Technical ReportPDF Available

Growth goal setting - What works best in practice: A practical guide for schools


Abstract and Figures

When students set growth goals, they are more likely to have plans to attend university, to persevere in schoolwork and to engage with homework. This paper provides a synthesis of research, including new research from Australian high schools using large-scale statewide data. It explains why growth goal setting is important and provides practical suggestions for schools and teachers to support their students.
Content may be subject to copyright.
June 2021
Growth goal setting –
what works best in practice
A practical guide for schools
NSW Department of Education
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
The Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) was created in 2012 to
improve the effectiveness, efciency and accountability of education in NSW. It is
focused on supporting decision-making in education delivery and development
with strong evidence.
CESE analyses and evaluates educational programs and strategies and gauges
NSW’s education performance over time through its ongoing core data collections
and delivery of analysis and reports. It also monitors national and international
strategic agendas to ensure that NSW is well positioned to provide leadership
CESE’s three main responsibilities are:
1. to provide data analysis, information and evaluation that improve
effectiveness, efciency and accountability
2. to create a one-stop shop for information needs – a single access point to
education data that has appropriate safeguards to protect data condentiality
and integrity
3. to build capacity across the whole education sector by developing intelligent
tools to make complex data easy to use and understand, and providing
accessible reports so that everyone can make better use of data.
CESE provides sound evidence for educators to make decisions about best practice
in particular contexts and importantly, enables teachers to meet the needs of
students at every stage of their learning.
Anaïd Flesken, Samuel Cox, Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation,
and Andrew J. Martin, Rebecca J.Collie, Emma C. Burns, Keiko C.P. Bostwick,
Universityof New South Wales
May 2021, Sydney, NSW
Please cite this publication as:
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (2021),
Growth goal setting –
works best in
practice, NSWDepartment of Education,
For more information about this report, please contact:
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
Department of Education
GPO Box 33
+61 2 7814 1527
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 3
When students set growth goals, they are more likely to have plans to attend
university, to persevere in schoolwork and to engage with homework. This paper
provides a synthesis of research, including new research from NSW high schools
using Tell Them From Me data. It
explains why growth goal setting is important and
provides practical suggestions for schools and teachers to support their students.
Key ndings
Research shows that growth goal setting improves achievement and
Students who set growth goals are more likely to experience gains in aspirations,
perseverance and homework behaviour.
Growth goal setting supports attendance for students of low
Growth goal setting bolsters aspirations to complete Year 12, particularly
forstudents with low prior achievement.
Growth goal setting can be fostered through explicit teaching, provision
offeedback and relevant content.
Student growth goal setting in NSW public schools
Students report on their growth goal setting in the student survey offered
NSW public schools – Tell Them From Me (TTFM)*. TTFM reports on student,
parent and teacher perspectives of school life, and provides data
on students’
wellbeing and engagement, as well as the teaching practices
they encounter
in the classroom. This paper presents ndings on how to
support students’
growth goal setting, drawn from a literature review and
longitudinal modelling
of TTFM data in a collaborative study by the Centre for Education Statistics and
Evaluation (CESE) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
*Tell Them From Me is provided by, and is the intellectual property of
TheLearning Bar.
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 4
What works best and growth goal setting
In What works best: 2020 update (CESE 2020), we outline 8 quality teaching
practices that are known to support school improvement and enhance the
learning outcomes of our students. In this document, we outline a teaching tool
that spans and supports several What works best practices: growth goal setting.
The process of setting and achieving growth goals encompasses 4 effective
teaching practices outlined in What works best: 2020 update:
1. Assessment determines where a student is in their learning and helps
monitor their progress towards the learning goal.
2. Learning goals should be challenging, and high expectations explicitly
communicated to students.
3. Explicit teaching practices reduce the cognitive burden of learning new
and complex skills and allow students to focus on the learning goal itself.
4. Effective feedback stimulates reection on learning and motivates
students when they see that their effort has paid off.
Figure 1
Process of setting and achieving growth goals
For more information on What works best, refer to
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 5
What is growth goal setting?
Growth goal setting is different from growth mindset; refer to the text box ‘Growth strategies
ineducation research’.
Goal setting is an effective strategy for enhancing students’ educational
development. Goal setting is not a new idea in education, but in recent years
there has been an increasing focus on growth approaches to goal setting.
