Handbook of Competence and Motivation

By Andrew J. Elliot; Carol S. Dweck | Go to book overview

GOALS
CHAPTER 4
A Conceptual History
of the Achievement Goal Construct

ANDREW J. ELLIOT

Many different psychological constructs have been used over the years to explain and predict the energization and direction of behavior in achievement situations, such as the classroom, the workplace, and the ballfield. Each of these constructs (e.g., the achievement motive construct, the perceived competence construct, the achievement goal construct) has focused in some way and to some degree on competence. The study of competence and how individuals are motivated with regard to competence has had an important place in many different disciplines within psychology, including developmental psychology, educational psychology, industrial–organizational psychology, social–personality psychology, and sport psychology.

Integral to a motivational analysis of competence is the issue of valence. Persons may be energized by or directed toward the positive possibility of competence per se, and/or they may be energized by or directed away from the negative possibility of incompetence. This distinction between approach motivation and avoidance motivation is a fundamental and basic aspect of competence-relevant motivation.

The construct that currently receives the most research attention in the literature on competence-relevant motivation is the achievement goal construct. In this chapter, I offer a conceptual history of the achievement goal construct, describing the emergence of the construct and noteworthy developments in the achievement goal literature from its inception to the present day. From day one, the achievement goal construct was grounded in a distinction between mastery and performance forms of competence-relevant motivation. It was not until significantly later in the development of the literature that the approach– avoidance distinction was also considered fundamental to the achievement goal construct. As such, in overviewing the achievement goal literature, I devote particular attention to the question of when and how this approach–avoidance distinction was incorporated into the achievement goal con

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