May 12, 2012

On building environments that emphasize learning for learning's sake

A new study by Stanford psychologist Paul O'Keefe, Adar Ben-Eliyahu of the University of Pittsburgh and Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia of Duke University suggests that being in an environment that emphasizes learning for learning's sake will dampen concerns about outperforming others and enhance intrinsic motivation even after one returns to a culture that places more value on demonstrating skills than developing them:

Shaping achievement goal orientations in a mastery-structured environment and concomitant changes in related contingencies of self-worth

Paul A. O’Keefe, Adar Ben-Eliyahu and Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia

Across three time-points spanning 9 months, changes in achievement goal orientations and contingencies of self-worth were assessed as a function of participating in a mastery-structured academic program for high-ability adolescents (N = 126). Endorsement of mastery goal orientations increased during the program and remained high even after students returned to their home learning environments. In contrast, performance-approach and performance-avoidance goal orientations decreased during the summer program, but returned to previous levels when assessed 6 months later. Latent growth curve models assessed the covariation of performance goal orientations and two contingencies of self-worth (outperforming others and others’ approval) hypothesized to represent elements of performance goal orientations. Changes in the contingency of self-worth based on outperforming others positively covaried with observed changes in both performance goal orientations; however, changes in self-worth contingent on others’ approval did not. Results are discussed in terms of mastery-structured environments’ potential to alter achievement goal orientations via their underlying psychological processes. Implications for achievement goal theory and the design of achievement-oriented environments are discussed.

For more details read Psychologist: Achievement goals can be shaped by environment

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