Rethinking Motivation Goals for Adolescents: Beyond Achievement Goals


Caroline Mansfield, Murdoch University, School of Education, Murdoch WA 6150, Australia. Email:


For the past two decades the prime focus of motivation research in adolescence has been concerned with achievement goals, namely mastery and performance goals. In the real life learning contexts in which students participate, however, such goals are inextricably linked to other goals such as social goals and broader life and future goals. Moreover, goals are not pursued in isolation but as components of complex and dynamic motivational systems which individuals shape to suit context and purpose. Using a multiple goals perspective, and focusing on both why students want to achieve at school (achievement goals) and what goals students are trying to achieve at school (goal content), this paper presents findings from a study investigating the goals of 29 secondary school students (juniors, ages 12–13, and seniors ages 16–17). With data gathered during focus group interviews, the study shows that students pursue multiple goals and that those goals are related to four main goal domains, those being future goals, achievement goals, social goals, and personal well-being goals. Furthermore, the study reveals relationships between goals in particular domains and highlights the important role played by future goals in adolescents' motivation at school. Methodological challenges in investigating multiple goals for adolescents are discussed. The findings suggest that to further understanding about multiple goals for adolescents, future research should consider multiple goals across the four domains and more closely examine the role of future goals in influencing other goals and adolescents' motivation at school.