Growth goal setting involves striving to meet personally set academic challenges,
aiming to outperform one’s previous best efforts or performance and striving
Why is growth goal setting important?
Research over the past decade has identied many positive effects of growth goal
setting, including improved engagement, learning and achievement (refer to
Martin 2006; Martin et al. 2021). As such, growth goals are an important tool to help
us achieve our goal that every student improves every year.
Growth goal setting is positively associated with:
educational aspirations (Martin 2006; Martin and Liem 2010; Martin et al. 2021)
test effort, homework completion and learning strategies (Martin and Liem 2010;
Yu and Martin 2010; Liem et al. 2012; Martin et al. 2021)
class participation, cooperation and relationships (Martin 2006; Martin and
Liem2010; Liem et al. 2012)
enjoyment of school (Martin 2006; Martin and Liem 2010)
higher levels of literacy and numeracy (Martin and Liem 2010; Mok et al. 2014;
Burns et al. 2018).
The association between growth goal setting behaviours and improved academic
outcomes is found regardless of gender or immigration background (Martin 2006;
Martin et al. 2016). Among students with attention decit/hyperactivity disorder, it
is even stronger (Martin et al. 2019).
Numerous randomised controlled trials in schools and universities show that goal
setting has positive effects on student achievement and wellbeing – and that it can
be taught effectively to improve them (for example, Morisano et al. 2010; Travers
et al 2015). For example, in Australia, primary students who set growth goals in
mathematics improved more than students who did not (Ginns et al. 2018).
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 6
How does growth goal setting work?
Goal setting affects motivation and achievement through 5 mechanisms (Locke
and Latham 2002; 2006; 2013; Martin 2006; Zimmerman 2008; refer to Figure 2):
1. Focus: setting goals claries what is to be done and focuses students’ attention
and effort toward goal-relevant activities and away from goal-irrelevant activities.
2. Effort: setting goals motivates students to exert effort. Specic and challenging
goals in particular increase effort, compared to vague and easy goals.
3. Persistence: setting goals motivates students to persist with a task for longer,
perhaps because goals make success more accessible.
4. Strategy seeking: setting goals affects achievement because it leads students
to seek strategies that will help them to attain their goals. When faced with
agoal, people automatically apply their existing knowledge and skills to work
towards attaining that goal. If existing knowledge and skills are not sufcient,
they draw on other knowledge and skills they have previously used in related
contexts. If the goal relates to a task that is completely new to people, they
deliberately develop strategies that will enable them to attain that goal.
5. Self-efcacy: attaining goals also affects motivation and further achievement
because it increases students’ sense of self-efcacy.
Figure 2
How goal setting affects student achievement
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 7
What is happening in NSW?
Tell Them From Me survey data shows that not every student sets growth goals.
In 2018 and 2019, 61.3% of secondary school students reported that they set
challenging andpersonal-best goals in their schoolwork. Split by scholastic year,
growth goal setting decreases throughout secondary school, with a slight uplift
in the nal years (Figure 3).
Figure 3
Percentage of secondary students with growth goals by scholastic year, TTFM 2018-19
TTFM data also shows that growth goal setting is not evenly distributed across
student groups. More girls than boys and more students from higher than from
lower socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds set growth goals (Figure 4).
Figure 4
Percentage of secondary students with growth goals, by gender and socioeconomic
background, TTFM 2018-19
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 8
CESE and UNSW collaboration on
growth goal setting in NSW
CESE and UNSW jointly examined the links
between teaching practice, growth goal setting
and student engagement among secondary school
students in New South Wales (Martin etal.2021).
We found that growth goal setting was
positively associated with large gains in students’
perseverance, aspirations and homework behaviour.
Perseverance and aspirations to complete school
are important indicators of students’ cognitive
engagement. Homework behaviour, as measured
in Tell Them From Me, is an indicator of students’
attitudes towards homework, the extent to which it
supports their learning and their effort in completing it. It is an important
part of developing academic self-regulatory skills (for instance, time
management),particularly for highschool students.
