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SMART Goals and Improvement Tools

SMART Goals and Improvement Tools

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson you will learn about tools for school improvement including SMART goals and 10 Quality Tools from the Baldridge Award.

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Source: Image light, Public Domain,; Image of flow chart, Creative commons, ; Image of bucket, Public Domain, ; Image of Affinity Diagram, Creative Commons, ; Image of action plan, Public Domain, ; Image of a survey/checklist, Public Domain,

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Welcome. I'm Trisha Fyfe. And in today's video lesson, I will be covering the topic of smart goals and improvement tools. As we learn about this topic, we will work towards several learning objectives. And together, we'll use the following questions to guide our learning. What are tools that teachers can use for school improvement? And how can we use these tools to better our schools?

Let's start by talking about SMART goals. What are these? SMART goals are a great tool for you as a teacher to help you establish expectations and clarify how are your students going to improve achievement and success. You really need a way to determine if the goal is achieved and successfully completed. And SMART goals can do this.

These goals also help you establish a culture of collaboration within your professional learning communities. You can take a problem of practice and use these as a tool to improve student achievement by working through the process here. Let's talk about the specifics. What do each of those letters stand for in SMART?

S is for specific, and strategic in some models. This is departmental goals and missions, and overall goals. They're often linked to position summary. And they answer the question, who or what are we talking about?

M stands for measurable. This is how. How are we going to measure success for the school? A stands for attainable. SMART goals must be realistic. We need our students or us as teachers to be able to achieve these goals in a reasonable amount of time.

R stands for relevant, or results-oriented. These goals must include the expected result. And they need to be aligned with what we are doing currently, current tasks and projects in one determined area of focus. And T stands for time frame, or timely sometimes you'll see it. These goals must have a clearly stated time frame, with a deadline date targeted.

Let's look at an example of a SMART goal. During the first quarter, Art I students will increase their content area vocabulary knowledge of elements of art, such as line, color, form, shape, and texture as measured by an 80% proficiency on the post project or common assessment. So you can see here, this is very specific. It's measurable. It's attainable. This teacher knew that the students could do this. And they also measured that with an 80% proficiency. It's relevant to that quarter of Art 1. And there's a time frame involved, during the first quarter.

Let's look at another tool that we can use. And this is the 10 quality tools which were established in the Malcolm Baldrige Award. These tools include force field analysis, consensogram, plus-minus-delta, issue bin, affinity diagram, survey, flow chart, bone diagram, graph, and action plan. Let's look a little more deeply each of these tools.

Let's start with force field analysis. This essentially is an analysis of what exactly is helping or hindering our students? Is what we are doing working? Using this tool, students can determine obstacles for their learning and make plans to address those obstacles. You may hear this as finding and eliminating the root cause of the problem. You can use this tool with your entire class. Or if needed, you can use it with just individual students.

A consensogram is just a quick survey. Students here can tell you how they feel or give you their comfort level on a continuum. It's a quick gauge of where your students are as a class with certain goals and objectives. The third tool that we can use on this list is the plus-minus-delta. Plus, we can ask our students what is working. Minus, we can ask our students, what is getting in the way? What are your obstacles? And deltas might be to ask students what strategies would help them move beyond what is getting in their way of learning? What can we do to improve the situation?

An issue bin is a tool for teachers to use that allows students to give constructive feedback about how things are going in the class. How are lessons going? How are they feeling? They can also provide the teacher with insights into concerns that they might have.

So essentially, students write their names on these concerns or feedback. And they put them in a bin or a box for teachers to go over. Oftentimes, a class meeting can be used to go over these concerns and feedback together.

The fourth quality tool is the affinity diagram. And here, students can brainstorm ideas. And they categorize these ideas. So here's a picture here of students using Post-it notes of different colors and in different sections to categorize ideas. It's helpful to first go over a brainstorm together and then categorize the ideas. And oftentimes, I use Post-it notes to do this on the board in front of the class. And students could go up and place their own Post-it note.

A survey is another quick strategy to gain feedback from the entire group, or the class of students. And then it can be used to guide instructional decisions. The next tool is the bone diagram. And students can identify where are they now? And where do I want to be, as well as how can I get there? This is a brainstorm. But it's guided by questions.

A flow chart is a great tool for students. And it can help them improve an area of focus. Here's an example here. Of course, this doesn't apply to the classroom, but helping students to realize that there are connections. And there are different directions for decisions made. The yeses and the nos can lead to different outcomes. So it's a great visual tool for your students to use.

You can use graphs to chart progress. This is another very visual tool for students, and very motivating as well. You can do this individually and have your students do their own progress, or you can use this as a class tool. And we work towards a collective goal together.

An action plan is another excellent tool, where students identify a problem, create a solution for that problem, and think about who is responsible, and is this plan effective? This tool can be used by the teacher or the student to identify these problems and solutions. And you need to create measurable steps along the way. We need to know who is responsible, so we can put this plan into place and get the ball rolling, get the motion started.

It's also important to make sure that your action plan has some way of measuring, is this working or not working? You can use a PDSA, or a plan, do, study, act. This is the type of action plan that's a cycle. They develop a plan for their goal, and then some kind of action to carry out the plan. And then we reflect on it. We study the results of the plan. And based on what we find here, we either act or we continue to revise the plan further and do another PDSA.

Let's talk about what we learned today. We discussed the following two questions together. What are tools that teachers can use for school improvement? And how can we use these tools to better our schools? We talked about two different sets of tools, one being the SMART goals, those goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-framed, and how these goals can be used both by teachers and students in the classroom and by your professional learning community to create goals that will help students improve achievement and success

We also talked about the 10 quality tools that were established by the Malcolm Baldrige Award. And these tools include force field analysis, consensogram, plus-minus-delta, issue bin, affinity diagram, surveys, flow charts, bone diagrams, graphs, and action plans. And this set of tools is important for you to have in your teacher toolbox for both yourself as a teacher and for your students, again to create goals in different ways.

Now that you're familiar with these goals, let's reflect. What are the benefits of using the mentioned tools when working toward school improvement? Can you think of tools and strategies other than the mentioned that will benefit school improvement?

Thanks for joining me today in discussing the lesson, SMART goals and improvement tools. I hope you found value in this video lesson and these ideas. And I hope you're able to apply some of these tools to your own teaching. To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the additional resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Notes on “SMART Goals and Improvement Tools”


(00:00- 00:21) Intro/Objectives

(00:22- 02:46) What are SMART Goals?

(02:47- 03:09) 10 Quality Tools

(03:10- 03:54) Force Field Analysis and Consensogram

(03:55- 04:48) Plus, Minus, Delta and Issue Bin

(04:49- 05:28) Affinity Diagram and Survey

(05:29- 06:06) Bone Diagram and Flow Chart

(06:07- 07:23) Graph and Action Plan

(07:24- 08:24) Recap

(08:25- 09:05) Reflection


Additional Resources

Using SMART Goals to Raise Student Achievement

This presentation walks through the process of establishing SMART goals to improve student achievement. Dr. Bedden links the use of SMART goals to the PDSA cycle of inquiry. Imbedded within the presentation are activities to help practice the development of SMART goals.

Montgomery County Public Schools: Examples of PDSAs

This site instructs you how to use the PDSA cycle of inquiry. In addition, the site provides examples of practical applications for the classroom with images of the process in use in real settings.

Montgomery County Public Schools: 10 Basic Quality Tools for the Classroom

The 10 Quality Tools are a part of the Baldridge method of continuous improvement and quality performance. Montgomery County, as a Baldridge Award winning district, implements these tools to engage and empower teachers and students in continuous improvement efforts.