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Personal Best (PB) Approaches to Academic Development: Implications for Motivation and Assessment



There are ongoing debates as to the merits of mastery and performance (or competitive) approaches to school and student learning. Mastery approaches are focused on factors and processes such as effort, skill development, learning, and understanding. Performance approaches are focused more on competition, demonstrating relative ability, social comparisons, and outperforming others (Elliot, 2005; Maehr & Zusho, 2009 provide good overviews; Brophy, 2005 provides a specific critique of performance/competitive approaches). Personal best (PB) goals shed useful light on these debates in that they may be a positive blend of both mastery and performance approaches. That is, PB goals may reflect a mastery orientation in that they are self-referenced and focused on self-improvement and may reflect some performance (competitive) elements because the student competes with his or her own previous performance (Martin, 2006). This article explores PB goals, what they look like in the classroom, how they work, and how to implement them from a motivation and assessment perspective.
Martin, A.J. (2011). Personal best (PB) approaches to academic development: Implications for motivation
and assessment. Educational Practice and Theory, 33, 93-99. DOI: 10.7459/ept/33.1.06
This article may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the journal. It is not the copy
of record. The exact copy of record can be accessed via the DOI: 10.7459/ept/33.1.06
Personal Best (PB) Approaches to Academic Development:
Implications for Motivation and Assessment
Andrew J. Martin
Faculty of Education and Social Work
University of Sydney
Requests for further information about this investigation can be made to Professor Andrew J. Martin, Faculty
of Education and Social Work, A35 Education Building, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, AUSTRALIA.
Personal Best (PB) Approaches to Academic Development:
Implications for Motivation and Assessment
There are ongoing debates as to the merits of mastery and performance (or competitive) approaches
to school and student learning. Mastery approaches are focused on factors and processes such as
effort, skill development, learning, and understanding. Performance approaches are focused more
on competition, demonstrating relative ability, social comparisons, and outperforming others (Elliot,
2005; Maehr & Zusho, 2009 provide good overviews; Brophy, 2005 provides a specific critique of
performance/competitive approaches). Personal best (PB) goals shed useful light on these debates in
that they may be a positive blend of both mastery and performance approaches. That is, PB goals
may reflect a mastery orientation in that they are self-referenced and focused on self-improvement
and may reflect some performance (competitive) elements because the student competes with his or
her own previous performance (Martin, 2006). This article explores PB goals, what they look like in
the classroom, how they work, and how to implement them from a motivation and assessment
Personal Best (PB) Approaches to Academic Development:
Implications for Motivation and Assessment
What are Personal Best (PB) Goals and How Can They Motivate Students?
Personal best (PB) goals are specific, challenging, and competitively self-referenced targets
(Martin, 2006; Martin & Liem, 2010). PB goals may take two forms: ‘process PB goals’ and
‘product PB goals’. Examples of process PBs include reading one more book for the present
assignment than on the previous assignment, preparing for a test at the weekend when previously no
study had been done at weekends, asking a teacher for help when previously the teacher had been
avoided, and spending an extra hour doing homework than usual. Product PBs include getting a
higher mark in end of year exams than in the half yearly exams, making greater reading progress
than prior progress, and getting more sums correct in one’s mathematics homework.
For a number of reasons, PB goals have the potential to motivate students. Pride and self-
satisfaction is gained when one meets challenging goals. Further, success on tasks that are
challenging enhances one’s efficacy. Finally, students are engaged and enjoy tasks when levels of
challenge optimally exceed their level of skill. There are, then, self-reinforcing benefits when
students strive for and meet challenging self-improvement goals (Martin, 2006).
How do PB Goals Impact Educational Outcomes?
Goal setting research provides useful insights into how PB goals can positively impact
educational outcomes (Locke & Latham, 2002). First, PB goals make it clear to a student what they
need to strive for to outperform a previous best. Second, PB goals help a student direct attention and
effort towards the goal-relevant tasks that are important to attain educational outcomes. Third,
through self-competition, PB goals may energize the student. Fourth, PB goals may create a gap
between current and desired attainment and the student is then motivated to close this gap. In sum,
there are numerous functions inherent in a PB approach that would significantly connect PB goals
to educational outcomes.
PB Goals and Recent Research
Recently, two studies have been conducted investigating the role of PB goals in students’
academic development. The first study of 1,016 high school students found a positive yield of PB
goals for school engagement, including educational aspirations, enjoyment of school, class
participation, and persistence (Martin, 2006). The second study (Martin & Liem, 2010) used a
longitudinal design and tested the effects of PB goals on a wider set of engagement and
achievement factors with a larger sample of high school students (1,866). This second study was
particularly important because it shed light on the role of PB goals in predicting engagement and
achievement across time. Findings showed that academic PB goals predicted subsequent literacy
achievement, numeracy achievement, test effort, enjoyment of school, persistence, class
participation, homework completion, educational aspirations, and (negatively) disengagement. This
study was also noteworthy because it found significant effects for PB goals across time after
controlling for prior achievement and engagement levels.
