The New Engineering Research Centers: Purposes, Goals, and Expectations

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So What Is a Stretch Goal, Anyway?

E-mail this page Embed book widget. What is an eBook? Why is an eBook better than a PDF? Where do I get eBook files? The handout content was derived directly from Heckhausen et al. Participants in the control group completed a similarly formatted reading addressing the science behind medical myths e.

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Finally, a writing exercise was administered in both the intervention and control conditions that required participants to summarize and discuss the main points of the handout depth , provide examples of the issues discussed breadth , explain how they could apply the content in their own lives personal structure , and share their emotions concerning academic failure cf. Academic expectations were assessed utilizing two measures evaluating both global and specific expectations for academic success. To assess achievement motivation, two four-item measures of achievement goal orientations were adapted from Pintrich et al.

Objective Of Training & Placement

Three learning-related emotions were assessed using six-item, five-point Likert scales adapted from the Academic Emotions Questionnaire AEQ; Pekrun et al. Each sessional GPA consisted of the mean grade obtained across all courses completed during that semester. Approximately 4 months after the in-person Phase 2 session, Phase 3 required students to again complete the online questionnaire including the self-report measures. Nevertheless, the covariates evaluated included not only baseline levels of each study outcome assessed e. Haynes et al.

Although the results for anxiety and performance goal orientations were in the expected directions, one-way ANCOVAs showed no significant treatment effects on the remaining self-report outcome measures. According to the first hypothesis, participants in the intervention condition were expected to demonstrate better adjusted i.

These results instead showed students in the intervention condition to report higher levels of optimism as well as general expectations for academic success relative to controls, a finding that although is positive, is contrary to that expected following our intervention addressing the downgrading of aspirations. One possible explanation is that when overconfident students who are highly ego-involved in a domain encounter failure, they often engage in self-enhancement to maintain their self-esteem Robins and Beer, In other words, reminding these students of possible setbacks in an academic program in which they were heavily invested may have triggered a defensive overcompensation in expectation levels.

Alternatively, it is possible that whereas lower aspirations may have occurred immediately following the intervention, greater optimism and expected success 4 months later may indeed reflect genuine, longer-term motivational gains assumed to follow from encouraging students to consider the importance of downgrading following setbacks Hypothesis 2.

Given a similar pattern of encouraging findings on the other motivational and adjustment measures, these findings may reflect the motivating as opposed to threatening nature of the intervention program. Following from Heckhausen et al. Although an encouraging pattern of results was observed showing intervention participants to report higher levels of enjoyment and mastery goal orientation, as well as lower anxiety and boredom relative to controls, these treatment effects did not reach significance.

The Stretch Goal Paradox

As such, our findings did not provide clear support for Hypothesis 2 and are not in line with previous studies showing significant motivational and well-being benefits from downgrading as a motivational strategy e. Instead, these findings suggest that whereas the expectancy variables directly targeted by the intervention were significantly impacted over a 4-month period, similar changes on psychological outcomes not directly addressed in the intervention were not found.

However, although it is possible that the narrow program focus may have limited the range of benefits observed, the lag between the intervention and follow-up questionnaire was shorter than in typical AR studies e. Due to the highly demanding and competitive nature of STEM degree programs, academic setbacks and disappointment represent an unfortunate reality for many students in these disciplines.

According to Hypothesis 3, participants in the intervention condition were expected to gain a greater appreciation of how realistic aspirations can help students preserve their motivational resources in the face of academic difficulties, leading to sustained personal well-being and higher GPAs over time relative to controls. The present findings revealed that in direct contrast to this hypothesis, students in the intervention condition demonstrated consistently lower grades following the intervention in comparison to students in the control condition who received no intervention.

As noted previously, one explanation for this discouraging result may involve the possibly ego-threatening nature of the failure-oriented intervention for STEM students Robins and Beer, ; Perez, who may have reacted defensively, overcompensated with higher expectations, and pursued even more challenging goals thereby increasing their chances of failure and disengagement e.

