Motivation and Performance in College Students Enrolled in Self-Paced versus Lecture-Format Remedial Mathematics Courses

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Students enrolled in a remedial mathematics course face an uphill battle to improve on their past performance. Prior attitudes, emotions and classroom experiences are often difficult to overcome. This is a comparison study of the psychological effects of learning and performance goal orientations, mathematics anxiety and confidence and the situational effects of self-paced versus lecture-oriented environments in a remedial mathematics course. While anxiety factors are well-documented as detrimental to mathematics performance, no studies have addressed the effects of both goals and anxiety on performance.

Dweck & Leggett (1988) identified two types of achievement goals that affect students' academic performance. Performance goals are as sociated with the desire to achieve favorable grades and social approval. Students with this orientation are typically concerned with the outcome rather than with the actual process of learning and are more likely to subscribe to an entity theory of intelligence, believing that intelligence is a fixed attribute. They tend to perform well on easier tasks where a positive evaluation can be achieved but when faced with difficult tasks, students with performance goals often become discouraged and give up easily, attributing their failure to a lack of ability, in contrast, learning-goal oriented students are interested in and enjoy mastering new material and tend to subscribe to the incremental theory that intelligence is malleable. These students display "mastery-oriented" behavior, showing more persistence on difficult tasks, using alternative strategies and attributing failure to a need to work harder rather than to a lack of ability (Heyman & Dweck, 1992).

Diener and Dweck (1978, 1980) tested this model by giving children a problem solving task to complete. Students could solve the first few problems easily but the last few problems were too difficult for children of their age. At the onset of the study, all of the children were equal in problem-solving ability but after experiencing failure on the difficult problems, children who exhibited a performance orientation focused their attention on their failure and blamed it on a lack of ability. They expressed feelings of defeat and depression, exhibiting the learned helplessness pattern that may be a factor in underachievement (Dweck 1975). In contrast, children exhibiting "mastery-oriented" responses did not perceive themselves as failing. These children tried new strategies, reported increased motivation, and some reported feeling invigorated by the challenge.

Early research on Dweck's model of motivation was focused on elementary school children. Henderson and Dweck (1990) examined the influence of goal orientation and confidence on students' adjustment to junior high school. Students with a learning goal orientation and an incremental theory of intelligence did well even if they initially had low confidence in their ability to succeed. In contrast, students who endorsed performance goals and who endorsed the entity theory of intelligence performed more poorly than expected regardless of confidence level.

Dweck's (1990) model has also been applied to college students (Beck, RotterWoody, & Pierce, 1991; Eppler, CarsenPlentl & Harju, in press; Eppler & Harju, 1997; Harju, 1997; Harju & Eppler, 1997; Hayamizu & Wierner, 1991; Hoyert & O'Dell, (2000a; b); Roedel & Schraw, 1995; Schraw, Horn, Thorndike-Christ, & Brunning, 1995), with sometimes contradictory results. Beck et al. (1991) found that grade orientation (similar to Dweck's performance orientation.) was negatively correlated with GPA and test scores while learning orientation was not significantly related to grades. Schraw et at. (1995), on the other hand, found that learning goals were associated with higher academic evaluations but that performance goals were unrelated to academic performance. …