SMART Tutoring: Putting Students in The Driving Seat

SMART Tutoring: Putting Students in The Driving Seat

How to encourage students to take control of their learning

If a student feels they are in control of their learning, they derive much more satisfaction from the results they produce.


By having a specific action plan in mind, students are often able to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ a lot more easily by referring to a specific course of action.


Action Plan


The purpose of creating an action plan is to ensure that students feel they are taking responsibility for their own learning. 


As part of your initial contact with a student, ask them to write down which areas they feel confident in.  By beginning your course of lessons on a positive note, you are acknowledging that although they need extra help with their studies, they are already achieving in other areas of the subject.  Then, ask your student to write a list of areas they feel they need improvement in.  Have a look over this plan and give your input, based on examples you have seen of their work or feedback they have received from their class teacher.


At this stage, try adopting a ‘coaching’ rather than a ‘teaching’ mentality and talk through with them, each specific area that they have highlighted.


SMART Objectives


By writing down how you and your student intend on improving performance, this allows you to keep track of progress. 


The SMART acronym first appeared in an article published in 1981 by George T. Doran, a consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company, Spokane.  Used by project managers throughout the English speaking world, this approach to personal development can also be used to empower a student’s learning.




A specific goal is more likely to be achieved than a general goal.  Specific goals must be clear and unambiguous.  Discuss exactly what you and your student want to accomplish and give specific reasons for wanting to do so.




Discuss how you will monitor the progress of each of your goals.  If your goals are not measurable, you won’t be able to ascertain if they have been achieved.  Discuss how you will know when your goals have been achieved. 




Goals must be realistic and achievable.  Your goals should be seen as challenging but not so much so that they seem impossible.  When a student identifies their most important goals, they will begin to think of ways that they can be achieved and start developing the attitudes, abilities and skills required. Once students start to see themselves as worthy of their goals, they will start to feel more confident in their own ability.




As well being achievable, goals also have to be relevant.  It’s important to bear in mind the final outcome when setting goals to ensure that any progress being made is heading in the right direction.  When setting a relevant goal it may be a good idea to ask ‘Does this seem worthwhile?’




By asking your student to set a deadline, you ensure that they are committing to focusing on their goal.  A deadline makes sure that goals are not overtaken by other commitments.  The effect of setting a timescale is that it encourages a student to work with a sense of urgency.



Doran, G. T. (1981). There's a SMART way to write management's goals and objectives. Management Review, Volume 70, Issue 11(AMA Forum), pp. 35-36.


Image credit: Sally Tulane -

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