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What Works in Schools

by Robert J. Marzano

Table of Contents

Chapter 4. Challenging Goals and Effective Feedback

The second school-level factor is “challenging goals and effective feedback.” The factor is primarily a combination of what other researchers have referred to as “high expectations” (or “effective monitoring” as referred to in Marzano, 2000a) and “pressure to achieve” (see Figure 2.3, p. 19). In my terminology, high expectations and pressure to achieve refer to establishing challenging goals for students. Monitoring refers to feedback—tracking the extent to which goals are met. Given that these elements hold the ranks of third and fourth respectively in my previous study (Marzano, 2000a), I've combined them and ranked them second in the list of the five school-level factors.

Pressure to Achieve: Establishing Academic Goals

In reviewing the research underlying this factor, let's first consider the academic impact of goal setting. Figure 4.1 (p. 36) provides a brief review of some of that research. Specifically, Figure 4.1 reports the research using the metric of effect sizes (ES) translated into percentile gains. (For a detailed explanation of effect sizes, see Technical Note 4, pp. 190–191.) For example, Mark Lipsey and David Wilson (1993) examined 204 different studies and found that, on average, the act of setting academic goals had an effect size of 0.55. This means that the achievement scores in classes where clear learning goals were exhibited were 0.55 standard deviations higher than the achievement scores for classes where clear learning goals were not established. This differential translates into a 21-percentage point difference in achievement. Considered together, the findings reported in Figure 4.1 are compelling. Specifically, the reported impact of setting goals on student achievement ranges from a low of 18 percentile points to a high of 41 percentile points.


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