Cognitive and affective consequences of approach and avoidance achievement goals in pe classes

Por: E. Tabaki, H. Tsorbatzoudis, P. Tsoboli e V. Barkoukis.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Achievement goal theories have dominated research on physical education the last decades. Recently Elliot [1] has gone beyond the dichotomous approach of achievement goals proposed so far suggesting the distinction of ego orientation into the performance-approach and performance avoidance achievement goals. According to Elliot [1] the mastery goal is focused on the development of competence or the attainment of task mastery, the performance-approach goal on the attainment of competence relative to others (exhibiting superiority relative to others), and the performance-avoidance goal on the avoidance of demonstrating incompetence relative to others. Elliot and Church [2] indicated that the mastery goal leads to increased intrinsic motivation, performance-approach to increased performance while performance-avoidance to decreased performance. Cury, Da Fonseca, Rufo and Sarrazin [3] investigated the association of these achievement goals with motivational climate and beliefs about ability in a physical education context. They supported the positive relationship between a) performance-avoidance goal and the entity beliefs and the performance motivational climate, b) mastery goal and incremental beliefs and mastery motivational climate and c) performance-approach goal and perceptions of competence and performance motivational climate. However, there is scarce evidence on the influence of these achievement goals on cognitive and affective states experienced in PE classes. Thus, the aim of the present study was to examine the influence of mastery, performacne-approach and performacne-avoidance goals on selected cognitive (perceived competence and effort) and affective (enjoyment and tension) states that students might experience in PE classes.


The sample of the study consisted of 121 high school students with a mean age of 12.87 and SD 1.10. To estimate the approach and avoidance achievement goals the student’s of the sample completes the Approach and Avoidance Achievement Goal Questionnaire [2]. The questionnaire assesses three achievement goals, mastery, performance-approach and performance-avoidance, with 6 items for each factor. Subsequently, the students completed the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (4) developed to estimate cognitive and affective elements of intrinsic motivation such as interest-enjoyment (5 items), perceived competence (5 items), effort-importance (4 items) and tension-pressure (4 items).


The results of the regression analyses indicated that the experience of enjoyment during PE classes was solely predicted by the mastery goal (R2=.05, F(1,128) = 7.68, p<.01, b=.23). Furthermore, the performance-approach goal predicted perceptions of effort expenditure (R2=.10, F(1,128) = 14.21, p<.001, b=.31) and experiences of tension and pressure (R2=.07, F(1,128) = 7.68, p<.01, b=.23).


The results of the study confirmed the Elliot and Church [2] findings regarding the positive association of intrinsic motivation with only the mastery goal. Furthermore, similar to Elliot, McGregor and Gable [5] performance-approach goal predicted effort while in contrast to Elliot and McGregor [6] performance-approach goal predicted tension instead of performance-avoidance. The latter findings may imply that when motor activities are concerned the demonstration of superiority is accompanied by the experience of tension and anxiety. In the above mentioned studies both effort and anxiety mediated the role of achievement goals to performance. This pattern was not tested in the present study, but a similar pattern might exist in school physical education and future studies should examined it. In general, the findings of the present study provide evidence on the premises of the model regarding the consequences of the achievement goals and supported previous findings using this model in the physical education context. The possible mediating role of cognitive and affective variables on performance is discussed.


[1]. Elliot, A. (1997). Advances in motivation and achievement. JAI Press.
[2]. Elliot, A. & Church, M. (1997). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 218-232.
[3]. Cury,F., Da Fonseca, D., Rufo, M. & Sarrazin, P. (2002). Perceptual and Motor Skills, 95, 233-244.
[4]. McAuley, E., Duncan, T. & Tammen, V. (1989). Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 60, 48-58.
[5]. Elliot, A., McGregor, H. & Gable, S. (1999). Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 549-563.
[6]. Elliot, A., & McGregor, H. (1999). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,76, 628-644.





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