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Importance of Self-Monitoring

Self-monitoring is more important than writing the perfect SMART goal

At any beginning, like the beginning of a school year, it is a good idea to set goals. In fact, setting new goals is recommended as a way of making desired positive changes. Most people are familiar with SMART goals. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. When I ask a student his/her goal for the quarter, the student will frequently say, “improve homework” however, improving homework is such a broad goal that it, in fact, contains 5-10 smaller goals such as using a planner, writing in homework, dealing with procrastination, homework completion, and handing in homework to the teacher. Although a SMART goal can include all these steps, these goals provided no way to monitor progress. Therefore, I want to introduce Self-Monitoring as a tool to help students achieve their goals.

So, what is self-monitoring? Self-monitoring was first introduced by Mark Snyder as a way to regulate student behavior in social situations, but that is not what I am talking about here. If a student wants to improve homework completion, he/she needs to regularly monitor progress toward that goal. The use of specific, measurable goals is valuable and gives an endpoint, but, I recommend making a list of strategic steps to help monitor movement toward the endpoint. These use of steps is different from a SMART goal because the focus is on monitoring progress.

As an example, let’s look at a goal to improve homework completion.

Below is a well written SMART goal that I located on the internet.

SMART Goal: During the first marking period, I will complete my homework during the hours of 6 to 7 p.m. on school nights at my desk in my bedroom. After completing my homework, I will put my homework in a homework folder and put it in my backpack. At school, the next day I will turn in my homework to my teacher. I will revise this goal after receiving my first marking period report card.

Back-to-School SMART Goals for Students

Posted on September 24, 2012 by Danielle R. Schultz

The goal includes many details: when and where homework is to be done, where it is to be put, and when it is to be handed in; however, it is only monitored once at the end of the first marking period and -- THIS IS WAY TOO LATE!!!

Instead write steps that can be monitored on a regular basis and will lead to success. Some steps should be monitored daily, while others weekly or monthly. The use of a table works best for this approach. Below are two examples:

Goal – To improve my grades by improving my ability to complete and hand in homework

Daily Self-Monitoring

Week of _____________________

Respond Y for Yes & N for No


Wrote down homework

Brought home necessary materials

Completed homework

Ask for help if needed

Turned in assignment

Weekly Self-Monitoring

Date _________________________

Elective 1
Elective 2
Checked assignments in grading portal                Y/N

Wrote any missing assignments Y/N

Emailed teacher with questions or concerns Y/N

% of homework completed and turned in

Current grade in the class

Rate your week    1 - 5
(1=Poor 5=Great)

Self-monitoring tables can be created for goals specific to the needs of the student. For example, one student’s grades may falter because of difficulty with task initiation, another’s because of poor study habits, or planning for long-term projects. To develop an individualized self-monitoring system, the student should reflect on past experiences and begin using one or two tables, then make adjustments as strengths and weaknesses are identified and the school year progresses. One of my goals for this upcoming year is to introduce my students to self-monitoring.