SMART goals are one of the practices that teachers and educators can train their students to adopt. However, it is also equally important for them to adopt this practice themselves. Proper goal-setting is an essential part of ensuring that their work can proceed effectively and in a positive direction.
Let’s explore what a SMART goal is and dig into some examples that showcase these measurable goals in action.
What is a “SMART” goal?
SMART goal setting should have a clear end and action steps in mind. A vague idea of where you’d like to end up won’t cut it here. The goal must have detailed (but not too detailed) actions that will show how the goal will be achieved. Including a specific number within your goal is the best way to be specific.
Good example: To lose ten pounds over the course of three months.
Bad example: To lose weight.
In a similar way, a measurable goal has clearly defined markers that will tell you when you’ve reached the goal. Whether by time or cost or amount, find the best scale of measurement to fit your goal and be sure that you’ve used it to write out the goal itself.
Good example: To earn an extra $300 a month for the next six months to pay for a study abroad program.
Bad example: To earn more money.
If your goal is impossible to realistically achieve, you are unfortunately setting yourself up for failure. While it’s important to stretch yourself in order to grow, make sure that you are setting an attainable goal that is able to be reached with a reasonable amount of effort.
Good example: To spend the next four months training for a half-marathon.
Bad example: To start my fitness journey by competing in a triathlon.
Your specific SMART objective should align with your overall personal goals and professional aims, and the action steps that you take for each of these real goals should relate directly to how you plan to achieve them. Keeping your energy focused will ensure that your effort will help you reach your goals instead of going off in a completely different direction.
Good example: To learn more about China by reading one book about the country per month leading up to my vacation there.
Bad example: To take the next step toward my dream of becoming a movie star.
A timeline and/or deadline is critical to knowing whether or not you’ve actually reached your goal. Set your finish date and think of your goal as a destination instead of an endless journey.
Good example: To lose five pounds by my brother’s wedding in two months.
Bad example: To be more active.
Examples of SMART Goals for Teachers and Educators
#1 Example: Lesson Preparation
I will prepare for each week’s lessons by spending one hour every Saturday drafting my assignments, then writing a lesson outline for my three days of class for the coming week.
S: You are preparing for each week’s lesson plans and spending a specific amount of time each week to do so.
M: You can track your progress weekly, and the defined amount of time each week can be tracked as well.
A: One hour a week is plenty of time to prepare for one week’s lessons.
R: A little extra time on lesson planning will do the job.
T: This is a continuous goal. No “end date” is acceptable here since you’ll want to meet the goal each week.
#2 Example: Curriculum Preparation
I will have the next school year’s curriculum submitted to the department by the April 15 deadline. To accomplish this goal, I will spend two hours each week reviewing and updating my syllabus and course assignment list, then meeting with my department chair once a month to compare it to the university requirements.
S: The goal is to have the curriculum for the next school year ready by the deadline.
M: You’ll spend two hours each week, plus one monthly meeting.
A: The time commitment spelled out here is definitely doable over the course of a semester.
R: The extra time doing solo and collaborative work will help you reach this goal.
T: The deadline for this goal is April 15.
#3 Example: Grading Plans
I will keep up with grading my students’ term papers for the final two months of the term by grading at least five each week to meet the end-of-term grading deadline.
S: You are grading the final term paper.
M: You’re grading five term papers each week over a two-month period.
A: Depending on the length, five term papers each week is an achievable goal.
R: Setting aside the time and energy to grade will help you meet this deadline.
T: You’re working over the last two months of the course.
#4 Example: Public Speaking Assignment Schedule
I will meet my department’s public speaking requirements by having four students give an oral presentation on their papers each class period over the next two weeks.
S: The simple goal is to meet the department’s public speaking requirement.
M: You’re having four students give a speech each class period.
A: Four student speeches each class is not unreasonable.
R: The speaking assignment will satisfy the department requirement and help students with their overall presentation skills.
T: The two-week time frame gives a deadline for the project.
#5 Example: Professional Development
I will become certified in the department’s leadership program by attending one professional development session every month over the course of the academic year.
S: The goal is to complete the leadership program.
M: One session a month is easily trackable.
A: One session a month is not out of reach.
R: Completing these sessions will move you towards certification.
