Skip to main content

Personal Best (PB) Goal Setting and Students’ Motivation in Science: A Study of Science Valuing and Aspirations

  • Andrew J. Martin (a1), Tracy L. Durksen (a1), Derek Williamson (a2), Julia Kiss (a2) and Paul Ginns (a3)...

To build on prior correlational research into personal best (PB) goals and motivational outcomes, an experimental study was conducted to assess the role of PB goal setting in gains (or declines) in students’ motivation in science (viz. biology, anatomy, health). The study (comprising N = 71 elementary/primary and secondary school students) applied a pre/post-treatment/control group experimental design to test whether setting a PB learning goal in a self-paced science education program (conducted in a museum context) leads to growth in science valuing and science aspirations. The treatment group (PB goal setting), but not the control group, demonstrated significant growth in science aspirations (but not valuing) between pre- and post-testing. This study provides support for the proposition that PB learning goals are associated with motivational growth in students’ lives. Findings also hold implications for museum-based education programs for students.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Professor Andrew J. Martin, School of Education, University of New South WalesNSW 2052, Australia. E-mail:
Hide All
Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179–211.
Anderman, E., Anderman, L., Yough, M., & Gimbert, B. (2010). Value-added models of assessment: Implications for motivation and accountability. Educational Psychologist, 45, 123137.
Anderman, E.M., Gimbert, B., O’Connell, A., & Riegel, L. (2014). Approaches to academic growth assessment. British Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication.
Anderman, E.M., & Wolters, C.A. (2006). Goals, values, and affect: Influences on student motivation. In Alexander, P.A. & Winne, P.. (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 369389). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Armitage, C.J., & Conner, M. (2001). Efficacy of the theory of planned behavior: A meta-analytic review. British Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 471499.
Australian Academy of Science (2006). Mathematics and statistics: Critical skills for Australia's future. Melbourne, Australia: Australian Academy of Science.
Beady, C., Slavin, R., & Fennessey, G. (1981) Alternative student evaluation structures and a focused schedule of instruction in an inner-city junior high school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 73, 518523.
Bell, P., Lewenstein, B., Shouse, A.W., & Feder, M.A. (2009). Learning science in informal environments. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Carver, C.S., & Scheier, M.F. (1996). Perspectives on personality. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Cox-Petersen, A.M., Marsh, D.D., Kisiel, J., & Melber, L.M. (2003). Investigation of guided school tours, student learning, and science reform recommendations at a museum of natural history. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 40, 200218.
DeVellis, R.F. (1991). Scale development: Theory and applications (Applied Social Research Methods Series, Vol. 26). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Elliot, A.J. (2005). A conceptual history of the achievement goal construct. In Elliot, A.J. & Dweck, C.S. (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 5272). New York: Guildford.
Elliot, A.J., Murayama, K., Kobeisy, A., & Lichtendfeld, S. (in press). Potential-based achievement goals. British Journal of Educational Psychology.
Elliot, A.J., Murayama, K., & Pekrun, R. (2011). A 3 × 2 achievement goal model. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103, 632648.
Falk, J.H., & Dierking, L.D. (1997). School field trips: Assessing their long-term impact. Curator: The Museum Journal, 40, 211218.
Gardner, H. (1991). The unschooled mind. New York: Basic Books.
Goodrum, D., Druhan, A., & Abbs, J. (2012). The status and quality of Year 11 and 12 Science in Australian schools. Report prepared for the Office of the Chief Scientist by the Australian Academy of Science, Canberra.
Green, J., Liem, G.A.D., Martin, A.J., Colmar, S., Marsh, H.W., & McInerney, D.M. (2012). Academic motivation, self-concept, engagement, and performance in high school: Key processes from a longitudinal perspective. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 11111122.
