Learners work with effort and energy to accomplish goals that connect to a meaningful purpose, and they are aware of their progress toward achieving these goals at all times.
Purposefulness brings a number of interrelated concepts together into a single Principle that captures the importance of learners working with effort and energy toward clear, meaningful, and appropriate goals and being aware, at all times, of their progress toward achieving these goals. Unlike some of the other Principles in the Look Fors Framework, such as Collaboration or Rigor, Purposefulness is not extensively researched as a single construct or concept but instead appears in research as a number of independent but interrelated concepts, including goals and goal setting (Locke, 1968), feedback (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996; Hattie & Timperlay, 2007), metacognitive strategies (Lavery, 2008), self-regulation and self- efficacy (Bandura, 1991), growth mindset (Dweck, 2000), flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 2008), urgency (Kotter, 2008), and academic press (McDill, Natriello & Pallas, 1986). These concepts were synthesized into four sub-elements that together make up Purposefulness.
Purposefulness Look Fors
The importance of Purposefulness to learning is supported by various learning theories and connected empirical evidence. Self-determination theory suggests that learners must experience feelings of competence, autonomy, and relatedness to engage with learning (Appleton, Christenson, & Furlong, 2008). Purposefulness supports a learner's sense of competence by ensuring learners know what is expected of them (Defined Dreams & Goals), understand how to get there from where they currently are (Awareness of Progress), and believe they are in control of achieving their goals through hard work and self-regulation (Growth Mindset and Academic Urgency). Cognitive theories also support the notion of using goals and feedback as forms of scaffolding (Vygotsky, 1977), and social-learning theory suggests that clear goals and feedback promote a learner's feelings of self-efficacy and that self-efficacy in turn increases motivation and effort, leading to improved academic performance (Zimmerman & Bandura, 1992). The theoretical assumptions underpinning the importance of Purposefulness as a principle of impactful learning have been validated by a number of empirical studies. This research highlights that goal setting and achieving goals, feedback, growth mindset, and self-regulation, all parts of Purposefulness, are positively related to outcomes such as motivation and persistence, elements of self-concept, and academic performance (See Table 1). However, segments of the research base supporting Purposefulness also highlight the importance of employing the strategies with care. Feedback, for example, is associated with a variety of positive learner outcomes, yet a number of studies also report negative association (Hattie & Timperlay, 2007). This variability results from the wide range in types of feedback and delivery methods that this particular research focuses on. Further information on the guidelines for effective use related to each principle are outlined in the table below.