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This interpretation is consistent with studies showing students with particularly high self-esteem to experience lower grades Hall et al. However, given slightly greater well-being and motivation for intervention participants, and a lack of higher negative affect, it is also plausible that the intervention prompted STEM students to demand less of themselves with respect to their persistence, leading to lower yet stable performance vs.

Whereas these self-esteem bolstering initiatives encouraged struggling students to view themselves in a more positive light, as a corollary, there were also likely encouraged to implicitly perceive their present poor performance as an acceptable standard thereby decreasing their motivation for personal improvement. It is therefore possible that the present intervention in which STEM students were explicitly encouraged to consider the importance of adopting more attainable academic goals may have resulted in downgraded aspirations e.

However, as short-term changes in expectancy were not assessed, indicators of persistence were not examined, and no clear emotional benefits of participating in the downgrading intervention were observed beyond greater optimism and expectations, further research is required to more substantively evaluate this hypothesis. First, it should be noted that although the present study is consistent with emerging findings highlighting academic overconfidence in post-secondary STEM programs e. As such, future larger-scale research with STEM students in which baseline overconfidence is clearly demonstrated, baseline levels are examined as moderating variables e.

Second, as the limited sample size of this exploratory study may have contributed to a lack of significant findings for some measures e. Third, as the present pilot study employed a quasi-experimental design in that intervention conditions were randomly applied to experimental sessions vs. Fourth, although this study evaluated multiple indicators of psychological adjustment, motivation, and achievement, it did not assess measures of self-esteem and persistence e. Accordingly, longitudinal research with multiple short- and long-term follow-ups in which these potential and hypothesized mediators are also evaluated is recommended to better determine whether STEM students reacted defensively to the program or opted to preserve their well-being by reducing unmitigated persistence at the expense of their grades.

Finally, given that the narrow intervention focus on downgrading unrealistic expectations neglected to mention other motivational variables consistently found to predict achievement in college students e. In sum, the present exploratory findings underscore the importance of further research on how to better encourage students in STEM disciplines to consider the psychological risks of unrealistic expectations as well as the potential benefits of downgrading aspirations following setbacks encountered in these challenging degree programs. NH conducted data collection, statistical analysis, and manuscript writing.

AS conducted statistical analysis and manuscript writing. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Psychol v. Front Psychol.

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Published online Jul Nathan C. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.

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Hall, ac. This article was submitted to Educational Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Received May 17; Accepted Jul The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Abstract College students in STEM science, technology, engineering, mathematics disciplines are increasingly faced with highly competitive and demanding degree programs and are at risk of academic overconfidence. Keywords: motivational intervention, STEM, overconfidence, downgrading expectations, higher education.

Introduction For many students, adaptation to college life includes both academic and developmental demands, with students in demanding degree programs facing numerous challenges including marked pressure to succeed academically, increased expectations for independence and maturity, as well as the need for successful adjustment to unfamiliar tasks and environments Bozick, ; Schrader and Brown, The Motivational Theory of Life-Span Development As noted above, academic overconfidence has recently been examined from a developmental self-regulation perspective, with students adopting unrealistic motivational beliefs e.

Motivational Interventions and Academic Overconfidence Existing motivation research has evaluated the benefits of intervention programs for struggling college students based on varied social-psychological perspectives including self-theories of intelligence e. Materials and Methods Participants Fifty-two undergraduates enrolled in STEM degree programs and completing introductory-level STEM courses at a North American research-intensive university were recruited in the winter semester for a three-phase study via mass emails from faculty deans and students affairs directors.

Open in a separate window. Academic Expectations Academic expectations were assessed utilizing two measures evaluating both global and specific expectations for academic success. Achievement Motivation To assess achievement motivation, two four-item measures of achievement goal orientations were adapted from Pintrich et al. Table 2 Means and standard deviations by intervention condition. Time 2 means statistically adjusted for covariates including gender, high-school grade, and year of study. Discussion Hypothesis 1: Academic Expectations and Optimism According to the first hypothesis, participants in the intervention condition were expected to demonstrate better adjusted i.