M.M. Schodl1, A. Raz2, A.N. Kluger3

1The Hebrew University–Mt. Scopus, Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) (ISRAEL)
2Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Psychology Department (ISRAEL)
3The Hebrew University–Mt. Scopus, The Jerusalem School of Business Administration (ISRAEL)
Procrastination is detrimental to learning and to academic performance of students and especially damaging when using online learning tools. We hypothesized, based on Temporal Motivation Theory (TMT; Steel, 2007) that avoidance motivation, triggered by negative feedback, will decrease students' procrastination. This effect is possible because avoidance motivation could increase task value and/or decrease impulsiveness which may decrease procrastination. To manipulate approach and avoidance motivation, we designed two types of online learning tools (quizzes), with two types of instructions and feedback. In the avoidance quiz, the students started the quiz with 100 points and were instructed to avoid losing points. In case of a mistake, a red circle with "-10" appeared on the screen. In the approach quiz, the students started the quiz with 0 points and were instructed to gain as many points as possible. After each correct answer, a blue circle with "+10" appeared on the screen. All students were told that these online learning tools are designed for practice, and that their performance on this quiz will not affect their course grade. In Study 1 we used a within-subject design. Twenty one students, who completed a chronic procrastination measure, submitted three course assignments, at the 4th, 8th, and 12th weeks of the semester. The approach quiz was available to students 10 days before the due date of the 2nd assignment, the avoidance quiz was available to students 10 days before the due date of the 3rd assignment. The 1st assignment was not preceded by a quiz and served as control. Behavioral procrastination was operationalized as the actual submission dates, relative to the requested submission date. A repeated-measures ANOVA indicated a significant effect of condition (control, approach, avoidance). Planned contrasts revealed that participants procrastinated significantly less in the avoidance condition than in the approach and control conditions, but the difference between the approach and control conditions was not statistically significant. In Study 2 we conducted a between-subject experiment. Ninety six students (73 females) completed a measure of chronic procrastination and then were randomly assigned to either the approach or avoidance manipulation conditions (quizzes). The manipulation was operated twice during the semester. After each manipulation (quiz) students were offered some benefit (e.g., grade bonus points) and 2 links were sent after each manipulation (24 days after and 14 days after). Students had to enter the weblink to receive the benefit. Behavioral procrastination, that was measured twice after each manipulation was operationalized as the time of entry to the weblink to receive the benefit. We conducted four regression analyses and simple slope analyses regressing behavioral procrastination on chronic procrastination and approach/avoidance motivation. In three out of four measurements, our hypothesis was supported. That is, an increase in avoidance motivation either reduced behavioral procrastination (delay of action) or moderated the effect of chronic procrastination on behavioral procrastination. We found that designing learning tasks that focused on avoiding mistakes, when the mistakes were presented as normal and had no effect on course grade, reduced the tendency to procrastinate. This could help to remove one of the most prominent barriers to learning – procrastination.