Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Assessing the Psychometric Properties of the Achievement Goals Questionnaire across Task Contexts

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Assessing the Psychometric Properties of the Achievement Goals Questionnaire across Task Contexts

Article excerpt

Introduction

Imagine a teacher assigns students a task that provides opportunities for students to work together, allows them to select a topic for the task, and allows them to submit the assignment for formative feedback prior to submission for summative assessment. Three weeks later, the same teacher tells students they will be given an exam graded on normative standards, and scores will be posted in the class. Would students' achievement goals be similar for both tasks? Theoretically, the likely answer is no. As Ames (1992) proposed, the various tasks and learning activities that teachers set for their students can have powerful influences on how students engage with the tasks, the amount of effort they expend, and the strategies they choose to complete the tasks. Specifically, tasks can influence learners' orientations toward differing achievement goals. Midgley, Kaplan, and Middleton (2001) define achievement goals as "the purposes for behavior that are perceived or pursued in a competence-relevant setting" (p.77).

Initially, theorists proposed two types of achievement goals: a mastery goal and a performance goal (e.g., Anderman & Maehr, 1994; Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Elliot & Dweck, 1988; Maehr & Pintrich, 1991; Meece, 1991). Today, theorists conceptualize achievement goals within a trichotomous or 2 x 2 framework. Within the trichotomous framework (e.g., Elliot & Church, 1997; Middleton & Midgley, 1997; Pintrich, 2000), three distinct achievement goal orientations are proposed: a mastery goal, performance-approach goal, and a performance-avoid goal. A mastery goal orientation (or mastery-approach orientation) describes learners who strive to develop competence and task mastery. Learners with a mastery goal orientation are theorized to believe effort and outcome co-vary. In contrast, a performance-approach goal orientation characterizes learners who strive to demonstrate aptitude and seek favourable judgments; demonstrations of competence are in comparison to others. The third goal is a performance-avoidance orientation, whereby learners strive to avoid appearing unable and avoid negative judgments. Like the performance-approach orientation, comparisons of competence are made with other individuals.

The 2 x 2 achievement goal framework (Elliot & McGregor, 2001) divides goals into a mastery-performance dichotomy plus an approach-avoidance dichotomy. This adds a fourth goal orientation, a mastery-avoidance orientation, whereby a learner's goal is to avoid failure rooted in an intrapersonal perspective (relative to oneself, like the mastery-approach orientation) rather than in comparison to others. For the mastery-avoid goal construct, incompetence is the focus. A mastery-avoid oriented learner, for example, may strive to avoid misunderstanding or failing to learn course material, or strive not to forget what has been learned (Elliot & McGregor, 2001). Conceptually, the mastery component in a mastery-avoid goal orientation emerges from optimal antecedents (e.g., motive dispositions, implicit theories, socialization histories) that may facilitate positive consequences (such as mastery-approach goals; see Elliot & McGregor, 2001, for a complete discussion). The avoidance component, however, is hypothesized to emerge from non-optimal antecedents and may result in negative consequences (such as performance-avoidance goals).

Several studies have examined the consequences of endorsing various goals and how those goals relate to achievement (Elliot, 1999). For example, performance-approach goals correlated with positive factors such as absorption during task involvement (Elliot & Harackiewicz, 1996), high performance outcomes (Elliot & Church, 1997), task value (Wolters, Yu, & Pintrich, 1996), and intrinsic motivation (Elliot & Harackiewicz, 1996; Elliot & Church, 1997). Performance-approach goals also have been linked to negative outcomes such as test anxiety (Elliot & McGregor, 1999; Middleton & Midgley, 1997), low self-efficacy (Skaalvik, 1997), and higher avoidant help-seeking (Middleton & Midgley, 1997; Ryan & Pintrich, 1998). …

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