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Goal setting is an ongoing and adaptive process. Educators should try to recognize emerging patterns and use this new or revised information to refine their current goals. 

Summer, for educators, is often a useful time to reflect on outcomes from the previous school year. For me, it is the time of the academic cycle when I get to begin to plan for upcoming changes that will help me meet my personal and classroom goals for the next school year.

If you are new to setting teaching goals, it can be challenging to determine where to start this process and how to prioritize next year’s goals and objectives. We’re here to help.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART goals are those objectives that have been well-thought-out, and because you have taken the time (and put in the effort), SMART goals tend to have a higher chance of success. 

The acronym SMART refers to a framework that offers advice on how to set these SMART goals but also what these goals should entail. Like most objectives, SMART goals are divided into three categories –

  • Short-term Goals – those that you plan to reach in the next three months or so.
  • Long-term Goals – those that represent objectives in your and more distant future.
  • Lifetime Goals – primary goals which you reach for during your life.

SMART goal setting is commonly attributed to what was first introduced as a managerial concept by Peter Drucker, with the introduction of the concept known as Management By Objectives. However, SMART goals, as a concept, was first used by George Doran in an issue of Management Issue (November 1981).

Defining the SMART Acronym

SMART goals for education professionals refer to objectives that meet these defined standards:

  • Specific Goals (Simple, Significant & Sensible)

SMART goals must be clear and understandable. 

  • Measurable Goals (Motivating & Meaningful)

SMART goals must be able to establish criteria against which you can measure both progress and completion.

  • Attainable Goals (Agreed-upon, Achievable)

SMART goals are attainable, which means they result in mastery rather than frustration.

  • Realistic (Relevant, Reasonable, Results-based & Resourced)

SMART goals must represent an objective that you believe you can achieve.

  • Time-bound (Time-sensitive, Time-limited)

SMART goals need a timeframe as this creates a sense of accountability. A tangible goal is specific and quantifiable.

How SMART Goals Help Teachers & Other Education Professionals

Educators and teachers will find they receive the following benefits when using SMART goals for education –

  • Student relationships and communications improve.
  • Significantly increase students’ motivation.
  • Support and encouragement for professional development.
  • Improved student performance results.

And as an added benefit, as I became a more goal-oriented, supportive educator, students began to shift their view of my approachability. They began to feel comfortable enough to seek my help when in need, which helped develop more established relationships.

Summer, for educators, is often a useful time to reflect on outcomes from the previous school year.

Setting Your Own SMART Goals

A study by Dr. Heather Camp conducted at Minnesota State University found that a teacher or educator’s goals usually fall into one of four categories –

  • Improving classroom organization
  • Making the most of class time
  • Raising student engagement
  • Strengthening student discussion

These four broad categories offer a great starting point for those new to SMART goals. Begin by creating a SMART goal to help improve your classroom organization, hopefully encouraging the optimization of the time spent in the classroom.

10 SMART Goals for Education Professionals in 2023

From a general perspective, teaching goals fall into one of four categories. They seek to:

  • Enhance a classroom’s organization.
  • Optimize/maximize class time.
  • Increase student engagement in classroom work more regularly.
  • Reinforce student discussion. 

Here are some prime examples to get you started.

1. Read a Classic Novel

Reading is an important life skill. Learning to love reading is a gift every student should receive.

“By [a specific/relevant date], I will start reading [a classic novel] with my students to encourage a love and appreciation of reading while helping to expand their vocabulary.”

S – The goal is specific and to the point.

M – The book defines the measurement of the goal.

A – This is an achievable goal for a qualified teacher.

R – Helping students appreciate reading and increasing their vocabulary is relevant to their learning and growth.

T – The timeframe can be adjusted to meet the needs of the students, or the time permitted to read the book.

2. Understand my Students Better

By [a specific/relevant date], I will actively engage with my students to ask questions, listen and reflect/consider their perspective to better understand these young adults.”

S – The goal is specific – engage with students to better understand their perspective.

M – Each conversation you have is a measurable component of this SMART goal.

A – The attainability is simply achieved by starting conversations with students.

R – This goal is relevant as it seeks to enhance your capability as an educator.

T – The start date would usually be the beginning of school or a new term. This type of smart goal does not need a specific end date other than the end of the school year.

3. Begin a Fundraiser

Students are often inspired by those who display the right attitude and passion for any charitable cause. A teacher, in this sense, is a role model, demonstrating the values and traits they should reach for if they live happy and successful lives beyond their school years. This helps teach children how to think, not simply memorize information for a test.

“By [a specific/relevant date], I want to begin a fundraiser in my classes to raise $XXX throughout the year to donate to a local charity.”

S – Your goal specifically notes that the goal is a fundraiser for a local charity.  

M – Every dollar donated is a measurable component toward the total objective.  

A – This SMART goal is both achievable and attainable. 

R – This type of charitable goal helps to raise the awareness levels of students for those who are less fortunate. It offers a chance to do something good while learning about the real world and those who struggle within their city, state, and country.

T – The timeframe is the entire school year.

4. Organize Classroom Files

“By [a specific/relevant date], I will go through the pile of folders in my desk, prioritize what is needed, and throw out/shred old materials and files.”

S – The specificity of this goal is apparent.

M – This goal is measurable; it begins with a set number of papers and files.

A – Every time you throw out unwanted and extra papers, you are one step closer to reaching your goal.

R – Staying organized as a teacher helps you spend your time teaching, not looking for something.

T – You establish the set date to give your goal a deadline and timeframe.

