Pintrich's Mastery vs Performance goals

Why is this topic worth looking at?

Pintrich, P.R (2000) Multiple Goals, Multiple Pathways: the role of Goal orientation in Learning and Achievement, Journal of Educational Psychology,92(3),545-555.

The above is a starter reference which i would recommend to any student wishing to gain further insight into the work of Pintrich. I found this article extremely useful as an introduction to the topic.

Pintrichs theory of achievement goals gives a detailed description of how motivation can be self regulated by the learner and how context and situational factors can play an important part in the learners motivation. Pintrich is well renowned and well respected within the field of Educational Psychology therefore there is an abundance of literature on the area which can be easily accessed when used for studying purposes. It should be noted that the Mastery versus Performance goals are only one part of a two dimensional goal orientation developed by Pintrich. The other dimension is the Approach versus Avoidance goals which, even though it seems to be the less researched out the two, I would still recommend reading into. This topic is extremely useful to those that are interested in the motivational elements of learning for exam or coursework purposes or alternatively just out of general interest.

Definition of Mastery and Performance goals

 Research results consistently support the theory that Mastery and Performance goals are associated with different cognitive and motivational patterns. Mastery goals correspond to the desire to understand a task, acquire new knowledge and develop new abilities, for example learning how to dance for the sole enjoyment of learning a new activity. Conversely, performance goals refer to the desire to show competencies by trying to obtain positive judgements and evaluations, for example learning a topic in order to suceed in answering questions and recieving positive feedback.  

Criticisms and Debates within the area   

Darnon, C, Butera, F, Harachiewicz, J.M (2007) Achievement Goals in Social Interactions: Learning with Mastery vs Performance Goals, Journal of motivation and emotion, 31, 61-70.

Most issues and debates within this area are related to which out of the two goal orientations are more effective to employ when learning. This is because it has been found in studies that whatever goal one adopts can entirely change the way in which a task is carried out. Most early studies were more inclined to promote students to pursue mastery goals as it enhanced learning whereas performance goals impaired learning. However recent research has failed to find evidence of this effect. The above reference is, in my opinion, extremely effective in outlining these issues and gives useful references for further investigation. The study is also of great significance as it also carries out an in depth investigation into studying each achievement goal in social interactions, an area which has been very rarely researched. This is significant because the vast majority of learning situations are encountered with other peers and not on an individual basis. The results of the study's findings highlighted that interaction with others when undergoing an academic task can be an important moderator of achievement goal effects. When a peer disagreed over an answer with the learner subject, the mastery goal group lead to significantly better learning than the performance goal group. However, when there was an agreement with the peer and learner subject the mastery goal group did not achieve better learning outcomes as compared to the performance group. The authors of this study concluded that their findings could be significant in the context of teaching practises. If teachers disagree with student and promote a critical atmosphere within their classes this indeed could promote learning. However, in my opinion I find this conclusion a bit far fetched particularly as it was only within the mastery goal orientation group that this technique enhanced learning. For those that adopt a performance goal orientation this strategy would therefore be unsuccessful.  


Harackwiecz, JM, Linnenbrink, E.A (2005) Multiple Achievement Goals and Multiple Pathways for Learning, The Agenda and Impact of Paul R. Pintrich, Educational Psychologist, 40 (2), 75-84.

The above reference is a review of all work carried out by Pintrich despite it being a couple of years old now, I think it still very much relevant in giving a comrehensive summary and review of all theories developed by Pintrich. It is particularly successfull in covering the area of Mastery and Performance Goals. 

Overall i think that this topic is extremely usefull to cover. the Mastery vs Performance goals developed by Pintrich have good solid evidence base in which it is widely accpeted that these achievment goals do impact on learning. From my reading it is evident that Pintrichs work is very much respected amongst many researchers in the field. In regards to the debates in the area, especially in relation to whether learning is enhanced more with Mastery goals or Performance goals, I think a lot more research is needed to be done in order to come to any definitive conclusion. 


The references that have been provided in the text are the ones I found the most useful when carrying out this exercise, this is not to say that these are the best. However, as previously mentioned there is a large amount of literature on the area that can be easiley accessed. Listed below is another references to start you off;

Wigfield, A, Zusho, A, De Groot, EV (2005) Introduction to Paul R. Pintrich's Contributions to Educational Psychology: An Enduring Legacy, Educational psychologist, 40 (2), 67-74.