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STICERD Work in Progress Seminars

Goal Setting and Raising the Bar: a Field Experiment

Max Van Lent (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Friday 12 June 2015 13:00 - 14:00

Due to the onging coronavirus outbreak, many of our seminars and public events this year will continue as online seminars. Please check our website listings and Twitter feed @STICERD_LSE for updates.


About this event

We study the effect of setting goals on performance using a randomized field experiment involving first year university students. Students have private mentor-student meetings during the year. We instructed a random group of mentors to induce students to set a course specific grade goal during the mentor-student meeting (goal treatment). A random subset of mentors was further instructed to challenge students to increase this goal (raise treatment). We find that students in the goal treatment do not perform better compared to students in the control group but are less likely to drop out of the course by 2 percentage points. Students in the raise treatment do not differ from the control group. For those students who actually set a goal in the goal treatment we find an increase of 0.3 points on the grade (17% of a standard deviation), and a decrease of 4 percentage points on the drop out rate. Students who set a goal in the raise treatment perform worse as compared to students in the goal treatment, and they seem to do even worse than the control group. Finally, students who set a goal and are challenged to set a higher goal do significantly worse than comparable students in the goal treatment.