Of these 3 indicators of engagement, growth goal setting had the strongest
effect on perseverance, which refers to the ability to pursue one’s goals to
completion, even in the face of obstacles (Kern et al. 2016). Students with
highgrowth goal setting have 30.5% more perseverance than students with
low growth goal setting. This is important because perseverance has a strong
correlation with academic achievement and school performance (Gregory
andBrinkman 2015).
In addition to these signicant effects for all students, we also found that
growthgoal setting:
had an especially positive effect for the aspirations of lower
decreased differences in school attendance between students from
low-and from high-socioeconomic backgrounds.
How do we measure growth goal setting?
NSW public schools can assess the growth goal setting behaviours of their
students using the TTFM student survey. Students are asked to what extent they
agree or disagree with the following sentences, drawn from research by Martin
(2006) and Martin and Liem (2010):
‘I set challenges for myself in my schoolwork.’
‘I like to work towards challenging goals in my schoolwork.’
When I do my schoolwork, I try to do the best that I’ve ever done.’
When I do my schoolwork, I try to improve on how I’ve done before.’
For each question, students rate themselves on a scale of disagreement
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 9
Implications for teaching and learning
Teach students how to set and strive for growth goals
Students can benet most from growth goal setting when they are taught how
to set and work towards achieving effective goals. Strategies on setting effective
classroom goals and on how to discuss goal setting with students are outlined in
the next section.
Adapt growth goals to the learning process
Different stages in the learning process require different types of goals (Table 1).
When a task is entirely new, students benet from being exposed to strategies
to complete it, either through explicit teaching (refer to CESE 2017; 2020) or by
attaining learning goals. In the next stage, students can then focus on applying
learned strategies. Here, process goals that encourage practice are most effective.
Once the new skill becomes automatic, product goals that encourage improved
efciency are most effective.
Table 1
Adapting growth goals to the learning process
Experience Goal Description Example
New to task Learning goal Discovering strategies
for taskcompletion
‘Find 3 strategies to reduce the
number of words in a sentence.’
Practising task Process goal Applying a learned
strategy to complete
a task
‘Focus on applying the strategies
you have learned to reduce the
number of words in eachsentence.’
Task automatic Product goal Completing a task ‘Reduce the number of words in
Provide effective feedback
Effective feedback is a central element of growth goal setting. Reviews of effective
feedback (for example, Shute 2008) emphasise the importance of:
being prompt and timely with feedback
ensuring feedback is concrete, clear and specic
delivering feedback that is accurate, unbiased, objective and ideally
indocumented form
focusing corrective feedback on the task, more than on the learner
providing corrective information that is also forward-reaching, aimed
atenhancing learning and instilling student optimism
presenting feedback in manageable segments
providing feedback that is as simple as possible (based on learner needs).
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 10
Make learning relevant
Relevant content and tasks contribute to effective growth goal setting. Content
and tasks are relevant if they are personally meaningful, useful and interesting.
Strategies to enhance relevance include (for example, refer to Martin 2003):
developing connections between students’ prior and current learning – this
demonstrates meaningful links across content
developing connections between what students learn and major issues in
theworld outside of school – this develops authentic links to the world
developing connections between what students learn and aspects of their
ownlives – this develops personal meaning
arousing curiosity to optimise a student’s connection to instruction and
looking for opportunities for fun learning activities to build an emotional
connection to instruction and subject matter
personalising language and tasks where possible – for example, providing
instructions such as: ‘Your goal in this task is to …’ leads to more personally
meaningful learning than instructions such as: ‘The goal for this task is to …’ – and
individualising tasks (where feasible) to provide a sense that the task is aligned
tothe student.
Target growth goals for academically at-risk student groups
Students from low-SES backgrounds and students with low achievement are
found to particularly benet from growth goal setting. A growth goal setting
strategy may be one part of a multifaceted approach to assist academically at-risk
or otherwise disadvantaged students in the classroom.
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 11
Characteristics of effective goals in the classroom
Effective growth goals have 3 core attributes: they are focused on self-improvement
(Martin 2006), they are specic and they are challenging (Locke and Latham 2002;
2013). In the classroom, several other goal attributes are also important: effective
goals are positive, time-bound and measurable.
Effective goals focus on self-improvement
Self-improvement goals, more than competitive goals, are effective in
the classroom. A competitive goal compares a student’s achievement to
that of others, while a self-improvement goal compares it to a student’s
own, earlier achievement.
