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Final Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
SYM-16: Achievement Goals in the Sphere of Adult Learners
Time: Thursday, 30/Aug/2012: 9:00am - 10:30am
Session Chair: Gerda Hagenauer, Murdoch University
Discussant: Alexander Minnaert, University of Groningen
Organizer: Gerda Hagenauer, Murdoch University
Organizer: Andreas Gegenfurtner, TU München
Location: 311

Session Abstract

Research on achievement goals has a long history in school settings using children and adolescent samples. Research using adult samples is seldom and arguably dated. In a response to this gap, the present symposium aims to address achievement goals of adult learners. A particular focus is on advancing our understanding of antecedents, correlates, and consequences of achievement goals in adult learning contexts. Three contexts are included in this symposium: military, college, and corporate training. First, Pulkka and Niemivirta investigate stability and change in achievement goals of 169 students in a highly competitive military educational context. Their results indicate considerable stability—approximately 60% of the students held an identical goal orientation profile over a period of four months. Second, Johnson compares goal orientations of 84 adult learners (> 24 years of age) with 94 traditional aged college students. The findings indicate that adult learners have a “hot” (i.e. affective/motivational) advantage over traditional aged students, which could perhaps add to explanations regarding the achievement gaps between the two groups. Third, Kosmajac and Gegenfurtner estimate relationships between achievement goals and transfer of learning in 4,394 participants of corporate training programs. Their results demonstrate more positive correlations in voluntary rather than in mandatory training conditions, indicating the moderating effect of attendance policy. Finally, Minnaert will offer a concluding discussion of the three presentations concerning their contributions to our understanding of longitudinal trajectories (Pulkka & Niemivirta), individual differences (Johnson), and instructional conditions (Kosmajac & Gegenfurtner) associated with achievement goals in the sphere of adult learners.


Longitudinal Analysis of Students’ Achievement Goal Orientations and Their Role in Assessments of the Learning Environment in a Military Educational Context

Antti-Tuomas Pulkka, Markku Niemivirta

University of Helsinki, Finland

The purpose of this study was to examine the stability and change in students’ achievement goal orientations and the relations between students’ achievement goal orientations and their evaluations of the learning environment in a military educational context. Our unique sample of 169 students came from the Finnish National Defence University (NDU). The learning environment of the NDU is very competitive, as rankings based on academic achievement dictate the individual options of studies and postings after graduation. The students’ achievement goal orientations (mastery-intrinsic, mastery-extrinsic, performance-approach, performance-avoidance and avoidance) and their perceptions of the learning environment (interestingness, teacher’s competence, quality of teaching methods, quality of pedagogical materials, satisfaction with the course, quality of evaluation, effort and attainment, and participation) were assessed twice, approximately four months apart. Four homogenous groups of students were identified on the basis of their achievement goal orientation profiles. These profiles were found to be considerably stable, as 60% of the students displayed a stable motivational profile over time, and most observed changes in group memberships were directed towards neighbouring groups. Students with different motivational profiles perceived their learning environment somewhat differently, with most differences reflecting how students viewed their own role in studying. The findings will be discussed in terms of how personal and contextual factors contribute to the development of individuals’ motivational tendencies.

A Motivational Overview of Adult Learners

Marcus Johnson

University of Cincinnati, United States of America

Two studies have been conducted to assess adult learners’ motivations (goal orientations and task-values), as well as coping strategy use. It was hypothesized in both studies, that adult learners would endorse more adaptive motivations and coping strategies than traditional aged college students, since previous research suggests that adult learners achieve higher academically and utilize adaptive coping strategies and goal orientations than traditional aged college students. In the first study, 178 undergraduates (94 traditional aged students, 84 adult learners) completed assessments for demographics, coping strategy use, and achievement goal orientations (using a 2x2 framework of Achievement Goal Theory). Results of this first study suggest that traditional aged college students were most likely to endorse maladaptive emotion-oriented coping. In study 2, where adult learners’ task values were being assessed and compared to traditional students’ task values towards higher education, 102 undergraduates (55 traditional aged students, 47 adult learners) completed open-ended and closed-ended measures for task-values. Results indicated that both traditional aged students and adult learners expressed having utility values, however adult learners were more apt to provide greater details in how useful their education will be in the future. Overall, we conclude that the results of the two studies contribute to the argument that achievement gaps observed between adult learners and traditional aged college students can partially be explained by differences in motivational and affective characteristics, such as coping strategy use. Practical implications are discussed, along with future directions for research concerning adult learners’ motivations (specifically achievement goals).

Attendance Policy Moderates the Influence of Achievement Goals on Transfer of Training

Nikola Kosmajac, Andreas Gegenfurtner

University of Turku, Finland

The present study examines how attendance policy moderates the influence of achievement goals on the transfer of training in corporate settings. Based on the notion of autonomy in Basic Psychological Needs Theory, we expected that trainees who attended training programs voluntarily would show more positive correlations between mastery-approach goals and transfer; by contrast, we expected that trainees who attended training programs mandatorily would show more positive correlations between performance-approach goals and transfer. A meta-analysis was performed including k = 28 studies (N = 4,394 participants) of the past 25 years (January, 1986 – December, 2010). Starting from a 2 Χ 2 achievement goal framework, three goal orientations with a sufficient number of individual studies could be included: mastery-approach orientation, performance-approach orientation, and performance-avoidance orientation. Attendance policy was coded as 0 = mandatory participation and 1 = voluntary participation. Moderator effects were estimated with an artifact distribution meta-analysis of correlations using subgroup analysis. Our results indicate that attendance policy moderates the influence of achievement goals on transfer. Specifically, the correlation between mastery-approach orientation and transfer was higher when training participation was voluntary rather than mandatory. Similarly, the correlation between performance-avoidance orientation and transfer was lower when training participation was mandatory rather than voluntary. No difference was found for performance-approach orientation. These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for theories of training motivation and their practical significance for the design of corporate training.

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