Assessing Student Focus Areas for Self-Directed Metacognition and Self-Improvement


  • David Woods Miami University
  • Laura Poe
  • Nita Brooks
  • Melinda Korzaan
  • Andrea Hulshult



growth mindset, SMART goals, student learning, reflection and planning, qualitative analysis


Research in higher education has consistently focused on determining factors that influence student success and retention in academic programs. Successful students also positively impact the effectiveness of teaching practices used in a course. Previous work shows that a recurring set of assignments where students reflect on past work and set a SMART goal to make a specific improvement promotes a growth mindset and is an activity that students see value in completing.  Promoting improvements by students should also make an instructor’s teaching efforts more effective.  To understand how instructors and institutions can provide more support for student development and retention, students at four universities completed reflection and planning assignments that involved goal setting based on the SMART goal framework. Student submissions were analyzed to categorize the topic areas where students saw the need to work. Results highlighted the importance of many topics, including time management, self-care, course content, and study methods. Analysis of the data also revealed that facilitating exercises requiring students to set goals and report on their progress later in the term greatly enhanced student engagement and fostered behaviors geared towards establishing a growth mindset.