Are Your Goals SMART?

Are Your Goals SMART?

How many of you have had a good idea and set out to execute a project or initiative within your programs without sitting down to outline a clear plan? I know I have.

Those of us who are in the moment - working with students, families, and schools every day – are susceptible to falling into this pattern. Without the structure in place to quickly set appropriate goals, this is a tall task that is frankly unappealing. I hope to provide you with a straightforward framework to use to make sure that we can implement and evaluate our small and large plans.

Enter SMART goals! We are in the world of educational evaluation, so of course, SMART is an acronym. This framework has been used across sectors and is a simple way to make sure that our goals are solid.

S – Specific

Are your goals directed at improving a general outcome, or are they targeted at a particular behavior or academic outcome? We want to make sure that there is a concrete outcome associated with our initiative. We need to make sure that we are expending resources towards a clear goal.

M – Measurable

Can we track this progress? Is there a way for us to know if our students are moving towards the specific outcome that we highlighted? This is the time to decide what data will help us determine if the initiative is working.

A – Attainable

Are you setting out to make sure all students in your cohort become President? This is the point in your planning that you ask yourself, “Is this goal attainable? Is it too lofty? Is it lofty enough?” These questions will allow you to make a plan to achieve a challenging, but achievable outcome.

R – Relevant

Is this goal something that is worth achieving? Does your community (students, parents, schools, etc.) care about achieving this goal? This is the point in the process that you take stock to make sure that your energy is directed towards an end that is relevant to those you serve.

T – Timebound

Finally, we want to set a timeline for our goal. We all know that taking small steps with the help of a deadline is usually the best course of action. Is the timeline realistic? Is our goal set to a vague completion metric, or is it specific? This step is critical to the success of any project.

You can use the above steps at any point in your project implementation. Many people utilize the SMART goal framework at the outset as they are writing their grants and outlining their program goals. Others use this throughout the life of the program, whenever small initiatives materialize, to ensure that there is a system in place to ensure success.

It is a great tool to have in your back pocket! Now that you have the tool in your toolkit, reach back and grab it frequently to ease the uncertainty that can come with planning.


Contributed By Lauren Coleman-Tempel

Lauren Coleman-Tempel, Ph.D. is the assistant director of Research, Evaluation & Dissemination for the University of Kansas Center for Educational Opportunity Programs (CEOP). She oversees multiple federally funded equity-based program evaluations including GEAR UP and TRIO and assists with the supervision of research and evaluation projects.

Follow @CEOPmedia on Twitter to learn more about how our Research, Evaluation, and Dissemination team leverages data and strategic dissemination to improve program outcomes while improving the visibility of college access programs.