This is the last in our series on the who, what, why, and how of professional development for out-of-school programs. This week we examine the how of building staff skills through coaching and SMART Goals.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART is an acronym for a specific type of goal that emerged out of research of Edwin Locke and Gary Latham beginning in the 1960's. There is some debate about who developed the concept of SMART goals, but most sources agree that the acronym was first used by George Doran in 1981. 

The purpose of SMART goals is to engage individuals in choosing goals they value, which increases their effort and persistence in pursuing their goal. SMART goals help individuals clarify their ideas, focus their efforts, and use their time and resources productively to achieve what they want in their work.

SMART Goals are:

  • Specific – It is clear what you are trying to accomplish.
  • Measurable – You will know when you've accomplished your goal.
  • Achievable – The goal is realistic and attainable. It stretches you, but is possible.
  • Relevant – The goal relates to this skill and what you do in your program.
  • Timeframe – The goal can be accomplished this month.

Why SMART Goals Work

SMART Goals are effective when they are relevant to the individual's performance and the employee has a strong commitment to the goal. It is important that individuals receive meaningful feedback on their progress, including support in adjusting their goal if needed, and continuing the process by setting new goals.

SMART goals do not work when the process becomes focused on checking off goals rather than developing individuals skills. It is easy to get preoccupied with accomplishing goals rather than learning and growing. It is important that staff members and coaches remember that the purpose of setting goals it to help them grow and develop.

Make It Happen

The most impactful process for using SMART goals is through coaching. Click2SciencePD has many coaching guides you can use with staff. Program leaders, site directors, or peers can all make effective coaches and support staff in setting SMART goals. Here are some questions you might use to help an individual set their goal. First, have them write down a goal statement – what they want to accomplish. This will be revised throughout the coaching process. Then use questions like these to coach and help them clarify their goal. 

  • Specific: What specific action will you take? Why is this action important in your work?
  • Measurable: How will you know you've accomplished your goals? How will you measure the results?
  • Achievable: How will you accomplish your goal? What will be different?
  • Relevant: What will the impact be on you, the youth in your program, your colleagues, and/or the organization?
  • Timeframe: When do you want to accomplish the goal? What are important dates along the way?
  • How can I provide support for your plan?

It is absolutely critical that the coach follow-up throughout the timeframe set. Ask how things are going. Give individuals the opportunity to refine their goal if needed. Provide feedback on the process. Set up a meeting after the timeframe for this goal to revisit the process, assess whether the goal was accomplished, and set another SMART goal that will help the individual continue to develop their skills.