Adolescent students’ multiple goal pursuits in primary and secondary school physical education

Bishop, Krystal (2023) Adolescent students’ multiple goal pursuits in primary and secondary school physical education. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Physical education (PE) offers a unique setting to examine students’ achievement motivation compared to both other physical contexts and school subjects. PE is the only physical environment that can play a significant role in encapsulating every child up to the age of 16 from all backgrounds and characteristics. Numerous studies have shown that PE plays an essential role in influencing students’ attitudes and behaviours towards physical activity and their participation beyond school (e.g., Biddle, 2001; Hagger et al., 2003; Wang et al., 2008, 2016; Polet et al., 2019). However, with continuous concern over young peoples’ physical inactivity, PE has become a crucial setting for researchers and educators to better understand changes in young people’s motivation in order to thwart the continuous decline in physical activity (Warburton, 2008). Achievement goal theory, and in particular, Elliot’s model (e.g., Elliot, 1999, 2005; Elliot et al., 2011) has been used as an important theoretical foundation in understanding young people’s achievement motivation, and has formed the basis for this thesis. The purpose of this thesis was to investigate students’ context-specific approach goal adoption in PE. Furthermore, it was to determine the multiple goals pursued by students, the predictive nature of key antecedents, namely implicit theories of ability and basic psychological needs, and the consequences of these approach goal combinations.

Study one was a scoping review to provide a rich and comprehensive overview of the current approach-avoidance achievement goal profile literature within primary and secondary school education. The review identified 42 studies published between 2006 and 2022, with results indicating age and school subject differences, and that the type of measurement strongly influenced the profiles and the outcomes observed. Moreover, whilst longitudinal studies increased over the years, cross-sectional studies dominated the type of design approach when exploring students’ achievement goal profiles. The review also revealed a lack of studies conducted at primary school level despite evidence that these students can hold multiple goals and obtain the benefits of adaptive profiles (e.g., Schwinger and Wild, 2012; Schwinger et al., 2016; Hornstra et al., 2017). Overall, the review highlighted that exploration of younger students’ achievement goal profile adoption in primary school and across the transfer into secondary school was warranted.

Study two employed a cross-sectional design and examined the combined associations of mastery-task and mastery-self goals, and performance-competition and performance appearance goals in PE, and their simultaneous effects on student-reported and teacher-reported outcomes. Based on previous literature (e.g., Hulleman et al., 2010; Elliot et al., 2011; Warburton and Spray, 2014; Senko and Dawson, 2017), more nuanced achievement approach goals (task, self, appearance, and competition) were explored whilst utilising latent profile analysis. Analyses revealed five profiles; High Mastery, High All, High Performance, Indifferent, and Low All. Profiles showed that early adolescent students could differentiate and pursue mastery and performance goals, however, reported similar levels of the task and self aspects of mastery goals, and the appearance and competition components of performance goals. Students that simultaneously pursued high levels of mastery-approach and performance approach goals reported very similar optimal outcomes to students that just endorsed high mastery-approach goals. In contrast, students adopting high performance-approach goals was just as maladaptive as students reporting low levels of both approach goals. The study also identified several significant sex and year group differences across the five achievement goal profiles. Female students were more likely to adopt a high performance profile than male students, contradicting many previous studies and meta-reviews (e.g., Shim et al., 2008; Jaitner et al., 2019; Lochbaum et al., 2020). Younger primary-aged students were more prevalent in the High All and Indifferent profiles, supporting previous literature that younger students are more likely to strongly endorse multiple goals than older students (e.g., Schwinger and Wild, 2012; Schwinger et al., 2016; Linnenbrink-Garcia et al., 2018).

Study three investigated achievement goal profiles at the individual-level and explored the degree in which the four approach-based goals remained stable over a key transition (Year 5 to Year 6) and transfer (Year 6 to Year 7) in PE. Ipsative continuity analyses revealed both within-person change and stability in students’ achievement goal profile. The configuration of the goals within a student remained fairly stable over the transfer into secondary school, despite students experiencing significant environmental changes during this time. However, some change in a students’ achievement goal configuration was observed especially between Year 5 and Year 7. Implicit theories of ability were found to be a strong predictor of goal configuration, with entity beliefs negatively predicting profile consistency, and incremental beliefs positively predicting stability in goal profiles. Moreover, the satisfaction of the needs for autonomy and relatedness were associated with stability in goal configuration. Whilst frustration of the need for relatedness predicted high instability of the configuration. The outcomes associated with these stable and changeable goal configurations were also explored. Students with increasing profile consistency reported decreasing levels of maladaptive outcomes, whilst those with increasing profile dispersion positively reported higher levels of maladaptive outcomes.

Study four explored the prevalence and stability of students’ achievement goal profiles based on the four approach goals within primary (Year 6) and secondary school (Year 7 to Year 10), and identified key predictors of these changes. Latent profile and latent transition analyses revealed three stable profiles across all year groups, High Mastery, High All, and Low All profiles. On average, the differentiated goals were pursued in similar strengths, however, within the Year 6 cohort, students pursuing a High Mastery profile had higher scores for task focused mastery goals than self-focused ones. Similarly, Year 7 students endorsed stronger appearance-focused performance goals, however this decreased in Year 8 where competition-focused performance goals became the main goal for students. Results also identified that only 31% of Year 6 students held the same profile over the transfer into Year 7. The largest maladaptive movement occurred during this time, where 45% of Year 6 students moved from a High Mastery profile to an Indifferent profile. This was followed by the Year 8 cohort where between Year 8 and Year 9, 34% of students moved from a High All profile to an Indifferent profile. Within this study, female students primarily displayed a High Mastery profile, whereas male students were more likely to hold a High Performance or a High All profile. Incremental students were significantly more likely to adopt a High Mastery profile compared to other profiles, whilst entity students had a higher probability of adopting High Performance profile. Logistic regressions also revealed that high or increasing levels of autonomy and relatedness satisfaction predicted the adoption of a High Mastery profile. Correspondingly, high or increasing levels of competence satisfaction significantly predicted the adoption of a High Performance profile. In comparison, high or increasing levels of need frustration significantly predicted maladaptive profiles.

The findings from these four studies provide an insight into the multiple approach goals pursued by primary and secondary school students in PE. Students’ approach goal profile adoption seems to become less adaptive as they transfer into secondary school and progress through their secondary school education. Implicit theories of ability and basic psychological needs appear to play significant roles in predicting and influencing adaptive goal profiles. However, future research should continue to explore and measure more nuance achievement goals and explore other key predictors of these achievement goals through longitudinal research. This research would help educators understand what motivational elements to incorporate in their teaching styles to promote adaptive motivational profiles within the PE setting and encourage positive experiences of school PE for young people.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Education and Lifelong Learning
Depositing User: Jennifer Whitaker
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2023 15:55
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2023 15:59


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