Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Nature and Dimensions of Achievement Goals: Mastery, Evaluation, Competition, and Self-Presentation Goals

  • Marina S. Lemos (a1), Teresa Gonçalves (a2), Willy Lens (a3) and Luís P. Rodrigues (a2)


The present study aimed to clarify the nature and dimensions of achievement goals and to examine structural differences in students’ goals across school levels. Participants were 134 students from 5th and 6th grades, and 423 students from 7th to 9th grades. A variety of achievement goals were assessed, including mastery goals and several performance-related goals representing three main dimensions: competition, self-presentation, and valence.

Two alternative models were tested, using confirmatory factor analysis. For middle-school students a three factor model with presentation, competition, and simple evaluation/mastery goals, was found χ²(132, N = 134) = 160.9, p < .001; CFI = .94; RMSEA = .04, 95%CI [.02 – .06]. In the junior-high sample, one avoidance factor, one competition factor, and a simple evaluation/mastery factor, best fitted the data χ²(114, N = 423) = 269.8638 p < .001; CFI = .93; RMSEA = .06, 95%CI [.05 - .07] thus suggesting that distinct dimensions organize younger and older students’ motivation. However, common to both grade levels was the existence of (a) separate but low incidence competition goals, and (b) simple evaluation goals, which encompass neither self-presentation nor competition, and are closely linked to mastery goals. Moreover, significant differences were found in the relative importance attached by students to the different types of goals (p < .001 for all comparisons), both at middle-school F(2, 266) = 220.98; p < .001; η2 = .624) and at junior-high school F(2, 820) = 464.4; p < .001; η2 = .531.


Corresponding author

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Marina S. Lemos. R. Alfredo Allen, 4200–135. Porto (Portugal). E-mail:


