Focus on Competing for Performance or Mastering New Knowledge? Insights from Discovering the Relations Between Classroom Goal Structures and Students’ Learning in Singapore Secondary Schools

  • Youyan NieEmail author


There have been heated debates on whether the focus on competition should be used as an approach to motivate learning and thus promote performance. This issue seems more salient in Singapore due to its highly competitive education system. Achievement goal theory was used to guide this research in the search for answers to this question. Data were collected from 8011 Secondary 3 students in 247 classes across 39 schools in Singapore. Two types of classroom environment were studied. One was classroom performance goal structure, which refers to the classroom climate focused on competing for performance; another was classroom mastery goal structure, which refers to the classroom climate focused on mastering new skills and knowledge. Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) was conducted to analyze multilevel data. The results from both English and mathematics classrooms showed consistent findings: classroom mastery goal structure was positively related to students’ academic self-efficacy, interest and enjoyment, personal mastery goal orientation, and engagement, whereas classroom performance goal structure was positively related to personal performance avoidance goal orientation and negatively related to academic achievement. Specifically, in English classrooms, classroom performance goal structure was positively related to avoidance coping and negatively related to engagement. In general, the results from the current study suggest that classroom mastery goal structure, rather than classroom performance goal structure, should be recommended as motivational strategies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychological Studies Academic Group, National Institute of EducationNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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