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An exploration of ‘performativity’ and the changing motivations of Advanced Level students

Cattermole, Sarah (2012) An exploration of ‘performativity’ and the changing motivations of Advanced Level students. Lancaster University.


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Achievement goal theory currently proposes a 2×2 framework of mastery-approach, mastery-avoidance, performance-approach, and performance-avoidance goals. This paper proposes that achievement goal theorists needs to recognise ‘performativity’ goals in which learners strive to demonstrate their performance but are unconcerned with social comparisons, and that the approach-avoidance distinction should be incorporated into these goals as it is with mastery and performance goals. Surveys with established and original scales were used to assess the validity of the performativity construct and data from these was analysed using Cronbach’s alpha, correlations and principle components analysis. MANOVA was used to assess whether there were differences in levels of performativity between AS and A level learners, and those individuals who attended either a sixth form college or school sixth form. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with individuals whose survey scores indicated that they perceived a difference between performativity and mastery goals. These were used to further establish the validity of the performativity construct and to examine the motivations of learners in today’s A level classrooms, whilst addressing methodological weaknesses in the current achievement goal literature. Performativity was found to be a valid construct which is relevant to today’s A level classrooms. Results are discussed in terms of high-stakes testing and achievement goal theory.

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