Competitive goals tend to be effective while students are succeeding but
can become counterproductive if they perform poorly (Covington 2000).
Growth goals, or personal-best goals, in contrast, have been shown to be
effective more generally (Slavin 1980; Martin et al. 2014; Ginns et al. 2018)
and may work particularly well for students from disadvantaged groups
(forexample, Martin et al. 2019; Martin et al. 2021).
Self-improvement goal: I will complete more tasks correctly in this week’s
test than in my last test.
Competitive goal: I will complete more tasks correctly in this week’s test
than any other student.
Effective goals are specic
Goals can be either general, with the aim to ‘do your best’, or more
Specic goals are more effective because they make it easier
to focus on
goal-relevant activities and to track progress against the goal
2008). Students with specic goals have been shown to
improve their skills
at a higher rate than students with general goals, and
to be more condent
in them (Schunk 1983a).
Specic goal: I will complete at least 3 more tasks correctly in this week’s
test than in my last test.
General goal: I will try to do better in my tests.
Effective goals are challenging
Difcult goals are more effective than easier goals (Locke and Latham
2002; Schunk 1983b), but they also need to be attainable. Failing to achieve
overly ambitious goals can be counterproductive (Zimmerman 2008).
Put together, this suggests that a goal should be challenging, since this
description encompasses both the difculty and attainability ofthetask.
Students should be explicitly told that they can attain a goal. Students
who have teachers with high expectations and who think that they
can attain a goal are more condent and motivated to work towards
it(Schunk 1983; Dweck 2000; CESE 2020).
Challenging goal: I will get at least 10 questions right.
Easy goal: I will get at least 3 questions right.
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 12
Effective goals are positive
The framing of a goal is also important. If a goal is perceived as a threat
rather than a challenge, it may adversely affect achievement (Dweck
2000; Roney and Lehman 2008). Goals should be framed in positive
terms to encourage effort andmotivation.
Positive goal: I will complete at least 7 out of 10 tasks correctly.
Negative goal: I will not make more than 3 mistakes when attempting
Effective goals are time-bound
Short-term goals are more effective than longer-term goals because they
provide more specic guidance on the actions required for success and
more immediate feedback on progress. Such goals may be especially
useful for young children who cannot yet imagine outcomes in a distant
future (Schunk 2003). Research shows that students with short-term
goals become more interested and skilled, and are better able to judge
their skills (Bandura and Schunk 1981).
Longer-term goals can also be helpful as they can motivate learners over
time. It is best to combine both approaches by breaking down long-term
goals into short-term goals (Zimmerman 2008). Young children or
students struggling in their learning mayneed help making a larger goal
more manageable, particularly when they are not able to judge why or
how they are struggling.
Short-term goal: I will complete one page of problems by the end
Longer-term goal: I will nish the book by the end of the term.
Effective goals are measurable
For goals to be effective, they need to be measurable. Measurement
allows for regular monitoring and feedback that shows students their
progress towards their goal. Feedback achieves 2 things: rst, it serves as
error management to show if the student’s actions have led to progress
towards the goal (Locke and Latham 2002). Second, seeing their efforts
pay off motivates students to put in further effort (Zimmerman 2008).
Students who receive feedback on their goal progress improve more
(Schunk and Swartz 1993), are more condent in their skills (Schunk and
Rice 1991) and are more accurate in assessing their abilities (Gaa 1973;
also Bandura and Cervone 1983; 1986). And feedback does not necessarily
need to come from others: self-monitoring progress has similar effects
(Zimmerman and Kitsantas 1997; 1999).
Measurable goal: I will complete 3 practice questions a day.
Non-measurable goal: I will study more for the next maths test.
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 13
How to help students set growth goals
To implement growth goal setting in the classroom, it is important that students
know what growth goals are, what growth goals to set and how to strive for
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 14
Growth strategies in education research
The educational research literature on growth focuses on 3 concepts, which can
be seen as different parts of students’ growth orientation (Figure 5).
Growth-oriented students:
1. believe that growth is possible (growth mindset)
2. strive for growth (mastery orientation)
3. adopt learning strategies to attain their goals (goal setting).
