I am becoming more and more disillusioned with SMART target setting and the related ILP process. I think we need to consider if it’s fit for purpose. The notion is that specific, measurable, achievable, realistic targets will help learners focus on steps for learning. However, what I generally see in colleges and what I experienced in a 20-year teaching career, was that the target setting and related ILP process is too often reduced to a lengthy paper exercise in which many students do not engage. Targets can be set by the teacher, in language that isn’t even student friendly in some cases. ILPs become another part of the monstrous paper trail of FE and only raise their head again on a stressful 1:1 review day. It’s all rather reductive and not a great help in creating an ongoing dialogue about learning.
So I think we need to re-think SMART and put some attention on making targets:
- Student friendly and stretching– in language that students understand and use, with enough challenge to make them engaging and stimulating
- Motivating- linked more clearly to how they connect with the wider learning process and ultimate goals for the individual in work and life
- Actual and authentic– the kind of things that particular learners will be able to do in their current life, so better personalized, e.g. read one article from a free newspaper every week
- Reviewed– in 121 tutorial discussions and in class work activities, so that students learn to self and peer assess each other against targets
- Talked about– in class, as part of lessons and on a regular basis, so that they are real, live parts of the learning process
If SMART targets and goals can be more like this, I think there is a chance they will assist learners to learn more effectively and be a good use of our time as teachers. However, for this to happen, some teachers may need to re-think their approach, review their use of SMART targets and embed them much more actively and usefully into every day classroom practice. Then a real dialogue about learning would become possible.