Goal-Oriented Option Development (GOOD) Decision Model

The fundamental formula for developing our children into productive, responsible citizens is understanding and being able to easily apply the GOOD Decision Model process to any choice situation. Learning decision-making, like most things, must be done one step at a time. A reasonable parallel, for example, may be found in mathematics. You must learn to add before you learn to multiply, and you must learn to multiply before you take square roots and then solve algebraic equations derived from word problems. Similarly, decision-making will also be broken down into basic operations, which when put together can be utilized to solve the "choice problems" facing our children every day.

The critical teaching components of the GOOD Decision Model are:

  1. Expand awareness of the number of choices that are made, explicitly and implicitly, every day of our lives.
  2. Create awareness of the range of choices available with regard to any significant decision.
  3. Increase understanding of the determining characteristics of each choice option within the decision context, and their relation to the likely short- and long-term consequences of that choice.
  4. Help identify and evaluate the causal relationships between personal goals and the consequences of choices made for simple everyday decisions and in more complex types of risk-creating decisions.
  5. Develop the ability (and recognition of the need to take the time) to analytically map the network of choice options with regard to any decision or problem, including drawing inferences with regard to long-term goals.

Choice is first defined in terms of options or alternatives, and is always framed within a contextual situation. The choices (to be) made are with regard to specific actions or behaviors. Thus, the act of choosing necessarily implies decision-making, and the simple result, a choice, reflects the selection among one or more possible options. Getting children to realize that every action they take is a result of either an explicit or implicit decision they have made, and for which they are responsible, is central to grounding the entire concept of decision-making.

Beyond simply understanding the concept of choice, a second primary objective of the GOOD Decision Model is to move the child to think in a longer-term time frame. Once a situational context is set, and the choice options are specified, the child is asked to first give a distinct label that best represents "the essence" of what that choice option means to him/her. The most important (un)desirable quality that the choice option represents for each is then assigned a (+) positive or (-) negative valence. The critical importance of this assignment of a valence stems from the fact that most of our children's decisions are made in a short-term, immediate gratification-type time frame, based solely upon the valence (+ or -) initially assigned to that choice option.

The key, then, to moving children to a longer-term time frame, and subsequently to understanding what is in their best interest long-term, is to have them focus on and contrast the potential positive aspects of their alternative choice options.


To illustrate this critical theoretical underpinning of the GOOD Decision Model, if the choice options are to "watch television" versus "study for test," the distinct labels (the way children might define the positive and negative meanings for choice options) for the "study for test" choice option could be [+] " get studying done" and [-] "must concentrate." For the "watch television" choice option the [+] distinction could be "can relax" and the corresponding [-] could be "won't get studying done."

If we initially ask a student which choice option she or he would choose and then ask them "why?" that option was selected, a standard response would likely be avoiding the negative [-] "must concentrate." Obviously this answer represents a short-term perspective without really thinking through the longer-term implications of that choice.

However, if we can get the students to focus on the positive aspect of studying, and what it could mean to them in the long-term, we can significantly increase the probability that they will re-think their choice options using the future (goal-oriented) perspective as their basis for decision-making. This is accomplished by mapping out the choice options, as seen below, and having the students contrast the positive goals achieved by each choice option. In this case, getting the students to think about what studying could mean with respect to playing soccer gets them to focus on the goal that can be achieved which in turn drives their decision-making process.

To aid in the understanding of the concepts of the model, a graphic summary of the key positive components of the decision structure, along with the choice labels are outlined below.

Choice Context TIME: 4:00 PM
SITUATION: Test tomorrow

Goal-Oriented Option Development (GOOD) Decision Model

Goal-Oriented Option Development Model


As we see in the decision "map," the consequence directly associated with the choice option of "study for test" is "do well on test" (or perhaps for some maybe even "get an A"). The direct consequence of "watch TV" is "mellow out." Consequences, then, are defined as the short-term or immediate results of the choice options. The consequences for any choice option can be obtained by asking the child questions like "what is good about watching TV?" or, "what is good about studying for a test?" We want to determine the positive side to what is initially perceived as a negative, namely, studying. In this case, what is remaining hidden inside their least preferred choice option is "getting a better grade" or "doing well on test," which we can now bring to their top-of-mind.

In fact, children know these consequences and can discuss them when questioned. The problem is that in their everyday lives they do not take the time to think through these causal implications. The GOOD Decision Model is designed to help children make their choices more thoughtfully.


Where consequences are basically short-term, outcomes are the longer-term implications or results of decisions made. Eliciting these from the child follows naturally in the questioning process from consequences.

To illustrate, if you ask the child, "why is 'doing well on the test' important to you?" a likely answer is, "so I can 'get a good course grade.' " Similarly, if you ask the child, "why is 'mellow out' important to you (in this context)?" a likely answer will either deal with a physical state, "because I'm tired," or "don't have to think" or something circular in meaning like, "because I need to relax," which was the original distinct label for "mellow out." These types of circular meaning answers are effectively a "dead end." That is, they represent only short-term gratification, and once this fact is learned, the value attributed to them in contrast to the choice option that can be linked to a personal goal becomes clear to the child.


Goals are the desired end-states toward which effort is directed. Goals serve as the basis by which one assesses the degree to which a choice option is beneficial. In the above example, asking what does getting a "good grade in the course" do for the student will likely elicit an answer like, "makes me eligible for the soccer team" (his or her goal). For another student the goal may be, "improves my chances to go to the college of my choice," or "improves my chances to get a scholarship." Questioning in this way, and then obtaining various types of personally relevant goals from the class, offers a real springboard for discussion and provides a significant learning experience for the class as a whole. The importance of getting our children to think about goals cannot be overstated. Goals serve as the guiding lights to the practice of good decision-making.

As our children learn to move from a specific decision context through the identification of choice options all the way to how those options can be connected to their personal goals, they will develop a template to analyze any decision they are faced with. Clearly, selecting the best choice for the situation necessitates critical thinking. If, however, we equip our children with these decision-making skills, and we train them to take the time to practice to stop and think before they act, imagine how powerful the results will be in terms of building good decision-makers: the essence of producing citizens with good character.

It is important to note that the GOOD Model does not determine the goals; each child determines his or her own goals. The primary function of the Critical Thinking Curriculum is to provide children with excellent decision-making skills, and not to focus on particular goals or on character-related decisions.