Goal Orientation Print or save as PDF

How is it defined?

Goal orientation refers to a person’s ability to set a relevant, attainable goal and exert deliberate and persistent effort to achieving it. It entails creating a plan, developing strategies, and monitoring progress towards achieving the goal. Those with a learning goal orientation focus on acquiring new skills and applying them, rather than comparing their results with others or seeking favourable judgements (Gaumer Erickson, Soukup, Noonan, & McGurn, 2018). Research findings have demonstrated a positive correlation between learning-oriented goals and academic achievement (Hulleman, Schrager, Bodmann, & Harackiewicz, 2010; Linnenbrink-Garcia, Tyson, & Patall, 2008). By strengthening social and emotional skills, schools can teach students how to set and achieve academic and personal goals.

Why is it important?

  • Learning environments that offer independence, social support, and acknowledgements of competence are positively related to academic performance (Theis, Sauerwein, & Fischer, 2020).
  • Mastery goals are associated with adaptive coping strategies, including self-regulation, persistent efforts, a preference for challenge, and self-efficacy (Friedel et al., 2007).
  • Educators must recognize the varying perspectives and motivations related to their students’ schoolwork and education (Tuominen-Soini, Salmela-Aro, & Niemivirta, 2008).
  • The goals that teachers emphasize in the classroom impact student goal orientation and academic achievement (Friedel, Cortina, Turner, & Midgley, 2007).

How do we measure it?

In the OurSCHOOL Secondary school survey, students respond to Likert questions pertaining to relevant and attainable goals, exerting deliberate and persistent effort, creating a plan, developing strategies, and monitoring progress towards achieving a goal. The data are scaled on a 10-point scale, and students with a score greater than or equal to 6 (i.e., slightly higher than neutral) are considered to have ‘positive goal orientation’. The results are reported as “the percentage of students with goal orientation.”


Friedel, J. M., Cortina, K. S., Turner, J. C., & Midgley, C. (2007). Achievement goals, efficacy beliefs and coping strategies in mathematics: The roles of perceived parent and teacher goal emphases. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 32(3), 434-458.

Gaumer Erickson, A. S., Soukup, J. H., Noonan, P. M., & McGurn, L. (2018). Self-Regulation formative questionnaire technical report. Retrieved from

Hulleman, C. S., Schrager, S. M., Bodmann, S. M., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2010). A meta-analytic review of achievement goal measures: Different labels for the same constructs or different constructs with similar labels? Psychological Bulletin, 136(3), 422-449.

Linnenbrink-Garcia, L., Tyson, D. F., & Patall, E. A. (2008). When are achievement goal orientations beneficial for academic achievement? A closer look at main effects and moderating factors. Revue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale, 21(1-2), 19-70.

Theis, D., Sauerwein, M., & Fischer, N. (2020). Perceived quality of instruction: The relationship among indicators of students’ basic needs, mastery goals, and academic achievement. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 176-192.

Tuominen-Soini, H., Salmela-Aro, K., & Niemivirta, M. (2008). Achievement goal orientations and subjective well-being: A person-centred analysis. Learning and Instruction, 18(3), 251-266.