Figure 5
Three major growth concepts in education research
Students with a growth mindset believe that their intelligence and skills are
changeable. They believe that their skills can be can be improved through effort,
and that achievement in school reects the effort put in. Students with a xed
mindset, in contrast, tend to believe that their intelligence and skills are xed,
and that achievement in school reects this innate talent, rather than effort
(Dweck 2000). Having a growth mindset is consistently linked to higher
academic achievement (for example, Dweck2000; Blackwell, Trzesniewski and
Dweck 2007; Claro, Paunesku and Dweck 2015). However, it is not yet clear
whether teaching growth mindset can increase academic achievement (refer
toYeager et al. 2019; Education Endowment Fund2019; Sisk et al. 2018).
Students with a mastery orientation engage in learning to develop or acquire
new knowledge or skills, rather than merely to full or beat some performance
standard. Having a mastery orientation is also linked to improved academic
achievement: students with a mastery orientation are more interested in
the learning material; spend more time on learning activities; learn more
strategically; and show greater persistence in the face of challenges than
students without a mastery orientation (refer to Ames 1992; Covington 2000;
Meece et al. 2006; Morisano 2013). However, few studies have examined whether
mastery orientation can be effectively promoted in the classroom (refer to Van
Yperen et al. 2015).
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 15
Ames C (1992) ‘Classrooms: Goals, structures, and
student motivation’, Journal of Educational
Psychology, 84(3): 261-271.
Bandura A and Cervone D (1983) ‘Self-evaluative
and self-efcacy mechanisms governing the
motivational effects of goal systems’, Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 45: 1,017-1,028.
Bandura A and Cervone D (1986) ‘Differential
engagement of self-reactive inuences in
cognitive motivation’, Organizational Behavior
and Human Decision Processes, 38: 91-113.
Bandura A and Schunk D (1981) ‘Cultivating
competence, self-efcacy, and intrinsic interest
through proximal self-motivation’, Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 41: 586-598.
Blackwell L, Trzesniewski K and Dweck C (2007)
‘Implicit theories of intelligence predict
achievement across an adolescent transition:
Alongitudinal study and an intervention’, Child
Development 78: 246-263.
Burns E, Martin A and Collie, R (2018) ‘Adaptability,
personal best (PB) goals setting, and gains in
students’ academic outcomes: A longitudinal
examination from a social cognitive perspective’,
Contemporary Educational Psychology, 53: 57-72.
CESE (2017) Cognitive load theory: Research
that teachers really need to understand. NSW
Department of Education, Sydney.
CESE (2020) What works best: 2020 update. NSW
Department of Education, Sydney.
Claro S, Paunesku D and Dweck C (2016) ‘Growth
mindset tempers the effects of poverty on
academic achievement’, Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences, 113(31): 8,664-8,668.
Covington M (2000) ‘Goal theory, motivation, and
school achievement: An integrative review’,
Annual Review of Psychology, 51: 171-200.
Dweck C (2000) Self-theories: Their role in
motivation, personality, and development,
Psychology Press, New York and London.
Education Endowment Fund (2019) Changing
mindsets: Effectiveness trial, National Institute
ofEconomic and Social Research, Millbank.
Gaa J (1973) ‘Effects of individual goal-setting
conferences on academic achievement and
modication of locus and control orientation’,
Journal of Experimental Education, 42: 22-28.
Ginns P, Martin A, Durksen T, Burns E and Pope A
(2018) ‘Personal best (PB) goal-setting enhances
arithmetical problem-solving’, Australian
Educational Researcher, 45: 533-551.
Gregory T and Brinkman S (2015) Development
of the Australian Student Wellbeing survey:
Measuring the key aspects of social and
emotional wellbeing during middle childhood,
Fraser Mustard Centre, Department for
Education and Child Development and the
Telethon Kids Institute Adelaide.
Kern, M, Benson L, Steinberg E and Steinberg L (2016)
‘The EPOCH measure of adolescent wellbeing’,
Psychological Assessment 28(5): 586-597.
Liem G, Ginns P, Martin A, Stone B and Herret M
(2012) ‘Personal best goals and academic social
functioning: A longitudinal perspective’, Learning
and Instruction, 22: 222-230.
Locke E and Latham G (2002) ‘Building a practically
useful theory of goal setting and task motivation:
A 35-year odyssey’, American Psychologist,
Locke E and Latham G (2006) ‘New directions
in goal-setting theory’, Current Directions in
Psychological Science, 15(5): 265-268.
