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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Multiple Goals, Satisfaction, and Achievement in University Undergraduate Education: A Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Project Research Paper


This study examines the relationship between student goal orientation and student satisfaction, academic engagement, and achievement. A variety of studies has shown that the type of goal orientation determines students’ cognitive and behavioral reactions as well as their educational performance. Using data on 2309 college students from the University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES), this study analyzes the relationship between different types of goal orientations and student behavior and academic outcomes. Three questions are addressed in this paper: First, it explores how students can be classified according to their goal orientation. Second, the study examines how multiple achievement goals relate to different socio-demographic characteristics. Third, the relative influence of goal orientation on indices of satisfaction, achievement, and academic engagement among undergraduate students is assessed. The results support the notion that students pursuing both mastery and performance goals are more satisfied with their academic experience, show a higher degree of academic engagement, and achieve better grades than students who pursue a mastery orientation alone or a work-avoidance/performance orientation. One practical implication of the study of goal orientation is that student applicants could be screened on the basis of both a high mastery as well as a high performance orientation.

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