Goal orientation refers to students’ reasons for engaging in various achievement behaviors in a particular situation. These reasons may be to learn (a mastery orientation), to do better than others (a performance-approach orientation) or to avoid failure (a performance-avoidance orientation). While a combination of mastery and performance goals may be ideal for learning and achievement, the mastery goal orientation is typically associated with more desirable outcomes such as high engagement, intrinsic motivation, and persistence. Chapter 7 discusses how goal orientation impacts motivation and what science teachers can do to foster productive goals among their students.
Resources to support teachers in promoting productive student goal orientation can be found by clicking on the links shown at right. Those resources include handouts and activities, further reading, links to recommended websites, and short (~ 3 minute) video clips illustrating the importance of this concept to practicing scientists and showing exemplary high school teachers who practice the strategies recommended in the book.
1. Goal Orientation Awareness
When oriented to mastery goals, students’ purpose or goal in an achievement setting is to develop their competence. They seek to extend their mastery and understanding. Attention is focused on the task. A mastery goal orientation has been associated with adaptive patterns of learning. You can give the attached Personal Mastery Goal Orientation Scale to identify student perceptions of their personal mastery goal orientation in science. The items can be used either as self-assessment or for you to determine their level of mastery goal orientation in your science class. To find out each student’s score add up their responses and divide by five. Higher scores indicate greater mastery goal orientation.
You can give your students the attached Student Perceptions of Classroom Goal Orientation Scale to determine students’ perceptions that the purpose of engaging in academic work in your classroom is to develop competence. The questions specifically measure students’ perceptions of mastery goal orientation in your science class. To find out each student’s score add up their responses and divide by six. A higher score reflects a more mastery goal oriented perception of the science classroom. Note that this questionnaire should be given anonymously to ensure honest responses.
The attached Checklist of Goal Orientation can be used for identifying the extent to which you promote performance and mastery orientations in your classroom. The checklist can be used for self-evaluation or by asking others to check what they observe in your classroom.
2. Practices that Promote Mastery Orientation
Students who are mastery oriented focus on effort, use appropriate learning strategies, make choices that are challenging and engaging, and develop a positive orientation toward learning. As a teacher, you can influence whether students adopt a mastery orientation in your classroom by the instructional practices you use. Remember that changing the classroom goal structure may not help some students who lack certain skills such as learning strategies. Therefore, the first step to creating a mastery goal oriented classroom is to teach them necessary learning strategies. Once students learn those skills, and you begin to use the motivational practices described on the attached handout, Guide for Creating Mastery Oriented Classrooms, students should begin to adopt adaptive motivational patterns.
3. Resources for Parents
Handout for parents about competence. See Thinking about Academic Competence under the Supporting Academic Success heading in the second column of the Publications link at the NIU Collaborative on Early Adolescence (NIU-CEA) website.
4. Additional Reading
Further information about self-regulated learning by an expert in the field.
The website of the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Study conducted at the University of Michigan provides a wealth of information about goal orientation for those who wish to read more.
The Manual for the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales was written by a group of researchers in order to share the measures they created over the course of a long term research program.
5. Videos for Goal Orientation
Links to videos about concepts and strategies described in this chapter are found on this page. To learn more about the scientists and teachers featured in these videos, click here where you can read a description and/or select a link to find all video clips of them.
Teachers and Classrooms
Steve’s students recognize the value of activities that focus on learning and how to learn perhaps because he directly teaches them about goal orientation.
Mike and Kelda lead their students to value learning over performance, to understand themselves as learners, and to form connected knowledge about science and foster a mastery orientation as a result.