Back to School: How to Set SMART Goals with Your Student

Students all over the country will soon be starting a new academic school year. This means it’s the perfect time to reflect on the last academic year and start thinking about setting some goals for the future. Early goal setting is essential for students as it helps with motivation, focus and a sense of direction. Defining these goals, however, can be overwhelming, which is why we recommend setting SMART goals with students. Here’s how to help your student set focused SMART goals to make sure they are on the path to success.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART is an acronym that you can use with your students to help guide the goal setting process.

Specific: What is it that you want to accomplish? Usually answers the 5 W’s (Who? What? Where? When? Why?)

Measurable: How will you know when the goal is accomplished?

Attainable: Is it realistic?

Relevant: Does this goal meet a need?

Time-bound: What is the deadline for meeting this goal?

Why SMART goals?

It’s normal for students to write out goals that are easy to achieve or completely out of reach. A goal has to be realistic with a stretch, requiring the right amount of effort and focus to achieve it. That’s why SMART goals work so well as they break down all the essential parts required to achieve real success.. For example, goals need timeframes and measurable steps along the way so that students can keep track of progress and make any adjustments as necessary.

Setting SMART Goals With Your Students

1. Specific

If students want to make a goal specific, they must focus their attention on what they actually want to achieve. Instead of saying ‘I want to improve my English’, a more specific goal such as ‘I want to achieve a B in my English exam’ will work much better as they’ll be working towards a particular achievement. This focus can also be much more motivating than having broad goals.

To help your students set specific goals, get them to ask questions such as – ‘What do I want to accomplish?’ ‘Why do I want to accomplish it?’ and ‘When do I want to achieve it by?’

2. Measurable

All goals need to be measurable, so you and your students can monitor when progress is being made. This indicator should be something visible like moving up a level or getting the exam grades they need to get into college or university.

To make a goal measurable, get students to ask questions such as ‘How much/many do I need to do?’ ‘How do I know when I’ve reached my goal?’

3. Achievable

One of the hardest things about setting goals is making them achievable but not necessarily easy. This means students must feel challenged but the goal must remain possible. Parents, teachers and tutors will be able to assess whether your students’ goals are possible, with their abilities and resources available to them. For example, if passing an exam is their goal, do they have the correct preparation material to give them the best chance? If they want to improve their vocabulary, do they have the capacity to learn 50 new words a week, or would 10 be more suitable?

Other questions students can ask themselves are: ‘Have others in the same position done this before?’ ‘Can I realistically do it in the time frame I have?’ and ‘Am I able to commit?’ ‘Do I have the time to reach this goal?’

4. Relevant

Goals should also be personal and most importantly relevant to the student. This is because if it matters to them, they’ll be more likely to accomplish it. For example, a student that loves reading but struggles with writing, might decide to write a short story in English by the end of the first term. A student with a dream of teaching English abroad, might set a more long-term relevant goal of being an all-round ‘A’ student in their English studies.

Encourage students to ask questions such as, ‘Am I interested in this topic?’ and ‘Is this the right time for me to achieve my goal?’ It’s also important to get them to consider why the goal they’re setting is important to them.

5. Timely

Finally, students should consider a realistic deadline when setting goals. In fact, giving themselves time restraints is useful as it can push for action as it provides a sense of urgency. For example, ‘I will finish reading this book for English Literature in one month’, or ‘By June I will be able to confidently complete a Maths exam.’

Get your students to consider ‘When is the start and finish date?’ and ‘When will I need to achieve this goal by?’