So, Achievement Goal Theory (AGT) is a theory found in education and basically it says that there are two main categories of achievement – performance and mastery. Performance oriented individuals look to demonstrate their ability or competence through course performance or course grade whereas mastery oriented individuals want to master the material or tasks presented in the course. What Bain doesn’t explain is that there are also two sub-categories for these orientations, which are approach and avoidance. Approach oriented individuals seek positive judgments of competence whereas avoidance oriented individuals want to avoid negative judgments of competence. This means that there are actually four goal orientations. See below.
Then, after each quiz in the course, students received feedback (this is where Goal Setting Theory comes into play) based on their goal. For example, students who were performance oriented received information that was related to their grade as well as how they performed compared to the rest of the class. Mastery oriented individuals received information about how they were mastering the course material and areas in the course where they could improve their knowledge.
I just finished analyzing my results, so I figured I would give you a glimpse into what I found in Spanish 103 courses. In the pie chart below, you can see the types of goal orientations found in the classroom, and an overwhelming amount of students were mastery approach oriented.
Now, when looking at the difference between types of goals (mastery, performance, approach, avoidance), there was no significant difference indicating that goal type did not affect course grade or linguistic competence. Simply the act of goal setting and receiving feedback helped students achieve.
All of this information relates back to Ken Bain’s book. He says, “In general, the people we investigated tried to avoid extrinsic motivators and to foster intrinsic ones, moving students toward learning goals and a mastery orientation…The offered nonjudgmental feedback on students’ work, stressed opportunities to improve…” Now, he does indicate that mastery goals are the best way to go, there is a place for performance goals, as well, and I don’t think they should be completely discarded. It would be interesting to see how a performance oriented individual would fair if they were forced to set a mastery goal and switch their natural inclination.
I think that goal setting can be an indicator of “the best college teachers.” Now, mind you, this doesn’t mean that you simply have students set a goal blindly and then forget about it. It requires a bit of effort on the teacher’s part, but in the long run, it can help students learn and achieve!
Active goal setting guided by the teacher follows Bain’s definition of what the best college teachers do in the following ways:
- Focus on the student/ student-centered teaching
- Expect more from the student
- Employ objectives (AKA goals)
- Learner autonomy
- Belief in students
- Check on student progress
- Evaluate student effort
- Nurture/foster learning
Ok, I think I’ll stop there. I could go on and on about goals and goal setting and now how they intersect with Ken Bain’s book!