An Exploratory Study of Academic Goal Setting, Achievement Calibration and Self-Regulated Learning

Article excerpt

This study investigated the effects of a goal-setting intervention on students' perceptions of their use of different types of self-regulatory skills (General Organization/Planning, Task Preparation Strategies, Environmental Structuring, Recall Ability, and Typical Study Strategies). Using students' accuracy in predicting final course grade as a blocking variable, the 2 (calibration accuracy) X 2 (treatment) ANCOVA indicated a significant main effect for Task Preparation Strategics. In addition, accurate calibrators in the goal-setting condition earned significantly higher course grades than control group students who were inaccurate calibrators. Accurate and inaccurate calibrators reported similar use of SESRL strategies. Four components of SESRL were positively related to actual course grades; however, actual course grades and expected grades were inversely related.


Students who set effective goals, utilize appropriate learning strategies, and evaluate the requirements of learning tasks adequately tend to achieve at higher levels than other students (e.g. Locke & Latham, 1990; Zimmerman, 1989; Zimmerman & Schunk, 1989). Research into the variables that facilitate achievement has increasingly focused on students' regulation of their learning activities. Much of this research has addressed self-regulated learning from a social-cognitive perspective (Bandura, 1986). The basic assumption of this focus is that students can activate and sustain the cognitions, behaviors, and affects oriented toward learning and thereby attain their goals (Hofer, Yu, Pintrich, 1998; Zimmerman, 1989). Stated another way, self-regulated learners "seek to accomplish academic goals strategically and manage to overcome obstacles using a battery of resources" (Randi & Corno, 2000, p. 651).

Essential to the successful management of one's learning is the identification of academic goals (Bandura, 1986; Locke & Latham, 1990). Important for the classroom is that goals mobilize effort, increase persistence, lead to task-appropriate study strategies (Locke & Latham, 1990), and influence personal efficacy through the commitment and subsequent effort they generate (Bandura, 1986; Schunk, 1996). Moreover, research indicates that goal setting is related to different types of performance and achievement (e.g., Bandura & Schunk, 1981; Kyllo & Landers, 1995; Schunk & Schwarz, 1993; Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 1997) as well as student beliefs related to achievement, such as personal efficacy for self-regulated learning (e.g., Zimmerman & Bandura, 1994). A major purpose of our study was to manipulate goal-setting instruction in order to observe the effects on students' perceptions of their use of self-regulated learning strategies.

Recent research, however, indicates that students' perceptions of their capabilities often are inaccurate (e.g., Beyer, 1999; Hacker, Bol, Horgan, & Rakow, 2000; Robins & Beer, 2001; Isaacson & Fujita, 2001). The extent of congruence between students' estimates of their capabilities and their actual performance is referred to as achievement calibration. One study indicated that more accurate calibration is related to more efficient study habits (Horgan, 1990). Therefore, a second purpose of the present study was to determine the differences in perceptions of self-regulated learning strategies for students classified as accurate and inaccurate achievement calibrators.

Goal Setting

Early studies on the relationship between goal setting and efficacy beliefs typically employed proximal goals in the form of some expected performance, such as number of problems to be solved (Bandura & Schunk, 1981), employee productivity standards (Bandura & Wood, 1989), or expected course grades (Zimmerman, Bandura, & Martinez-Pons, 1992). Subsequent research in the classroom setting has explored the nature of students' goals and the relationship between goals and students' beliefs and actions. …


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