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Setting SMART Goals With Students

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If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to set SMART goals with your students for this new school term. In education, we focus our goals primarily on academics – the grades we get and how well we do in school. When setting SMART goals with your students, make sure they’re timely. Set them at the beginning of the school year or term and reassess and measure each grading period. That way, they’ll have data to highlight their current level of performance and be clear about what they are working towards and how they will work differently to achieve their goal for the next marking period. Follow these steps and guiding questions to support children in setting SMART goals.


To set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions and one H:

Who: Who is involved?

What: What do I want to accomplish?

Where: Identify a location.

When: Establish a time frame.

Which: Identify requirements and constraints.

Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

How: How will it be accomplished?


  • Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress
  • When you measure your progress, you stay on track and reach your target dates and outcomes
  • To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as:

o How much?

o How many?

o How will I know when it is accomplished?


  • Identify goals that are important to you.
  • Plan your steps and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out the action plan.
  • Determine what is needed to assist in attaining your goals.
  • Evaluate progress periodically and adjust as needed.


  • A goal should represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work.
  • A far reaching goal helps us to make substantial progress.
  • The planned outcome should be reasonable.


  • A goal should be grounded within a time frame.
  • The time frame should be reasonable.
  • Establish interval times to assess progress.

A few more things to consider when writing academic SMART goals:

  • Make them unique to each student. Some children have trouble being introspective and are happy enough to do what their neighbor does. Set up conferences with each student, talk about past achievements and future objectives, and help guide them towards their very own SMART goal.
  • We want students to be well rounded. It’s important to teach students to set personal development/behavioral goals as well. Make it about more than grades. Academic achievement does mean good grades, but there are quite a few steps involved in that end goal. Does Samuel need to improve study habits? Does Clare spend too much time doodling in her notebook? Think more broadly about how to achieve academic excellence. Think about the whole child.
  • Start young. Even very young children are able to set SMART goals with a little help. Making goal-setting a standard in the classroom means that by the time they’re in middle school, they have mastered the skill of goal setting and achieving.

Finally, make sure you present all SMART goal-setting opportunities as a chance for students to take control of academic progress, personal development and growth, not simply another way to assess or grade but developing growth mindset. Help them understand the purpose of creating goals and supporting them through the steps to achieve them.