Academic journal article Journal for Educational Research Online

The Relationships between Adult Students' Achievement Goal Orientations, Self-Defined Course Goals, Course Evaluations, and Performance

Academic journal article Journal for Educational Research Online

The Relationships between Adult Students' Achievement Goal Orientations, Self-Defined Course Goals, Course Evaluations, and Performance

Article excerpt

l. Introduction

Achievement goal research is one of the most prominent areas of recent research on student motivation. Findings suggest that the goals students strive for influence their approach to and behaviour in achievement situations as well as the consequences of such behaviour. Research has provided rich evidence of the correlates and consequences of both general and situation specific goal orientations in terms of student engagement, learning outcomes, and affective experiences. It seems that many studies are using surveys on the extent to which students strive for different achievement-related goals. Only a minority of studies have focused on students' own open descriptions of the goals they try to achieve in different achievement situations and contexts, and hardly any study has tried to link these two different inquiries to each other or to other relevant educational outcomes. To address this limitation, our study aims to examine how students' achievement goal orientations (as self-reported in a survey) and course goals (as described in an open ended questionnaire) are related to each other and how they predict the students' perceptions of their learning environment and course performance. By doing this, we will have a clear look at the relationships between general and context-specific goal strivings, both conceptually and with regard to data collecting strategy, and regarding their predictions on important outcomes. For this purpose, we obtained qualitative data on students' descriptions of the goals they tried to attain in the course in addition to commonly used survey measures of achievement goal orientations.

Our conceptualization of both - learning motivation and learning environment - derives from the achievement goal research that has contributed to the study of achievement-related behaviour and instructional practices (cf. Anderman, Austin, & Johnson, 2001; Urdan, 1997, 2004; Wolters & Gonzales, 2008). Despite the numerous different ways achievement-related goal strivings have been conceptualized and measured (e.g., DeShon & Gillespie, 2005), there seems to be a general distinction between two approaches (see Kaplan & Maehr, 2007; Urdan, 1997): one, that focuses on specific desired end-states in a given task or situation (achievement goals) and another, that focuses on more general orientations toward or approaches to achievement situations (achievement goal orientations). Our work follows the latter perspective by defining achievement goal orientations as personal dispositions in the form of generalized preferences for certain behaviors and outcomes in achievement-related contexts. That is, we view achievement goal orientations as motivational mind-sets through which students' interpret learning and achievement situations, and which are manifested in the types of goals, outcomes and activities students seek to attain or avoid (see Niemivirta, 2002a; Tuominen-Soini, Salmela-Aro, & Niemivirta, 2008).

Research shows that motivational orientations, achievement, and students' course evaluations are interrelated. Students' motivation is predictive of their evaluations of teaching (Greenwald & Gillmore, 1997; Bacon & Novotny, 2002; Pulkka & Niemivirta, 2013a; 2013b), achievement goals are associated with performance (Huang, 2012; Senko, Hulleman, & Harackiewicz, 2011) and preferences of instruction and teacher characteristics (Senko, Belmonte, & Yakhkind, 2012; Tapóla & Niemivirta, 2008). Students' achievement goal orientations may affect student performance as a foinction of different pedagogical practices (e.g., Midgley, Kaplan, & Middleton, 2001; Pulkka & Niemivirta, 2013c; Senko, Durik, & Harackiewicz, 2008). In sum: Differently motivated students prefer different things in educational contexts and perceive learning and instruction in distinct ways.

However, studies that integrate these views are scarce, and most of the research examining the relations between student motivation and the learning environment seem to employ a rather unidirectional view on the relationship between the environment and the individual; the learning environment has mostly been assumed to influence the motivation of individuals, not the other way around (e. …

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