Collaborative Goal Setting

September 24, 2023

Photo by VietNam Beautiful on Unsplash

Working together to set achievable goals using an adapted SMART process

Dear collaborative discussion friends,

This week we are highlighting one of the new activities added to the updated toolkit. This activity helps participants work together to set practical and attainable goals. Participants also reflect on how working collaboratively to craft goals differs from working alone.

This activity is contributed by Jack Byrd Jr., Professor of Industrial Engineering at West Virginia University and President of the Interactivity Foundation, and is one of the many activities in the Introduction to Collaborative Discussion Module.

If you missed the previous newsletter, Explore the Updated Collaborative Discussion Toolkit, you can access it and our other weekly newsletters by subscribing below.


This week’s activity:

Activity 1.9 – Collaborative Goal Setting

Understand how to collaboratively craft goals that are realistic and achievable

This activity introduces participants to an adapted SMART process for setting goals. Participants work individually and in small groups to create goals using this process. This activity helps them gain a deeper understanding of common pitfalls to avoid when crafting goals. Through trying both ways of goal setting, participants also explore how working together with others affects the process and the goals they set.

Activity 1.9 – Collaborative Goal Setting

Prepare for the Activity

Organize participants into small groups (5-6 ppl). Share this Collaborative Goal Setting Worksheet as handouts or online with participants. Start by introducing the learning goals of this activity:

  • Develop a deeper understanding of common mistakes in goal setting.
  • Learn an adapted SMART process to collaboratively create achievable goals.

Introduce the SMART Goal Description

Review the following description of SMART goals with the full group:

  • S = Specific (things that are easy to relate to)
  • M = Measurable (things that we measure quantitatively or qualitatively)
  • A = Achievable (things that are realistic, agreed to, and attainable)
  • R = Relevant (things that make a difference)
  • T = Time Bound (things that can be achieved within the time available)

Individually Craft a SMART Goal

Invite participants to complete Challenge One on the worksheet, which asks participants to select one of the following goal statements and rewrite it to meet the SMART goal criteria.

  • Option one: “My goal is to have all of my students do well in my class.”
  • Option two: “My goal is to have all of my employees thrive at work.”

Give participants approximately five minutes to complete this first challenge. After they are done, ask one or two participants to share their new SMART goal statement. Briefly discuss the shared statements as a full group.

Break into Small Groups and Practice Setting SMART Goals

Next, invite participants to break into small groups (5-6 ppl) and review the following scenario, shown under Challenge Two on the worksheet, with their group.

Organization Goal Setting

You are the leadership team of a volunteer organization. The mission of the organization is to increase food security in your community. Currently, there are 223 members in your organization, but only 127 members (56%) are actively involved. You want to expand your services but need more members and, particularly, active members to do so.

Ask them to work on Challenge Two as a group. This second challenge asks participants to first quickly write a general goal statement that occurs to them. Participants are then invited to rewrite this initial statement in the format of a SMART goal.

Practice Identifying New Challenges and Crafting New Goals

Invite each group to complete Challenge Three. If required, you can first review the two tasks mentioned in this step with the full group:

  • Each group must identify another challenge for the leadership team in the scenario.
  • Each group will create a new goal based on the needs that they identified in the scenario.

Once the groups are done creating their new goals, invite them to briefly share their statements with the full group.

Debrief as a Full Group

Come back together as a full group and discuss the following questions:

  • How was the experience different when creating a goal by yourself (like in Challenge One) versus crafting goals together (Challenges Two and Three)?
  • Why might you want to craft goals together as a group or team?
  • What are the challenges of doing this together? Trade-offs?

In addition to these debriefing questions, the full description of Activity 1.9 Collaborative Goal Setting includes reflection questions, a practice journal prompt, and additional resources to help participants dive deeper.

Dive Deeper by Pairing Activities Together

Start with Activity 1.1 What is Collaborative Learning?, which helps participants identify characteristics related to positive and negative experiences of collaboration. Next, have participants do Activity 1.9 to learn how to work together to craft SMART goals. Participants can then use the attributes identified in Activity 1.1 to set group goals for a successful collaborative experience.

If you try out this activity, please share with us what you think:

Rate Activity 1.9

We hope this toolkit activity helps participants gain a deeper understanding of how to craft realistic SMART goals that they can achieve and how working collaboratively with a group to craft such goals can add to the process.

Upcoming Events

  • Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago is organizing Guanacaste 2023: The Transformational Listening Conference, from October 5 to October 7, 2023. We are excited to share that Dr. John G. Igwebuike, the founder of Guanacaste: The Lead Listening Institute, and one of our Collaborative Discussion Coaches, will be incorporating part of the Collaborative Discussion Toolkit in the conference this year. All are welcome! Learn more and register here.
  • The National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation 2023 will take place from October 13-15 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Interactivity Foundation, including the Collaborative Discussion Project, will be holding sessions during this event and we look forward to seeing you there. The cost to register is $580, with a discounted rate of $300 for students. For a limited time, the NCDD Member Rate is available to everyone! Get $100 off regular registration by clicking “Have a Promo Code?” (located under today’s subtotal in your cart) and entering “100-off”. Students can get $60 off the student registration cost by entering the promo code “Student-deal”. Register now and save! All are welcome! Learn more and register here.
  • The Interactivity Foundation is organizing a 3-part interactive, small group conversation series, exploring Who are We The People — and who is being pushed out? The events will be held on October 20, November 3, and November 17. Invite your students! Register here.

Looking forward to collaborating,

Ritu Thomas & the Collaborative Discussion Team

Interested in working with us to bring better discussions to your classroom, community or workplace?

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