Changes and stability in individual achievement goals based on instructional components of a college classroom and relations between individual goals and class goals
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Learning motivation plays a principal role in predicting desirable outcomes such as academic success and engagement in school (Elliot & Dweck, 2005; Spence & Helmreich, 1983). Among several relevant motivational variables, the achievement goal construct currently has received the most research attention in the area of competence-relevant motivation. Theorists are interested in studying achievement goals because goal orientation can influence cognitive processes through key motivational processes and eventually lead to improvement in learning achievement and attitudes (e.g., Ames, 1984; Elliot, 2005). Little is known, however, about regulations in achievement goals over time. In the present study, I want to address this oversight, focusing primarily on the foundational question of how students' achievement goals are changed and the relations between individual goals and perceptions of classroom structures. Based on previous literature, the current quasi-experimental study focused on the research hypothesis that instructional components of a course which are focused on competence (e.g., exam, in-class quiz, writing a paper, in-class activities) influence differentially the adoption or regulation of students' achievement goals in a real classroom. A total of 173 college students from an introductory educational psychology course participated in this study. I adopted five statistical approaches to investigate changes and stability in achievement goals and used multiple regression analyses to verify the relations between achievement goals and perceptions of class goals. Overall, the results of the current study provide clear and consistent evidence for the presence of both stability and change. All achievement goals had high stability for each instructional task through differential and ipsative continuity. Mean-level change analyses showed a considerable decline in the tendency in each individual goal pursuit. Interestingly, students' mastery goals toward an exam increased significantly whereas performance-avoidance goals decreased. Finally, cluster analysis suggested changes in cluster memberships between the pre- and post-measure of achievement goals toward each instructional task and participants' perceptions of classroom goals. The results and findings of the current study provide important implications for both research methodology used to investigate achievement goals and instructional design in the classroom. Limitations of the current investigation and suggestions for future studies are discussed.