Applying PBs as Motivation Goals
PB approaches can be applied in at least two ways: as motivational goals and through
assessment. Applying PB goals from a motivational perspective would involve an explicit emphasis
on PBs as goals that students define and pursue as they go about their academic lives. This is the
main way in which PB goals have been investigated to date (Martin, 2006; Martin & Liem, 2010).
Specifically, research has assessed the extent to which students hold PB goals and then tested this
impact on academic achievement, engagement and motivation. As described above, findings
demonstrate merit in the pursuit of PB goals as a motivational focus.
This being the case, educators can look for opportunities to encourage students to focus less
on comparisons with others, less on competition, and more on personalized standards of excellence
and the ways to get there. Thus, explicitly articulating PBs as a basis of motivation and goals
towards which to strive is a feature of educational practice that can be embedded in the classroom
and also as a value to be implemented across the school and communicated to home as well. Indeed,
it is feasible for education systems (e.g., government) to explicitly espouse and recognize a school’s
emphasis on PBs. In essence, then, one implementation of PBs is as a motivation goal that is
frequently and genuinely articulated and espoused through the classroom, the school, the home, and
the system as a whole.
Applying PBs in Assessment: Value-Added Models
The second application of a PB approach is by way of assessment. Indeed, it is through formal
integration with assessment that PB approaches will most deeply permeate students’ academic lives.
One promising means of doing so is by way of value-added approaches to student assessment.
Value-added models focus on growth in student learning and achievement (Anderman et al., 2010).
Thus, PB goals are clearly aligned with value-added approaches to assessment.
There are two main approaches to assessment. The first form involves comparing students’
raw (or minimally adjusted) performance score against a benchmark such as a state, population, or
cohort. These are known as status or proficiency measures. However, there is growing
dissatisfaction with this static or snapshot form of assessment (see Anderman et al., 2010). Thus,
researchers are investigating alternative approaches to assessing progress across time. These
approaches are referred to as value-added assessment models. It is the growth indexed by these
models that may represent the assessment arm of PB approaches. Here, two growth approaches are
summarized: Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) and Personal Best Growth Percentiles (PBGPs).
However, there are other relative growth models (see Anderman et al., 2010; Betebenner, 2008,
2009; Briggs & Betebenner, 2009 for descriptions).
Student Growth Percentile (SGP) Models
An assessment approach attracting increasing interest involves Student Growth Percentiles
(SGPs). This approach estimates a student’s observed growth and compares this with the growth of
students with a similar level of prior achievement. The SGP approach seeks to ascertain baselines
for achievement growth that can determine adequate growth for students at different achievement
levels. From a PB goal perspective, this may be a motivationally superior form of assessment
relative to the traditional snapshot mean proficiency comparisons. Thus, a relatively low-achieving
student, for example, can be recognized as academically successful through making more than a
year’s growth relative to comparable students. Alternatively, a student achieving highly relative to
the population may be regressing if he/she makes less than a year’s growth relative to comparable
students. Details on SGPs, other value-added approaches, their implementation in various US states,
and relevant algorithms and software applications are presented in Anderman et al. (2010),
Bettebenner (2008, 2009), and Briggs and Betebenner (2009).
Personal Best Growth Percentile (PBGP) Models
Value-added models constitute a significant step forward from the traditional static (snapshot)
forms of assessment. However, there is one feature of these models that may impede motivation:
ultimately, the growth index is relativistic. That is, some students will perform above the average
growth rate and others will not (Anderman et al., 2010). Thus, even if all students and schools
evince educationally-commendable growth, only about half of them will be recognized for this. A
Personal Best Growth Percentile (PBGP) may redress some of the relativistic limitations in other
value-added models.
This PBGP ascertains a baseline rate of growth for each student and then assesses each
student’s growth against his/her own prior growth. This is more aligned with the PB approach to
goals in that the PBGP emphasizes self-improvement across time, not improvement relative to other
students’ improvement. Obviously, prior personal growth rates will need to be adjusted over time as
students move into new achievement bands but it is personally-indexed growth that is the focus
throughout. Because the PBGP is proposed here as a refinement on existing value-added models, to
this author’s knowledge, it has not been formally or technically operationalized. However, growth
maps provided by Betebenner (2009) that profile historical growth against current and projected
growth are close applications. Also, Martin (2010) has developed non-technical (and relatively
informal) PB score sheets for teachers and PB worksheets for students.
