Master of Natural Sciences (MNS)


Biological Sciences

Document Type



Self-regulation and self-efficacy are both necessary for students to be independent learners. During middle school, students begin to yearn for academic autonomy, but lack the ability to regulate themselves and are unreasonable about their abilities. Goals have been proven to promote the development of these two skills. The purpose of this investigation was to determine which type of performance goal most efficiently promotes the development of self-regulation. The effects of performance goal source were analyzed to determine if teacher-assigned or student assigned performance goals produce greater growth in content knowledge for seventh grade life science students. The effects of goal source on goal attainment, test-anxiety, and goal orientation were also measured. Goal source did have a significant effect on normalized learning gains (nLGs). Students with teacher-set goals consistently had higher nLGs compared to students with self-assigned goals, these differences being significant for two units. It was also found that teacher-assigned performance goals produce greater nLGs amongst white students and female students. For all four units, a positive correlation between unit goals and nLGs could be found for students with teacher-set goals, indicating that assigning students higher assigned goals produces greater gains. This relationship could not be established for students with self-assigned goals. The mean goal set by the teacher was significantly lower than the mean student-set goal for three units. In the final unit, the mean goal for both groups were not statistically different, indicating that students were beginning to grasp the concept of what is a realistic goal. Both groups experienced an increase in goal attainment over the course of study, however the rate of attainment was greater for students with teacher-set goals. Test anxiety did not significantly increase over the course of the study. An inverse relationship between test anxiety and nLGs was initially established for students with self-set goals, but not for students with teacher-assigned goals. By the end of the experiment, no relationship between anxiety and normalized learning gains could be established for either group. Additionally, it was found that anxiety was not related to goal attainment. These results demonstrate a shift in the control anxiety had over achievement through the use of goals. While there was no significant change in performance-goal orientation for either group over the course of the experiment, both groups experienced a significant drop in mastery-goal orientation by the end of the experiment, suggesting students were more interested in letter grades than truly mastering content. The findings of this study suggest that performance goals are more efficient with seventh grade science students if they are assigned. Furthermore, the use of performance goals within the classroom shows promise as a tool to develop students’ self-efficacy and self-regulation.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Gleason, Evanna