Setting Personal Best Goals to Enhance Learning Outcomes

Personal Best (PB) goals are described as goals that are specific, challenging, and most importantly, competitively self-referenced. To examine the effect of PB goals on learning outcomes, Ginns, Martin, Durksen, Burns, and Pope (2018) randomly assigned 68 Year 5 and 6 students to either a PB-goal group or a no-goal group. After an initial set of test questions, students in the PB-goal group received instructions that asked them to set a goal where they aim to do better on these questions than they did before. Students in the no-goal group were only instructed to do the questions without setting any goals. The results revealed a small but reliable effect of PB goals on math problem-solving performance. Students in the PB-goal group achieved slightly higher scores than students in the no-goal group. Although the effect size of setting PB goal was small, the finding is highly relevant for school contexts given that improvement was found within short-term across a range math skills and under time-pressure. Given the ease to implement PB-goals, the authors suggested that PB-goals can be used in many activities that are aimed to build fluency under time-pressure.

Ginns, P., Martin, A. J., Durksen, T. L., Burns, E. C., & Pope, A. (2018). Personal Best (PB) goal-setting enhances arithmetical problem-solving. The Australian Educational Researcher45(4), 533-551.

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