Assessment Reporting
It is important to emphasize that absolute, relative, and personal best growth indexes are all
informative for educators and students in unique ways. It is therefore also important to emphasize
that greater insight into the nature of a student’s academic development may be derived through
complementary reporting of absolute, relative and personal best growth. Thus, on important
academic dimensions (e.g., literacy and numeracy), reporting to students may involve four scores:
1) Absolute mean proficiency (the student’s raw score in the context of the entire sample or
2) Comparable mean proficiency (the student’s raw score relative to comparable students);
3) Student Growth Percentile (SGP; the student’s achievement growth relative to comparable
students); and,
4) Personal Best Growth Percentile (PBGP; the student’s achievement growth relative to
his/her own prior growth).
Complementing absolute with relative and personal best growth assessment indices in a
student’s report card may also be quite illuminating. For example, the student who achieves well in
absolute terms but not compared to personal growth in the previous year may be underperforming
relative to personal potential (e.g., receiving an ‘A’ on their absolute index and a ‘B’ or ‘C’ on their
SGP and/or PBGP). In contrast, a student who has worked hard for positive gains relative to their
previous negative or flat trajectory can be recognized for this (e.g., receiving a ‘Bon their absolute
index and ‘A’ on their SGP and/or PBGP). Hence, there are implications for students at all points
on the academic continuum including those with learning-related difficulties and disabilities who
under a SGP and PBGP framework can be deemed academically successful from a value-added
perspective (Martin, 2006).
Important Qualifications to Consider
Although offering new and exciting directions in motivation and assessment, PB goals and
value-added approaches are not without their limitations. Some of these are briefly noted here (and
further detailed in Anderman et al., 2010: Betebenner, 2008, 2009; Briggs & Betebenner, 2009):
It is important to implement PB goals in a way that does not discourage students if they fall
below their desired goal. This may involve teaching students how to set realistic PB goals
and instructing them on constructive thinking to help them persist if they fall short.
Although PB goals may serve to reduce students’ tendency to be competitive or engage in
social comparisons, it is unrealistic to believe PBs will eliminate students’ tendency to
engage in competition particularly within competitive and high-stakes testing systems.
The fostering of personal best goals should not occur at the expense of pro-social processes
such as cooperation, collaboration, and participation (it is encouraging to note that research
has found PB goals significantly predictive of class participation, Martin, 2006; Martin &
Liem, 2010).
Advocates of value-added assessment models urge further investigation into their validity
before rolling out on a large-scale. This would be particularly important for the PBGP which
has not, to this author’s knowledge, yet been implemented (but see Betebenner, 2009 for a
related approach).
Researchers have pointed to the need for value-added assessment models to
comprehensively adjust for school and student characteristics.
There have been concerns that value-added models do not adequately assess the growth of
students at the bottom and top ends of the achievement continuum thus, approaches such
as SGP models that account for comparable achievement levels are vital.
Optimal pedagogical benefit is likely to be derived through regular identification of growth
within each school year in doing so, teachers can more immediately respond to identified
growth rates.
Value-added models can present inherent inequalities. For example, low achievers will
require substantial growth to attain state-mandated proficiency whereas high achievers may
require minimal (or no) growth to attain proficiency. Thus, we risk asking too much of low
achievers and too little of high achievers.
Student growth projections into the future also pose potential threats. For example, there
have been warnings against fatalistic interpretations of poor growth projections. If growth
projections are made it is important to provide a range of projection possibilities and to
change conversations from ‘where will he/she be?’ to ‘what will it take?’ (Betebenner,
2008). This then directs the student’s attention to what they need to do for future growth
(i.e., growth goal setting).
Educators will need quality information and professional development on tips, techniques,
and approaches to dealing with different rates of growth for different students at different
levels of achievement. They will also need appropriate training to help them interpret
growth results.
There are promising developments in educational practice and assessment as researchers seek
to integrate goals and achievement assessment. Exploring PB goals and value-added models of
assessment is one exciting direction for research and practice. Explicitly focused on personal
progress, PB goals appear to be a motivational approach closely aligned with value-added models
of assessment. These synergies hold important implications for educational practitioners
implementing PB and value-added approaches in the classroom.
Anderman, E., Anderman, L., Yough, M., & Gimbert, B. (2010). Value-added models of
assessment: Implications for motivation and accountability. Educational Psychologist, 45,
Betebenner, D. (2008). Norm- and criterion-referenced student growth. Paper presented at CCSSO,
Washington DC. June 16th, 2008.
Betebenner, D. (2009). Growth, standards and accountability. Dover, NH: Center for Assessment.
Briggs, D., & Betebenner, D. (2009). Is growth in student achievement scale dependent? Paper
presented at the invited symposium Measuring and Evaluating Changes in Student
Achievement: A Conversation about Technical and Conceptual Issues at the annual meeting
of the National Council for Measurement in Education, San Diego, CA, April 14, 2009.
