July 10, 2014

Learning goals versus ability goals

People can choose different types of goals and the type of goals they choose affects their motivation and their performance. Heidi Grant and Carol Dweck (2003) studied what types of goals people choose and what the different effects of these goals are. In their studies they discovered four types of goals:
  1. learning goals: goals focused on acquiring new knowledge and skills
  2. outcome goals: goals focused on performing well, for example getting a high grade.
  3. ability goals: goals focused on demonstrating one's positive characteristics such as abilities
  4. normative goals: goals focused on performing well in comparison with other people
In one study they had 92 participants fill in questionnaires in order to determine to which degree they had which types of motivation. Then, they had them read hypothetical fail scenario's and asked them to imagine that these happened to them. Next, they had them fill in a questionnaire in which they were asked to say what their responses would be. Participants with different types of goals responded differently to these questions. The table below (which is slightly adapted and simplified by me) shows what the relations between goals and effects were. 


In a next study they investigated the effects of different types of goals in a real world context. Students were monitored during a semester while they were doing a difficult course. This made it possible to find out about the differential effects of types of goals were in cases of setbacks and failure. The results were congruent with the results of the study with the hypothetical scenario's. Learning goals had mostly positive impacts, ability goals mostly had negative impacts, and both outcome goals and normative goals had relatively few impacts. In the following table (slightly adapted by me) the researchers summarize the effects of learning goals and ability goals. 


Question: Do you have learning goals? What learning goal would you like to choose yourself?

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