SMART Goal Setting With Your Student

10 min read
SMART Goal Setting With Your Student

Does it break your heart into a million tiny pieces seeing your child stuck in a rut? Do you observe the cycle of slight improvement or no improvement that leads to discouragement, which further prevents accomplishment or mastery?

Many students drift from lesson to lesson– trying to get work done but the end result is not impressive.

Help your student by setting SMART goals. As a result, your student will gain clarity, focus, allocate resources efficiently, improve outcomes, and increase their chance of success.

In this article, we will define SMART goals and examine how you can teach your student to use them and achieve lasting success.

What is SMART Goal Setting?

What is SMART Goal Setting?
SMART is an acronym that guides goal setting. Each of the letters is an adjective that describes characteristics of goals that are focused and accessible.

smarter goals
  • Specific — This is a clearly defined goal, with no wiggle room or ambiguity. These goals should be simple and focus on one particular outcome. It is critical to maintaining focus and motivation. Otherwise, you may feel listless.
    • Not specific — I want to get good at math.
    • Specific — I want to learn how to multiply better.
  • Measurable — Your student must measure their goal in some way with evidence of achievement. Milestones motivate your student to keep working and achieving.
    • Not measurable–I’m going to study to get better at math by next week.
    • Measurable — I’m going to practice multiplication worksheets and identify where I struggle. Then, I will meet with my teacher to help me clarify my misconceptions no later than Friday.
  • Achievable — Goals need to push you out of your comfort zone, challenging but not stressful or harmful.
    • Not achievable — I am going to learn how to multiply like a calculator.
    • Achievable — I’m going to work on getting a little bit better this week at multiplying. After that, I will review my progress to make a new goal.
  • Relevant — Your goal must meet your needs. It has to be within the realm of possibility and responsive to your requirements.
    • Not relevant — I want to learn how to multiply to get into computer science (But you despise programming).
    • Relevant — I want to learn how to multiply to build my foundation in math (Because you love to learn).
  • Time-bound — Goals need to be urgent and motivating. There should be a sense of immediacy in your goals that push your momentum forward.
    • Not time-bound — I will work on getting better in math for high school.
    • Time-bound — I will work on getting better at multiplying for my upcoming assessment next week.
smart goal example

Broad goal: I want to be a better math student.
SMART goal: I will target my weaknesses to do better on assessments.

Specific — I want to do better on my assessments to apply and get into the colleges I want.
Measurable — I will earn an “A” in Algebra.
Achievable — I will meet with a math tutor and do independent practice on worksheets to improve my skills.
Relevant — I’d like to get into the college of my choice so I can pursue my dreams.
Time-based — I have two weeks until the first assessment.

How Does My Student Use SMART Goals?

Let’s reexamine those characteristics of a SMART goal.


Your student’s goal must be specific. If it isn’t, your student runs the risk of unfocused efforts and a lack of motivation. It’s one thing to say that a goal must be specific, but how do we create specific goals?

Lead your student through the following questions to drill down to the core of your student’s desired outcome:

  • Who is doing this goal?
  • What is my desired outcome?
  • When will I be able to execute this plan?
  • Where are my resources located?
  • Why does this goal matter to me?

For example, imagine that your student wants to be among the top students in their class. A specific goal might be, “I want to develop the skills and grit required to be at the top of my class so that I can get into my choice of colleges.”

smart acronym for goals


Your student must have measurable goals so that they can measure progress and stay motivated. Evaluating progress will help your student focus, meet timetables, and chart growth–your student will feel themselves getting tantalizingly closer to crushing their goal.

Is your student’s goal measurable? To find out, guide them through the following questions:

  • How much/ How many?
  • When will I know that I have succeeded?

Going back to the previous example–Your student should measure their goal of being at the top of the class by deciding that they will have studied and gone to tutoring for the entirety of their high school career.

smart goal setting


Your student’s goal needs to be rooted in the real world and accessible to be a success. Think of it this way, the plan should push your student out of their comfort zone but still be possible. When the goal is achievable, your student has the chance to identify and leverage a variety of resources that are necessary for accomplishing their goal.

To make sure that your student’s goal is achievable, have the consider:

  • What steps are necessary to accomplish my goal?
  • Do I have the available resources to meet my goal?
  • If I don’t, where can I find those resources or an alternative?

For instance, your student might need to do an honest assessment of whether being at the top of their class is realistic based on their current experience and study habits. Will your student commit the time necessary to studying and monitoring their coursework? Adopting a growth mindset would do wonders here!

smart acronym


The goal must matter to your student and must be in line with a broader set of goals. Your student will need your help and guidance in achieving their goals, but it is critical to keep the goals in check. Your student’s journey should always drive them toward their goal, but the plan must be intrinsic–not an arbitrary forced goal.

If your student answers “yes” (or “yeah” in the case of surly pre-teens and teens) to these following questions–then their goal is probably relevant:

  • Is this timing right for my goal?
  • Does this goal matter to me?
  • Does this goal match my level of effort?

Your student may very well desire to be among the top students in their class, but do they fully understand the commitment and sacrifice that it requires? Are they sure that this goal matches their desire? For example, if your student is interested in multiple extra-curricular activities, will an academic goal make life too complicated?

measurable goals examples


Goals need milestones and target dates. A deadline ensures focus and guiding light. This last part of the SMART goal prevents distractions and de-motivating behaviors from popping up.

Check to see if your student’s goal is time-bound by working through these questions:

  • When will I start?
  • When will it be finished?
  • What can I do right now, today?
  • What can I do this week? In two weeks?
  • What can I do a month from now? In six months?

Being at the top of the class requires additional time spent studying and practicing skills. How long will your student work at learning? Your student needs to set realistic milestones for accomplishing snowball-sized goals and building an avalanche of success.

The benefits of SMART goals
SMART goals are practical tools for getting focus, clarity, and motivation. The rigor and planning required to help your student determine mini-goals and milestones. SMART goals work for all people at all times with no need for specialized instruction or training. It just requires planning and the execution of that plan.

smart goals students

SMART Goals for Leading a Fulfilling Life

Why not give SMART goals a shot?

It costs nothing, and it might change the trajectory of your student’s life! There’s no risk.
Do you use SMART goals already? If so, you know the value of teaching this skill to your student.

But if you don’t, and you just learned about the process, what have you got to lose by trying it out? Nothing!

Like I said, SMART goal setting requires no specialized training or any product–just planning and execution of that plan.

All in all, SMART goals can help your student meet their academic goals and start to see real gains in their education. Who knows, maybe your student might even begin to like learning and develop into a life-long learner!