The role of the group context in predicting college students’ goal orientations in a cooperative learning setting : a mixed methods study
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Achievement goal theorists have long argued that individuals’ goal orientations are situated and contextual and can thus be manipulated and shaped by their social learning context (Ames, 1992; Brophy, 2004; Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002; Pintrich, Conley, & Kempler, 2003). However, despite the proliferation of group-based learning in classrooms today and the assumption that cooperative learning promotes student mastery goal orientation for developing competence, “there has been a neglect of the research on motivational processes in group learning contexts within the field of achievement motivation” (Pintrich et al., 2003, p. 329). This dissertation used a mixed methods approach to investigate cooperative groups as subcontexts (Pintrich et al., 2003) within an undergraduate course that incorporates cooperative learning as an instructional tool. From this sample, I investigated whether and how student- and group-level factors were associated with the type of goal orientations that students adopt within and outside their group context by measuring students’ social academic goal orientations (Kim, Kim, & Svinicki, in press) for their cooperative group work and their achievement goal orientations for their general coursework. A total of 96 students agreed to allow their responses to all online course surveys to be used for research purposes. In addition, 2 of 8 groups in which all group members provided consent were selected to participate in individual interviews. In this embedded mixed methods design (Creswell & Clark, 2007), the quantitative data were the primary focus of analysis and the qualitative data were used to enrich and explain the quantitative findings. Multilevel modeling results indicated that both student- and group-level factors significantly and positively predicted students’ social academic goal orientations in their cooperative group work and students’ subsequent achievement goal orientations in their general course. Furthermore, the qualitative findings indicated that students tend to focus on extrinsic and mastery-oriented goals in addition to individual roles within their cooperative groups. The findings from this dissertation lend promising implications for future researchers and practitioners interested in understanding when and how cooperative group work enhances or hinders students’ achievement motivation.