How to Set SMART Goals and Family Expectations

by Andy Minshew


One of your greatest tools as a teacher is parental involvement. When parents and teachers team up, they’re doubling the level of academic support their students have. After your students pack up for the day, they’ll come home to an environment that encourages a love of learning. Whether they’re at school or not, they’ll always have someone who can help them with academic questions.

Setting goals and expectations together keeps teachers and parents on the same page throughout the year. It encourages mutual understanding and a shared vision for their student’s academic growth. Discover the whys, wheres, and hows of setting goals and expectations to engage parents in building a healthy classroom environment.

Why Setting Goals and Expectations Matters

Once you’ve gotten to know your students, set aside time to discuss student expectations and goals with their parents. As an educator, you’ve probably made classroom goals or expectations before. Having guidelines for your students’ behavior and development can help keep them on track.

Students who set school goals early in the year are more likely to:

  • Learn resourcefulness[1]
  • Have higher levels of motivation[2]
  • Develop critical thinking skills[3]
  • Behave appropriately in class[4]

Parents often want to engage with their child’s education but don’t know how. Expectation and goal setting for your students is the perfect opportunity. By bringing parents in for this conversation early on, they’ll know how to help their children throughout the year and come to you with questions later. Plus, if they collaborate with you on these decisions, they’ll be more likely to promote them with their child.

Parents who help their students set goals engage more often with their children’s schools, too.[5And when parents involve themselves at school, their children are also more likely to achieve their goals, feel motivated to succeed, and see themselves as competent.[6] Including parents in the expectation- and goal-setting process makes students more likely to reach said goals and creates parent partnerships along the way.

When to Set Parental Expectations

Some topics to bring up while setting parental expectations include:

  • Contact methods
  • Student behavior standards
  • Volunteering opportunities
  • Academic goals
  • Classroom atmosphere

Parental expectations go beyond simple classroom rules. They’re a collaborative effort between parents and teachers to create a roadmap for the school year. Parents explain their expectations from the school in terms of their child’s education. The expectations of students from teachers are also discussed, as well as how they would like families to engage in the classroom. As a result, both sides set their ideal expectations and make a plan to fulfill them.

Establishing parental expectations encourages commitment and follow-through during the year because they understand your classroom’s standards. It also helps you understand family needs and priorities while educating your students. And, most importantly, parents will feel more comfortable in your classroom because they know you’ll listen to their concerns.

The earlier in the year you can establish parental expectations, the better. If you set goals and expectations during the first few months, you’re more likely to cultivate parent engagement later on. If your school doesn’t do conferences until the middle or end of the year, set up parent teacher meetings instead to discuss expectations.

SMART Goal Setting Steps

Students are more likely to create goals if they have help from parents or educators than if left on their own.[7] While setting goals together for their students, show parents how to set SMART goals. This will give them a framework to then teach their own students to make personal goals. For students, SMART goals can not only boost their academic achievement but also set strong future goals. And, by involving parents, you can encourage family engagement along the way!

When students have goals as a guideline, they’re more likely to enjoy learning, feel self-motivated, and earn higher grades.[8] What are SMART goals and how can you use them to help students reach their potential?

The acronym SMART stands for:

  • Specific: Your goal is clear and involves a specific end objective (like mastering a skill or completing a project).
  • Measurable: You can easily track your progress on the goal and when you have reached it.
  • Agreed: Your goal has been agreed upon by everyone involved.
  • Reasonable: Your goal is challenging, yet within reason to meet during the goal period.
  • Time-bound: You have set a deadline to reach the goal by.

Suppose, for example, one of your students has trouble learning to read and their parents schedule a meeting to discuss it. You could set a non-SMART goal to help the student read better, but you and the parents might not know where to start. Vague goals can feel intimidating for parents or educators and frustrating for your student.

Instead, you could set a SMART goal for the child to read a chapter book by themselves at the end of the school year. That way, you and their parents have a set task to reach that is easy to track and to know when the student has reached it. And, if the student’s having trouble reaching the goal, you can always reevaluate later.

Keep in mind, though, that SMART goals should never be one-size-fits-all. They work best if you use them as a format, but tweak them to your student’s needs.[9] You could, for example, add additional criteria like “Adaptable” or set milestone goals throughout the year.

How to Set Goals and Expectations at Parent-Teacher Conference

One opportune time to bring up goals and expectations is during parent-teacher conference. That way, you and each family can discuss classroom expectations and academic goals early on and encourage two-way communication. If you don’t have a parent-teacher conference coming up soon, you can always schedule meetings as needed.

Try these parent teacher conference tips to set family partnership agreement goals at the beginning of the school year:

  • After sharing classroom expectations and goals, give parents time to talk and, after listening to their concerns, ask questions. You are more likely to set collaborative goals if parents can voice their opinions[10]
  • Make goals as early as possible for struggling students to nip concerns in the bud
  • Incorporate parental values or interests as well as your own when creating goals or expectations
  • Write your goals down with the parents, as you are 33% more likely to achieve written goals than ones kept in your head[11]
  • Follow up about the set goals or expectations in the coming weeks to encourage engagement


[1]Price-Mitchell, M. (2015, July 13) Teaching for Life Success: Why Resourcefulness Matters. Edutopia. Retrieved from

[2]State of Michigan (2018). Strategies for Strong Parent and Family Engagement. Retrieved from

[3]Karabenick, S.A., & Collins-Eaglin, J. (2014, April 15). Relation of Perceived Instructional Goals and Incentives to College Students’ Use of Learning Strategies. The Journal of Experimental Education, 65 (7).

[4]Gonida, E.N., Voulala, K., & Kiosseoglou, G. (2009). Students’ achievement goal orientations and their behavioral and emotional engagement: Co-examining the role of perceived school goal structures and parent goals during adolescence. Learning and Individual Differences, 15 (1).

[5]Rabadi, S. (2014, May 20). 19 Proven Tips for Getting Parents Involved at School. Retrieved from

[6]Karabenick, S.A., & Collins-Eaglin, J. (2005, June). Examining the Relationship Between Parental Involvement and Student Motivation. Educational Psychology Review, 17 (2).

[7]Matthews, G. (2018). Goals Research Summary. Department of Psychology, Dominican University of California.

[8]Lawlor, K.B. (2012). Smart Goals: How the Application of Smart Goals Can Contribute to Achievement of Student Learning Outcomes. Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, Vol 39.

[9]Bjerke, M.B., & Renger, R. (2017, April).Being smart about writing SMART objectives. Evaluation and Program Planning, Vol. 61, pp. 125-27.

[10]Guo, Y. (2010). Meetings Without Dialogue: A Study of ESL Parent–Teacher Interactions at Secondary School Parents’ Nights. School Community Journal, 20 (1).

[11]Matthews, G. (2018). Goals Research Summary. Department of Psychology, Dominican University of California.


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