Effects of goal setting procedures on students' mathematical achievement and self-efficacy

Date of Completion

January 1999


Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Secondary




Goal setting enables students to become actively engaged in their learning and to assume some degree of responsibility for it. Although numerous researchers have studied this phenomenon, in recent years several social-cognitive theorists have begun to examine goal setting in terms of its relationship with the development of self-efficacy. Proponents of Bandura's model of reciprocal causation contend that goals provide both direction and incentives for action, while also serving to help students develop standards against which they can gauge their individual performance. The purpose of this study was to investigate the differential effectiveness of self-set versus teacher-set goals on skill acquisition and academic self-efficacy for low achieving seventh grade students. A pretest-posttest control group research design was used in this investigation. ^ In this design, there were two experimental groups and one control group. Thirty-nine seventh graders were randomly assigned to control and experimental groups. The subjects in all groups were administered pretests and posttests in fraction skill and self-efficacy. All groups participated in five twenty minute training sessions, during which they worked on packets containing five sets of material. Subjects in Experimental Group I were assigned individual goals, based on the number of problems completed during the previous day. After receiving feedback regarding the number of problems previously completed, subjects in Experimental Group II set their own goals. No goals were set for the control group. ^ Multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) revealed no statistically significant difference between the mean posttest achievement and self-efficacy scores of the experimental and control groups with respect to group or gender. The covariates, a fraction skill achievement pretest and self-efficacy pretest, were, however, significant. ^ Both researchers and educators continue to search for viable methods of motivating and instructing students, who continue to be largely unsuccessful with respect to mathematics achievement. Therefore, while the results of this study did not support the differential effectiveness of a particular form of goal setting, questions raised during the investigation suggest the need for additional research within educational settings. ^