Karen Cooney

Art & Design

Airdrie Academy

  • Assessment For Learning

What happens when I introduce SMART targets to my pupils?


  • Raising achievement for all is a key component in Airdrie Academy School Improvement Plan (SIP)
  • Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) states its aim that every child and young person should fulfill their potential.
  • North Lanarkshire is currently rated as the second most deprived authority in Scotland, this prevalence of economic and social disadvantage impacts on the ability of young people and adults to reach their potential, and is reflected in comparatively low levels of educational attainment”. (Raising Achievement for All 1.1 North Lanarkshire Council)
  • “it is imperative that the department of education provides a curriculum and services which challenge and enable young people and adults to achieve whatever they are capable of achieving, irrespective of socio-economic background, gender, race or levels of ability or disability” (Raising Achievement for all 1.2 North Lanarkshire Council)

I am currently working as a secondary art and design teacher in North Lanarkshire Council, raising achievement is a key driver in the authority and has relevance to me through my interest in strategies to increase learner engagement and attainment and my hunch that introducing class SMART targets to my 2nd year pupils could increase self esteem which could potentially positively impact raising both achievement and attainment.

Target or goal setting is an important strategy to encourage self-esteem and a growth mindset in young learners. S.M.A.R.T. targets are; small, measureable, attainable, realistic, timely targets or goals set by pupils to support them in realizing their potential. I was interested in the concept of introducing S.M.A.R.T. targets to this particular cohort of pupils (a class of varying abilities, some behavioural issues with many pupils in SIMD 1-3), as, during their last unit of work, Still Life, I encountered some pupils stating they ‘just weren’t good at drawing’. This impacted the collective class behaviour, engagement and resulting work which clearly reflected this individual lack of self-confidence. Carole Dweck believes, “Having an innate talent is not a goal. Expanding skills and knowledge is”. I wanted my pupils to focus on this and to realiose that, througfh expanding their skills and knowledge, they could achieve success in art and design, even if they did not have an innate talent for it. Noticing that pupils were becoming disengaged, believing they lacked talent and therefore would not achieve and the fact that North Lanarkshire Council are a ‘challenge authority’ with a clear focus and requirement on us to close the attainment gap, I felt that using SMART goals had the potential to address the attainment issue by raising self-esteem.

The frame, therefore, for this small-scale enquiry, is my hunch that setting the pupils collective S.M.A.R.T. targets might offer a solution to the issue encountered and I therefore wanted to use SMART targets to address this and see what happened.


The aim was to explore the scaffolding effect of collective SMART goals linked to a learning experience that was active and creative encouraging pupils to learn through making mistakes, problem solving, resource sampling, individual/class creative discussions, sharing ideas, looking at others’ work and discussing the process of making; essentially whole class involvement with each pupil using their individual skills and strengths to help the class achieve the collective targets.

“A pupil’s relationship to creative learning develops through their personal identity and the way they ‘engage emotionally, physically and intellectually’ to the teaching and learning situation (Jeffrey 2008:4). “There is a strong link between pupils’ lack of confidence and their inability or unwillingness to participate in learning activities” (Collins 1996 cited by Le Cornu 2004:27).

I hoped that by introducing the pupils to collective SMART goals they would each feel a sense of value through their personal contributions to the class working together sharing learning goals, expanding their own skills and knowledge through collaborating with peers, and feel individually supported through collective class discussions sharing ideas to achieve the SMART targets therefore developing self- confidence within the class.

Effective learning in young people has been found to be most successful in classrooms encouraging ‘flexibility, collaboration and tenacity’ (Ainscow, et al., 2000; Lloyd et al., in Head 2004). McGrath and Noble (2007) suggest ‘providing opportunity for ownership of their learning by allowing pupils to have an opinion in the way the class is operated and by showing ‘fairness and nurturance’ (Stipek 2006 cited in McGrath & Noble, 2007) to be successful.

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