Social goals, achievement goals, and the pathways of peer influence in 6th grade
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The main purpose of this study was to bring new considerations to the concept of peer influence on academic achievement motivation variables. While peer influence has focused historically on individual-level effects of influence, this study took into account the idea that goals are frequently shared among peers, especially students who have social goals that are oriented towards having close friends and who value characteristics of high quality friendships. Participants were 200 6th grade math students from a mid-sized city in the southwest. Data included questionnaire responses from the beginning (October) of the school year and then again in the middle of the spring semester (March). The first set of analyses investigated the effects of friendship influence on achievement motivation. An empirical relationship was found between social goals (social intimacy and social status) and characteristics of friendship quality in a regression analysis, indicating that some characteristics of high quality friendship significantly predicted social intimacy goals in both the fall and spring of the school year. Second, social status goals were significantly correlated with performance-avoid goals in math at Time 1 and Time 2, and this was a significantly stronger correlation than the one between social intimacy goals and performance-avoid goals. However, the hypothesis that co-nominated friends in 6th grade who valued social intimacy goals and high quality friendships would become more similar in their achievement motivation orientation over time as a function of peer influence was not confirmed. The second set of analyses investigated the effects of shared social goals and achievement goals using a hierarchical linear model testing for individual effects and classroom effects. Results indicated that high scores for shared achievement goals in math class predicted individual performance-avoid orientation, suggesting that students who belong to classrooms that value the academic goals of peer learning are likely to adopt motivational strategies associated with performance-avoid goals. Discussion revolved around how students may be influenced by their peers and that certain classroom practices may make them more conscious of others’ evaluations, thus leading them to adopt motivational goals of self-protection.