This meta-analysis addresses whether achievement goal researchers are using different labels for the same constructs or putting the same labels on different constructs. We systematically examined whether conceptual and methodological differences in the measurement of achievement goals moderated achievement goal intercorrelations and relationships with outcomes. We reviewed 243 correlational studies of self-reported achievement goals comprising a total of 91,087 participants. The items used to measure achievement goals were coded as being goal relevant (future-focused, cognitively represented, competence-related end states that the individual approaches or avoids) and were categorized according to the different conceptual definitions found within the literature. The results indicated that achievement goal-outcome and goal-goal correlations differed significantly depending on the goal scale chosen, the individual items used to assess goal strivings, and sociodemographic characteristics of the sample under study. For example, performance-approach goal scales coded as having a majority of normatively referenced items had a positive correlation with performance outcomes (r = .14), whereas scales with a majority of appearance and evaluative items had a negative relationship (r = -.14). Mastery-approach goal scales that contained goal-relevant language were not significantly related to performance outcomes (r = .05), whereas those that did not contain goal-relevant language had a positive relationship with performance outcomes (r = .14). We concluded that achievement goal researchers are using the same label for conceptually different constructs. This discrepancy between conceptual and operational definitions and the absence of goal-relevant language in achievement goal measures may be preventing productive theory testing, research synthesis, and practical application.
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