Teaching Evidence-Based Goal Setting

Teaching Evidence-Based Goal Setting


Character Lab, a psychology research and education lab at the University of Pennsylvania


There are lots of behavior-change studies that have figured out methods to help us be our best selves. However, this research is often lost in academic journals. My role at Character Lab was to create ways to deliver research in usable ways to teachers, to help them cultivate their students to help them thrive in the world.

The first Playbook I led through design at Character Lab, WOOP, stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. It takes research by our collaborator Dr. Gabriele Oettingen, which shows that it's not only important to think positively, but to also think about the barriers you face, and to make a plan around them. In 20 years of research studies, WOOP has been proven to help people accomplish personal, inter-personal, academic, and health goals.

My Role & Process

VP, Product & Design

  • User research

  • Literature Review

  • Visual Design

  • Prototyping

  • User Testing

  • Iteration

  • Art Direction: Animation Video

  • Writer: Animation script

  • Online web distribution

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To translate this evidence into practice, we conducted design ethnography with teachers to determine the needs and pain points, wishes and goals of developing self-control and goal achievement in their students.

To teach WOOP to students, we created animation video as well as classroom activities to both teach about the science and to help them experience the strategy.

The animation, which we created with the London animation studio that made Apple health's iPhone videos, was shown in a pilot to 100 high school and middle school students. After watching the video, students were 7 times more likely to consider obstacles and plans as key elements to achieving goals. 

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The student-facing activities (design to be plug-and-play for busy teachers, and printable versions since most classrooms are not online) which guide students and teachers through the WOOP process, are now in use in hundreds of schools across the country. Character Lab Playbooks reached over half a million teachers in their first year online.

These Playbooks won the CORE77 Design Award in Design Education as well as Research & Strategy

Additional Links:

View the full WOOP activity for teachers, and try it on yourself!

Visit Characterlab.org/WOOP

Hear about WOOP on NPR's Hidden Brain

See our other Playbooks:
- Expert Practice with Anders Ericsson,
- Build Connections with Chris Hulleman

Designing a "Locus of Control" Research Intervention for Kids

Designing a "Locus of Control" Research Intervention for Kids

Researching Behavior Change for Good

Researching Behavior Change for Good