Main Axes of Goal Theory

Research in goal theory has identified the following dichotomies:

Mastery/Performance Ames
Mastery orientation is described as a student's wish to become proficient in a topic to the best of their ability. The student's sense of satisfaction with the work is not influenced by external performance indicators such as grades. Mastery orientation is associated with deeper engagement with the task and greater perseverance in the face of setbacks.

Mastery orientation is thought to increase a student's intrinsic motivation.

Performance orientation is described as a student's wish to achieve highly on external indicators of success, such as grades. The student's sense of satisfaction is highly influenced by their grades, and so it is associated with discouragement in the face of low marks. Performance orientation is also associated with higher states of anxiety. In addition, the desire for high marks increases the temptation to cheat or to engage in shallow rote-learning instead of deep understanding.

Performance orientation is thought to increase a student's intrinsic motivation if they perform well, but to decrease motivation when they perform badly.

Task/ego involvement Nicholls
A student is described as task-involved when they are interested in the task for its own qualities. This is associated with higher intrinsic motivation. Task-involved students are less threatened by failure because their own ego is not tied up in the success of the task.

A student who is ego-involved will be seeking to perform the task to boost their own ego, for the praise that completing the task might attract, or because completing the task confirms their own self-concept (eg. clever, strong, funny etc...) Ego-involved students can become very anxious or discouraged in the face of failure, because such failure challenges their self-concept.

Approach/avoidance goals Elliot
Not all goals are directed towards approaching a desirable outcome (good grades). Goals can also be directed towards avoiding an undesirable outcome (being grounded for failure).

It is thought that approach goals contribute positively to intrinsic motivation whereas avoidance goals do not.