Are performance–avoidance goals always deleterious for academic achievement in college? The moderating role of social class
Abundant research has shown that the endorsement of performance–avoidance goals in academic contexts is associated with negative outcomes, including poor academic achievement. The present study tests students’ social class as a moderator of the relationship between performance–avoidance goals and achievement. Two hundred thirty students (106 lower-class students and 124 upper-class students, Mage = 18.57, SD = 1.28) were asked to report the highest academic degree obtained by their mother and father and complete a performance–avoidance goal scale. Participants’ initial academic level was measured. In addition, depending on the condition, they were led to believe they had great (vs. poor) chances to succeed at the university. They then solved Advanced Progressive Matrices measuring their achievement. As expected, performance–avoidance goals negatively predicted achievement only for lower-class students, and this moderation mainly appeared for high academic achievers. The manipulation of the success versus failure expectancies did not moderate the effect. These results confirm that the adoption of performance–avoidance goals would be especially deleterious for lower-class students who succeed, supporting an interpretation in terms of the upward mobility process lower-class students achieve when succeeding in higher education.
KeywordsPerformance–avoidance goals Achievement First generation College Upward mobility Social class
This research was supported by the Conseil Régional Auvergne Rhône Alpes.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that there are no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
- Barron, K. E., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2003). Revisiting the benefits of performance–approach goals in the college classroom: Exploring the role of goals in advanced college courses. International Journal of Educational Research, 39(4–5), 357–374. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2004.06.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Croizet, J. C., & Claire, T. (1998). Extending the concept of stereotype threat to social class: The intellectual underperformance of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24(6), 588–594. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167298246003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Darnon, B., & Butera, F. (2005). Buts d’accomplissement, stratégies d’étude, et motivation intrinsèque: présentation d’un domaine de recherche et validation française de l’échelle d’Elliot et McGregor (2001) [Achievement goals, study strategies, and intrinsic motivation: Presenting a domain of research and the French validation of Elliot and McGregor’s (2001) scale]. L’Année Psychologique, 105, 105–131. https://doi.org/10.3406/psy.2005.3821.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Darnon, C., Jury, M., & Aelenei, C. (2018). Who benefits from mastery–approach and performance–approach goals in college? Students’ social class as a moderator of the link between goals and grade. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 33(4), 713–726. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10212-017-0351-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- DeRosa, E., & Dolby, N. (2014). “I don’t think the university knows me.”: Institutional culture and lower-income, first-generation college students. InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, 10(2). Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/0kj6m6r8.
- Dickhäuser, C., Buch, S. R., & Dickhäuser, O. (2011). Achievement after failure: The role of achievement goals and negative self-related thoughts. Learning and Instruction, 21(1), 152–162. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2010.01.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Durik, A. M., Lovejoy, C. M., & Johnson, S. J. (2009). A longitudinal study of achievement goals for college in general: Predicting cumulative GPA and diversity in course selection. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 34(2), 113–119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2008.11.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, A. J., Glick, P., & Xu, J. (2002). A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(6), 878–902. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-3518.104.22.1688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Harackiewicz, J. M., Barron, K. E., Tauer, J. M., Carter, S. M., & Elliot, A. J. (2000). Short-term and long-term consequences of achievement goals: Predicting interest and performance over time. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(2), 316–330. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0622.214.171.1246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Harackiewicz, J. M., Barron, K. E., Tauer, J. M., & Elliot, A. J. (2002b). Predicting success in college: A longitudinal study of achievement goals and ability measures as predictors of interest and performance from freshman year through graduation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(3), 562–575. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-06126.96.36.1992.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hulleman, C. S., Schrager, S. M., Bodmann, 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(3), 422–449. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018947.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Jury, M., Smeding, A., Court, M., & Darnon, C. (2015). When first-generation students succeed at university: On the link between social class, academic performance, and performance–avoidance goals. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 41, 25–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.11.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Jury, M., Smeding, A., Stephens, N. M., Nelson, J. E., Aelenei, C., & Darnon, C. (2017). The experience of low SES students in Higher Education: Psychological barriers to success and interventions to reduce social-class inequality. Journal of Social Issues, 73(1), 23–41. https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Linnenbrink-Garcia, L., Tyson, D. F., & Patall, E. A. (2008). When are achievement goal orientations beneficial for academic achievement? A closer look at main effects and moderating factors. International Review of Social Psychology, 21(1), 19–70.Google Scholar
- Meece, J. L., Anderman, E. M., & Anderman, L. H. (2006). Classroom goal structure, student motivation, and academic achievement. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 487–503. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Moller, A. C., & Elliot, A. J. (2006). The 2 × 2 achievement goal framework: An overview of empirical research. In A. Mittel (Ed.), Focus on educational psychology (pp. 307–326). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers Inc.Google Scholar
- Ramos-Sánchez, L., & Nichols, L. (2007). Self-efficacy of first-generation and non-first-generation college students: The relationship with academic performance and college adjustment. Journal of College Counseling, 10(1), 6–18. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1882.2007.tb00002.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Roussel, P., Elliot, A. J., & Feltman, R. (2011). The influence of achievement goals and social goals on help-seeking from peers in an academic context. Learning and Instruction, 21(3), 394–402. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2010.05.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Stephens, N. M., Fryberg, S. A., Markus, H. R., Johnson, C. S., & Covarrubias, R. (2012). Unseen disadvantage: How American universities’ focus on independence undermines the academic performance of first-generation college students. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(6), 1178–1197. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar