Effectiveness of Life Goal Framing to Motivate Medical Students During Online Learning: A Randomized Controlled Trial Journal Articles uri icon

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  • INTRODUCTION: Educators need design strategies to support medical students' motivation in online environments. Prompting students to frame a learning activity as preparing them to attain their life goals (e.g., helping others) via their clinical practice, a strategy called 'life goal framing', may enhance their autonomous motivation, learning strategy use, and knowledge retention. However, for students with low perceived competence for learning (PCL), life goal framing may have an adverse effect. A randomized controlled trial was conducted to test the effectiveness of life goal framing and the moderating effect of students' PCL. METHODS: First- and second-year medical students across four Canadian universities (n = 128) were randomized to receive a version of an online module with an embedded prompt for life goal framing, or one without. Students' motivation, learning strategy use, and knowledge retention were assessed. Differences between conditions on each outcome were estimated using Bayesian regression. RESULTS: Students' PCL was a moderator for autonomous motivation but no other outcomes. The prompt did not have a statistically significant effect on any outcome, even for learners with high PCL, except for a small effect on link-clicking behaviour. DISCUSSION: The results of this study suggest that learners' autonomous motivation is influenced by how they make meaning of instruction in terms of their future life goals and their present confidence. We cannot recommend life goal framing as an effective design strategy at this point, but we point to future work to increase the benefit of life goal framing for learners with high confidence.


  • Gavarkovs, Adam G
  • Crukley, Jeff
  • Miller, Erin
  • Kusurkar, Rashmi A
  • Kulasegaram, Kulamakan
  • Brydges, Ryan

publication date

  • October 26, 2023