Brophy, J. (2005). Goal theorists should move on from performance goals. Educational
Psychologist, 40, 167-176.
Elliot, A. (2005). A conceptual history of the achievement goal construct. In A. Elliot & C. Dweck
(Eds). Handbook of competence and motivation, New York: Guildford.
Locke, E., & Latham, G. (2002). Building practically useful theory of goal setting and task
motivation. American Psychologist, 57, 705-717.
Maehr, M., & Zusho, A. (2009). Achievement goal theory: The past, present, and future. In
Handbook of motivation at school, In K. Wentzel & A. Wigfield (Eds). pp 77-104. New York:
Martin, A.J. (2006). Personal bests (PBs): A proposed multidimensional model and empirical
analysis. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 803-825.
Martin, A.J. (2010). PB teacher score sheets and PB student worksheets. Accessed August 19, 2010.
Martin, A.J, & Liem, G. (2010). Academic Personal Bests (PBs), engagement, and achievement: A
cross-lagged panel analysis. Learning and Individual Differences, 20, 265-270.
... Setting PBGs means improving oneself through learning (mastery) as well as competing against one's own past academic performance (competition). In essence, PBGs are growth-oriented goals for academic personal growth (Martin, 2011). PBG setting is regarded as a useful growth-oriented strategy for supporting both academic and well-being outcomes among students (Burns et al., 2018). ...
... Setting these personally challenging yet attainable PBGs makes learning more engaging and enjoyable. Academic success would be highly achievable, and self-satisfaction and pride would be gained upon success (Martin, 2006(Martin, , 2011. By pursuing PBGs, it is postulated that students would live a pleasant, engaged, and meaningful life, which is the key to happiness and life satisfaction (Burns et al., 2018). ...
... By pursuing PBGs, it is postulated that students would live a pleasant, engaged, and meaningful life, which is the key to happiness and life satisfaction (Burns et al., 2018). Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies indicate that PBG setting is related to a broad range of positive well-being among adolescents, including self-satisfaction; positive relationships with teachers, peers, and parents; school enjoyment; task engagement; class participation; homework completion; deep learning; and flow Liem et al., 2012;Martin, 2006Martin, , 2011Martin & Elliot, 2016;Martin & Liem, 2010;Wu & Mok, 2017). However, we know little about the antecedents of PBGs. ...
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Research has paid growing attention to the contributions of strength-based parenting (SBP) to adolescents’ well-being. However, only a few studies exist concerning the underlying mechanisms involved. Drawing on social cognitive theory (SCT), this study aimed to examine the relations between SBP and adolescents’ well-being through the mediating role of personal best goals (PBGs). We administered an online survey to 268 (Mage = 16.27; SD = 1.25) Chinese adolescents in Macau and employed structural equation modeling (SEM) for the data analysis. The results indicated that SBP was positively associated with well-being (β = 0.49, p < 0.001), SBP was positively associated with PBGs (β = 0.39, p < 0.001), and PBGs were positively associated with well-being (β = 0.34, p < 0.001). PBGs partially mediated the relations between SBP and well-being. There was a significant indirect effect (0.05) of SBP on well-being via PBGs. This study deepens the current understanding about the influence of SBP on adolescents’ well-being. Also, it sheds light on the potential implications of SBP and PBGs in optimizing adolescents’ well-being in the Chinese context.
... More recently, goal theory has expanded to include self-based goals where individuals strive for personal growth and self-improvement (Elliot et al., 2011(Elliot et al., , 2015. Whereas achievement goal theory tends to address the why of motivational striving, goal setting theory tends to be more focused on the what of motivational striving (Martin, 2011), with goal setting theorists articulating the nature of goals that are most effective. One aspect of which refers to the level of challenge; high but attainable levels of challenge are central to growth goal setting (Locke & Latham, 2002, 2013Travers et al., 2015). ...
... Third, growth goals are self-concordant (self-set and in line with one's own benchmark and values; Koestner et al., 2002) and tend to evoke volitional resources that are energizing, especially in the face of task-irrelevant temptations. Fourth, growth goals create a dissonance between current and desired states-a dissonance that students are motivated to resolve (Martin, 2011;Martin & Elliot, 2016b). In fact, this latter point is consistent with SCT theorizing that self-improvement occurs through a cycle of personal discrepancy production and reduction (Bandura, 1986). ...
... For example, students can be taught how to identify clear, realistic, and personally challenging goals (Martin, 2006). It is also important that students are taught how to strive toward their growth goal, such as by mapping out the steps involved in working toward their growth goal and monitoring their progress toward that goal (Martin, 2011; see also Locke & Latham, 2013). Indeed, experimental research has demonstrated the effectiveness of growth goal setting intervention on students' academic outcomes (Ginns et al., 2018;Martin et al., 2014;Martin & Elliot, 2016b). ...
