‘Tis the Season for SMART Goals

For students, the end of the calendar year means Thanksgiving, Christmas, vacations, and, in some cases, final exams. But as the old year ends, the new year is the traditional time for resolutions and change. And for students, it’s a good time to begin planning their goals for second semester. One of the best ways to plan out change for second semester and beyond is to set SMART goals.

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

What are SMART goals?

SMART goals have been used since 1981, when George T. Doran presented the acronym in a paper on setting agendas for management teams. Since that time, his framework has been used around the world to set goals for both business and personal growth.

SMART goals are goals that are 

  • Specific – What exactly do I want to happen?
  • Measurable – How will I know when I’ve reached my goal?
  • Achievable – Is it something that can be accomplished?
  • Relevant – Is it a realistic goal?
  • Time-Specific – Can I set a specific deadline for my goal to be achieved?

How are they helpful?

The biggest advantage of students setting SMART goals is that they force a student into thinking through the process to achieve their stated goals. While “getting better grades” is a great sentiment, setting that as a goal doesn’t take the process of achieving the goal into account. What do “better grades” look like? When should that happen by?

A SMARTer way of looking to improve academically, particularly for a student whose grades are suffering because of late/missing assignments, would be to set a goal of “I will begin each week by taking 5-10 minutes to write down all of my assignments for the week in a planner. I will complete each of my assignments at least a day ahead of schedule.” This goal is specific, focused, and measurable, making it easier to see accomplishment and easier to know when the goal isn’t being met. 

Photo by Mesh on Unsplash

And if a student sets a goal that is too far reaching or not specific enough, those goals can be revisited and retooled. If a student’s goal was to achieve a B in Algebra II, for example, that goal can be changed once the student hits that mark. 

On her blog on Scholastic.com, educator Genia Connell outlines her classroom process for using SMART goals, and she provides a worksheet for younger students to think through their academic and personal plans and goals. 

So as we approach the season of making (and breaking) resolutions, students can begin to practice the valuable life skill of setting good, attainable goals for the new semester.

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