Hide All
Anderman, E. M., Austin, C. C., & Johnson, D. M. (2002). The development of goal orientation. In Wigfield, A. & Eccles, J. S. (Eds.), Development of achievement motivation (pp. 197220). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Barkoukis, V., Ntoumanis, N., & Nikitaras, N. (2007). Comparing dichotomous and trichotomous approaches to achievement goal theory: An example using motivational regulations as outcome variables. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 683702.
Bentler, P. M., & Wu, E. J. W. (2004). EQS 6.1 for Windows. Encino, CA: Multivariate Software.
Bong, M. (2005). Within-grade changes in Korean girls’ motivation and perceptions of the learning environment across domains and achievement levels. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 656672.
Bong, M. (2009). Age-related differences in achievement goal differentiation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 879896.
Bouffard, T., Boisvert, J., Vezeau, C., & Larouche, C. (1995). The impact of goal orientation on self-regulation and performance among college students. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 65, 317329.
Brophy, J. (2005). Goal theorists should move on from performance goals. Educational Psychologist, 40, 167176.
Burhans, K. K., & Dweck, C. S. (1995). Helplessness in early childhood: The role of contingent worth. Child Development, 66, 17191738.
Butler, R. (2006). Are mastery and ability goals both adaptive? Evaluation, initial goal construction and the quality of task engagement. British Journal of Psychology, 76, 595611.
Cain, K. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1995). The relation between motivational patterns and achievement cognitions through the elementary years. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 41, 2552.
Calado, M. (2009). Natureza e dimensões dos objectivos de realização em estudantes do 3° ciclo do ensino básico [The nature and dimensions of achievement goals in the third cycle of elementary school] (Unpublished master’s thesis). Universidade do Porto, Portugal.
Church, M. A., Elliot, A. J., & Gable, S. L. (2001). Perceptions of classroom environment, achievement goals, and achievement outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 4354.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227268.
Dweck, C. (1996). Implicit theories as organizers of goals and behavior. In Gollwitzer, P. M. & Bargh, J. A. (Eds.), The psychology of action (pp. 6990). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Dweck, C., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social–cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95, 256273.
Eccles, J. S., & Midgley, C. (1989). Stage/environment fit: Developmentally appropriate classrooms for early adolescents. In Ames, R. E. & Ames, C. (Eds.), Research on motivation in education: Goals and cognitions (Vol. 3., pp. 139186). New York, NY: Academic Press.
Elliot, A. J. (2005). A conceptual history of the achievement goal construct. In Elliot, A. J. & Dweck, C. (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 5272). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Elliot, A. J., & Church, M. A. (1997). A hierarchical model of approach and avoidance achievement motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 218232.
Elliot, A. J., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (1996). Approach and avoidance achievement goals and intrinsic motivation: A mediational analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 461475.
Elliot, A. J., & McGregor, H. A. (2001). A 2X2 achievement goal framework. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 501519.
Elliot, A. J., & Murayama, K. (2008). On the measurement of achievement goals: Critique, illustration, and application. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 613628.
Elliot, A. J., & Thrash, T. M. (2001). Achievement goals and the hierarchical model of achievement motivation. Educational Psychology Review, 13, 139156.
Fryer, J. W., & Elliot, A. J. (2007). Stability and change in achievement goals. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 700714.
Gonçalves, T., Lemos, M. S., & Rodrigues, L. P. (2008). Adaptação do questionário de objectivos de realização do Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales (PALS) [Adaptation of the personal goals scale of the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales]. In Noronha, A. P., Machado, C., Almeida, L., Gonçalves, M., Martins, S., & Ramalho, V. (Eds.), Actas da XIII Conferência Internacional: Avaliação Psicológica- Formas e contextos (pp. 1–13) [Proceedings of the XIII International Conference: Psychological assessment - Methods and contexts] (pp. 113). Braga, Portugal: Psiquilíbrios.
Grant, H., & Dweck, C. (2003). Clarifying achievement goals and their impact. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 541553.
Greene, B. A., & Miller, R. B. (1996). Influences on achievement: Goals, perceived ability, and cognitive engagement. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 21, 181192.
Harackiewicz, J. M., Barron, K. E., & Elliot, A. J. (1998). Rethinking achievement goals: When are they adaptive for college students and why? Educational Psychologist, 33, 121.
Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cut-off criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modelling, 6, 155.
Hulleman, C. S., Schrager, S. M., Bodman, S. M., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2010). A meta-analytic review of achievement goal measures: Different labels for the same constructs or different constructs with similar labels? Psychological Bulletin, 136, 422449.
Kaplan, A., & Maehr, M. L. (2007). The contributions and prospects of Goal Orientation Theory. Educational Psychology Review, 19, 141184.
Lemos, M. S. (1996). Students’ and teachers' goals in the classroom. Learning and Instruction, 6, 151171.
Lemos, M. S., & Gonçalves, T. (2004). Students’ management of goals in the natural classroom setting: Methodological implications. European Psychologist, 9, 198209.
Lemos, M. S., Leite, T., & Lopes, C. (2007, August). Conceptual and empirical dimensions of students’ evaluation-related goals. Communication presented at the 12th Biennial Conference of the European Association for Learning and Instruction, Budapest, Hungary.
