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Motivation in post-compulsory secondary students: A longitudinal studySusan Beltman
This paper briefly summarises some current
literature on motivation in schools. The methodology and results
of the present study are described in the presentation of this paper.
Goal theory considers beliefs about what success
at school entails, and suggests that these determine how an individual
will approach a particular learning situation.
When students adopt task goals, they believe that
academic success involves improving one's own skills and knowledge
and so they seek to increase their competence and to understand
or master new tasks. They are primarily concerned with learning
for its own sake and attribute success to their efforts.
Individuals with ego goals believe that academic
success involves proving one's skill or knowledge to others such
as peers, teachers or parents and they seek to appear successful
and to gain favourable judgements of their competence. Success
is defined as doing better than others and errors are viewed as
evidence of a lack of ability or worth.
A third academic goal is that of work avoidance where the aim is to survive in school with as little effort as possible!
Most research has concentrated on academic goals
in schools. Urdan and Maehr (1995) present a comprehensive case
for the inclusion of social goals in theory and research on motivation.
Wentzel (1991a) argued that academic goals are not the only possible
goals in school and proposed that social responsibility (defined
as the adherence to social rules and role expectations) has long
been an implicit and explicit goal for education. In another
paper (Wentzel, 1994), also investigated prosocial goals where
individuals seek to have fun and make friends at school. Their
main focus is on successful social interaction.
The five personal motivational goals described above
- task, ego, work avoidance, social responsibility and prosocial
- are those investigated in the present study.
A variety of empirical findings has consistently
found that students who adopt task rather than ego or work avoidance
goals are more likely to persist in difficult learning situations,
to use more effective learning strategies, and to report greater
satisfaction with school (Dweck, 1986; Archer, !992; Elliott and
Dweck, 1988; Nolen & Haladyna, 1990). Task goals are therefore
seen to be the most desirable and suggestions have been made as
to how teachers can encourage the adoption of such goals in their
classrooms (Ames, 1990; Nolen & Nicholls, 1994).
Little direct investigation of social goals has occurred.
Wentzel (1991a) reviewed research showing evidence of a positive
relationship, at both elementary and secondary school, between
social responsibility and academic performance. Particularly in
early adolescence, the quality of peer relationships has a strong
impact on adjustment to and subsequent performance at school (Berndt
et al, 1990; Wentzel, 1991b).
Other research has investigated the relationships
between motivational goals (Ames & Archer, 1988; Archer, 1992;
MacCallum, 1993; Nicholls et al, 1985; Nicholls, 1989; Nolen &
Haladyna, 1990; Thorkildsen, 1988; Wentzel, 1993a). More recently
it has been proposed that students may pursue multiple goals or
patterns of goals in school (Ainley, 1993; Blumenfeld, 1992; Dodge,
Asher & Parkhurst, 1989; Meece & Holt, 1993; Wentzel 1989;
Wentzel & Walker, 1994). This research, although important,
is beyond the scope of the present investigation.
Anderman and Maehr (1994) reviewed research showing a decline in motivation during early adolescence. These authors suggested that this is not just a function of puberty, but that contextual and environmental factors are involved:
the contexts which typical middle schools provide for early adolescence may indeed represent a mismatch with the psychological needs of youth. This mismatch may in part be responsible for the serious decline in motivation often observed at this period. (p294)
Parallel work in the sporting domain has occurred
which also suggests that changes in personal goals occur with
age and that there are gender differences. Duda (1989) reported
that the ego oriented dimensions of sport become more pronounced
from junior to senior high school. Dysfunctional aspects of competitive
sport participation such as aggressive tendencies and 'unsportsmanlike'
attitudes also increased, especially among males. Female intervarsity
athletes were significantly higher in task orientation than males,
who reported higher task goals.
Students taking different courses of study may have different personal goals in schools. Nolen and Haladyna (1990) compared motivational goals among students of different ages who were enrolled in different science courses. Year 9 College bound students had higher mean scores for task and ego goals than non-College bound students who were higher in work avoidance goals. With increasing age, task goals of College bound students increased, and ego and work avoidance goals decreased. Maturation and teacher expectations were suggested as possible explanations for this.
Limited longitudinal research has occurred with regard to motivational goals. MacCallum (1993), investigating goals in the context of mathematics, found a significant increase in work avoidance goals as students moved from the final year (7) of primary school to the first year (8) of high school. Task goals remained high during the transition, but enjoyment of school significantly decreased.
To summarise, research findings described above, suggest that task goals and enjoyment of school decrease in early adolescence with the transition from primary school. Task goals peak again in Year 11. In both academic and sporting contexts, ego go als increase with age, and girls have higher levels of task goals. Other gender differences reported indicate that boys have higher levels of work avoidance goals than girls, especially in years 6 and 11. Finally, differences have been found in goals between students in different courses of study. Higher achieving college bound students were found to have higher task goals and lower ego and work avoidance goals than non college bound students.
The main research questions asked were:
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Wentzel, K. R. & Walker, B. (1994). Motivation and cognitive strategy use as predictors of reading-related outcomes in middle school. Version of paper presented at the Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans.
|Author: Susan Beltman, Murdoch University|
Please cite as: Beltman, S. (1996). Motivation in post-compulsory secondary students: A longitudinal study. Proceedings Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 1996. http://www.waier.org.au/forums/1996/beltman.html