Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Achievement Goal Orientations, "Oughts," and Self-Regulation in Students with and without Learning Disabilities

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Achievement Goal Orientations, "Oughts," and Self-Regulation in Students with and without Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt

Abstract. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the regulation of goal orientations and strong "oughts" in students with learning disabilities (LD). Participants were 132 Greek students with state-identified LD using the achievement-discrepancy criterion, and 538 typical students. The first hypothesis tested was that feeling obliged to engage in an activity is grounded on fear and is associated with a network of avoidance-related behaviors. Results confirmed this hypothesis, as the ought-self explained significant amounts of variability in task avoidance, performance avoidance, and fear of failure. The second hypothesis was that the ought-self was associated with failure to regulate. Student groups were formed based on their adoption of mastery, performance approach, task avoidance, multiple-approach goals, and strong "oughts." Results indicated that students with strong "oughts" persisted significantly less than students with approach forms of motivation. Regardless of their lack of persistence, however, students with strong "oughts" were not inferior in achievement, nor did they display heightened negative affect. By modeling the relationship between goals, achievement and psychopathology, results showed that the ought-self was negatively associated with achievement and positively associated with indices of anxiety and depression. Mean group analyses pointed to salient differences between students with and without LD on motivation, achievement and psychopathology.


Recent literature on learning disabilities suggests that the disorder may entail a lot more than academic deficits (Vaughn & Fuchs, 2003). For example, many students with learning disabilities (LD) present other comorbid characteristics such as depression (Heath & Ross, 2000); anxiety (Hoy, Gregg, Wisenbaker, Manglitz, King, & Moreland, 1997); emotional problems (Masi, Provedani, & Poli, 1998); and motivational deficits (Dunn & Shapiro, 1999). Given such comorbidity and heterogeneity (Kavale & Forness, 1987), it is imperative for researchers to expand their frameworks to understand the causes of under-achievement in students with LD and, potentially, intervene accordingly.

A particularly underrepresented area of research concerns the hypothesized functional role of motivation and emotions (e.g., Bryan, Burstein, & Ergul, 2004; Elias, 2004; Elksnin & Elksnin, 2004; Turner, Meyer, & Schweinle, 2003), which has proven to be highly predictive for the achievement of students with LD (Bouffard, 2003; Garcia & de Caso, 2004; Sideridis & Tsorbatzoudis, 2003). Attention to motivationally related constructs for identification of LD has also been found to enhance correct identification of LD subtypes (Sideridis, Morgan, Botsas, Padeliadu, & Fuchs, in press).

The primary objective of the present study was to evaluate students' regulation of their academic behavior when that behavior had various motivational origins (i.e., achievement goal theory and obligations, as described in self-determination theory).

Achievement Goal Theory

According to goal theory, approaching a task out of interest and the desire to learn may yield more effective outcomes than approaching it to demonstrate competence over others (Ames, 1992). The former orientation (termed learning or mastery) has consistently been associated with positive achievement gains as students focus on understanding and performing a task out of joy and pleasure (Meece & Holt, 1993; Nicholls, Patashnick, & Nolen, 1985).

The adaptiveness of the latter orientation, termed performance orientation (Dweck & Leggett, 1988), has been subject to controversy. With a basis in normative comparisons, this orientation describes students who focus on outperforming other students and maintaining a high standing in their class. Originally, Dweck (1986) termed this orientation "helpless" because students tended to withdraw from academic tasks early, particularly when they felt incapable of performing well. …

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