Locke E and Latham G (2013) New developments in
goal setting and task performance, Routledge,
New York and London.
Martin A (2003) How to motivate your child for
school and beyond, Random House, London.
Martin A (2006) ‘Personal bests (PBs): A proposed
multidimensional model and empirical analysis’,
British Journal of Educational Psychology,
Martin A and Liem G (2010) ‘Academic personal
bests (PBs), engagement, and achievement:
A cross-lagged panel analysis’, Learning and
Individual Differences, 20: 265-270.
Martin A, Durksen T, Williamson D, Kiss D and
Ginns P (2014) ‘Personal best (PB) goal setting
and students’ motivation in science: A study of
science valuing and aspirations’, The Australian
Educational and Developmental Psychologist,
104: 1-18.
Martin A, Collie R, Mok M and McInerny D (2016)
‘Personal best (PB) goal structure, individual PB
goals, engagement, and achievement: A study
of Chinese- and English-speaking background
students in Australian schools’, British Journal
ofEducational Psychology, 86: 75-91.
Martin A, Collie R, Durksen T, Burns E, Bostwick K
and Tarbetsky A (2019) ‘Growth goals and growth
mindset from a methodological-synergistic
perspective: Lessons learned from a quantitative
correlational research program’, International
Journal of Research and Method in Education,
42(2): 204-219.
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 16
Martin A, Burns E, Collie E, Bostwick K, Flesken A
and McCarthy I (2021) ‘Growth goal setting in
high school: A large-scale study of perceived
instructional support, personal background
attributes, and engagement outcomes’,
Journal of Educational Psychology, forthcoming.
Meece J, Anderman E and Anderman L (2006)
‘Classroom goal structures, student motivation,
and academic achievement’, Annual Review of
Psychology, 57: 487-503.
Mok M, Wong M, Su M, Tognolini J and Stanley G
(2014) ‘Personal best goal and self-regulation
as predictors of mathematics achievement:
Amultilevel structural equation model’, Asia
Pacic Journal of Educational Development,
Morisano D (2013) ‘Goal setting in the academic
arena’, in E Locke and G Latham (eds) New
developments in goal setting and task
performance, Routledge, New York and London.
Morisano D, Hirsh J, Peterson J, Pihl R and Shore
B (2010) ‘Setting, elaborating, and reecting on
personal goals improves academic performance’,
Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(2): 255-264.
Roney C and Lehman D (2008) ‘Self-regulation
and goal striving: Individual differences and
situational moderators of the goal-framing/
performance link’, Journal of Applied Social
Psychology, 38(11): 2,691-2,709.
Schunk D (1983a) ‘Developing children’s self-efcacy
and skills: The roles of social comparative
information and goal setting’, Contemporary
Educational Psychology, 8: 76-86.
Schunk D (1983b) ‘Goal difculty and attainment
information: Effects on children’s achievement
behaviors’, Human Learning, 2: 107-117.
Schunk D (2003) ‘Self-efcacy for reading and
writing: Inuence of modeling, goal setting, and
self-evaluation’, Reading and Writing Quarterly,
19(2): 159-172.
Schunk D and Rice J (1991) ‘Learning goals and
progress feedback during reading comprehension
instruction’, Journal of Reading Behavior,
Schunk D and Swartz C (1993) ‘Goals and progress
feedback: Effects on self-efcacy and writing
achievement’, Contemporary Educational
Psychology, 18: 337-354.
Shute V (2008) ‘Focus on formative feedback’,
Review of Educational Research, 78(1): 153-189.
Sisk V, Burgoyne A, Sun J, Butler J and Macnamara
B (2018) ‘To what extent and under what
circumstances are growth mind-sets important
to academic achievement? Two meta-analyses’,
Psychological Science, 29: 549-571.
Slavin R (1980) ‘Effects of individual learning
expectations on student achievement’, Journal
ofEducational Psychology, 72: 520-524.
Travers C, Morisano D and Locke E (2015)
‘Self-reection, growth goals, and academic
outcomes: A qualitative study’, British Journal
ofEducational Psychology, 85: 224-241.
