SMART Goal Setting

SMART goal setting creates an attainable goal, while developing intentional, clear checkpoints using reasonable timelines
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About This Strategy

SMART goal setting is an acronym (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) that can be used as a comprehensive goal setting strategy to promote ownership and agency for students, teachers, and administrators. The SMART goal setting approach provides a framework to clearly define and successfully complete attainable goals. The SMART goal setting tool can be used by all grade levels to help students achieve specific goals in the classroom.

Implementation Steps

30 minutes
  1. Decide the cadence of SMART goal setting (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly, etc).

    1. Some teachers decide to have students write SMART goals at the beginning of each week.

    2. Some teachers choose to have students write SMART goals at the beginning of each unit or module.

    3. Some administrators choose to have teachers/staff write SMART goals at the beginning of the year and mid-year.

    4. Some administrators choose to have teachers/staff write SMART goal monthly or at the end of each grading cycle.

  2. When implementing SMART goal writing for the first time, it may be best to model writing a SMART.

    1. Walk the participants through writing a SMART goal and consider displaying a personalized SMART goal on the board. Encourage the participants students to create SMART goals that support or align with the classroom or school vision and mission.

  3. When Modeling, work through each letter with the participants.

    1. Specific - The goal should be simplistically written and clearly define what the writer is going to do. This should address the what, why, and how of the goal.

    2. Measurable - The goal should be measurable so that the participant has tangible evidence that he/she has accomplished the goal.

    3. Achievable - The goal should stretch the individual slightly so the he/she feels challenged, but defined well enough so that the goal feels feasible. The participant must possess the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to achieve the goal.

    4. Realistic - The participants may need support understanding what kind of goals are achievable given the available resources. To scaffold support, allow participants to select from a predefined list of behaviors or academic needs to help support the creation of realistic goals.

    5. Timely - The goal should be linked to a timeframe that creates a practical sense of urgency for the individual.

  4. Once the SMART goal setting has been modeled with the participants, participants can begin creating their own SMART goals. The complexity of SMART goals will depend on both the content, activities, and outcomes participants are working towards.

  5. Provide an opportunity for participants to revise their SMART goals, when appropriate, and to reflect on their SMART goals at the end of the activity or unit. - Writing S.M.A.R.T Goals (Source: University of Virginia)

Questions to Consider

  • How could you keep goals at the forefront of students' minds during times when the goals aren't being reviewed?

  • How could you prepare to address any challenging aspects of this strategy in advance?

  • How could you hold students accountable to these SMART goals?

  • How often could you review goals with your students?

  • How could goal setting support students to make appropriate learning choices?

Tech Tools

Google Docs

  • Google Docs is an online word processor (part of Google Apps) that allows you store, create and edit documents collaboratively in a web browser.

  • Teachers can create a SMART goal template through Google Docs to share with students. Students can create their SMART goals and then collaborate virtually with the teacher or their peers regarding their SMART goals. Teachers can provide feedback through the commenting options with Google Docs.


  • Databox is a tool that allows the user to set and track SMART goals automatically. The user can also assign time limits to goals and track progress towards goal completion.

Research Base

In developing this strategy, the following resources were consulted: