The Effect of Gender and Grade Level Differences on Achievement Goal Orientations of Iranian Undergraduate Students
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect
of gender and grade level differences on goal orientations of undergraduate
students in an Iranian university. The sample consisted of 302 Iranian
students at Shiraz University (64% were females; Mean age = 20.78 years,
SD = 1.58), selected by random cluster sampling. They completed achievement
goal questionnaire. Results showed the effect of gender and grade level
differences on undergraduates` goal orientations. The results gave support
to the some western findings that males have a greater performance-approach
goal orientation than females. Also, last graders reported higher scores
on mastery goal orientation than first graders. There was no significant
interaction effect of gender and grade level.
According to goal orientation theories, there are two identifiable achievement
goal orientations: mastery (learning or task) and performance (ego-involved)
goal orientation (Moreno et al., 2008;
Pintrich et al., 2003). A mastery goal orientation focuses on learning
and mastering the task, developing new skills and enhancing understanding (Ames,
1992). However, a performance goal orientation represents a focus on demonstrating
competence or ability and how ability will be judged relative to others (Ames,
1992; Ames and Archer, 1988).
Elliot and Church (1997) made a distinction between two
different types of performance goals: Performance-approach goals, in which students
emphasize on besting others, attaining competence relative to others and demonstrating
superior ability and performance avoidance goals, whereby students are negatively
motivated to avoid negative judgments of their competence.
Because students goal orientations link to various motivational, affective,
cognitive and behavioral outcomes (Pintrich and Schunk, 2002),
investigating variables related to goal orientations is important. Therefore,
some researchers are interested in identifying which personal or contextual
factors influence on students goal orientations. Two of these identifiable
factors are gender and academic climate which regarded as personal and contextual
Gender is one of personal factors that have been related to differences found
in motivational functioning. Some studies have shown significant gender differences
in motivation (Martin, 2003; Smith
et al., 2002; Smith, 2004). Some of them have
found that females have a greater intrinsic motivational orientation (Meece
and Holt, 1993; Nolen, 1988) and males show a greater
extrinsic motivation (Rusillo and Arias, 2004; Anderman
and Anderman, 1999; Midgley and Urdan, 1996).
Findings regarding gender differences in achievement goal orientations have
been somewhat inconsistent. Moreno et al. (2008)
found males displayed a stronger ego-orientation and were more likely to report
that they participated in an ego-oriented climate, than did females. Pajares
and Cheng (2003) found gender differences in task goals favored girls at
every level of schooling, whereas differences in performance-approach and performance-avoid
goals favored boys. Similar results have been reported by Pajares
and Valiante (2001), Church et al. (2001),
Wentzel (1998) and Thorkildsen and
On the other hand, Chan et al. (2004) found females
tended to be more performance goal oriented than male students. Meanwhile, several
studies have reported no significant gender differences on task, performance-approach,
or performance-avoidance goal orientations (Phan, 2008;
Abrahamsen et al., 2007; Smith
and Sinclair, 2005).
Pintrich and Schunk (2002) said most researchers have
not found any significant differences in the type of goal pursued as a function
of gender (e.g., Ryan and Pintrich, 1997). They suggest
under the assumption of male being more competitive than females, males might
be more likely to adopt goals of besting others and trying to achieve the highest
grades. So, they insist that more research is needed to explore gender differences
in goal orientation.
Grade level is another factor may accounts for differences in goal orientations
of students. Most studies to date have focused on the effects of school context
(Dowson et al., 2006, 2005),
the academic practices of schools (Anderman and Maehr, 1994),
providing meaningful and interesting tasks for students (Renninger
et al., 2002), the provision of opportunities for student choice
and decision-making (Ryan et al., 1985) and reducing
emphases on social comparison and competition (Covington, 1992)
on students goal orientation. Researchers, however, have paid little attention
to the effect of grade level on the students goal orientations.
Moreover, there appears to be evidence of interaction effect between gender
and grade level on students motivation (Cheung, 2007;
Watt, 2004). Martin (2003) found although boys and
girls motivation declined in parallel ways in years 9 and 10, girls motivation
recovered in years 11 and 12 whereas the motivation of boys did not recover.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of gender and
grade level on goal orientations in a sample of university undergraduates
in Iran. This provides the opportunity to determine whether gender differences
and grade level were related to differences in students goal orientations
across a different culture (Iran). It was hypothesized that gender and
grade level would affect goal orientations of Iranian undergraduate students.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Sample: This study was carried out in 2007-2008 education year.
Participants in the study were 302 Iranian students at Shiraz University
(154 first graders and 148 last graders) selected by random cluster sampling.
The sample consisted of students from the faculties of Humanities, Basic
Science, Education and Psychology, Art and Engineering. The ages of the
students ranged from 18 to 27 years (Mean = 20.78, SD = 1.58). Most students
came from middle social class families. Sixty four percent of them were
female and 36% were male. Twenty participants were excluded because of
missing data on gender.
Scale: To measure goal orientation, achievement goal questionnaire (Elliot
and Church, 1997) was used. This scale has 18 items divided into three subscales,
each containing 6 items: mastery (e.g., I want to learn as much as possible
from this class.), performance approach (e.g., It is important to me to do better
than the other students.) and performance avoidance (e.g., I worry about the
possibility of getting a bad grade in this class.) goal orientation subscales.
Items scored on a 5-point Likert-type scale, with 1 = strongly disagree and
5 strongly agree for each item. The questionnaire was translated into Persian
(Farsi) and identified translating validity to ensure that the content of the
questionnaire remained the same in the two languages. Then, it was administered
to participants in class groups.
The students agreement to participation was sought. The students agreed
and completed the questionnaire during classroom time. They were asked
to give other information such as their age, sex and their familys income
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Reliability and validity: A principal component factor analysis with
a varimax rotation of the achievement goal questionnaire produced three factors,
altogether accounted for 50% of the variance among all the items. Factor 1 accounted
for 20.1% of the total variance and comprised the six performance approach goal
items (eigenvalue = 3.70). Factor 2 accounted for 17.4% of the total variance
and comprised the six mastery goal items (eigenvalue = 2.73). Factor 3 accounted
for 12.10% of the total variance and comprised the four performance avoidance
goal items (eigenvalue = 1.51). The content of all the factors and items were
in consistent with Elliot and Church (1997). Except, two
items with a relatively low loading were withdrawn from the final version. As
a result, performance avoidance goal orientation factor had four items (Table
The internal consistency (Cronbachs alpha) of mastery, performance approach
and performance avoidance goal orientation subscales were, 0.70, 0.81
and 0.53, respectively. Test-retest reliabilities (for 30 students after
3 weeks) ranged from 0.79 to 0.83.
The results of internal consistency and factor analysis of the achievement
goal questionnaire showed acceptable validity and reliability of the scale
for measuring achievement goal orientation for Iranian students, although
reliability coefficient of performance avoidance goal orientation was
relatively low because of deleting two items. In sum, reliability coefficients
were less than those reported in western countries.
||Achievement goal items and their factor loadings
Gender and grade level effects on goal orientation: To compare
male and female students on goal orientation, a multi variate analysis
of variance (MANOVA) was conducted, with the three kinds of goal orientation
as dependent variables and gender and grade level as independent variables.
Means and standard deviations of goal orientation for male and female
students are shown in Table 2.
The results of MANOVA are shown in Table 3. The analysis
showed that the interaction of gender and grade level was not significant.
In regard to the effect of gender differences, a significant difference
was found on the score of performance approach goal orientation [F (1,
278) = 7.11, p<0.008] (Table 3). Male undergraduates
had statistically significant higher means than female undergraduates
on the performance approach goal orientation. There was no significant
difference between males and females on mastery or performance avoidance
goal orientation scores.
MANOVA also revealed the effect of grade level on achievement goal orientation.
It showed last grade students significantly differentiated from first
grade students in mastery goal orientation [F (1, 278) = 4.39, p<0.03]
(Table 3). It means the orientation of mastery increases
as the year level goes up. The effect of grade level on the two other
goal orientation scores was not significant.
Results found for the effect of gender differences on goal orientation indicated
that significant differences exist between males and females. Specifically,
the results indicate that just as in several other studies (Moreno
et al., 2008; Pajares and Valiante, 2001;
Wentzel, 1998; Thorkildsen and Nicholls,
1998) male students have a greater performance approach orientation, while
differences are not found in the two other goal orientations.
|| Means and standard deviations for females and males
on goal orientation scores
|The values are shown as Mean±SD
||The results of multivariate analysis of variance
|Perf.-app: Performance-approach, Perf.-avo: Performance-avoidance,
SS: Sum of squares, df: Degrees of freedom, MS: Mean square, ns: Non
to seek positive competency judgments when compared to females supports the Pintrich and Schunks idea (2002) that boys are more competitive
than girls, so they might be more performance oriented than girls.
The results regarding to the main and interactive effects of grade level showed
that the interaction of grade level and gender was not significant. This is
inconsistent with the findings of some researchers (e.g., Cheung,
2007; Martin, 2003). However, last grade students
had more mastery goal orientations than first grade students who just enter
the university. This finding indicated the effect of grade level on goal orientation
just as some other studies (Cheung, 2007; Wilkins, 2006).
A possible explanation is that undergraduate students experience a greater feeling
of freedom in university and this may lead them to adopt more mastery goal orientation.
At the universities, they have some choices in selecting learning tasks and
there is no need to compete with each other. For this reason, it is possible
that goal orientations of university students change as they move from first
grade to the last grade.
This research represents an investigation on the effect of gender differences
and grade level on the goal orientations of undergraduate students in
a nonwestern culture (Iran). Research on similar samples is required to
verify the present findings. It is also recommended that future research
consider the interaction of gender and other personal or contextual variables,
such as age, environment and the field of academic disciplines.
This research is sponsored in part by Shiraz University (grant No. in
Shiraz University is 86-GR-EDU-29).
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