SMART goal setting

  • Be SMART.

And to use them in a SMART way, you must:

  1. Ask yourself the right questions and
  2. Be honest with your answers.

Students Goal Setting

One main reason why people (and why students goal setting find smart objectives so ineffective, boring and in some cases just plain useless, is because it is merely an acronym (for the sake of convenience), yet it is applied too literally by too many people

How you use smart objectives depends on the context of why you’re using it.

And remember, it’s only there as a tool of convenience.

In case you’ve not heard of it before, a smart objective is merely an acronym for.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable – or achievable.
  • Realistic
  • Time bound

And to add the two final parts of this equation that is sometimes used:

  • Evaluate (or assess) new line readjust (based on assessing your achievement – how well you’ve done), and
  • Re-evaluation

When setting goals activities for students, you can really use a SMART objective and actually use it for what it was originally meant for – that is – a useful tool to actually help you achieve what you want to succeed in achieving. Simples, eh?…You’d think so, and you’re right…

The order is all wrong.

Forget the order of the SMART objectives and the two for further things to bear in mind here –

the first 3 parts of this conundrum must be seen in the context of being integrated together and you should be asking yourself questions.

The first three aren’t meant to be taken any form of order there meant to be synchronised and considered together, more or less, at the same time

The second golden nugget of advice I’m giving you here is:

You need to ask yourself a whole set of questions that can be challenging. But by continuing to ask yourself both the right sort of questions – and being fully honest with your answers, you’ll end up achieving what you want

By ending up with the right answers, you will get the right information that will enable you to assess properly what you set out to achieve.

Otherwise, how do you know what you want to achieve if don’t know what exactly you’re trying to achieve in the first place?

So, to summarise – you need to consider realistic, specific and measurable all at the same time.

After that, the timingevaluation and readjustment which comes after you have actioned (had a go, so to speak – since if you want to understand, act…) gives you the opportunity then to re-evaluate against how you initially and originally said how you are going to measure your success.

Are you beginning to get this?

Evaluation and readjustment then becomes a relatively simple and straightforward process based on the hard work that you did previously in the SMART setting process.


Some questions that  might be really important for you:

  • What exactly then,  do you want to achieve?
  • What needs to  change?
  • What do you need to  do to achieve it?
  • What might stop you?
  • What will achieving  this do for you?
  • Where will it take  you?
  • Do you need help  from anyone else to achieve it?
  • What will happen if  you achieve it?
  • What will happen if  you don’t achieve it?


2,3 AND 4

To be ACHIEVEABLE,  it must be MEASURABLE (otherwise, how else can you measure success??). It  follows too that to be MEASURABLE and couched in language that is SPECIFIC.


Ask yourself:

‘I will know I have  achieved this when…’ (List)


Also, to be  ACHIEVABLE, it must be achievable within a specific TIMEFRAME. It must be  TIMEBOUND. So questions to ask yourself:

  • How long will this  take? (by when?) Set a deadline.
  • What exactly is the  outcome?
  • Does this goal need  to be split up into smaller, ‘bite size’ chunks? If so, list them. Once you’ve  done that, put them in order (since one will sequentially follow on from the  other).

Once you’ve done  each of these in turn, does one follow on from the next?

Being smartER –

Monitoring and Evaluating your learning goals


  • How well have you  done this? Grade yourself out of 10.
  • What could/will you  do better next time?
  • Have I succeeded  enough to achieve my overall goal?
  • Have you achieved  your outcome? Explain to yourself (against the criteria you devised for ‘I  will know I have achieved this when’ (List)
  • What does this  success take me towards?


  • What successful  things have I learnt that I can use and apply in the future?
  • If I’ve not achieved  my outcome, what needs to happen next for me to achieve it? (list)
  • And by when?
  • Is giving up on this  really an option for me? What will happen if I do? What will happen if I  don’t?

Also see – a goal setting activity for students – how to apply this SMARTER system to really achieve the results you want