Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Children's Motivation in Elementary Physical Education: A Longitudinal Study

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Children's Motivation in Elementary Physical Education: A Longitudinal Study

Article excerpt

The present study examined relationships among variables drawn from achievement goal theory and the expectancy-value model of achievement choice as well as mean level changes of these variables over time in elementary physical education. Participants (N = 207) completed questionnaires over a 2-year period: once while in the second and fourth grades and again when they were in the third and fifth grades. Results indicated that achievement goals, expectancy-related beliefs, and subjective task values were related to one another and were predictive of children's intention for future participation in physical education. Children's subjective task values of physical education decreased over time. Children in Cohort 1 (across second to third grades) generally had stronger motivation for learning in physical education than children in Cohort 2 (across fourth to fifth grades). Findings suggest the importance of integrating achievement goal theory and the expectancy-value model of achievement choice in understanding student motivation.

Key words: ability beliefs, achievement goals, grade-related difference, subjective task values

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The purpose of this investigation was to examine elementary school children's motivation in physical education in a longitudinal study. Achievement goal theory (Ames, 1992; Dweck, 1986; Maehr, 1984; Nicholls, 1989) and an expectancy-value model of achievement choice (Eccles et al., 1983; Eccles, Wigfield, & Schiefele, 1998) served as the theoretical frameworks for the study. Research in both academic and physical activity domains indicates that the two theoretical perspectives contribute to our understanding of student achievement motivation and motivated behavior (Ames, 1992; Duda, 1992; Nicholls, 1989; Xiang, McBride, Guan, & Solmon, 2003).

For the most part, these two perspectives have been examined separately in past work. Wigfield and Eccles (1992) proposed possible links between achievement goal theory and the expectancy-value model and suggested that studies bringing these two theoretical perspectives together may provide a more complete picture of how the multiple Facets of motivation relate to each other and to achievement-related cognitive, affective, and behavioral patterns of students. This paper explores the relationships among variables drawn from the two approaches to further our understanding of student motivation in the context of elementary physical education.

Achievement Goal Theory

Achievement goals refer to the purposes students perceive for engaging in achievement-related behaviors and the meanings they ascribe to those behaviors (Ames, 1992; Dweck, 1986; Maehr, 1984; Nicholls, 1989). They can influence how students approach, experience, and perform in achievement settings. Researchers (Cury et al., 1996; Duda & Nicholls, 1992; Goudas, Biddle, & Fox, 1994; Solmon & Boone, 1993; Spray & Biddle, 1997; Walling & Duda, 1995; Xiang, Lee, & Solmon, 1997) studying students' achievement goals and the associated patterns of cognitions, beliefs, and affective responses in sport and physical education settings identified two major types of goals: task- and ego-involved goals. Central to a task-involved goal is a belief that effort is the route to success. The focus of attention is on the intrinsic value of learning, mastering new skills, developing competence, and achieving a sense of mastery. Success to task-involved students is self-referenced. This goal has consistently been associated with adaptive motivational patterns, including working hard, a willingness to choose learning tasks with high level of difficulty, and attributing success to effort.

In contrast, central to an ego-involved goal is a focus on striving to demonstrate superior ability and outperform others. Ability is judged by doing better than others or achieving success with little effort. Because success is based on social comparison, personal improvement or task mastery is not sufficient to satisfy the goal of demonstrating superior ability. …

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