Complete Guide to SMART Goals

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SMART goals are a huge thing in the world of education at the moment. Many schools and sectors are making them an integral part of how they support teachers and students. 

They can seem confusing at first, but once you wrap your head around SMART goals, you will see why they’ve become so popular. They’re a fantastic way of not only reaching your goals but setting your students on the right path for their future.

What is a SMART Goal?

A SMART goal is a specific type of goal that you set for yourself or others. It is a small goal that is designed to not just be achievable but feel it as well. 

SMART goals have a set of features and guidelines to make them very specific. Following these different guidelines takes practice, but it’s worth the effort.

What does SMART stand for?

While there are a few variations to this acronym, SMART is the most simple version. Each of these letters stands for something that you need to consider when setting your goal.

SMART goals need to be:

  • Specific 
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

A specific goal is something that is very targeted and often, very small. Examples could include:

  • Write your name correctly 5 times in a row. 
  • Attempt a homework task every night.
  • Read a Level 5 reader with 70% accuracy.

The last example above is a good example of a measurable goal. The student will know exactly what score they will need. Attempting one task every night is also a very measurable goal.

Achievable means that the goal is tailored to the person setting the goal. You wouldn’t want to set a Level 5 reader for a student who had never successfully read at Level 2, for example. 

A relevant goal is one that the person actually WANTS to accomplish. It needs to be specific enough to the person, where they are currently, and where they want to go.

Time-bound goals are also essential. Maybe you want your student to write their name accurately by the end of the year. Maybe you want them to do it by the end of the week. These two goals would be very different.

Why do we use SMART goals?

SMART goals are a great way of focusing your energy. The beauty of a good SMART goal is that you will benefit from it even if you don’t reach it. 

Taking the time to focus on what you want, what it will look like once you achieve it, and how you really CAN achieve it, is a good habit to get into. Being able to set good SMART goals and making this a part of how your mind works can serve you and your students well in many areas of life.

How do you write a good SMART goal?

SMART goals need to be specific so that it is very clear what you are aiming for, and very clear if you have succeeded. You never want to say how well you reached a SMART goal; it should be specific enough that you can only say whether it has been achieved or not.

What’s a good SMART goal for a teacher?

As a teacher, you may be asked to write SMART goals for yourself. These goals are becoming a bigger part of professional learning and performance review conversations, so it’s useful to be able to write a good one. 

Remember, a good SMART goal is something that is achievable. You don’t want to create one around “100% of students achieving at B grade or above” because much of this is outside of your control. 

A much more useful goal would be “100% of students will demonstrate that they understand the requirements of the task and the success criteria”, because this goal is much more within your control as the teacher.

See more: How to Present a Great Professional Learning Workshop

Can students write their own SMART goals?

Students should absolutely write their own SMART goals. Nothing kills a SMART goal quicker than having one set for you without your input. 

If you’re giving someone a less specific goal like “Pass Year 8”, then this feels less intrusive. If you’re telling your student to “do every piece of homework every week without parent help by the end of the term”, a student is going to disengage very quickly. 

A big part of making sure that your SMART goals are realistic and achievable is making sure that those working towards the goal are also the ones who helped to create it.

How can I support my students to write their own SMART goals?

Writing good SMART goals takes practice. It is worth taking the time to explicitly set out what a SMART goal is and what it means. 

Templates might help some students. They might not end up with a nice neat sentence, but the key is that they understand all parts of their goal. You might also want to have some fun and get students to set goals for what they’re going to do at lunchtime or in their favourite video game over the weekend. 

SMART goals are routine, and if you can get students comfortable with writing their own, it can be a fantastic routine to be in that will benefit their learning at school and beyond.

Elise is an enthusiastic and passionate Australian teacher who is on a mission to inspire and support fellow educators. With over a decade of experience in the classroom, Elise leverages her expertise and creativity to provide valuable insights and resources through her blog. Whether you're looking for innovative lesson ideas, effective teaching strategies, or just a dose of inspiration, Elise has got you covered.

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