We are all familiar with the language of SMART goals. While there have been modifications, in the original formulation, SMART stood for:
Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
Assignable – specify who will do it.
Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
Time related – specify when the result can be achieved.
While SMART is a useful framework, it can be helpful to make an additional distinction between performance and learning goals. With a performance goal, the goal is to hit a particular target, such as getting an A in a class, having 70% of students be proficient or advanced on CSAP, making a certain number of sales. With a learning goal, the goal is not the target itself, but to become better. The target may still exist, but is not the focus of activity. In short, in the case of a learning goal, performance is a by-product of learning.
Edwin Locke, on whose research in the 1960s the construct of SMART goals was based, has worked with other goals researchers to further refine when learning goals might be more productive than performance goals. In particular, we use an excerpt from Seijts, Latham, Tasa & Latham to summarize the research that shows that performance goals are useful only when the person given that goal already knows what to do, and that learning goals are more productive when new learning has to take place in order for a target to be reached.