The importance of students setting academic goals has been increasingly recognized. Students can have mastery goals which target learning and improving their ability. They can also have performance-approach or performance-avoidance goals that focus on outperforming others or being outperformed by others. A study recently published in School Mental Health identified that students’ performance goals were not conducive to their well-being.
The study was first conducted on a corpus of 894 Grade 7 students from two public schools in northern China. Of these students, 763 and 590 participated, one year and two years later respectively, in a further study. The attrition was mainly due to school transference and absence from school during the assessment. They completed a questionnaire measuring their achievement goals, academic social comparisons, self-esteem and subjective well-being in school. The findings showed that:
- Students’ mastery goals had positive effects on later subjective well-being through academic social comparison and self-esteem.
- Performance-avoidance goals had negative effects on subsequent subjective well-being via affecting self-esteem.
- No significant effects on subsequent subjective well-being were found for performance-approach goals.
The authors suggested that teachers could provide moderately challenging but achievable academic tasks for Chinese students, so that they could have a sense of accomplishment in their class which contributes to the development of positive self-esteem.
Source (Open Access): Zhou, J., Huebner, E. S., & Tian, L. (2020). Longitudinal associations and mechanisms between achievement goals and subjective well-being in school in Chinese adolescents. School Mental Health, 12, 353-365.