Setting SMART Goals in Private Tutoring

Setting SMART Goals in Private Tutoring

October 29th 2015

Through clever use of SMART goals, private tutors can not only help your child's grades improve, but can teach your child how to take control of their own learning - and by extension, of their own future.

If you employ a tutor for your child, it's no doubt because you want to help your child improve academically in some way.

It's not enough to set a goal that your child "must get better grades"; that's not going anywhere other than being a vague aspiration. Instead, a SMART goal is one which is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

You'll probably notice that your child's tutor sets some very detailed goals for him or her to achieve. This is how it works:

Specific Goals

Does your child need to do better in maths? How, specifically? Instead of just opting for a scattergun "do better" goal, we can instead set a goal that the child should consistently receive As on maths homework, where they are currently achieving Bs. Perhaps your daughter is going to be applying to university soon and needs to have read around her subject - so a vague goal might be to be better informed about economics (for example), whereas a specific one would be to read at least one issue of the Economist each week.

Measurable Goals

There's no point setting goals if you have no idea how close you are to achieving them. With grade-based goals, the measurement is clear, but with other tutoring goals it can be harder to measure. There are still ways to make every goal measurable, though. With older students who are undertaking extra reading, we might create a chart or a table to track progress. With a young child whose goal is to up her average score on spelling tests, we might create a simple list of words thoroughly learnt, or a graph tracking her scores. Any measuring method works, so long as the child understands it and can refer back to it to see her progress toward the end goal.

Actionable Goals

This is the element of SMART without which the others are likely to fail. Just having a goal isn't enough, even if it ticks all the other boxes. The crucial part is knowing what action you are going to take to meet that goal. For an improvement in maths homework grades, action steps might include an undertaking to speak up and ask the tutor every time something is not clear, and to go back over homework corrections each evening to ensure that the method is now understood.

Our budding economist might as part of her action plan opt to pick one economics article each week to write a short commentary on, while our young speller might have an action plan involving different sensory spelling activities she enjoys.

Realistic Goals

Everyone knows the pain of giving up on a new year resolution - and most of us fail at our new year resolutions because they are simply unrealistic. When setting academic goals, it's essential that they be challenging, but achievable within the given time frame. Your child isn't going to suddenly go from a D in maths homework to an A, and your A level economics student can't be expected to focus on economics to such an extent that her other subjects suffer.

This part of goal setting is an art - getting the balance right between a challenge and achievability - but skilled tutors are well practiced in this and will know your child well enough to suggest goals which do the job.

Timely Goals

Finally, all goals should have an end date. Get better maths homework grades by when? Do how much extra reading in how long a time frame? Improve those spelling scores this week, or this term? Setting a goal without an end date is a license to ignore the goal altogether. Having a deadline is motivating for children, and good practice for later life.

Your private tutor is ideally placed to help your child set SMART goals for themselves, and this will always involve your child's input. By taking charge of their own education in this way, they become a more active, engaged learner, and that in itself increases their chances of success.



William Clarence Education is the leading education advisory and consultancy service in the UK. With an unrivalled reach into the UK Schooling and University network, we help and advise families from around the world to reach their maximum potential and gain access to the very best of British education.  

William Clarence put the student’s needs and welfare at the centre of every programme of study we deliver with a focus on integrity and discretion.  Services include UK School and University Placement, Residential Tutoring, Oxbridge Application, US College Admission and Homeschooling.

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