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Helping Students Set Goals with SMART Goals

Adopting a simple and consistent structure to help students understand and use goal-setting effectively


Students at Cisco Junior High School often use SMART goals when setting their learning goals. Goal-setting is a core component of Cisco’s blended and personalized approach, providing students with more transparency and ownership of their learning. SMART is an acronym that reminds students that their goals must be:

    • S - Specific
    • M - Measureable
    • A - Actionable/Achievable
    • R - Relevant/Reachable
    • T - Time bound

SMART goals provide a structure for goal-setting that is easy for students to understand and helpful for both teachers and students to use. Students and teachers can ask specific questions about each letter in the acronym to help make sure the goal is productive. For example, students and teachers can review the goal, asking questions like “how much/many?” or “how will I know when it is accomplished?” to evaluate whether it is “M” (measurable).

SMART goals play a large role in Cisco’s overall approach to goal-setting. Teachers and students often review goals in small group settings (sometimes individually as well), checking for completion, making modifications to help them meet their learning goals, and setting new goals when old ones are complete. Students monitor their SMART goals regularly (e.g. end of week, end of unit, etc.) and teachers may provide a document that helps students keep track of their progress. SMART goals are often focused on the content area or learning activities, though some students may set management goals if needed.

Student Does

  • Sets SMART goals for themselves based on areas where they want to grow.
  • Monitors progress of their SMART goals daily and weekly.
  • Reviews progress toward meeting SMART goals with teacher.
  • Sets new SMART goals after achieving previous ones.

Teacher Does

  • Guides students through SMART goal creation process.
  • Checks in regularly with students to review progress towards goals and discuss any possible modifications.

Technology Does

  • Provides content and learning activities as possible SMART goals.

Strategy Resources

Cisco Smart Goals Think Sheet

Students at Cisco Junior High set SMART goals - Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely. Learn More

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Setting overall goals, as well as smaller goals as steps to reaching them, encourages consistent, achievable progress and helps students feel confident in their skills and abilities. When learners create their own goals and plan out steps to achieve them, they they strengthen their self-efficacy as they build their capacity to tackle challenges and be successful.

Learn more about the evidence that supports Goal Setting at Digital Promise Global's Learner Positioning System.