SMART Goal Setting

The Difference Between Setting Goals and Objectives

"Think of goals as what developmental milestones or academic skills we want the student to acquire in one year. The objectives and benchmarks are showing how we are going to get there and how we will measure if we are making sufficient progress towards that goal."
~ Excerpt from my book, I See You, I Hear You and I Understand.

For students, especially students on an IEP, we are intentional that their learning goals need to be SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. 

Goals are written to answer the questions: Where do we want the student to be in one year? What skills need to be developed? What do we want the student to be able to do in one year? 

In the world of special education, goals need to be SMART goals. When we think of goals for ourselves or our children in our everyday life, we don’t have to be so strict. 

Many people use the New Year to set new goals. We can still apply this framework to our personal goals. 

Here’s how you can think of it. 

To set a GOAL. Answer the question, Where do we want to be in December of 2022? What milestone would we like to have? Think in terms of relationships, professional, health or financial. Support your children by being curious and asking them questions too. 

Declare your goal: 
  • I want to have more time for my friends and family. 
  • I want to read 6 chapter books. 
  • I want to learn how to ride a bike. 

Set smaller objectives towards that goal. What are reasonable benchmarks that you can meet by March, June, September and December? Break down your larger year-long goal into smaller three months chunks. 

  • By March, I will have planned and/or attended 3 events with friends. One each month, January, February and March. 
  • By June, I will have read 3 chapter books. 
  • By September, I will have practiced riding my bike 4 days a week. 

Have you heard of the saying, how do you cross a desert? The answer is “one step at a time.” So that’s what you should do. Set and create habits that you can do everyday that will get you towards your objectives and goals. This might include daily action steps AND daily mindsets. You must first believe that you can do it. The behaviors and actions will follow. 

The other piece of goal setting is to remember it’s ok to fail. Failing as you are practicing a new skill or behavior is a good thing. When you fail, you can learn from your mistakes. And try again. When you take all of these small lessons, you can learn one big skill. Many small skills can develop into meeting a goal or milestone. 

Goals are where you want to be. Objectives are how you are going to get there. As you are meeting your goals and objectives please remember: 

  • Progress, not perfection. 
  • There’s no failure. Only success and lessons learned. 
  • Celebrate all the wins!

What are your goals for 2022? 

For more tips on how you can help support your child and how to bridge the relationship between home and school, visit or join our Facebook Group 

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