Content Objectives

Here is some research that Jenelle Ferhart came across in her Masters Program that is worth thinking about related to our Content Objectives and Language Objectives.

Goal Setting

Broadly defined, goal setting is the process of establishing a direction for learning. It is a skill that successful people have mastered to help them realize both short-term and longterm desires. One can draw at least three generalizations from the research on goal setting.
1. Instructional goals narrow what students focus on. One of the most interesting
finding in the research is the negative effect that setting goals or objectives has on
outcomes other than those specified in the objectives. Specifically in his analysis of
20 studies involving instructional goals, Walberg (1999) reported that they have an
effect size of -.20 on unintended outcomes.” This means that if a teacher establishes
a goal, for example, that students understand how a cell functions, students’
understanding of information incidental to this concept, but still addressed in class,
might actually be less than if a specific goal were not set. In fact, an effect size of -.
20 indicates that the average student in the class where specific goals about the cell
were set, would score 8 percentile points lower than a student in a class where these
goals were not set, in a test of information that did not pertain to the cell. At first,
this might seem counter intuitive, but with a little reflection, these findings actually
make a great deal of sense. This phenomenon might occur because setting a goal
focuses students’ attention to such a degree that they ignore information not
specifically related to the goal.
2. Instructional goals should not be too specific. One fairly stable finding in the
literature on goal setting is that instructional goals stated in behavioral objective
format do not produce effect sizes as high as instructional goals stated in more
general formats. (Fraser and others, 1987).
3. Students should be encouraged to personalize the teacher’s goals. Once the teacher
has established classroom-learning goals, students should be encouraged to adapt
them to their personal needs and desires. This is one of the reasons goals should not
be too specific. That is, if goals are stated in highly specific, behavioral objective
format, they are not amenable to being adopted by students. Some studies have
demonstrated the positive effects of students setting goals in a “contractual”
contract. That is, students not only identify the goals they will try to attain (within
the framework of the larger goals established by the teacher), but they also contract
for the grade they will receive if they meet those goals (see Kahle & Kelly, 1994;
Miller & Kelley, 1994; Vollmer, 1995). Other studies have demonstrated the
positive effects of students setting “subgoals.” (Bandura & Schunk, 1981; Morgan,
Bandura, A., & Schunk, D. H. (1981). Cultivating competence, self-efficacy, and intrinsic
interest through proximal self-motivation. Journal of Experimental Education, 66(1),
Fraser, B. J., Walberg, H. J., Welch, W. W., & Hattie, J. A. (1987). Synthesis of
educational productivity research. Journal of Educational Research, 11(2), 145-252.
Kahle, A. L., & Kelly, M. L. (1994). Children’s homework problems: A comparison of
goal setting and parent training. Behavior Therapy, 25(2), 275-290.
Miller, D. L., & Kelley, M. L. (1994). The use of goal setting and contingency
contracting for improving children’s homework performance. Journal of Applied
Behavioral Analysis, 27(1), 73-84.
Morgan, M. (1985). Self-monitoring of attained subgoals in private study. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 77(6), 632-630.
Vollmer, D. J. (1995). The effects of goal setting on homework behavior, self-efficacy,
and attributional aspirations of high school students. Dissertation Abstracts
International, 54(4-A). (October, 1993, 1298. ISSN 0419-4217).
Walberg, H. J., 1999). Productive teaching. In H.C. Waxman & H. J. Walberg (Eds.) New
directions for teaching practice and research, 75-104. Berkeley, CA: McCutchen
Publishing Corporation.


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