18 July, 2007
PERFORMANCE versus MASTERY: a preview of our presentation in Scotland
One of our assumptions is that a key determinate of the apparent lack of engagement is the motivation of the students. In this study we sought to gain some insights into factors that might influence the nature of the needs, goals and ultimately the decisions the students make about their participation in the learning of chess and subsequently mathematics.
The underlying model was derived from the work of Dweck (2000) who identified two perspectives on intelligence. One is a fixed perspective of intelligence entitled entity theory in which people believe that their intelligence is predetermined at birth and remains fixed through life.
Dweck suggested that students who believe in the entity view require easy successes to maintain motivation, and see challenges as threats. The alternate perspective is where students see intelligence as malleable or incremental and they can change their intelligence and/or achievement by manipulating factors over which they have some control. Students with such incremental beliefs often choose to sacrifice opportunities to look smart in favour of learning something new. Not only their goals but also their needs regulate particular outcomes.
Directly connected to these views of intelligence are the ways that students describe their own needs and goals. Dweck suggested that entity “theorists” have performance related goals, and rely for success on tasks that offer limited challenge. When experiencing difficulties, the model suggests that such students lose confidence in themselves, tend to denigrate their own intelligence, exhibit plunging expectations, develop negative approaches, have lower persistence, and deteriorating performance. Such students particularly seek positive judgments from others and avoid negative ones.
Incremental “theorists”, according to Dweck, have mastery oriented goals and tend to have a hardy response to failure and remain focused on mastering skills and knowledge even when experiencing challenge. Mastery oriented people do not blame others for threats, do not see failure as an indictment on themselves, rather they hold learning goals which are to increase their competence when confronted with difficulty. Confidence in their own ability does not make a difference to students who see intelligence as incremental and success is not needed to build mastery oriented objectives.
Dweck argued that an entity view of intelligence leads students to focus mainly on performance goals whereas an incremental perspective allows students to focus on mastery oriented goals. In other words, the students’ regulation of their decisions and actions is a response to how they define their needs and how these define their goals.
It is interesting to consider the implications of this for teaching. Students who have performance goals could be a direct result of significant adults such as parents and teachers who tended to exaggerate the positives and protect them from negative information.
Dweck claimed that, by their actions, some teachers teach students that they are entitled to a life of easy low effort successes, and argued that this is a recipe for anger, bitterness and self doubt. Dweck suggested that some teachers respond to students experiencing difficulty by providing easier tasks, the net effect of which is to create a climate in which challenges are feared rather than addressed.
Dweck (2000) argued that teachers can teach self regulatory behaviours such as decoding tasks, perseverance, seeing difficulties as opportunities, and learning from mistakes. This capacity for teachers to enhance positive self-regulatory responses is evident in quite separate research strands on self fulfilling prophecy (e.g., Brophy, 1983), and motivation (e.g., Middleton, 1995).