Influences of Goal Orientations during Adolescence

Does endorsing a mastery or performance goal orientation lead to different outcomes for students? Do mastery and performance goals interact in the prediction of various outcomes? Research indicates that during the adolescent years, the endorsement of mastery and performance goals becomes particularly important because they lead to different types of outcomes for adolescents. These outcomes include the use of differing cognitive processing strategies, different effects on learning, and differing approaches to academic tasks.

Nolen (1988) examined the relations between adolescents' goal orientations and the use of deep- and surface-level cognitive processing strategies.

A task (mastery) orientation was related strongly and positively to the use of deep processing strategies, and less strongly to the use of surface processing strategies. In contrast, an ego (performance) orientation was related positively only to the use of surface-level strategies.

In a similar study with high school students, Nolen and Haladyna (1990) found that the belief in the usefulness of deep-processing strategies was related more strongly to a task (mastery) orientation than to an ego (performance) orientation. Similar results have been found in other studies (e.g., Anderman & Young, 1994).

Some research indicates that performance goals are related to some seemingly negative outcomes for early adolescents. For example, Urdan, Midgley, and Anderman (1998) examined a large sample of fifth graders and found that the use of self-handicapping strategies (e.g., fooling around, procrastinating, etc.) was related to perceptions of an emphasis on performance goals in the classroom, as well as to teachers' reported use of performance-oriented instructional strategies. Other studies (e.g., Midgley, Arunkumar, & Urdan, 1996) also indicate that performance goals may be related to the use of self-handicapping strategies in older adolescents.

Anderman, Griesinger, and Westerfield (1998) found that during adolescence, academic cheating may be related to performance goals and to extrinsic goals. Using a sample of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, Anderman et al. found that self-reported cheating behaviors in science were predicted by perceiving the science classroom as extrinsically oriented and by perceiving the school as a whole as performance oriented. In addition, they found that the beliefs in the acceptability of cheating were related to personal extrinsic goals and to perceiving science classrooms as being extrinsically oriented.

Pajares and his colleagues (Pajares, Britner, & Valiante, 2000) examined mastery, performance-approach, and performance-avoid goal orientations in middle school students, in both writing and science. One of the more intriguing results of this study was that performance-approach goals were unrelated to the writing beliefs (e.g., self-efficacy, self-concept, self-regulation) of sixth grade students, but were related to writing self-efficacy and science self-concept in seventh grade students, and to self-regulatory beliefs in eighth grade students. These results suggest that performance-approach goals may serve a more adaptive purpose for older adolescents than for younger adolescents (see also Middleton & Midgley, 1997).

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