Goal Theory

Goal Theory is an overall approach to motivation that emphasizes the need to establish goals as intrinsic motivation. A relationship exists between goal difficulty, level of performance, and effort involved. This relationship will remain positive, so long as the person is committed to the goal, has the pre-existing ability to attain it, and doesn’t have conflicting goals. Goal theory states that several conditions are particularly important in successful achievement. These include goal acceptance and commitment, goal specificity, goal difficulty, and feedback.

Motivation towards Goal Oriented learning is influenced by the following variables:

  • Mastery goals: understanding of concepts and content, and application to tasks – learning, task-involved, approach and avoidance.
  • Performance goals: performance, relative ability, ego-involved, approach and avoidance.
  • Outcomes: goals, attributions, self-efficacy, levels of cognitive engagement, self-regulation, affect, interest, persistence, choice behaviors

Generally goals are categorized as one of the following:

(i) Mastery Approach: Focus on mastering task, learning, understanding

(ii) Performance Approach: Focus on being the best in comparison to others

(iii) Mastery Avoidance: Focus on avoiding misunderstanding or not mastering task correctly.

(iv) Performance Avoidance: Focus on avoiding looking dumb in comparison to others

Strengths and Weaknesses of Goal Theory

Goal theory is widely accepted due to extensive empirical research and ease of use. It is broadly applicable and has an array of data to support its effectiveness (particularly within the business realm). However, problems can arise when two existing goals conflict, or one goal receives priority over another. Plus there is no decisive theoretical framework for the theory making it helpful to use in conjunction with other theories but difficult as a stand-alone theory.

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