Van Yperen N, Blaga M and Postmes T (2015)
‘Ameta-analysis of the impact of situationally
induced achievement goals on task performance’,
Human Performance, 28(2): 165-182.
Yeager D et al. (2019) ‘A national experiment reveals
where a growth mindset improves achievement’,
Nature, 573: 364-369.
Yu K and Martin A (2014) ‘Personal best (PB) and
‘classic’ achievement goals in the Chinese context:
Their role in predicting academic motivation,
engagement, and buoyancy’, Educational
Psychology, 34: 635-658.
Zimmerman B (2008) ‘Goal setting: A key
proactive source of academic self-regulation’, in
DSchunk and B Zimmerman (eds) Motivation
and self-regulated learning: Theory, research,
andapplications, Routledge, New York.
Zimmerman B and Kitsantas A (1997)
‘Developmental phases in self-regulation: Shifting
from process to outcome goals’, Journal of
Educational Psychology, 89: 29-36.
Zimmerman B and Kitsantas A (1999) ‘Acquiring
writing revision skill: Shifting from process
to outcome self-regulatory goals’, Journal
ofEducational Psychology, 91: 1-10.
Author: CESE
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
GPO Box 33, Sydney NSW 2001, Australia
Visit our website to subscribe to the CESE newsletter
0 2 7 8 1 4 1 5 2 7
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Please cite this publication as:
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (2021), Growth goal setting – what works best in practice,
NSW Department of Education,
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
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.
Full-text available
A global priority for the behavioural sciences is to develop cost-effective, scalable interventions that could improve the academic outcomes of adolescents at a population level, but no such interventions have so far been evaluated in a population-generalizable sample. Here we show that a short (less than one hour), online growth mindset intervention—which teaches that intellectual abilities can be developed—improved grades among lower-achieving students and increased overall enrolment to advanced mathematics courses in a nationally representative sample of students in secondary education in the United States. Notably, the study identified school contexts that sustained the effects of the growth mindset intervention: the intervention changed grades when peer norms aligned with the messages of the intervention. Confidence in the conclusions of this study comes from independent data collection and processing, pre-registration of analyses, and corroboration of results by a blinded Bayesian analysis.
Full-text available
This review explores predictors and consequences of students’ growth goals and growth mindset in school with particular emphasis on how correlational statistical methods can be applied to illuminate key issues and implications. Study 1 used cross-sectional data and employed structural equation modelling (SEM) to investigate the role of growth goals in mediating the link between interpersonal relationships and academic engagement. Study 2 conducted multi-group path analysis to investigate the role of growth goals in the academic outcomes of two groups of students (ADHD and non-ADHD). Study 3 used longitudinal data and SEM to test a cross-lagged panel design to investigate reciprocal links between growth goals and growth mindset. Study 4 conducted multi-level SEM where the effects of a growth orientation on engagement and achievement were investigated at the student-level (level 1) and the classroom-level (level 2). Taking these four studies together, we aim to show how correlational data and multivariate correlational analyses have been effective in answering research questions in a way that have practical and theoretical implications for students’ academic growth. We also position this review as a substantive-methodological synergy – an approach recently recommended in response to concerns about the increasing polarization of substantive and methodological research and researchers.
Full-text available
Personal Best (PB) goals are defined as specific, challenging, and competitively self-referenced goals involving a level of performance or effort that meets or exceeds an individual’s previous best. Much of the available research underpinning arguments for PB goal-setting is self-report-based; thus, the causal effect of PB goals on learning outcomes remains in question. The present experiment examined the impact of PB goal-setting (against a no-goal condition) on 68 Year 5 and 6 schoolchildren’s problem-solving during an arithmetic fluency-building activity, SuperSpeed Math. Equivalence of the two conditions was established across a range of prior ability and self-report motivational variables, including prior mathematical ability; Personal Best, Mastery, and Performance goal orientations at the individual and classroom level; mathematics self-concept; and valuing of and interest in mathematics. Controlling for initial problem-solving performance, students who set PB goals in subsequent rounds showed a small but reliable advantage over students in the control condition. These results suggest PB goals may provide a way for students to experience both challenge and success in a range of classroom activities. Suggestions for future research based on these initial findings are made.
