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Setting SMART Goals for Students

A key part of the International Baccalaureate Learner Profile is that students are able to show independence in their learning and goal setting is a great way to promote this.

Continuous goal setting can support the development of inquiry-based learning, reflective thinking and self-assessment, all of which are key to successful individualized learning and contribute towards building a lifelong learner, as well as developing key skills for careers.

So how do we produce specific goals with students?

Outlining SMART goals for Students

SMART goals are made of five components – they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. This will help students of all ages get off to a good start with the school year or projects.

Start setting goals by encouraging students to consider their desired outcome. For example, this could be something like, “I am setting myself the goal of developing my communication skills as part of my PYP Exhibition.”

To make this a SMART goal, we need to enhance it. Factor in each of the components to create a more measurable outcome. For instance, “By the end of my PYP Exhibition on 18th May 2020, I will collaborate with one of my peers to develop my project and present my ideas to the class at least once.”

Writing SMART goals is a skill that needs to be learned, as we’ve touched on above with regards to individualized learning. But once it is and you have created them, you have a specific and measurable goal to help you succeed. Goals should be realistic – they’ll need timeframes and should be split into smaller, measurable goals so students can keep track of their attainment and make adjustments where necessary. So how do you set SMART goals with students?

Planning SMART goals in class

Planning SMART goals as a whole class is a great idea, particularly before a project or a task. Firstly, to plan for them, you could make students more aware of SMART goals and exactly what is needed to make them SMART, even if they already have some awareness of these. Talk with your class about the acronym and what each letter signifies. You can see our free resource in order to help you do this.

Now let’s compare goals. Why are some goals specific and why are some not? This is ideal in helping students distinguish between SMART and not-so-SMART goals, especially for those students who may still be struggling in understanding the differences.

Now get some paper and write out a mix of vague goals and SMART goals. Ask students to identify the SMART goals, and if they show that they are still not sure in understanding the differences between the two, talk them through the process of making a vague goal into a SMART one.

Let’s start writing SMART goals

Now, as a class, you can start writing SMART goals by creating a planning document with questions beside each component of the SMART goal.

After students have reviewed the planning document, they can then create a statement with their own SMART goals – it’s perfect for this!

You can display SMART goals for students in the classroom or let them keep their goals for future reference – perhaps they’ll even be ideal for parents’ meetings too to reflect on them and how they have supported learning. You can even give this exercise to individual students too, if a student needs a little help with setting goals. This exercise is great for promoting motivation and independence and giving you the information you need to produce individualized learning plans too!

Questions setting SMART goals for students

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