SMART goals lesson using the UbD method


As I was brainstorming for the Community Engagement Project idea, I wanted to design a lesson that students could use and apply to their real life. I thought about the skills most benefited me during the academic year. Going through the pressure of balancing studies, work, and family issues, I needed to be more organized and goal-oriented. I developed a habit of setting goals and keeping track, which I had many successes with and still continue today. Decades of research have shown that goal-setting increases students’ goal-setting skills, self-efficacy, and motivation to expand their learning (Schunk, 2003). As explained by Schunk in his research, students used goal settings to plan their actions, assess their progress and initiate their learning, enhancing self-regulated learning ability (Schunk, 1990). While teaching students in college preparation classes, I noticed that planning and following through with the plan seemed difficult for many students. Especially for students with a cultural background that stresses the traditional way of cramming education, in which they are used to being told what to do. Therefore, designing a lesson with a specific model to follow for a goal-setting process, incorporating technology, seemed pertinent and could bring out an outcome of students’ ability to set realistic goals.   

Question: How can students use the SMART goal model to set their academic goals, keep track and reflect on the goal-achieving process with digital tools?  

I designed a lesson plan using Ubd -Understanding by Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) to teach goal-setting skills through the SMART goal model (S-specific, M-measurable, A-attainable/achievable, R-relevant, T-time-bound). Each step of the model will have a sub-lesson plan comprised of understanding concepts, performing, and evaluating. Throughout the lesson, students will exercise critical thinking to set specific, realistic personal goals, set a goal with classmates, present and reflect on the process, and coach family members to set a goal to demonstrate their ability. Finally, students will apply goal-setting skills to set academic goals.  


Lesson Focus  

  • Understanding how to set a specific goal, have a realistic plan, and achieve   
  • Understanding the SMART goal model  
  • Taking an active role in applying each SMART concept of goal setting and tracking  
  • Digital literacy of tools used for goal setting   
  • Understanding how to set a goal with peers and collaborate  
  • Understanding how to coach someone to set a personal goal

The Six Facets of Understanding (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005): 

  • Can explain—via generalizations or principles, providing justified and systematic accounts of phenomena, facts, and data; make insightful connections and provide illuminating examples or illustrations: SMART goals model provides a specific process designed to refine goal setting. The lesson consists of clear instructions to follow, including a template, to go through a series of goal-setting activities as a class. They are measurable, meaning that progress toward the goal can be tracked and measured with real data. There will be daily reflection and weekly evaluation to monitor students’ level of understanding. The lesson’s goal is for students to set achievable goals within a given timeframe. A student who completed the lesson should be able to explain each aspect of the SMART goal framework and set academic goals independently. 
  • Can interpret—tell meaningful stories; offer apt translations; provide a revealing historical or personal dimension to ideas and events; make the object of understanding personal or accessible through images, anecdotes, analogies, and models: Students record their personal analysis of the goal progress through keeping a SMART journal. Also, setting a relevant personal goal shows students’ understanding of analogies to illustrate how the framework applies to their own situations. 
  • Can apply—effectively use and adapt what we know in diverse and real contexts—we can “do” the subject. Students who completed the lesson should be able to apply the SMART goal process to their situations or problems in real contexts. For example, they could use the SMART model to set goals like improving grades or language skills, keeping good habits, or even quitting unhealthy habits. 
  • Have perspective—see and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see the big picture. Students can see the goal-setting process from different perspectives by sharing and doing peer reviews and having classmates as counter-partners to encourage and motivate goal-achieving activities and gain different points of view by doing evaluations together. 
  •  Can empathize—find value in what others might find odd, alien, or implausible; perceive sensitively on the basis of prior direct experience. Setting SMART goals, students consider how their goal affects others. Going through a goal process as a class, students assess the impact of the process on others and learn to collaborate to achieve the common goal. They could also consider how their goal might impact their family, friends, and communities.
  • Have self-knowledge—show metacognitive awareness; perceive the personal style, prejudices, projections, and habits of mind that both shape and impede our own understanding; are aware of what we do not understand; reflect on the meaning of learning and experience. (p.84) Students reflect on their learning and understanding through daily reflection, a SMART journal, and weekly evaluations. Even though they might not achieve goals, they can still reflect on the process and refine the goal for the future. This is the reason why the lesson is designed to go through the goal-setting process multiple times with the class, independently, and by coaching family members so that they can reflect and learn from the experience.  

Overall, the six facets of understanding are reflected in all stages of the SMART goal-setting lesson and also promote Digital Citizenship through the using digital tools to track and achieve real-life goals. As defined by ISTE, Digital Citizenship is “Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.” The SMART goal-setting lesson aligns well with Wiggins and McTighe’s Six Facets of Understanding and Ubd, demonstrating structured planning from backwards design. 


Gonzalez, J. (2014, June 23). Understanding by Design, Introduction and Chapters 1-4. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

SMART template. Retrieved from University of California (2017), SMART goal: A How to Guide

Setting SMART Goals – How To Properly Set a Goal (animated), by Better Than Yesterday. Retrieved from Youtube video.

Schunk, D. H. (1990). Goal setting and self-efficacy during self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 25, 71–86.

Schunk, D. H. (2003). Self-efficacy for reading and writing: Influence of modeling, goal setting, and self-evaluation. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 19, 159-172.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, Jay. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed., Gale virtual reference library). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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