Links between McLean’s attitudes to achievement and Elliot’s achievement goals
Liz Boyle <[email]>
University of Paisley
Tony Anderson <Tony Anderson>
University of Strathclyde
Background: The achievement goal approach has been the dominant perspective in the US for understanding what motivates students academically. Goals address reasons for engaging in study-related activities. Research has consistently identified mastery and performance as two distinct achievement goals which influence students’ academic performance, while more recently Elliot (1999) has argued that introducing the approach/avoidance dimension into goal theory provides a more comprehensive account of goals. Working within the Scottish context, McLean (2003) has proposed a similar model of motivation, where mastery and performance are fully crossed with approach and avoidance to give four distinct motives which McLean calls mastery, performance (performance-approach), learned helplessness (performance-avoidance) and self-worth protection (mastery-avoidance). McLean has developed an instrument, the Attitudes to Achievement questionnaire, which assesses these motives.
Aim: The main aim of the current study was to examine the construct validity and utility of McLean’s Attitudes to Achievement questionnaire with a sample of first year Scottish undergraduates. Overlaps between McLean’s questionnaire and Elliot’s Achievement goal questionnaire were also of interest.
Sample and Method: 145 first-year university students at a British university completed McLean’s Attitudes to Achievement questionnaire and Elliot’s goal questionnaire during a scheduled lecture slot.
Results: Preliminary analysis indicated that there was a distinction between McLean’s mastery goal, which was linked to Elliot’s mastery goals and use of positive strategies, and the other three attitudes to achievement in McLean’s questionnaire. These were inter-correlated and linked to the use of negative strategies. The two avoidance attitudes, learned helplessness and self-worth protection, were negatively linked to academic performance.
Conclusion: The results indicate that McLean’s performance goal is not a positive goal for the current sample of students. In addition there were strong parallels between learned helplessness and self-worth protection. The results are consistent with Elliot and Covington’s (2001) claim that approach/avoidance is an important distinction, perhaps the most fundamental distinction, in motivation theory.
Elliot, A. J. (1999). Approach and avoidance motivation and achievement goals. Educational Psychologist, 34(3), 169-189.
Elliot, A. J., & Covington, M. (2001). Approach and Avoidance Motivation. Educational Psychology Review, 13(3), 73-92.
McLean, A. (2003). The Motivated School. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.