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There are ongoing debates as to the merits of mastery and performance (or competitive) approaches to school and student learning. Mastery approaches are focused on factors and processes such as effort, skill development, learning, and understanding. Performance approaches are focused
more on competition, demonstrating relative ability, social comparisons, and outperforming others (Elliot, 2005; Maehr & Zusho, 2009 provide good overviews; Brophy, 2005 provides a specific critique of performance/competitive approaches). Personal best (PB) goals shed useful light on these
debates in that they may be a positive blend of both mastery and performance approaches. That is, PB goals may reflect a mastery orientation in that they are self-referenced and focused on self-improvement and may reflect some performance (competitive) elements because the student competes
with his or her own previous performance (Martin, 2006). This article explores PB goals, what they look like in the classroom, how they work, and how to implement them from a motivation and assessment perspective.
Educational Practice and Theory is a bi-annual, independent, refereed journal which, since its launch in 1978, has become an important independent forum for original ideas in education. It publishes innovative and original research in the area. Its focus is both applied and theoretical and it seeks articles from a diverse range of themes and countries.