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Department of Educational Sciences and Psychology
Research Projects of Educational and Differential Psychology at TU Dortmund University

Topic: Target orientations

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The goal-directedness of human behavior has been a relevant research topic since the early days of psychology. Target orientations are the motivational focus of individuals in learning and performance contexts. Different target orientations are distinguished from one another, each of which reveals differential relationships to various learning and performance variables. One is the goal of acquiring high skills or competencies ("learning goal") and the other is goals of demonstrating high skills to others and wanting to perform better than others ("approach performance goal") or hiding low skills ("avoidance performance goal"). A large number of research has been able to show substantial relationships of target orientations with, for example, learning behavior, academic interest, learning strategies, and with various performance indicators. In this regard, we have been able to prove in two studies that the subject-specificity of target orientations has to be taken into account when recording correlations with other variables.

In a comprehensive meta-analysis - published in the Educational Research Review - we were also able to confirm the positive associations between learning goals as well as approach achievement goals and school performance. Furthermore, we were able to identify relevant moderators regarding this relationship. For example, the respective operationalization of target orientations plays a central role. In particular, approach performance goals seem to be defined and recorded differently. Target orientations also play an important role in the relationship between self-handicapping and performance, as we have shown in a recent meta-analysis in the Journal of Educational Psychology.

Currently, we are focusing on the operationalization and assessment of target orientations and in particular on the question under which conditions approach performance goals are actually conducive to performance.

Contact persons: Dr. Linda Wirthwein and Prof. Dr. Ricarda Steinmayr