Harris, D.N. (2011) Value-added measures in education. Cambridge: Harvard Educational Press.
Hattie, J.A. (2009). Visible learning. New York: Routledge.
Hattie, J.A. (2012). Visible learning for teachers. New York: Routledge.
Liem, G.A., Ginns, P., Martin, A.J., Stone, B., & Herrett, M. (2012). Personal best goals and academic and social functioning: A longitudinal perspective. Learning and Instruction, 22, 222230.
Linnenbrink-Garcia, L., Tyson, D.F., & Patall, E.A. (2008). When are achievement goal orientations beneficial for academic achievement? A closer look at moderating factors. International Review of Social Psychology, 21, 1970.
Locke, E.A., & Latham, G.P. (2002). Building practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation. American Psychologist, 57, 705717.
Lyons, T., & Quinn, F. (2010). Choosing science: Understanding the declines in senior high school science enrolments. Armidale, Australia: National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia, University of New England.
Maehr, M.L., & Zusho, A. (2009). Achievement goal theory: The past, present, and future. In Wentzel, K.R. & Wigfield, A. (Eds.), Handbook of motivation at school (pp. 77104). New York: Routledge.
Martin, A.J. (2006). Personal bests (PBs): A proposed multidimensional model and empirical analysis. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 803825.×55389
Martin, A.J. (2010). The Motivation and Engagement Scale. Sydney, Australia: Lifelong Achievement Group (
Martin, A.J. (2011). Personal best (PB) approaches to academic development: Implications for motivation and assessment. Educational Practice and Theory, 33, 9399.
Martin, A.J. (2012). The role of Personal Best (PB) goals in the achievement and behavioral engagement of students with ADHD and students without ADHD. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 37, 91105.
Martin, A.J. (2013). Improving the achievement, motivation, and engagement of students with ADHD: The role of personal best goals and other growth-based approaches. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 23, 143155.
Martin, A.J., Anderson, J., Bobis, J., Way, J., & Vellar, R. (2012). Switching on and switching off in mathematics: An ecological study of future intent and disengagement amongst middle school students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 118.
Martin, A.J., & Elliot, A.J. (2014). The role of personal best (PB) goals in students’ academic outcomes: An experimental investigation of achievement growth. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Martin, A.J., & Liem, G.A. (2010). Academic personal bests (PBs), engagement, and achievement: A cross-lagged panel analysis. Learning and Individual Differences, 20, 265270.
Masters, G.N. (2013). Towards a growth mindset in assessment (ACER Occasional Essays — October 2013). Melbourne, Australia: ACER. Retrieved from
Minium, E.M. (1978). Statistical reasoning in psychology and education. New York: Wiley.
Office of the Chief Scientist. (2012). Health of Australian science. Canberra, Australia: Author.
Schwan, S., Grajal, A., & Lewalter, D. (2014). Understanding and engagement in places of science experience: Science museums, science centers, zoos, and aquariums. Educational Psychologist, 49 (2), 7085.
Slavin, R. (1980). Effects of individual learning expectations on student achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 72, 520524.
Thomson, S., De Bortoli, L., Nicholas, M., Hillman, K., & Buckley, S. (2010). PISA in brief: Highlights from the full Australian report. Melbourne: ACER.
Watt, H.M., Shapka, J.D., Morris, Z.A., Durik, A.M., Keating, D.P., & Eccles, J.S. (2012). Gendered motivational processes affecting high school mathematics participation, educational aspirations, and career plans: A comparison of samples from Australia, Canada, and the United States. Developmental Psychology, 48, 15941611.
Winer, B.J., Brown, D.R., & Michels, K.M. (1991). Statistical principles in experimental design. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Yu, K., & Martin, A.J. (2014). Personal best (PB) and ‘classic’ achievement goals in the Chinese context: Their role in predicting academic motivation, engagement, and buoyancy. Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology, 34, 635658.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Educational and Developmental Psychologist
  • ISSN: 2059-0776
  • EISSN: 2059-0784
  • URL: /core/journals/educational-and-developmental-psychologist
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed