Target Setting

How SMART is your target setting?


'The Sheffield College transforms lives by offering outstanding education and training'

(The Sheffield College Vision, 2016)

If we are to transform lives then we must ensure that the learners' experience with The Sheffield College is personalised, challenging and leads to high levels of progress. Target setting is one important tool to support this work.

Target setting is essential for learners for the following reasons:

  • Engaging in the process helps them to maintain motivation for achieving their goals
  • Progress can be more effectively measured
  • Success can be celebrated, praised and rewarded
  • Additional support and further actions can be put in place when necessary
  • It fully supports a positive engagement approach to behaviour
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Targets can (and should) be related to a range of aspects of the learner's personal and professional development.

Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare:

  • Attendance and punctuality
  • Self-confidence
  • Life skills
  • Study skills
  • Digital skills and presence
  • Health and wellbeing (physical and mental)
  • Collaborative working skills
  • Other employability skills such as presentation, time management and customer service
    • Independent working skills
    • Professional behaviour and conduct
    • Respectful behaviours and actions
    • Awareness of staying safe
    • Preparation for next steps
    • Engagement in extra-curricular and enrichment activities

    Their studies (specific and of high challenge):

    • English skills
    • Maths skills
    • Subject specific skills
    • Subject specific personal attributes and behaviours


    Targets are generally set at the start of a course, unit or subject but they should be continually reviewed, added to and changed as required throughout the year. This setting and reviewing can often take place in tutorials but for the learner to make real progress then targets should be a central part of their English lessons, maths lessons, core subject lessons and workshops too.

    Targets should always have a deadline but these can be of varied length:

    • Short-term targets - To be achieved by the end of a lesson, workshop or day. Perhaps to be addressed by the end of a week.
    • Medium-term targets - To be achieved in a number of weeks, perhaps a half-term.
    • Long-term targets - To be achieved over a term or longer- these are more likely to be achieved if they're broken into smaller short-term targets.


    It is essential that learners are involved in the target setting process either through staff developing targets jointly with learners or through learners taking ownership of their targets and consulting with staff for their agreement. There may be some instances where it is necessary for staff to set targets for learners to achieve (often in cases of particularly low engagement in learning for whatever reason).

    Targets can be set, not just by teaching staff but support staff, employers, peers, managers and even parents too.

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    Although targets must be set, students have many choices about how they engage with this process:

    • In workshop portfolio
    • As part of a paper-based ILP
    • On assessment sheets
    • Sticky notes
    • ProMonitor
    • On a blog
    • End of lesson diary
    • Classroom display

    Regularly reviewed

    Wherever targets are held, it is vital that they are regularly reviewed so that levels of progress can be measured.

    Target Plans

    These target plans can be used with learners at points throughout the academic year to promote reflection and provide opportunity for students to set their own targets. They're great to use as preparation for a 1-1 tutorial.
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    Good Practice Example- Highbury College

    Ofsted share good practice from organisations they've inspected and it is the Hair & Beauty department at Highbury College highlighted as doing great work with target setting.

    In the case study, this college are seen to be doing the following:

    • Strengths and areas for improvement are used as part of assessments and feedback but also during all lessons- ‘What am I good at and what do I need to improve?' is a mantra for all of these learners.
    • Targets range from being personal, through long-term career goals to group targets around conduct and behaviour in the early part of the course.
    • Confident use of the college VLE means that if a student cannot attend college, they can still access their Personal Learning Plan from home and download resources to complete work.
    • During a longer workshop lesson, timelines are drawn-up: learners set initial targets and each hour of the session these are reviewed, changed and added to accordingly.
    • No time is wasted: a mantra from staff of ‘not wasting time, not falling behind’ ensures that learners know from the start of their course that it is an expectation that they keep busy in learning, setting and meeting their targets.
    • Progress is indicated in their work portfolios through use of sticky markers as a method of visual tracking.

    You can read more of this case study by clicking here for the PDF

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    Target Setting Introduction Video

    This video outlines the basics of target setting.

    Target Setting and Measuring Progress Ideas

    This video is filled with ideas for target setting and measuring progress in the classroom.

    Click here to access a slideshow of ideas shared

    Target Setting and Measuring Progress

    Great Expectations: Setting Targets

    The Learning and Skills Development Agency put together this advice about setting targets for students within the vocational sector.

    Click here to access the PDF

    Tutorials and target-setting in the effective delivery of vocational A-levels

    The Learning and Skills Development Agency have put together this comprehensive guide with case studies to demonstrate what leads to effective target setting.

    Click here to access the PDF

    Planning Learning and Recording Progress and Achievement

    The Department for Education and Skills put together this guide primarily for those staff working in adult literacy, numeracy and English for speakers of other languages.

    Click here to access the PDF

    Developing effective practice in foundation learning

    The Quality Improvement Agency have put together this guide (including content on target setting) for staff working with foundation learners.

    Click here to access the PDF