Boosting Attendance through Goal Setting: Evidence from a Randomized ExperimentISER Internal Seminars

Can goal setting improve student attendance? Does it eventually translate to performance? We surveyed more than 1000 students of a public university in the UK. After randomizing them into a treatment and control group, the former had to set an attendance goal for the spring term of their second academic year. They received weekly reminders of that goal, either via SMS or email (based on their preference). Additionally, they could opt to enter a commitment contract that would unlock a share of their compensation for taking part in the survey only if they managed to stick to their goal. We found that the intervention had a positive and statistically significant effect on attendance to lectures. Treated students showcased a 3.6% increase in participation over the weeks following the beginning of the experiment, 4.2% if we consider only the weeks after the end of the experiment. This corresponded roughly to 1 more lecture attended over the whole term. Students that took the commitment contract showed the largest improvement in attendance over the same weeks, 7.5% and 9.1%. We measured a null, statistically insignificant impact of the treatment on student GPA at the end of the term, as well as on other performance indicators. We confirm the effectiveness of task-based goal setting, but also its shortcomings: it successfully improves the target outcome of the goal, but does not transfer to other dimensions.

Presented by:

Tommaso Sartori

Date & time:

23 Nov 2022 12:30 pm - 23 Nov 2022 13:30 pm


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