Youth-Centered Outcomes

Scale: Goal Based Outcomes tool

What it measures:

  • A youth’s reported progress toward their chosen goals.

Intended age range: 10- to 18-year-olds and also has been used with adults.

Brief description: On the Goal-Based Outcomes tool, youth identify up to three goals for themselves. The tool was developed originally for use in clinical services context. In this context, developers recommend that goals be established collaboratively with a service provider, but that they must be agreed upon and owned by the person seeking help. In the context of a mentoring program, goals could be set with the assistance of program staff, mentors, and/or parents.  After youth goals are set and recorded, progress toward each goal is rated on a scale from 0 = Goal not at all met to 10 = Goal fully met/reached, with a midway anchor point of 5. The tool with the same goals listed can then be completed again at later points in time to assess progress toward those goals. Ratings on progress toward each goal can be completed independently by youth as well as with the assistance of program staff, mentors, and/or parents.

Rationale: This measure was chosen based on its applicability across diverse populations and settings, demonstrated ability to detect change in youth, evidence of reliability and validity, and brevity. Reported progress on goals as assessed on the Goal Based Outcomes tool has been positively associated with improvements in emotional symptoms and functioning and negatively associated with psychosocial difficulties in youth.

Cautions: The simplicity of the goal-generation procedure may lead youth and others involved in helping them to set goals to overlook underlying or less conscious concerns of youth. Most evidence for the use of the Goal Based Outcomes tool is based on samples of youth in clinical settings. It also should be taken into account that ratings on the Goal Based Outcomes tool (and other similar measures) involve a subjective component and may be subject to social desirability bias (i.e., a motivational tendency or investment on the part of raters, such as youth or mentors, to report positive progress). Related to this, it is important to remember that youth should not be expected to fully meet their goals, that youth may only make limited progress on their goals in a given period of time, and that a youth's goals may change. In view of these considerations, it may be useful to have a structure in place to review and discuss goal progress ratings as well as to collect data on goal progress from other sources.

Special administration information: The developers of the Goal Based Outcomes tool note that it may be useful to periodically provide opportunities for goals to be reset.

How to score: Each goal is scored from 0 (Goal not at all met) to 10 (Goal reached). Progress on up to three goals could be assessed at each meeting with youth, the beginning and end of an intervention, or at set time points. Goal progress for up to 12 meetings can be monitored using the goal progress chart.  Reported progress on up to three goals are averaged at each meeting. Change is calculated by averaging the differences between scores on each goal. Although not discussed by developers, the measure also appears potentially appropriate for use with youth who are not participating in an intervention (for example, youth in a non-mentoring comparison group in an evaluation study).

How to interpret findings: Higher scores reflect greater progress toward the goals set.

Access and permissions: The scale is available for non-commercial use with no charge and is available here.

Alternatives: Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS) is a widely used process that provides greater depth and nuance in assessment of goal attainment; however, GAS is more complex and time intensive and requires training.  More information on this measure and its application within mentoring is available here.

Citation: Law, D., & Jacob, J. (2015). Goals and Goal Based Outcomes (GBOs): Some useful information (3rd Ed.). London: CAMHS Press. Retrieved from


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