4
Goal Theory

“I can't afford to get interested in this course because I've got to get a good grade. ”

—College student cited in Lin and McKeachie (1999, p. 1)

I recently tried a little experiment with my undergraduate developmental psychology class. During the first half hour of the class the students took a quiz. The remainder of the class was to be spent discussing moral development, a topic that the students knew would not be covered on the quiz. To begin our discussion of moral development, I asked my students to write down their responses to [questions about whether and why they did the readings]…. Among the students who had done the assigned readings, their reasons for doing the readings included a range of purposes including personal gain, fear of punishment, not wanting to sound stupid in front of the class if called upon, fulfilling a social obligation to participate in class discussions, and wanting to show respect for oneself, the teacher and one's classmates. Among the students who did not read for class, all said that they should have read but chose not to because they had to study for the quiz and knew that the quiz would not include questions about moral development.

—Urdan (1997, pp. 99–100)


ANTECEDENTS OF GOAL THEORY

Chapter 1 outlined ways in which theory and research on motivation evolved from depicting people as buffeted by needs and drives to depicting them as proactively setting goals and planning strategies for accomplishing

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