The following is a summary of pages 163-166 of Visible Learning by John Hattie.
Locke and Latham (1990) have provided evidence that indicate how critical goals are for enhancing performance. Goals serve a variety of functions that are essential in the teaching process. Achievement is enhanced to the degree that students and teachers set challenging rather than “do your best” goals.
A reason difficult goals are more effective is that they lead to a clearer notion of success and direct the student´s attention to relevant behaviors or outcomes, whereas “doing your best” can fit with a very wide range of goals. There is a direct linear relationship between the degree of goal difficulty and performance. The performances of the students who have the most challenging goals are over 250 percent higher than the performances of the subjects with the easiest goals (Wood & Locke, 1997). Challenging goals are also effective when teaching special education students.
“Do your best goals” are easily attainable. In one sense, anything you do can be defined as your best.
Commitment to the goals helps, but is not necessary for goal attainment.
The scenario is that effective teachers set appropriately challenging goals and then structure situations so that students can reach these goals. Because assigned goals provide an individual with normative information on the expected level of performance, such goals have major effects on the development of self-efficacy and confidence, which in turn affects the choice of difficulty of goals.
Martin (2006) argued that one method to assist students to set task-specific and situation-specific goals was to use the notion of “personal bests”. Task-specific goals provide students with clear information about what they are trying to achieve in the immediate future, and situation specific goals provide students with the reason they want to achieve a particular outcome. He found that setting personal bests had high positive relationships with the student´s school environment. Personal bests combined the best features of mastery and performance goals.
There is a need to set appropriately challenging short-term goals for surface learning outcomes and set appropriately challenging long-term goals for deep learning outcomes. The challenge should not be so difficult that the goal is seen as unattainable. The goal needs to show a path of tasks on how to get there.
For any given task, the optimal rate seems to be to include at least 90 percent known to unknown items in the tasks and no less than 50 percent known to unknown. Gickling (1984) showed that the ratios for learning to rad needed to be more like 95 percent known to 5 percent unknown. It is also important for the teacher to choose the tasks with these ratios, as the effects are much greater than when students choose the ratios.