Achievement Goals and Learning in a Lecture Course: Moving Towards Mastery Goals Predicts Deeper Learning


This study investigates the relationship between achievement goals and the type of knowledge acquired during a University lecture course in Cognitive Psychology. Students’ achievement goals (mastery-approach, performance-approach, and performance-avoidance) were measured right before each of the 3 exams administered during the course. Each exam included items that assessed factual, conceptual, and application-based knowledge. Exam 1 performance on factual and conceptual items was (marginally) positively predicted by performance-approach goals but not mastery-approach goals. However, by Exam 3 mastery-approach goals positively predicted performance whereas performance-approach goals did not. Furthermore, changes in these goals from Exam 1 to Exam 3 predicted performance. Becoming more mastery-oriented over time predicted higher Exam 3 scores, while becoming more performance-approach-oriented predicted lower scores. This difference was particularly strong for application questions, which required a deeper understanding of the material. Results are discussed in terms of a theory describing the effect of goals on learning processes and performance.

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