Sunday, July 21, 2013

Learning Goals vs. Performance Goals

Goal Setting Theory has distinguished two distinct types of goals – Learning Goals (task-involved) vs. Performance Goals (ego-involved)[1].  

Performance Goals
Performance goals encompass a desire to impress others.[2] Performance goals reflect questions like “Will I look smart” or “Can I outperform others?”[3]  When a task requires learning, children who have a performance goal orientation focus on the end result and have an apprehension of failure.[4] Their focus on the consequences of failure can decrease motivation to complete the task altogether.[5]
Learning Goals
In contrast, learning goals encompass a desire to improve one’s competencies.[6] Learning goals reflect questions like “How can I do this task?” or “What will I learn?"[7] Initial poor performance is seen as a natural and instructive part of the process.[8] Learning goals increase self-efficacy and in turn likelihood of achieving the set goal.[9]
Setting Learning Goals is Generally Better
In general a specific high learning goal leads to higher performances on novel or complex tasks than a specific high performance goal.[10] For instance, MBA students who set specific learning goals (such as “learn to network, master specific course subject matter”), subsequently had higher GPAs than those who set performance Goals (such as achieve a high GPA, etc).[11]

This is because learning goals facilitates metacognition – the planning, monitoring, and evaluating progress toward goal attainment.[12] Novel or complex tasks require cognitive resources to learn what is required in order to perform well.[13] With learning goals one’s limited cognitive resources are focused on the mastering process as opposed to being focused on the attainment of a specific level of performance. [14]

So in conclusion – When a task requires learning, a specific high learning goal should be set. 

But Not Always
However, whenever you already possess the requisite knowledge and skill to perform a task then a specific high performance goal should be set.[15] At such stage you need not waste your cognitive resources discovering new strategies. Instead you should focus your attention on achieving a desired performance outcome.

Like this post? For more see my more recent post, Stages of Learning & Goal Setting Theory.

[1] Jacquelynne S. Eccles and Allan Wigfield, Motivational Beliefs, Values, and Goals, Institute for Social Research, 115.
[2] Id.
[3] Id.
[4] Gerad Seijts, Gary Latham, et al., Goal Setting and Goal Orientation: An Integration of Two Different Yet Related Literatures, The Academy of Management Journal, 228.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] See Eccles, supra note 1.
[8] See Seijts, supra note 4.
[9] Id.
[10] Id. at 229.
[11] Edwin A. Locke, and Gary Latham, New Directions in Goal-Setting Theory, Association for Psychology Science, 266.
[12] Id.
[13] See Seijts, supra note 4, at 229.
[14] Id.
[15] Id.

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