ERIC Identifier: ED317146
Publication Date: 1989-00-00
Author: Stark, Joan S. - And Others
for the Study of Higher Education.| ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher
Education Washington DC.
Student Goals for Colleges and Courses: A Missing Link in
Assessing and Improving Academic Achievement. ERIC Digest.
As the United States debates what it expects of college graduates and how to
measure the achievement of these expectations, the goals of students frequently
are overlooked. During discussions about higher education quality, activities
such as promoting active involvement in learning, stating clear expectations,
and assessing educational results have taken on increased importance for
colleges and universities attempting to improve their programs. Yet in each of
these activities, understanding students educational goals is important to
ensure success. Helping students take active responsibility for their education,
for example, may depend on how well educators link the classroom goals they set
for their students with the goals that students hold for themselves.
Communicating clear expectations for students depends, in part, on understanding
discrepancies between expectations instructors establish and those students
accept as consistent with their own goals. In addition, accurate assessment of
student outcomes fostered by the college experience should take into account
students educational goals as well as their academic preparation.
WHAT ARE GOALS?
Goals are what individuals hope to achieve and accomplish. Such intentions
motivate and direct human behavior. Thus, educational outcomes such as academic
satisfaction, use of appropriate learning strategies, effort exerted in course
work, and ultimately, academic achievement, are related to goals. Goals are not
fixed; they change as individuals develop different self-views and acquire new
methods of regulating their behavior. In fact, helping students to revise their
goals and to improve the extent to which they control their behavior are valid
WHAT INFORMATION ABOUT STUDENTS' GOALS DO COLLEGES TYPICALLY COLLECT?
Currently, most colleges collect information about the broad
goals students hold for attending college as they enter. This information is
used for administrative planning or for developing strategies to recruit and
retain students. Some institutions also collect perceptions from graduating
seniors and alumni about the extent to which they achieved their academic,
personal, social, and vocational goals in college. Apparently, few institutions
make the effort to measure how student goals change from entrance to graduation
or as a result of specific programs of study.
In attempting to examine goals more systematically, scholars of higher
education have developed a number of typologies based on observed student
subcultures or broad intellectual orientations (for example, Katchadourian and
Boli 1985). Researchers related these typologies to student characteristics
believed to be relatively stable, such as learning styles and vocational
orientations, and used them to increase understanding of problems such as
student attrition. Typologies are criticized, however, for perpetuating
stereotypes of students.
Since goals are what students hope to accomplish, and outcomes represent what
actually is achieved, current trends toward measurement of educational outcomes
(assessment) foster attempts to connect goals and outcomes at the course and
program level. A few colleges, active in developing student assessment programs,
also are collecting and using information about specific student goals for
classroom work. Increasingly, educators and researchers recognize that the
impact of college might be measured more effectively at the program or course
level, close to the students everyday educational environment. As yet, however,
systematic attempts to include student goals in assessment and instructional
improvement activities are limited.
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A COURSE-SPECIFIC STUDENT GOALS INVENTORY?
Based on their prior preparation and self-views,
students have broad goals for attending college, narrower goals for achievement
in particular courses, and even more specific goals as they approach each
learning task. The goals students bring to college courses are interrelated in
time with the broader college goals that precede them and the narrower, specific
learning task goals that help to achieve them. Ideally, then, to provide the
broadest possible understanding of student goals, an inventory for classroom use
would include items concerning broad goals, expectancies, and self-concept, as
well as goals specific to the type of courses.
Many possible frameworks could guide development of such an inventory. For
example, a framework could emphasize a single goal area, for example, goals
related to intellectual growth, social and personal growth, or vocational
growth. An appropriate inventory could be based, as well, on theories of
intellectual development such as those established by Kolb, Perry or Bloom. New
developments in social science can help to guide development of a comprehensive
course-specific students goals inventory capable of illuminating the
multidimensional goal patterns students bring to college and classroom.
A comprehensive model of student goals promises considerably more explanatory
power than previous simpler goal models, and presents an extensive complex set
of possibilities for research and classroom improvement.
HOW CAN INSTRUCTORS USE COURSE-SPECIFIC GOAL
Faculty can use students course-level goals to improve
teaching. Evidence gathered from faculty indicates that many instructors are
interested in student goals, and many are willing to experiment with ways to
systematically collect and use goal information (Stark, Lowther, Ryan, Bomotti,
Genthon, Martens, and Haven 1988).
At the simplest and most descriptive level, goal information can help an
instructor understand the diversity and intensity of student effort in a
particular class. In a more elaborate way, through the process now frequently
referred to as classroom research, instructors can use goal information to
discern how their goals for a particular class relate to those of their
students. This can help them design classes that employ teaching approaches
appropriate for their students levels of interest and expectation. At still a
more complex level, collecting and analyzing student goals can enhance formal
assessment processes. Since course-level goals are measured with regard to a
specific academic discipline or classroom setting, using them in the assessment
process may involve statistically adjusting outcome expectations in that setting
to account for goals of entering students. Assessment also may include attempts
to foster and document goal changes among students.
A course-level goal inventory, the Student Goals Exploration, is current
being field tested at the National Center for Research to Improve Postsecondary
Teaching and Learning (NCRIPTAL). This inventory will be available soon for use
by classroom teachers and researchers.
Astin, A.W.; Green, K.C.; and Korn,
W.S. 1987. THE AMERICAN FRESHMAN. Los Angeles: Cooperative Institutional
Research Program. University of California at Los Angeles.
Katchadourian, H.A. and Boli, J. 1985. CAREERISM AND INTELLECTUALISM AMONG
COLLEGE STUDENTS. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Locke, E.A.; Shaw, K.N.; Saari, L.M.; and Latham, G.P. 1981. "Goal Setting
and Task Performance: 1969-1980." PSYCHOLOGICAL BULLETIN 90(1): 125-152.
Markus, H. and Wurf, E. 1987. "The Dynamic Self-Concept: A Social
Psychological Perspective." In ANNUAL REVIEW OF PSYCHOLOGY, Vol. 38. ed. by M.R.
Rosenzweig and L.W. Porter. Palo Alto, Calif.: Annual Reviews.
McMillan, J.H. 1988. "Beyond Value-Added Education: Improvement Alone is Not
Enough.:" JOURNAL OF HIGHER EDUCATION 59(5): 564-579.
Stark, J.S.; et al. 1988. REFLECTIONS ON COURSE PLANNING: FACULTY AND
STUDENTS CONSIDER INFLUENCES AND GOALS. Ann Arbor: National Center for Research
to Improve Postsecondary Teaching and Learning.
Willingham, W.W. 1985. SUCCESS IN COLLEGE: THE ROLE OF PERSONAL QUALITIES AND
ACADEMIC ABILITY. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.
This ERIC digest is based on a new full-length report in the ASHE-ERIC Higher
Education Report series, prepared by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education
in cooperation with the Association for the Study of Higher Education, and
published by the School of Education at the George Washington University.