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Changes in achievement goals and competence perceptions across the college semester

Abstract

We investigated the relationship between changes in perceptions of competence and changes in achievement goals across a college semester for students enrolled in an introductory psychology course. Two types of competence perceptions were examined: self-efficacy for learning and normative perceived ability. Changes in normative perceived ability were predicted to relate to changes in performance goals, but not mastery goals. Because mastery goals rely on self-referent standards to evaluate ability, we predicted changes in self-efficacy for learning would relate to changes in mastery goals. We also expected changes in self-efficacy for learning to relate to changes in performance goals because learning can lead to the demonstration of superior competence. The predictions were supported for mastery and performance-approach goals, but not for performance-avoidance goals. Very little change in performance-avoidance goals was observed. Scores on the first course exam also predicted change in performance-approach goals, with this effect partially mediated by competence perceptions.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We also measured mastery-avoidance goals. The average level of endorsement of these goals was below the scale midpoint (Time 1 M = 3.6, Time 3 M = 3.4), there was not a significant change in mastery avoidance across the semester, and these goals did not predict any outcomes examined. Consequently we decided to omit a discussion of the null results of mastery-avoidance goals as we did not have any formal hypotheses about them.

  2. 2.

    This was the only analysis that led to different results when the section with homework and labs was removed. When the analysis was conducted again omitting the section with homework/labs and the dummy variables for section, the Time 2 self-efficacy for learning account for an additional 2.8% of the variance which was statistically significant. In addition the regression coefficient for Exam 1 grades was reduced from β = .321, p < .001 to β = .206, p < .05, suggesting partial mediation. Furthermore, the Sobel test for mediation was statistically significant (Z = 2.01, p < .05).

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Correspondence to Carolyn M. Jagacinski.

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Jagacinski, C.M., Kumar, S., Boe, J.L. et al. Changes in achievement goals and competence perceptions across the college semester. Motiv Emot 34, 191–204 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-010-9165-x

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Keywords

  • Changes in achievement goals
  • Perceived ability
  • Self-efficacy