Typhani Harris | January 2015

New Year… New Resolutions

It is inevitable with each new year we make new resolutions.  Merriam-Webster defines resolutions as: the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.   However, as we ponder our 2015 new year resolutions, and how they tend to look a lot like goals.  Most of our resolutions sound something like “I will eat healthier” or “I will work out more”. Although these are searching for a solution to an unhealthy lifestyle, they are also simply goals for our new year.

Goal setting is a part of our daily lives, but it is a skill not often taught.  Through multiple professional developments we teachers learned about creating SMART goals, but how can these transfer into a concise goal writing practice for our students?

Using the SMART acronym is as helpful for our students as it is for us when designing clear goals.


S: Specific.

Have students choose specific goals that are detailed.  If you are working on a specific technique in class, have students use that technique as a starting point.  Currently, my secondary dance students have just learned pirouettès. Therefore, this is a great place to start their goal setting.

M: Measurable.

This is an important one.  I find students like to choose arbitrary tasks as goals, with no clear way to measure it.  For example, if a student said “I want to do my pirouetteès better”, I would ask “how do we measure that?  What does better mean?”  Have students articulate the specifics of the technique in order to help them find the measurable aspects of the goal.  For our pirouettès example, maybe their goal could include completing one full pirouettè with proper use of arms and spotting.  Here we can measure whether or not the arms are correct, whether or not they used their spot properly, and whether or not they completed a full pirouettè.

A: Attainable.

I love when my students start setting goals because it helps me to see into their future, however, sometimes it is too far.  Keeping them grounded in areas that are actually attainable in the amount of time we have with them is a goal in itself.  For instance having students set a goal such as 15 fouettè turns, is just not going to happen when they are still trying to figure out how to do a single pirouettè.  Although, it is nice to see that they have big ideas for their future technical abilities, it is important that we help them reach the smaller, stepping-stone, goals first.

R: Relevant.

This is another area where students tend to dream big, which is good and we don’t want to stifle those big ideas, but we do want to make sure their goals are relevant to the class and are attainable in the time we have together.

T: Time-Based.

Setting a time limit on the goal places the goal at the forefront of their arts education.  As we move into a new year, and most of us into a new semester, help students make goals that they can reach by May, or even sooner.  Utilize these goals as a part of their grade.  You can even take it as far as having students build a rubric by which you will grade their goal.  This really makes students put their goals into perspective and almost gives them a road map as to the steps they need to accomplish in order to reach their goal.  This will also give students ownership of the goal, as it is not something the teacher said they have to achieve, it is something they personally want to achieve.

Vision Boards

Vision boards are also a fun way to build goal setting into your curriculum.  Students can use magazine or newspaper clippings, pictures, or internet findings to put on their vision board.  With vision boards students can go a little bigger.  Have them include their goal for their class, but also have them include some larger ideas of their future.

Make it Visible

The most important part of goal setting or vision boards is to make them visible!  Be sure to put up the goals, rubrics, and/or boards throughout the room and designate specific times to revisit the goals and visions.  One of the biggest mistakes of new years resolutions is that we make them on January 1st and by February 1st we forgot what they were.  So be sure to have your students revisit their goals and/or boards throughout each month and get them up on the walls so they are constantly reminded of where they want to go!

Happy New Year!

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Executive Director of Academic Affairs, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.