Mansfield, C. F. (2009). Managing multiple goals in real learning contexts. International Journal of Educational Research, 48, 286298.
Matos, L., Lens, W., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2009). School culture matters for teachers’ and students’ achievement goals. In Kaplan, A., Karabenick, S., & De Groot, E. (Eds.), Culture, self, and motivation: Essays in honor of Martin L. Maehr. (pp. 161181). Greenwich, CT: Information Age.
Midgley, C. (1993). Motivation and middle level schools. In Maehr, M. L. & Pintrich, P. R. (Eds.), Advances in motivation and achievement. (Vol. 8., pp. 217274.). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Midgley, C., Kaplan, A., & Middleton, M. (2001). Performance-approach goals: Good for what, for whom, under what circumstances, and at what cost? Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 7786.
Midgley, C., Maehr, M. L., Hruda, L. Z., Anderman, E., Anderman, L., Freeman, K. E., … Urdan, T. (2000). Manual for the patterns of adaptive learning scales. Michigan, MI: University of Michigan.
Midgley, C., & Urdan, T. (1995). Predictors of middle school students' use of self-handicapping strategies. Journal of Early Adolescence, 15, 389411.
Mouratidis, A., Lens, W., & Sideridis, G. D. (2010). On the differentiation of achievement goal orientations in physical education: A Rasch analysis approach. Educational Psychology, 30, 671697.
Nicholls, J. G. (1984). Achievement motivation: Conceptions of ability, subjective experience, task choice, and performance. Psychological Review, 91, 328346.
Nicholls, J. G., & Miller, A. T. (1983). The differentiation of the concepts of difficulty and ability. Child Development, 54, 951959.
Nicholls, J. G., & Miller, A. T. (1984). Developments and its discontents: The differentiation of the concept of ability. In Nicholls, J. G. (Ed.), Advances in motivation and achievement (pp. 185218). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Niemivirta, M. (2002). Motivation and performance in context: The influence of goal orientations and instructional setting on situational appraisals and task performance. Psychologia, 45, 250270.
Nuttin, J. (1984). Motivation, planning and action: A relational theory of behavior dynamics. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press.
Pintrich, P. R. (2000). An achievement goal theory perspective on issues in motivation terminology, theory and research. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 92104.
Pintrich, P., & De Groot, E. V. (1990). Motivational and self-regulated learning components of classroom academic performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 3340.
Pintrich, P., & Garcia, T. (1991). Student goal orientation and self-regulation in the college classroom. In Maher, M. L. & Pintrich, P. R. (Eds.), Advances in motivation and achievement: Goals and self-regulatory processes (pp. 371402). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Pulkka, A. T., & Niemivirta, M. (2013). Adult students' achievement goal orientations and evaluations of the learning environment: A person-centred longitudinal analysis. Educational Research & Evaluation, 19, 297322.
Ryan, R. M., Sheldon, K. M., Kasser, T., & Deci, E. L. (1996). All goals are not created equal. An organismic perspective on the nature of goals and their regulation. In Gollwitzer, P. M. & Bargh, J. A. (Eds.), The psychology of action (pp. 726). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Shan, J. Y., & Kruglanski, A. W. (2000). Aspects of goal networks: Implications for self-regulation. In Boekaerts, M., Pintrich, P., & Zeidner, M. (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation (pp. 85110). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Sideridis, G. D., & Mouratidis, A. (2008). Forced choice versus open-ended assessments of goal orientations: A descriptive study. International Review of Social Psychology, 21, 219248.
Skaalvik, E. M. (1997). Self-enhancing and self-defeating ego orientation: Relations with task and avoidance orientation, achievement, self-perceptions, and anxiety. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 7181.
Smiley, P. A., & Dweck, C. S. (1994). Individual differences in achievement goals among young children. Child Development, 65, 17231743.
Stipek, D. (2002). Good instruction is motivating. In Wigfield, A. & Eccles, J. S. (Eds.), Development of achievement motivation (pp. 197220). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Tuominen-Soini, H., Salmela-Aro, K., & Niemivirta, M. (2008). Achievement goal orientations and subjective well-being: A person-centred analysis. Learning and Instruction, 18, 251266.
Urdan, T. (1997). Achievement goal theory: Past results, future directions. In Maher, M. L. & Pintrich, P. R. (Eds.), Advances in Motivation and Achievement. (Vol 10, pp. 99141). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Urdan, T. (2004). Can achievement goal theory guide school reform? In Pintrich, P. R. & Maehr, M. L. (Eds.), Advances in motivation and achievement: Motivating students, improving schools: The legacy of Carol Midgley (Vol. 13, pp. 361392). Oxford, UK: Elsevier.
Urdan, T., Kneisel, L., & Mason, V. (1999). Interpreting messages about motivation in the classroom: Examining the effects of achievement goal structures. In Urdan, T. (Ed.), Advances in motivation and achievement (Vol. 11, pp. 123158). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Urdan, T., & Mestas, M. (2006). The goals behind performance goals. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 354365.
Utman, C. H. (1997). Performance effects of motivational state: A meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychological Review, 1, 170182.
Wolters, C. A., Yu, S. L., & Pintrich, P. R. (1996). The relation between goal orientation and students' motivational beliefs and self-regulated learning. Learning and Individual Differences, 8, 211238.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

The Nature and Dimensions of Achievement Goals: Mastery, Evaluation, Competition, and Self-Presentation Goals

  • Marina S. Lemos (a1), Teresa Gonçalves (a2), Willy Lens (a3) and Luís P. Rodrigues (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.