SMART goals are a set of strategies used both by teachers and employers, designed to track their own performance levels and improve those of their students and employees. The main focus of the SMART ethos is to encourage teachers and employers to reflect on their present skill levels and those who they instruct, and delineate strategies to improve those abilities.
The S in SMART stands for specific and encourages teachers to be as precise as they can when planning a goal and to write ideas in a simplistic fashion. This involves knowing the answer to as many descriptor questions as possible such as who, what, why and where. By addressing these questions, a specific detailed emerges, which stands a greater chance of success than a vague, unstructured plan. For instance, a teacher can plan to improve overall literacy skills, but this plan is non-specific. A more specific, effective strategy would be to improve literacy skills among 8-10 year olds by thirty per cent within two years.
This step involves being able to clearly assess whether the goals set by teachers have been realised or not. There should be clear, tangible evidence the goals have been met rather than these goals being dependant on subjective judgment. For instance, the projected goal may have been to implement a new system of assessing pupil performance in a specific subject area by a stipulated date. The system would be deemed a success if the system was fully functional by that date and successfully assessed performance as planned.
Achievable goals should be realistic and fall within the capability of the teacher taking on the task. Without the appropriate skills, knowledge and a realistic timeframe, a project is extremely unlikely to succeed. Breaking the goal into realisable steps and setting a realistic timeframe motivates students to work with teachers as they believe the desired outcome is possible. Tasks that seem impossible or beyond the skill levels of certain students are likely to cause a deterioration in motivation and application.
The planned goals should record the outcomes achieved, not simply the activities that went into their execution. In the case of teachers, SMART goals should fall in line with the aims and objectives of the school curriculum and senior teachers. The results should be clear and shown to move the objectives of the curriculum forward. The results should also be in line with parental expectations and help sustain faith in teaching methods.
Goals should be planned and executed within a definite time-frame. This creates a sense of urgency and motivates teachers to perform to the best of their abilities to achieve their goals on schedule. In the absence of such tension, motivation may be lacking and the outcomes suffer as a result. Teachers should demonstrate punctuality and credibility to sustain their own performance levels and serve as an example to their peers and students.
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