The relationships between adult students’ achievement goal orientations, self-defined course goals, course evaluations, and performance

Antti-Tuomas Pulkka, Markku Niemivirta


This study examined how students’ achievement goal orientations and self-reported course-specific goals are related to each other and how they predict students’ perceptions of their learning environment and course performance. Participants were 88 students of the Finnish National Defense University.

Based on goal orientation profiles, we identified four groups of students, which differed in students’ evaluations of most aspects of learning environment. Mastery-oriented and success-oriented students were most positive in their evaluations compared to avoidance-oriented students. Minor differences were also observed in examination scores; the success-oriented students scored highest.

Students’ open answers referred most often to mastery-intrinsic goals and goals of gaining instrumental qualification for working career. Goal orientation profiles were weakly related to open-ended answers: the avoidance-oriented students mentioned mastery-intrinsic goals less frequently and success-oriented students mentioned mastery-intrinsic goals marginally more frequently than could be expected by chance alone. With regard to course evaluations and open answers, the presence of mastery-intrinsic goals and mastery-extrinsic goals were associated with higher course evaluations, whereas the presence of work-avoidance goals was associated with lower course evaluations.

The relationships between motivation, performance, and students’ evaluations of learning and instruction are discussed.


Motivation; Achievement goal orientation; Learning environment

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Journal for Educational Research Online/Journal für Bildungsforschung Online (ISSN 1866-6671)