Situational Indexes of Achievement Motivation, Help-Seeking, and Performance: Influences of the Learning Context and Gender Differences

By Gernigon, Christophe; d'Arripe-Longueville, Fabienne et al. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, December 2003 | Go to article overview
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Situational Indexes of Achievement Motivation, Help-Seeking, and Performance: Influences of the Learning Context and Gender Differences


Gernigon, Christophe, d'Arripe-Longueville, Fabienne, Debove, Veronique, Puvis, Aude, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


Key words: goal involvement, motivational climate, perceived difficulty, self-efficacy

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The context for acquiring skills plays a major role in determining learning-related self-regulatory patterns. Studies conducted in academics (e.g., Roeser, Midgley, & Urdan, 1996) and in sports mid physical activities (see Ntoumanis & Biddle, 1999) have revealed that, colnpared to eco-evolving contexts (i.e., contexts promoting social comparison), task-involving contexts (i.e., contexts emphasizing learning and personal progress) contribute more to promote adaptive cognitive and behavioral achievement patterns. Among these patterns, particular thoughts and strategies, such as self-efficacy beliefs (e.g., Roeser et al., 1996) and help-seeking strategies (e.g., Newman & Schwager, 1995), have been found to favor academic performances. Surprisingly, in the domain of physical activities self-efficacy and help seeking have rarely or may never have been studied as achievement variables that can be influenced by the context.

According to Nicholls' (1989) achievement goals theory, the role of context in adopting adaptive or maladaptive achievement patterns is assumed to be mediated by the goals individuals pursue in a given situation. These goals correspond to task involvement, when an individual uses self-referenced criteria, such as effort investment and personal progress, to assess his or her ability. Otherwise, goals correspond to ego involvement, when the individual uses norm-referenced criteria, that is, when his or her perceived ability, depends on how much more competent he or she is compared to others. However, whether these goals are actually solicited by the context has seldom been verified, because individuals' task or ego involvement has been measured in few studies conducted in sport. In these studies, goal involvement was assessed either with single-item measures (e.g., Swain & Harwood, 1996) or with stems adapted from scales usually used to measure dispositional motivational orientations (e.g., Williams, 1998). Developing tools that can specifically tap into the goals that individuals momentarily pursue might help to identify directly the mechanisms by' which task- or ego-involving contexts influence some typical self-regulatory processes, such as help-seeking and self-efficacy beliefs.

In the academic domain, help-seeking behaviors have been identified as adaptive learning-related self-regulatory strategies (e.g., Nelson-Le Gall, 1992) that may be encouraged by task-involving contexts. Particularly, these contexts have been found to favor seeking indirect instrumental help, such as hints (Buffer & Neuman, 1995), whereas in ego-involving contexts, students are less likely to seek help (e.g., RY, m, Gheen, & Midgley, 1998) or more likely to prefer solutions (i.e., full help) over hints (i.e., instrumental help) to expedite successful task completion (Butler & Neuman, 1995). Although help-seeking could be use fir to motor learning, no research has yet focused on this variable in sport and physical activities.

Self-efficacy beliefs (i.e., beliefs that one has the capacity to achieve certain tasks) are also considered an important self-regulatory process that can be influenced by goal-involving contexts (Roeser et al., 1996). However, the literature dealing with the relationships between task- or ego-involving contexts and self-efficacy is poorly documented. Nevertheless, Kavussanu and Roberts (1996) showed that perceiving a task-involving structure is positively related to self-efficacy in sports. According to these authors, the perception of competence is less fragile when it depends on mastering the task and improving one's ability than when it is based on uncontrollable factors involved in the social comparison process, such as the performance of others.

Besides task- and ego-involving contexts, individual characteristics, such as gender, can also relate to goal involvement and its related achievement patterns (Nicholls, 1989).

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