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The present investigation examined the role of teachers’ instructional support (student reports of relevance, organization and clarity, feedback-feedforward) in predicting students’ growth goal setting and, in turn, the roles of instructional support and growth goal setting in predicting students’ academic engagement (perseverance, aspirations, school attendance, homework behavior). Also examined was the question of whether the relationship between students’ background attributes and engagement is moderated by their growth goal setting (e.g., whether growth goal setting attenuates negative effects of low socio-economic status). The sample comprised N = 61,873 students in grades 7-10 from schools across New South Wales, Australia. The results of structural equation modelling showed that perceived instructional relevance and feedback-feedforward from teachers positively predicted students’ growth goal setting; that growth goal setting predicted gains in students’ perseverance, aspirations, and homework behavior; and that growth goal setting significantly mediated the relationship between perceived instructional support and engagement. Additionally, growth goal setting appeared to significantly bolster some outcomes for low achieving students and students from low socio-economic backgrounds. These findings add to the growing body of literature about the positive role of growth goal setting in students’ outcomes and provide direction for educational practice.
... Based on the DMP, passion matters with teenage selfgrowth and development (Vallerand and Rapaport, 2017), such as vitality and flow (Vallerand and Houlfort, 2003;Ho et al., 2011), and this occurs by stimulating individuals' positive goal cognition (Zigarmi et al., 2009;Zhang et al., 2014). Academic personal best goal, a cognitive construct reflecting individuals' goals or standards of excellence that match or exceed one's previous best in the academic context, was significantly influenced by passion (Martin and Elliot, 2016a;Burns et al., 2018a,b) in academic activities and positively predicted engagement and achievement over time (Martin, 2011). For those harmoniously passionate students, they will set an academic personal best goal under strong autonomous motivation and positive emotion for self-growth; whereas for those obsessively passionate students, they will set an academic personal best goal under the psychological needs (Chénard-Poirier et al., 2021) of strong self-esteem and social acceptance for external rewards (Burns et al., 2018a). ...
... On the one hand, harmoniously passionate individuals will experience strong positive emotions and autonomous motivation regarding academic activities, being more likely to devote themselves to learning out of love (Zigarmi et al., 2009(Zigarmi et al., , 2011Park et al., 2012), and achieving or exceeding more challenging goals for selfimprovement and transcendence in academic activities (Martin and Elliot, 2016a;Burns et al., 2018a,b). When they reach or exceed their previous best goals, they will experience a strong sense of self-efficacy and self-satisfaction (Locke and Latham, 2002;Martin, 2011), and will then set another best goal. On the other hand, obsessively passionate individuals will set and achieve academic best goals to prove themselves to their parents, teachers, and peers, and obtain respect and more external rewards (Bélanger et al., 2013), which may further increase their engagement, even excessively (Vallerand and Houlfort, 2003). ...
... Individuals motivated by academic personal best goals mobilize available resources and focus their attention to achieve their goal, which is an important engine to stimulate focus (Cardon et al., 2009), flow experience, academic performance, and sustainable development (Martin, 2006). Setting academic personal best goals not only helps individuals to continuously invest energy in academic activities, increase classroom participation, and enhance learning motivation (Martin, 2011;Martin and Elliot, 2016a,b), but also provides specific information for individuals to achieve the "zone of proximal development" of best goals (Bandura, 1991). Reaching or exceeding their goals significantly enhances their sense of self-satisfaction and self-efficacy (Martin, 2013), stimulates higher goal commitment and achievement demands Latham, 2002, 2013), promotes self-improvement, and enhances academic achievement and success (Burns et al., 2018a,b). ...
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Based on the dualistic model of passion, this study developed a joint moderated–mediating model to investigate the mechanism of dualistic passion on academic thriving. We surveyed 960 Chinese university students with a questionnaire. The results showed that harmonious and obsessive passion positively predicted academic thriving, with the effect of harmonious passion being stronger. Academic personal best goal mediated these relationships. Moreover, threat stress appraisal and academic workload jointly moderated the direct effects of harmonious passion on academic personal best goal and obsessive passion on academic personal best goal, and the first stage of the mediating effects of academic personal best goal between harmonious passion and academic thriving as well as obsessive passion and academic thriving. Specifically, for low–threat stress appraisal and academic workload, the direct effect of harmonious passion on academic personal best goal and the mediating effect of academic personal best goal were stronger. Meanwhile, for high–threat stress appraisal and academic workload, the same applied for obsessive passion. These findings provide important implications for educational practice by highlighting an underlying mechanism of how and when dualistic passion, particularly for obsessive passion, can initiate and maintain academic thriving.