Full-text available
The present investigation examines how two novel constructs, adaptability (for self-regulation) and PB goal setting (for goal setting), operate alongside the more “traditional” constructs of the triadic model of social cognitive theory (SCT; Bandura, 1986) to predict students’ academic gains over time. Given that the triadic model highlights the importance of self-regulation and goal setting in human motivation, it is important to revisit classic models (such as SCT) to ascertain the role and validity of these new and relevant constructs in seminal conceptualizing. A longitudinal process model explored the extent to which: social support from parents, peers, and teachers (environmental factors) predicted gains in students’ self-efficacy, perceived control, adaptability, and PB goal setting (personal factors); self-efficacy, perceived control, and adaptability predicted growth in students’ PB goal setting; and, PB goal setting predicted academic growth in engagement and achievement (behavioral factors). Data were collected via survey one year apart across the 2014 and 2015 academic years from N = 1481 students in nine Australian high schools. Longitudinal structural equation modelling indicated that parent, peer, and teacher social support significantly predicted gains in adaptability and self-efficacy; adaptability, self-efficacy, and teacher support significantly predicted gains in PB goal setting; and PB goal setting significantly predicted gains in both academic engagement and achievement. These findings extend and augment previous work by providing support for the positive role adaptability and PB goal setting play in student academic functioning over time. Similarly, this investigation confirms the viability of including adaptability and PB goal setting within SCT's triadic model and provides evidence for their impact within the larger psycho-educational terrain.
Mind-sets (aka implicit theories) are beliefs about the nature of human attributes (e.g., intelligence). The theory holds that individuals with growth mind-sets (beliefs that attributes are malleable with effort) enjoy many positive outcomes—including higher academic achievement—while their peers who have fixed mind-sets experience negative outcomes. Given this relationship, interventions designed to increase students’ growth mind-sets—thereby increasing their academic achievement—have been implemented in schools around the world. In our first meta-analysis (k = 273, N = 365,915), we examined the strength of the relationship between mind-set and academic achievement and potential moderating factors. In our second meta-analysis (k = 43, N = 57,155), we examined the effectiveness of mind-set interventions on academic achievement and potential moderating factors. Overall effects were weak for both meta-analyses. However, some results supported specific tenets of the theory, namely, that students with low socioeconomic status or who are academically at risk might benefit from mind-set interventions.
Significance This study is the first, to our knowledge, to show that a growth mindset (the belief that intelligence is not fixed and can be developed) reliably predicts achievement across a national sample of students, including virtually all of the schools and socioeconomic strata in Chile. It also explores the relationship between income and mindset for the first time, to our knowledge, finding that students from lower-income families were less likely to hold a growth mindset than their wealthier peers but that those who did hold a growth mindset were appreciably buffered against the deleterious effects of poverty on achievement. These results suggest that mindsets may be one mechanism through which economic disadvantage can affect achievement.
The effects of goal setting and self-monitoring during self-regulated practice on the acquisition of a complex motoric skill were studied with 90 high school girls. It was hypothesized that girls who shifted goals developmentally from process to outcome goals would surpass classmates who adhered to only process goals who, in turn, would exceed classmates who used only outcome goals in posttest dart-throwing skill, self-reactions, self-efficacy perceptions, and intrinsic interest in the game. Support for all hypotheses derived from the developmental model was found. The girls' self-reactions to dart-throwing outcomes and self-efficacy perceptions about dart skill were highly correlated with their intrinsic interest in the game. It was also found that self-recording, a formal form of self-monitoring, enhanced dart-throwing skill, self-efficacy, and self-reaction beliefs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Eighty-four high school girls practiced combining a series of kernel sentences into a single nonredundant sentence. The outcome goal focused on minimizing the number of words in the combined sentence, whereas process goal emphasized a 3-step method for combining kernel sentences. It was found that girls who shifted goals sequentially from process to outcome goals surpassed classmates who adhered to only process goals who, in turn, exceeded classmates using only outcome goals in posttest writing revision skill, self-reactions, self-efficacy perceptions, and intrinsic interest in this skill. Attributions of deficient performance to strategy choice was positively correlated with self-reactions, self-efficacy beliefs, and intrinsic interest whereas attributions to ability or effort were negatively correlated with these measures. Self-recording enhanced writing skill, self-efficacy, and self-reaction beliefs significantly.