Supporting Student Success: How School Counselors Can Utilize SMARTS

A teacher speaking to a student in a school hallway

In today’s fast-paced educational landscape, students face increasing demands on their time, attention, and organizational skills. For many, executive function challenges can hinder academic success and personal growth. School counselors play a crucial role in supporting students, and one effective tool at their disposal is the SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum.

What is SMARTS?

SMARTS is an evidence-based curriculum that provides practical strategies that school counselors can integrate into their work with students to foster greater academic success and personal development.

The SMARTS curriculum focuses on five key areas:

  • Goal setting
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Organizing and prioritizing
  • Working memory
  • Self-monitoring/self-checking

School counselors can use these components to tailor their support to individual student needs. By understanding each student’s specific executive function challenges, counselors can select relevant lessons and activities from the SMARTS curriculum to address those areas.

Integrating SMARTS into Counseling Sessions

School counselors can seamlessly incorporate SMARTS strategies into individual and group counseling sessions. For example, during a session on goal setting, counselors can use SMARTS activities to help students define CANDO goals (Clear, Appropriate, Numerical, Doable, Obstacles considered) and develop step-by-step plans to reach them. This process enhances students’ executive function strategies and boosts their confidence and motivation.

Using SMARTS with Teachers and Parents

A key strength of the SMARTS curriculum is its adaptability for collaboration. School counselors can work with teachers to integrate SMARTS strategies into classroom activities and assignments. By providing teachers with specific tools and techniques from the SMARTS curriculum, counselors ensure a consistent approach to executive function development across different settings. Additionally, counselors can engage parents by sharing SMARTS strategies for use at home, creating a cohesive support system for students.

Monitoring Progress and Adjusting Strategies

The SMARTS curriculum emphasizes self-monitoring, an important skill for student success. School counselors can guide students in tracking their progress, reflecting on their learning experiences, and adjusting their strategies as needed. This ongoing process of self-assessment and adjustment helps students develop resilience and adaptability, essential traits for overcoming executive function challenges.

Fostering a Growth Mindset

Finally, the SMARTS curriculum aligns with the principles of growth mindset, encouraging students to view challenges as opportunities for growth. School counselors can reinforce this mindset by celebrating students’ efforts and progress, no matter how small. By promoting a positive, proactive approach to executive function development, counselors empower students to take ownership of their learning and personal growth.

The SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum offers school counselors a robust framework for supporting students with executive function challenges. By integrating SMARTS strategies into their work, collaborating with teachers and parents, and fostering a growth mindset, counselors can help students develop the strategies they need to succeed academically and thrive personally.

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About the Author

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Caitlin Vanderberg, Ed.M., is a SMARTS Associate and an Educational Specialist. She leads the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit and provides academic support to students with learning, attention, and executive function challenges. Before joining ResearchILD in 2020, Caitlin worked as an assistant elementary school teacher and with many arts education programs. Caitlin holds an Ed.M. in Mind, Brain, and Education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.


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