The Impact of Self-Belief and Student Behaviours on the Achievement of Target Grades in Sixth-Form: A Case Study

Jones, Ruth (2021). The Impact of Self-Belief and Student Behaviours on the Achievement of Target Grades in Sixth-Form: A Case Study. EdD thesis The Open University.



Within Further Education, assigning target grades to students at the outset of their programme of study is a prevalent practice which is assumed to be motivational. However, there has been little research about students’ experiences of this practice, and how it influences academic attitudes and behaviour. In response to this perceived gap, a case study design was undertaken in a sixth-form college to explore student experiences. This comprised four stages of data collection, the first of which involved students completing two questionnaires on self-efficacy and locus of control. Twelve students were then purposively selected, based on the lowest and highest questionnaire scores. The next stage entailed interviewing the twelve students in order to gain in-depth understanding of their experience. In stages three and four, data were collected on student attendance and grades for formative and summative assessment across the academic year.

Thematic analysis of data revealed that not all students accepted their target grades, but this did not necessarily impact detrimentally on final outcomes. This was particularly apparent for students who shared an internal locus of control. Students with low levels of self efficacy were also found to exhibit particular behaviours such as procrastination; similarly this also did not necessarily impact on outcomes. However, being assigned a target in conjunction with low self-efficacy and an external locus of control did seem to result in a negative experience.

Overall, the assumption that target grades are motivational has not been fully substantiated in this research. To promote the effectiveness of a college wide target setting policy, students need to own their own targets; however, this ownership may be influenced by their self-efficacy or locus of control beliefs. In addition, existing literature has not, to date, substantively explored target setting, self-efficacy and a locus of control and this is an area for future research.

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