Values are not just goals: Online ACT-based values training adds to goal setting in improving undergraduate college student performance

Jared A. Chase, Ramona Houmanfar, Steven C. Hayes, Todd A. Ward, Jennifer Plumb Vilardaga, Victoria Follette

Goal-setting programs sometimes are defined to include personal values exploration but to date, without specifically testing the impact of values training as an element of the overall package. The present study examined the impact of online goal-setting training with and without personal values exploration (drawn from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) on a measure of undergraduate academic performance (GPA). Psychology majors in their second year or beyond were recruited and randomly assigned to one of three conditions: goal-setting training alone, values training plus goal-setting training, and a waitlist. The use of anonymous institutional data allowed non-respondent majors to be included as a non-randomized, non-responders control condition. Participants were exposed to web-based content delivered via media clips and text with questions covering the material presented. After one semester, waitlist participants also received the values training plus goal-setting training. Analyses showed that the combination of goal setting and values training significantly improved GPAs over the next semester. Goal setting alone had no effect as compared to either the wait list or non-randomized, non-responders control condition. Additional research will be needed to determine why values exploration is helpful in enhancing academic performance.

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