T: The academic year (usually nine or ten months) is the time frame.
#6 Example: New Course for Program
I will expand my course offerings for the new school year by using the spring semester to complete and file the required 15-page report to offer a new course, then presenting it to the curriculum committee in April.
S: The goal is to offer one new course next year.
M: The 15-page report is the desired outcome, which likely has additional structural requirements you should follow.
A: This report is a requirement anyway, but it is one of the new ways to gain approval and is definitely doable over the course of a semester.
R: The written and verbal report should lead to the approval of the course.
T: April is the final deadline for both elements of the submission.
#7 Example: Avoiding Burnout
I will try to avoid “teacher burnout” by teaching one less course this upcoming semester and by seeing a mental health counselor for monthly sessions throughout the course of the year.
S: The goal of avoiding burnout is a little ill-defined, but the work involved in this goal has a specific timeline.
M: Lowering your course load and attending counseling sessions are trackable progress.
A: These efforts can be easily made, depending on your other commitments.
R: These actions should help to decrease your overall “burnout level” as a long-term goal.
T: The monthly sessions are trackable over time.
#8 Example: Incorporating a Mobile App into Course Structure
I will incorporate the university’s new mobile app into my classes by posting two discussion questions each week and sending notifications for all assignment due dates one week in advance of each.
S: The goal is to use the university classroom app more in your course offerings.
M: Two discussion questions and one push notification each week is a measurable effort.
A: The discussions and notifications are doable week over week.
R: These actions should lead directly to heightened student interaction through the app.
T: The weekly milestones can be checked quite easily.
#9 Example: Training Teaching Assistants
I will spend time training my teaching assistants to prepare to teach classes on their own. Each of my three TA trainees will teach four lectures throughout the semester, and I will coach them through my grading process through a one-hour work session the week before classes start.
S: The goal is to train the new teaching assistants.
M: You’re providing opportunities for each TA to teach four lectures.
A: An overall total of twelve lectures throughout the semester is achievable.
R: This experience and the teaching goals will help the TAs prepare for classes of their own.
T: The semester-long period is the right time frame to let you track your overall progress.
#10 Example: Building Reading into the Course Structure
I will meet the university’s new reading requirement for my course by assigning a 50-page reading assignment to my students that relates to that week’s lesson, then assigning a 10-question reflection quiz for them to complete online.
S: The goal is to incorporate the university’s reading requirement.
M: One 50-page reading and one 10-question quiz each week is a trackable goal.
A: The reading assignment and extra quiz are not too much work for the students.
R: The extra reading should satisfy the university’s requirements.
T: The assignments are trackable week over week.
#11 Example: Building Writing into the Course Structure
My courses will satisfy the college’s writing requirement by splitting the 4000-word overall written word count into four 1000-word papers assigned monthly over the course of the semester.
S: The goal is to incorporate the university’s writing requirement.
M: Four 1000-word papers is a trackable goal that can be added to the syllabus.
A: Four 1000-word papers help make the work achievable by the students.
R: The total written word count should satisfy the university’s requirement.
T: The assignments are trackable over the course of the semester.
#12 Example: Improving Student Interaction
I want to improve my teacher feedback score on student interaction by 10% by doubling my office hours to two hourly sessions each week, and by speaking with at least two students after each class meeting time to give detailed feedback on their assignments.
S: The goal is to improve teacher feedback scores by 10%.
M: Adding one more hourly office session and meeting with students after each class is a measurable milestone.
A: The extra time is a commitment, but not out of reach.
R: The extra time given to students should go toward increasing the feedback score.
T: The extra time throughout the week and after classes can be easily tracked.
#13 Example: Attending Weekly Staff Meetings on Time
I will attend my weekly department staff meetings and arrive on time by setting my alarm thirty minutes early and aiming to leave for the university twenty minutes early every Monday for that meeting.
S: The goal is to attend weekly staff meetings.
M: The extra alarm and travel time are measurable week over week.
A: The extra time is not too much to ask.
R: The extra time should help you arrive at the staff meetings before they start.
T: You can track your progress each week.
#14 Example: Convert to Electronic Student Record System
I will convert my paper student records to the new electronic system by having my two graduate assistants spend a minimum of five hours each week entering prior student data into the system, with the goal of recording 100 students in total each week.
