Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)

For more information, including an expanded definition of each of the words above and examples, check out this article.

Now you know how to write these goals, but why would you want to?  There are more than a few good reasons . . .

Writing these goals will help you focus on what you want to achieve and how you will go about doing it.  At the end of the co-op you are going to add this experience to your resume, writing learning goals will help to ensure you have some great accomplishments to add, which in turn will help you land your next co-op or full-time job after graduation.

Since you are writing these goals as part of your Report Co-op Hire, your co-op supervisor will also review and approve of them, which means . . . they are aware of your goals and can better support you to achieve them.

Lastly, to pass the co-op course and have it count towards one of your graduation requirements, you will need to complete a student self-evaluation in the last few weeks of your co-op.  This is where these goals could come back to haunt you if they are not well-written or well thought out.  Spend some time up front on your goals, so when you are on the job, the evaluation will be easy.

Caveat: Sometimes you can have the most well written goals, but due to changes in the business, you may get pulled onto a different project, and end up learning something different.  Don’t panic.  You still learned something, and you can write about what you learned instead. And, if you still have that goal on your bucket list, keep it in mind as something you are looking to do in your next co-op or full-time job.

Lastly, reflecting on your co-op, what you hoped to learn and what you actually learned, will help you think about your own career what you want to do next (and sometimes what you definitely don’t want to do ever again).  These are all valuable things to know.  Now onwards to write those learning goals!