5. Make Learning Fun

Learning takes on a new dimension by morphing worksheets into games and turning lessons into experiments. In addition, if possible, take the classroom outside and ask your students for input and feedback. Learning should be fun, and because we were all once a student, take a moment and put yourself in your student’s shoes to reimagine how to make learning fun.

“By [a specific/relevant date], I will begin to make changes to classroom schedules – to make things fun and interesting by mixing up games, projects, worksheets, and lectures.”  

S – The goal is simple, change up the lessons and schedules to keep things new, fresh, and interesting. 

M – Every smile or giggle heard is a measurable part of making learning fun.

A – Expanding your use of educational options easily makes learning new and different.

R – Because students tend to be open and learn more while laughing and having fun, this educator’s goal is relevant and could even be considered essential.

T – The timeframe can be reset every week as long as your students continue to smile and learn.

6. Enroll in a Professional or Self-Improvement Class

Professionalism in teaching is an important aspect. As you grow, it is important to stay connected to the incredibly large role and influence a teacher plays in a student’s development – educationally and psychologically. Improving one’s patience, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills can help foster an inclusive and accepting classroom environment.

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As you grow, it is important to stay connected to the incredibly large role and influence a teacher plays in a student’s development.

“By [a specific/relevant date], I will have enrolled in an on-campus or online educational course designed to enhance my teaching abilities and skills as an educator.”

S – This goal is to refine your teaching abilities and skills.

M – Completing the class is the measurement that would be used to determine the achievement of this goal. Note that self-reflection regarding what you have learned is also a measurement that determines achievement.  

A – Attending a nearby or online class makes this goal achievable.  

R – There are only a few things more relevant to a professional educator than improving your teaching skills.

T – The educational course has a defined timeframe, which established this goal’s time limitation.

7. Avoid Teacher Burnout

Burnout is inevitable in most jobs but can be rampant in the world of teaching. Taking the necessary time to care for your own needs (including life’s stressors) is an integral part of becoming (and staying) an effective educator. In a hectic, modern world, finding time to take care of yourself takes focus and effort – but it is incredibly important. You can’t give away what you don’t have – in other words, if you have lost patience with yourself, it is quite challenging to remain patient with anyone else.

The reality is that when you take care of yourself, you will become happier, and that joy comes forth in your personal and professional life.

“By [a specific/relevant date], I will seek to avoid teacher burnout by rearranging my schedule to create at least an hour a week devoted to something that makes me happy or fills my soul.”

S – Avoiding teacher burnout is a specific goal.  

M – Each week, when you have done something for yourself, you will have a measurable component of the objective.

A – The goal is achievable because taking time for yourself only requires your attention and focus. 

R – This objective is quite relevant to an educator’s job.

T – The short-term timeframe is once a week. As a life objective, taking time for yourself should be ongoing.

8. Allow Students More Autonomy Over Learning in the Classroom

While some teachers have reservations about releasing classroom control, the reality is that releasing a tight grip may be beneficial as it begins to give students some control over their own learning. This leads to self-confidence, mastery, and pride in their work. This newfound independence (if only limited) also offers students a more defined sense of purpose and increases motivation.

“By [a specific/relevant date], I will begin to slowly release a bit of control in the classroom once each week and allow students to have more say in their learning environment.”

S – The goal is to release limited classroom control slowly and methodically to students.

M – The student’s performance and behavior are easy measurements of the outcome’s success. Monitor classroom interaction and ask for feedback to gain even more insight. 

A – A teacher has the ultimate decision as to who controls the classroom, so this is an achievable objective.

R – Student learning is the relevant goal.

T – The timeframe begins with once a week but can be modified to meet current classroom needs. 

9. Reach Out to Parents

Most educators recognize the great value parents can have in their children’s educational lives. I have invited those parents who wish to become more involved in the classroom when and where it fits the curriculum. Take the time to reach out to parents and encourage them to volunteer or invite them to classroom events. It is also helpful to assign a family project to students in which they can ask their families for assistance.

 “By [a specific/relevant date], I will reach out to at least ten parents by phone or email about upcoming class projects, events, and volunteering opportunities.” 

S – Reaching out to a minimum of ten parents is the state objective. 

M – When a parent responds, this becomes a measurable part of the objective. Then you can measure the number of parents who attend each month as another metric to determine the amount of your success in meeting this goal.

A – This goal simply requires a desire to do it.

R – This goal is relevant to the overall classroom and specific student success.

T – The time is easily measured by counting how many parents take advantage of your invite every month. 

10. Improve Focus & Reduce Distraction

 “By [a specific/relevant date], I will stop checking emails/texts during instruction time to help raise student involvement.”

S – The goal is NOT to check email or texts. 

M – Every time you fight the urge to check, you are closer to your stated goal.

A – This goal is not only attainable; it should be a priority.

R – This goal is quite relevant as it provides more time and focus on instruction.

T – Check in with yourself at the end of the school day to see how successful you have been. 

Final Thoughts on SMART Goals for Education and Educators

Ever wonder about the difference between a dream and a goal? At its most basic, the difference between these two concepts is that a goal includes accountability and a timeline, whereas a dream does not.

This helps to explain why and how setting and implementing SMART goals allows you to create an action plan to achieve your defined goal.

Remember, anyone can improve if they truly want to make an effort to better themselves. Applying the above tips and techniques will help you give your students your best as an educator – dedicated to molding the next generation’s minds.

Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.

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10 SMART Goals Examples for Education and Educators



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