S: The goal is conversion to electronic records.
M: The time commitment and the number of records each week are defined and measurable.
A: The extra time commitment for this extra project is quite a bit, but still doable for a major priority.
R: The extra time should lead to the completion of all records becoming electronic.
T: The time and number of records each week are trackable toward overall progress.
#15 Example: Receive Grant Funding for a Research Project
I want to be assigned the department grant for my research project next year, so I will spend the next three months preparing for both the written and verbal presentation and working with my current graduate assistants to prepare the 15-page materials addendum in one month to have the best information for my application.
S: The goal is to receive the department grant.
M: Three months preparing for the 15-page addendum and presentation is measurable progress.
A: The overall workload is not too much for this project.
R: The written report, verbal presentation, and materials addendum all relate to the goal.
T: Three months is the defined time frame for this work.
#16 Example: Increase in Parent Meetings
I will meet all of my 60 students’ parents or guardians over the course of the school year by holding parent-teacher conferences for two of my students each week.
S: The goal is to meet every student’s parent or guardian.
M: Two parent-teacher conferences each week is measurable progress.
A: The extra parent meetings are doable for a classroom teacher’s schedule.
R: Holding those meetings will let the teacher meet every parent or guardian.
T: Two meetings a week is trackable progress.
#17 Example: Increasing Overall Class Parent Involvement
I will offer new opportunities for parents to become involved in my class by offering four chaperone spots to each of our three field trips, as well as providing chances for parents to facilitate group projects and competitions throughout the year.
S: The goal is to increase parental involvement.
M: Four parent spots at each field trip is measurable progress toward the goal.
A: Bringing four parents to each field trip is not overkill.
R: Providing these opportunities should increase parental involvement.
T: The number of parents supporting each event can help track progress toward the overall goal and can help parents with their own student learning goals.
#18 Example: Collaboration through Small Group Projects
I will give students more opportunities to learn important collaboration and teamwork skills by adding two small group projects to the syllabus, then assess student feedback through a survey at the end date of the course.
S: The goal is to increase student collaboration throughout the course.
M: Two group projects and an end-of-course assessment are measurable progress.
A: These group projects are easy to incorporate or add.
R: Group projects will directly increase student collaboration.
T: Two group projects throughout the semester can be easily tracked, as well as the feedback assessment.
#19 Example: Student Interaction through Group Discussion Boards
I want to help my students interact more throughout their time in my class, so I will add a weekly discussion post assignment where each student must provide an original post and two replies each week. I will have my graduate assistants spend one hour each week monitoring responses and assigning grades once the submission period is over.
S: The goal is to add student interaction to the group discussion board.
M: The work involved for each student can be measured and graded each week.
A: The student work is not unreasonable for each week’s assignments.
R: These requirements will keep students active on the discussion board.
T: Students’ work on the discussion board can be tracked and graded each week.
#20 Example: Improving Student Attendance
I want to improve my student attendance by 20% by the end of the school year, so I am implementing a mandatory attendance policy and adding a 3-question quiz during each class meeting to provide a graded incentive for attendance.
S: The goal is to improve student attendance.
M: The attendance goal is a 20% increase, and the assignments can be graded as an easy tracking tool.
A: The quizzes are easy to add to the curriculum and will not take up too much more time.
R: Adding the quizzes is an effective tool to improve attendance.
T: Daily quizzes are trackable over time, as well as the overall attendance records.
#21 Example: Adding a Lab Section to an Existing Course
I want to convert my existing science course into one with lab credit, so I will set up a monthly two-hour work session with my department advisor to craft the syllabus and assignments for the lab section with the goal of launching that segment next academic year.
S: The goal is to add a lab section to an existing course.
M: Monthly work sessions with the department chair are measurable milestones to hit.
A: One monthly session does not add too much work on the instructor.
R: The extra work sessions should help to create the required elements of the lab section.
T: The deadline is the following academic year.
By using good SMART goal-setting practices for your own goals, you not only instill the value of this process into your students, but you are also able to set professional goals for yourself as a teacher and educator. Use these SMART goal examples to help you set long-term S.M.A.R.T. goals and short-term goals to achieve your professional pursuits and have an amazing school year.
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