... Elliot et al. (2015) introduced potential-based goals as another type of achievement goal, however, they have hardly been investigated since. Investigations into potential-based achievement goals are especially important to better understand self-based standards in motivational research (Martin, 2006(Martin, , 2011. In line with growth approaches to student development, goals focused on future possibilities are considered very relevant to education and academic development in terms of associations with learning processes and outcomes (see Martin, 2015, for an overview). ...
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Goals are a core aspect of motivation. Elliot et al. (2015) introduced potential‐based goals as a type of self‐based goals that are conceptualised as seeking to do as well as one possibly could (potential approach goals) or seeking to avoid doing worse than one possibly could (potential avoidance goals). We follow up on this construct by examining its factorial structure and investigating its associations with intrinsic motivation and performance. We assessed 436 Iranian university students' potential‐based goals at the beginning of an English course, intrinsic motivation during the semester and end‐of‐course performance. Results attested factional separability similar to the original work, supporting generalisability concerning more collectivistic contexts. Potential approach goals were positively associated with intrinsic motivation and performance, while potential avoidance goals were negatively associated with performance, also after controlling for demographics. Overall, this affirms the relevance of potential‐based goals for a comprehensive understanding of how goals motivate individuals.
... Accordingly, establishing goals leads students to focus their attention and effort on those goal-relevant tasks that are crucial to attain their educational outcomes. In this regard, Martin (2011) suggested that establishing goals motivated students to fill the gap between their current and desired attainment. The more goals are perceived as challenging by students, the higher is their perceived internal pressure to perform up to their best, to invest energy in the enterprise, and to strive to succeed (Senko, Hulleman, & Harackiewicz, 2011). ...
A Bayesian longitudinal moderated mediational model was used to test the effect of students' daily/proximal self-set goals on a final course grade through daily study performance. Thirty-six daily diaries were completed twice a day by 147 sophomore students. Study goals were self-set in the morning and daily performance was self-assessed in the evening. Two independent coders, blind to the hypotheses, evaluated goal specificity and difficulty. The relationship between the goals and final grade was mediated by daily performance, and occurred only in the case of goals high in specificity and of moderate difficulty
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In educational settings, the notion of ‘achieving optimal best’ in a subject matter (e.g., an elementary school student’s achievement in her Year 6 Science project) is of considerable interest and relevance for educators. Optimal best, or optimal functioning, reflects the proactivity, positivity, and motivation of a person. How does a student achieve optimal best in Calculus? Our extensive research of optimal best has recognized the potency of the process of human optimization, which may operate to explain a person’s successful experience and achievement of optimal best. Recently, researchers have considered another theoretical concept, which is termed as ‘goals of best practice’ (i.e., abbreviated as ‘GsBP’). Goals of best practice, in brief, are personal goals that a person may construct and set for a particular context. Specifically, however, a ‘personal goal’ may indicate and espouse a person’s plan of intent to either remain on course without any desire or aspiration (i.e., ‘goal of actual best’, denoted as ‘GAB’) or, alternatively, to strive for maximization (i.e., ‘goal of optimal best’, denoted as ‘GOB’). This article is theoretical and conceptual, reflecting the use of the paradigm of philosophical psychology to advance the study of the concept of GsBP. Specifically, we contend that our conceptual analysis of GsBP, entailing both GAB and GOB may provide a logical basis and rationale for the proposition of educational implications for consideration and inquiries for continuing research development.
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One interesting observation that we may all concur with is that many experts, or those who are extremely knowledgeable and well-versed in their respective domains of functioning, become “mediocre” and lose their “touch of invincibility” over time. For example, in the world of professional football, it has been argued that an elite football coach would lose his/her air of invincibility and demise after 10–15 years at the top. Why is this the case? There are different reasons and contrasting viewpoints that have been offered to account for this observed demise. One notable concept, recently introduced to explain this decline, is known as cognitive entrenchment, which is concerned with a high level of stability in one's domain schemas (Dane, 2010). This entrenchment or “situated fixation,” from our proposition, may act to deter the flexibility and/or willingness of a person to adapt to a new context or situation. Some writers, on this basis, have argued that cognitive entrenchment would help explain the demise of some experts and/or why some students have difficulties adapting to new situations. An initial inspection would seem to indicate that cognitive entrenchment is detrimental, potentially imparting evidence of inflexibility, difficulty, and/or the unwillingness of a person to adapt to new contexts (Dane, 2010). This premise importantly connotes that expertise may constrain a person from being flexible, innovative, and/or creative to ongoing changes. In this analysis, an expert may experience a cognitive state of entrenchment, facilitated in this case by his/her own experience, knowledge, and/or theoretical understanding of a subject matter. Having said this, however, it is also a plausibility that cognitive entrenchment in itself espouses some form of positivity, giving rise to improvement and/or achievement of different types of adaptive outcomes. Drawing from our existing research development, we propose in this conceptual analysis article that personal “entrenchment” to a particular context (e.g., the situated fixation of a football coach to a particular training methodology) may closely relate to three major elements: self-cognizance of cognitive load imposition, a need for efficiency, and the quest for stability and comfort. As we explore later, there is credence to accept the “positivity” of cognitive entrenchment—that by nature, for example, a person would purposively choose the status quo in order to minimize cognitive load imposition, optimize efficiency, and/or to achieve minimum disruption and a high level of comfort, which could then “optimize” his/her learning experiences. We strongly believe that our propositions, which consider eight in this article, are of significance and may, importantly, provide grounding for further research development into the validity of cognitive entrenchment.
