NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Victoria L. Prowse

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NBER Working Papers and Publications

July 2017Using Goals to Motivate College Students: Theory and Evidence from Field Experiments
with Damon Clark, David Gill, Mark Rush: w23638
Will college students who set goals for themselves work harder and achieve better outcomes? In theory, setting goals can help present-biased students to mitigate their self-control problem. In practice, there is little credible evidence on the causal effects of goal setting for college students. We report the results of two field experiments that involved almost four thousand college students in total. One experiment asked treated students to set goals for performance in the course; the other asked treated students to set goals for a particular task (completing online practice exams). Task-based goals had large and robust positive effects on the level of task completion, and task-based goals also increased course performance. Further analysis indicates that the increase in task completion ...
 
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