Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Multiple Goals Perspective in Adolescent Students with Learning Difficulties

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Multiple Goals Perspective in Adolescent Students with Learning Difficulties

Article excerpt


In the present work, the hypothesis of the existence of diverse motivational profiles in students with learning difficulties (LD) and the differential implications for intervention in the classroom are analyzed. Various assessment scales (academic goals, self-concept, and causal attributions) were administered to a sample of 259 students with LD, ages 8 to 15 years, in Spain. The data obtained were analyzed through (a) cluster analysis to study this hypothesis and (b) MANOVAs to determine the extent to which such profiles were accompanied by significant differences in self-esteem and causal attribution patterns. The results revealed four different motivational profiles and significantly different levels of self-esteem and causal attribution process.


motivation, goals, learning difficulties, self-esteem, causal attribution


Personal goals are a very important framework from which to explain motivational orientations and behavior patterns in the school setting. The results of past research on the role of motivational academic orientations have agreed that learning goals are beneficial for most learning-related results, including motivational results such as self-efficacy, interest, and value (Barron & Harackiewicz, 2001, 2003; Valle et al., 2008; Wolters, Yu, & Pintrich, 1996), emotional well-being (Middleton & Midgley, 1997), help seeking, and cognitive commitment (Pintrich, 2000a). In the area of learning difficulties (LD), although motivational and emotional variables are relevant (Sideridis, 2005c), only a few empirical studies have examined the topic of motivation in students with LD from the perspective of academic goals and, more specifically, from the perspective of multiple goals.

Taking into consideration the research to date, two general lines of work were observed: (a) studies that compared diverse academic goals (learning goals, performance goals, performance-avoidance goals), one by one, among students with and without LD and (b) investigations that attempted to determine the relationship between such goals and important criteria such as achievement in various curricular areas, affective variables, or even psychopathological variables. In addition, some current works have examined these children's motivational environment from the perspective of multiple goals in comparative and explanatory studies.

Academic Goals

Although the study of personal goals has been addressed from different perspectives, they all share the idea that people establish goals for themselves, in such a way that cognitive representations of future events become potential motivators of behavior in any setting. From such proposals, and within the academic sphere, there has been increasing interest in the idea that the academic goals pursued by students organize and regulate their behavior. Certain goals are closely related to the type of motivation, which is defined by the kind of goal they hope to achieve.

Elliot and collaborators (Elliot, 1997, 1999; Elliot & Church, 1997; Elliot & Harackiewicz, 1996) proposed a tri-dimensional comprehensive framework of academic goals. In their proposal, they differentiated two tendencies within performance goals, an approach tendency and an avoidance tendency, and as a result defined three independent academic goals:

1. Performance approach, focused on achieving competence in comparison to others

2. Performance avoidance, focused on avoiding incompetence in comparison to others

3. Learning approach, focused on the development of competence and mastery of the task

Subsequently, a new construct, learning-avoidance goals, was proposed. This is the result of applying the differentiation of the tendencies of approach and avoidance toward learning goals (Pintrich, 2000a, 2000b). Students who have learning-approach goals are oriented to achieving the goal of learning and understanding, whereas those with learning-avoidance goals are concerned with not being perfect, not understanding the material completely, or failing to meet their self-referred mastery standards (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002). …

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