Applications of achievement goal ...
QUEST, 1995.47,475-489 �� 1995 National Associalion for Physical Eduction in Higher Education Applications of Achievement Goal Theory to Physical Education: Implications for Enhancing Motivation Darren C. Treasure and Glyn C. Roberts Given the widespread concem regarding the motivation of students, the paucity of research in education on motivation enhancement is surprising (Ames, 1992a Maehr & Midgley, 1991). Recent research from an achieve- ment goal perspective, however, has begun to address this issue. The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of the basic tenets of achievement goal theory and to analyze the research that has been conducted in physical education thai focuses extensively on instructionial practices and strategies that may improve the quality of school-age children's motivation. The paper will conclude by commenting on the potential utility of adopting an achieve- ment goal approach to understanding and enhancing motivation in the physi- cal education context. The role of motivation in achievement contexts has become a popular topic of discussion, especially when the United States compares itself to its economic competitors (Roberts, 1992). Implicated in this discussion are U.S. schools and their role in providing graduates with the necessary competencies and motivation to achieve. The issues of lack of motivation are not exclusively reserved for academic subjects. In this era of concem over health issues and healthy lifestyles, the lack of motivation of many students to participate in regular physical activity is lamentable (Corbin & Pangrazi, 1992 Simons-Morton, 1990). Implicated again are schools and their failure to foster motivation to participate in physical activity. Given these concems, the amount of research in physical education on enhancing motivation is minimal. Recent research from an achievement goal perspective, however, has begun to address this issue (Roberts & Treasure, 1992 Walling & Duda, 1995). The purpose of this paper is to (a) provide a review of the basic tenets of achievement goal theory, (b) analyze the research that has Darren C. Treasure is with the Department of Health, Recreation and Physical Education at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Vadalabene Center, Edwards- vilJe, IL 62026-1126. Glyn C. Roberts is with the Depanment of Kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 906 South Goodwin Ave., Urbana, IL 61801. 475
476 TREASURE AND ROBERTS been conducted in physical education, and (c) comment on the potential utility of adopting an achievement goal approach to understanding and enhancing moti- vation in the physical education context. Achievement Goal Theory The construct of perceived ability has been one of the most popular psycho- logical variables attended to by motivational researchers in physical activity contexts. The predominant focus in this literature has been to ascertain the cognitive, affective, and behavioral antecedents and consequences of varying levels of perceived ability (Feltz, 1992 Roberts, 1984 Roberts, Kleiber, & Duda, 1981). For the most part, the self-percept of ability has been assumed to refer to how much ability an individual has relative to others. Recent research from an achievement goal perspective, however, suggests that more than one conception of ability exists and that an individual's cognitive and affective pattems are deter- mined by the conception of ability adopted. Based on developmental work with children, Nicholls concluded that the development of the concept of ability is a process of differentiating the concepts of luck, task difficulty, and effort from ability. Following a series of experiments, Nicholls (1984 Nicholls & Miller, 1984) concluded that young children were not able to differentiate between the concepts, but that by the age of 12, children were able to differentiate task difficulty, luck, and effort from ability. Two recent studies have demonstrated that the same developmental process occurs in the physical activity context (Smith & Whitehead, 1994 Walling, 1994). Nicholls (1980, 1984, 1989) contends, therefore, that two conceptions of ability manifest themselves in achievement contexts for children ages 12 and older, namely, an undifferentiated conception of ability and a differentiated conception of ability. Reaching this developmental stage, however, does not necessarily dictate that a differentiated conception of ability will be automatically invoked by individ- uals over the age of 12. Rather, individuals will approach a task with personal perceptions and beliefs about the particular achievement activity in which they are engaged (Dennett, 1978 McArthur & Baron, 1983 Nicholls, 1980, 1984, 1989). The conceptions of ability they employ, and how they interpret their perfonnance can be understood in terms of these perceptions and beliefs. In other words, these prerceptions and beliefs form a personal theory of achievement at the activity (Nicholls, 1989). The adopted personal theory of achievement affects one's beliefs about how to achieve success at the activity. Therefore, people will differ as to the conception of ability they use and in how they use it based upon their personal theory of achievement. Nicholls (1984) contends that the two conceptions of ability represent differing personal theories of achievement, and are embedded within two orthogo- nal achievement goal orientations. These two goal orientations are related to the conception of ability adopted by an individual, and they act as goals of action, reflecting the individual's personal theory of achievement within a particular achievement context. In this paper, the terms task and ego wilJ be used to describe the two goal orientations (Nicholls, 1980, 1984, 1989). An individual who is task oriented utilizes an undifferentiated conception of ability, focusing on developing skills, leaming new skills, and demonstrating mastery at the task. The demonstra-
ACHIEVEMENT GOAL THEORY 4T7 tion of ability is based on maximum effort and is self-referenced. In contrast, an individual who is ego oriented utilizes a differentiated conception of ability, focusing on demonstrating ability by being successful with minimum effort and outperforming others. In addition to reflecting personal criteria for success, individuals' persona! goals are also assumed to be linked to their "woridviews" about the purposes of education in a conceptually coherent fashion (Nicholls, 1989 NichoUs, Chueng, Lauer, & Patashnick, 1989 Nicholls, Patashnick, & Nolen, 1985). A task orienta- tion has been found to be associated with the belief that one should undergo education so that one's commitment to society and desire to continue leaming should be enhanced. In contrast, an ego orientation is associated with the belief that education is a means to an end, namely, wealth and enhanced social status. This research has also indicated that the more ego oriented an individual is (i.e., the more committed she or he is to outperforming her or his peers), the more the individual sees normative ability and attempts to do better than others as causes of success. On the other hand, the more task oriented an individual is, the more she or he believes that success depends on effort, interest, and attempts to leam new skills. Personal Goals and Physical Education Although a considerable amount of research has focused on the relationship between personal goals and sport involvement (Duda, 1989 Duda, Fox, Biddle, & Armstrong, 1992 Duda & Nicholls, 1992 Lochbaum & Roberts, 1993 Roberts, 1984 Treasure, & Roberts, 1994), only a few studies have applied and tested the conceptual relevance of achievement goal theory to physical education. Congment with the classroom and sport domains, what research that has been conducted has consistently shown that achievement goal orientations are pertinent to the physical education experience. Walling and Duda (1995) found that students high in ego orientation were more likely than iow ego oriented students to express the belief that success in physical education is achieved when they possess high ability. In addition, high task oriented students were significantly more likely to believe that success is achieved through intrinsic interest in the activity, coopera- tion, and high effort than low task oriented students. Finally, high task/low ego students were the least likely to believe that success stems from leaming to skillfully deceive the teacher. Congruent with the findings of Walling and Duda (1995), Papaioannou and Duda (1993) have reported a positive relationship between a task orientation and intrinsic motives for panicipation with a sample of Greek adolescent physical education students. Situational Influences and Achievement Goals While one avenue of research related to achievement goals has demonstrated that individual differences in dispositional goal orientation are associated with different motivational processes, another avenue of research has focused on situational influences. This research has examined how the structure of the envi- ronment can make it more or less likely that a particular achievement goal will be adopted. The premise of research from a situational perspective is that the nature of children's experiences and how they interpret these experiences influ-