Students often have trouble adjusting to higher education and this affects their performance, retention, and well-being. Scholars have suggested applying reflective goal- setting interventions, and most have found positive effects on academic performance and retention. However, one study found no effect at all, stressing the need for understanding the underlying mechanisms, as they could explain when the intervention works and why. Thus, we assessed these mechanisms through a rigorous effect test, using an experimental design and repeated measures. We measured engagement, self-regulated learning, resilience, grit, wellbeing, academic performance, and retention at three points in a large scale randomized controlled trial involving first-year teacher and business education students (N = 1,134). The treatment group earned significantly more course credits and had lower drop out rates. Contrary to previous findings, these effects were independent of gender or ethnicity. Grit, self-regulated learning, resilience, or engagement did not mediate the effects. This study confirmed reflective goal-setting’s small and direct effect on academic performance, but no mediating or moderating effects. Differences in implementation fidelity could explain previous studies’ varying effect-sizes.

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ERIM Report Series Research in Management
ERIM report series research in management Erasmus Research Institute of Management
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Dekker, I., Schippers, M., & van Schooten, E. (2021). Reflective Goal-Setting Improves Academic Performance in Teacher and Business Education: A Large-Scale Field Experiment (No. ERS-2021-002-LIS). ERIM report series research in management Erasmus Research Institute of Management. Retrieved from