Achievement Goal Theory: A Framework for Implementing Group Work and Open-Ended Problem Solving


In educational psychology, achievement goal theory (AGT) has emerged as a useful framework for understanding student motivation and performance. This paper uses AGT to examine the effects of curriculum and pedagogy on student and instructor goal orientations in mathematics, physics, and engineering courses in a first-year engineering program. The following questions guide our analysis: (a) How do the existing curricula and pedagogies affect a performance goal orientation development? (b) In which ways do the existing curricula and pedagogies encourage a development of mastery goal orientation? The results of this qualitative study indicate: (1) contention between the instructors' goals and students' experiences of group work and open-ended learning experiences; (2) the negative impact of time pressure on successfully implementing mastery goal-oriented teaching strategies; (3) students' maintenance of a performance goal orientation with high emphasis on grades rather than learning and engagement in work avoidance strategies to minimize work time, despite instructors' efforts to encourage a mastery goal orientation; (4) dependence of student goal orientation on assessment mechanisms (grades) and perceived course "usefulness". It is argued that AGT may help to frame positive changes in curricula and pedagogy to benefit overall student learning.

Meeting Name

40th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2010 (2010: Oct. 27-30, Arlington, VA)


Engineering Management and Systems Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Achievement Goal Theory; Group Work; Motivation; Open-Ended Problem Solving

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International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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