We recently advanced the study of positive psychology by introducing the theory of optimization, which explains the underlying process of optimal best. Our continuing research interest has led us to a newly developed concept, termed as ‘optimal efficiency’. Optimal efficiency, we contend, focuses on the utilization of resources as well as the amount of time and effort that a person would have to expend during the course of his/her learning. How much time and effort, for example, should a student expend before it is perceived as being ‘inefficient’? Optimal efficiency, in this analysis, is concerned with an important relationship – namely: the minimization of expenditure of time, effort, resources, etc. versus the maximization in productivity. Perceived efficiency is related to the teaching and training of judgment, decision making, autonomy, and self-determination – for example, in terms of successful schooling, a student has to decide whether it is worthwhile to expend so much time and effort on a given task when he/she may not necessarily pass. In our conceptual analysis and proposition of optimal efficiency, we consider the impact of cognitive load theory, which places emphasis on calculated investment and subsequent use of cognitive resources to process information for the purpose of achieving effective learning in a subject matter. Using cognitive load theory as a basis, we attempt to validate the concept of optimal efficiency by taking into account three main types of cognitive load imposition: extraneous, intrinsic, and germane. For example, we consider the possibility that a reduction in extraneous cognitive load imposition could instill a perception of efficiency, resulting in a person's achievement of optimal best. Emphasis on encouragement of germane cognitive load, in contrast, could be perceived as being more efficient, likewise yielding exceptional outcomes in a subject matter.
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The present study considered global self-esteem and academic self-efficacy as two contrasting precursors and distinctive pathways that could account for effective schooling experiences: (1) the social pathway (e.g., the predictive effect of teacher–student social relationship) and (2) the personal pathway (e.g., the predictive effect of a child’s recognition of realistic best practice). This theoretical–conceptual model for examination, which we tested with a cohort of secondary school students from Taiwan (N = 750 Year 11) affirmed the direct and potential mediating effects of social relationships, personal well-being, best practice, positive emotions, and academic striving. Causal modeling techniques used showed a number of significant findings—for example: the direct effect of teacher–student social relationship on a student’s experience of positive emotions, the direct effects of a student’s belief of optimal best practice and academic striving on his/her academic achievement, and the potential mediating role of personal well-being between global self-esteem and a student’s recognition of realistic best. This evidence, overall, makes substantive theoretical and methodological contributions to the study of positive schooling experiences, using social psychology and educational psychology theories as a basis for further development. One distinction, in this case, entails our intricate conceptualization of two contrasting courses of action that a student may experience. Moreover, from an applied practice point of view, our research inquiry has informed educators, researchers, and stakeholders of different viewpoints that could foster proactive social relationships, subjective well-being, positive emotional functioning, and academic performance at school.
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Achievement has been, and remains, a topic of continuing concern for societies, institutions, groups, and the individuals who compose them. Factors that result in achievement are many and varied, but it is widely assumed that one of its primary elements is motivation. Numerous theoretical perspectives on the nature and nurture of motivation exist; one theory that has garnered considerable attention in recent years is achievement goal theory (also referred to as goal orientation theory). We summarize here the major ndings and assumptions, both past and current, of this theoretical perspective and its implications for schooling. We conclude with a commentary on remaining challenges and future directions.
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The authors summarize 35 years of empirical research on goal-setting theory. They describe the core findings of the theory, the mechanisms by which goals operate, moderators of goal effects, the relation of goals and satisfaction, and the role of goals as mediators of incentives. The external validity and practical significance of goal-setting theory are explained, and new directions in goal-setting research are discussed. The relationships of goal setting to other theories are described as are the theory’s limitations.
