Mrs. Cook's Corner


Goal Setting: How students set goals and reflect on the learning process in order to improve learning outcomes

I have been teaching 6th grade for the past four years.  As each year passes, I’m noticing that what I’m doing with goal setting isn’t working.

So, I want to try something different.

Currently:  After teaching a math unit, I give the students a test.  After taking the test, students are required to make corrections and fill out a reflection sheet.  This sheet has all of the math standards tested and the corresponding questions. Students reflect on their performance based on the standards. For example, if they missed several questions on a particular standard- they would write a thoughtful reflection based on the language of the standard.  

See an example of my math reflection document here.

Students will pick one standard that they did poorly on and make a plan to master the standard.  Usually they say that they will watch a video and practice in order to get better at the missed skill. Their parents will sign off on the reflection sheet and in a week, students will re-take the test.  The problem with the goal setting system that I have in place is that there is no accountability embedded in it. Students rarely follow through with their plan and I have no time to check in with them to make sure that they are working on it.  The biggest flaw with it is that by the time we have set goals, we have moved on in the math curriculum. That is why I want to flip what I’m doing and find the answer to my question:

How can students use technology to aid them in creating, working towards (learning), and reflecting (making connections with peers, parents, and teacher) on a SMART Goal chosen by them prior to the math unit in order to increase student mastery?

It is my thinking that if students are aware of the standards before the unit, they might feel more connected to what they will be learning, motivating them to set learning goals.  While we are working on the unit, students can monitor their progress and reflect on how they are doing and what they need to do in order to master the skills.

Before they make their goals, there are some questions students need to consider first. (Spencer & Juliani, 2017, p. 131)

  • What do they already know (prior knowledge)
  • What they don’t know (areas of improvement)
  • What they want to master (their goals)
  • What they will do to improve (action plan)

I see these questions as the beginning of the process.  Students will need to take the information gleaned and apply it to creating a SMART Goal.

Here is a video that briefly explains what the letters S. M. A. R. T. mean in a fifth grade class.

As I mentioned above, accountability for both myself and students has been lacking.  In order for this to be successful, students need to continually check in and reflect throughout the unit. If we were to flip the process, students could work together in small groups checking in and reflecting on similar goals. (McGee, 2017)

At this time, I am going to leave my blog as it is because I want to implement this during my next math unit on Geometry.  I will check back in and post reflections about the process and results.


Edutopia. (2014, April 29). Grit Curriculum Lesson: Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals. Retrieved January 20, 2019, from

ISTE Standards for STUDENTS. (n.d.). Retrieved January 15, 2019, from

Lentfer, V., O’Connor, K., Ziegler, B., Krause, C., Donohoo, J., McGee, P., . . . Donohoo, J. (2017, February 13). Help Students Reflect and Set Goals for Powerful Learning. Retrieved from

Spencer, J., & Juliani, A. J. (2017). Empower: What happens when students own their learning. San Diego?: IMpress.


5 thoughts on “SMART Goals

  1. Melissa,
    SMART is clearly explained in the video you shared and I think it is helpful for students to set their own goals to meet the end of learning goal. I am looking forward to your reflection after you implement this strategy in your math unit.

  2. Melissa,

    I am excited to see how the SMART goal system impacts your students as they take ownership for learning. You are demonstrating a ‘Growth Mindset’ in math which is very important for students at all math levels. The video does a nice job of communicating the goal setting for the age group. I appreciate how you are intentionally empowering your students to own learning.

  3. I love how you mention the importance of them knowing the standard before the unit and reflecting on their progress as they go. It reminds me of the UbD framework. It will be so interesting to hear how it goes implementing your new ideas! Thank you so much for sharing what you have learned and for the insight into using SMART goals with student reflection. Best of luck!

  4. Melissa, I really liked the way you documented your inquiry by explaining (and showing) what you are doing now and what you plan to try in the future with your students. It will be interesting to hear how your class responds. I also agree that the video is a nice way to illustrate how SMART works.

  5. All teachers have the experience of a carefully planned lesson that did not achieve it’s goal. I love that you identify this, and come up with a plan to do something different. You are already ahead of so many teachers.

    I also love the approach of having students participate in the goal setting process. This is a crucial change that is required to engage the student in the learning process. I am looking forward to reading the results from your Geometry math unit!

Leave a Reply