Nicki Murff Goedecke

    SMART Goals: An Overview

    The SMART framework is a foundational tool meant to help individuals and organizations set purposeful goals and see results. SMART goals can take objectives to the next level.

    SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

    • Specific: A goal that is too vague or lofty is difficult to engage with on an everyday level. The more specific a goal, the easier it will be to identify real steps that can be taken to achieve it.
    • Measurable: With no sense of measurement, it is hard to know if a goal is achieved. Finding a system or plan for measuring each goal is critical to one’s ability to achieve it. Built-in systems of measurement that exist in the classroom include exams, skills checkoffs, and other simulation scenario outcomes.
    • Attainable: An attainable goal doesn’t have to be an easy one to reach, but rather one that is doable. Setting students up for failure can set a discouraging tone for the semester. Choose goals that are deeply challenging and require attention, focus, and real learning, but that are well within the scope of what’s possible.
    • Realistic: Similar to setting an attainable goal, be realistic and advise students to do the same. Consider how many hours one can commit to each specific goal, then keep those in mind when setting benchmarks for goal achievement. Factors that need to be weighed include things like class load, one’s personal life, even commute times and homework hours.
    • Time-bound: Setting a deadline not only increases the likelihood of achieving a goal, but it also helps to break the goal down into manageable chunks. The course likely already has a set number of weeks, with exams and finals interspersed throughout. This provides the perfect time-bound parameters for achieving course goals.

    SMART Goals in the Classroom: Tips

    1. State goals from the beginning.

    Along with putting goals on the class syllabus, it is a good idea to take some class time at the start of a semester to review them. Calling students’ attention to the stated goals will keep them from getting glossed over.

    Encourage students to set their own goals as well, using the SMART framework. One article published by Health PEI suggests using six ‘W’ questions – who, what, where, when, which, and why – to help identify and hone each goal.

    2. Write down the goals.

    When discussing goals, encourage students to write them down as the class goes along – both the course goals and their individual goals. Advise them to keep this list handy and refer to it often.

    Come back to the goals throughout the semester, after sessions in the skills lab, or after exam results come back. Touch base with students and discuss whether goals are being met; and, if they’re not, why they’re not.

    3. Foster accountability.

    It may be helpful for students to appoint classmates or lab partners as accountability partners. Give them time, occasionally, to discuss their goals and if they feel that they are on the way to reaching them. If class time is tight, encourage them to meet up outside of class or come to class early to perform this goals check-in.

    4. Be realistic with class time, resources, and expectations.

    An instructor knows the course better than anyone and knows the limitations and abilities of the program. Make informed decisions on what goals should be and adjust goals as needed as the class becomes more familiar. Don’t forget to create goals in addition to the course’s basic objectives. Setting goals for the development of students’ soft skills can help remind them of the bigger picture of being a nurse.

    When realistic and monitored goal-setting is introduced to students early in their career, they can take those principles with them into their nursing practice. Nurses who learn to set goals for themselves in their career are the nurses who continue to improve their knowledge, proficiency, and patient care long after they’ve left the classroom.


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