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Using a cross-lagged analytic framework, the present study examined (1) the relative salience of prior academic personal bests (PBs) in predicting subsequent engagement and achievement compared with (2) the relative salience of prior engagement and achievement in predicting subsequent PBs. Academic PBs, engagement, and achievement measures were administered to 1866 high school students at two time waves across a one-year interval. Path models suggest the salience of prior academic PBs over subsequent engagement and achievement, and in some instances, evidence of reciprocal effects. The findings hold substantive, applied, and methodological implications for researchers and practitioners seeking to improve students' academic development through academic PBs.
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This study seeks to identify the cornerstones of personal bests (PBs) in the educational setting. The study proposes a multidimensional PB model in which students are most likely to attain PBs on tasks/goals that are (1) specific, (2) challenging, (3) competitively self-referenced, and (4) self-improvement based. The study draws upon data from 1,016 students from 5 Australian high schools. The hypothesized 4-factor structure, its invariance across gender and year-level, and the predictive utility of PBs are tested using confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation models with particular focus on the contribution of a higher-order PB construct to measures of persistence, class participation, educational aspirations, and enjoyment of school. The fundamental dimensions of the model are further tested using multidimensional scaling. The 4-factor structure fit the data well and significantly predicted persistence, class participation, educational aspirations, and enjoyment of school. The multidimensional scaling indicates that the 4 component factors can be defined in terms of the dual extent to which they reflect a clear goal focus and a self-improvement focus. Discussion centres on a proposed 'Quadriploar PB Model' emanating from the data analysis and strategies educators can use to facilitate PBs in the classroom.
In this article, we examine the relations of value-added models of measuring academic achievement to student motivation. Using an achievement goal orientation theory perspective, we argue that value-added models, which focus on the progress of individual students over time, are more closely aligned with research on student motivation than are more traditional approaches to measuring achievement in a high-stakes testing environment. Although differing approaches to value-added assessment have been proposed, the core elements of the models are similar. We propose that the assessment data provided by value-added models has the potential to positively affect academic motivation, particularly when viewed through the lens of goal orientation theory.
The large body of goal theory research that has induced performance goals or included them on forced-choice questionnaires has produced coherent results. However, the few studies available on the matter suggest that students rarely generate performance goals spontaneously, if performance goals are defined in normative terms (i.e., outperforming peers). Furthermore, although students may need something more or different from mastery goals to help them mobilize to succeed in certain achievement situations, concerns about peer comparisons or competition are likely to distract them from a focus on doing what is necessary to get ready for the test. Finally, evidence is emerging that students disposed toward performance-approach goal orientations in the present are at risk for shifting to performance-avoidance goal orientations in the future and that students' responses to performance-approach goal scales are more reflective of their past achievement histories in the domain than of motivational states likely to exert forward effects on subsequent achievement. Therefore, rather than characterize potentially productive nonmastery goals as performance-approach goals (which connotes social comparisons), goal theorists should characterize them as outcome goals or use other terms that emphasize achievement but not competition. In particular, they should avoid suggesting that teachers should encourage performance-approach goals that involve peer comparisons.
Over the last decade, large scale annual testing has provided states with unprece-dented access to longitudinal student data. Current use of this data focuses primarily upon analyses of growth most often directed toward accountability decisions. Analy-ses using this longitudinal data source for other purposes have gone largely untapped. This paper introduces analysis techniques and results showing how student growth per-centiles, a normative growth analysis technique, can be used to examine the illuminate the relationship between standards based accountability systems and the performance standards on which they are based.
Annual student achievement data derived from state assessment programs have led to widespread enthusiasm for statistical models suitable for longitudinal analysis. The current policy environment's adherence to high stakes accountability vis-à-vis No Child Left Behind (NCLB)'s universal proficiency mandate has fostered an impoverished view of what an examination of student growth can provide. To address this, student growth percentiles are introduced supplying a normative description of growth capable of accommodating criterion-referenced aims like those embedded within NCLB and, more importantly, extending possibilities for descriptive data use beyond the current high stakes paradigm.
Norm-and criterion-referenced student growth. Paper presented at CCSSO, Washington DC
  • D Betebenner
Betebenner, D. (2008) Norm-and criterion-referenced student growth. Paper presented at CCSSO, Washington DC. June 16 th, 2008. Betebenner, D. (2009) Growth, Standards and Accountability. Dover, NH: Center for Assessment.
Is growth in student achievement scale dependent? Paper presented at the invited symposium Measuring and Evaluating Changes in Student Achievement: A Conversation about Technical and Conceptual Issues at the annual meeting of the National Council for Measurement in Education
  • D Briggs
  • D Betebenner
Briggs, D., & Betebenner, D. (2009) Is growth in student achievement scale dependent? Paper presented at the invited symposium Measuring and Evaluating Changes in Student Achievement: A Conversation about Technical and Conceptual Issues at the annual meeting of the National Council for Measurement in Education, San Diego, CA, April 14, 2009.