Purpose: High school is a challenging transition time for adolescents. They experience a variety of dramatic changes, including changes and increases in social influences. The intersection of these changes can be amplified in physical education (PE) classes because of the public and performance-based nature of this setting. As a result, adolescents approach physical activity environments with varied achievement motivations. Achievement goal theory has been used to investigate motivation in school settings, including PE. Researchers have investigated mastery and performance goals, and have recently recognized that social motivations may have an important influence on students' goals. Current research is limited, however, with regard to how social influences affect adolescent motivation in physical activity settings. It is important to develop a didactic knowledge of social motivations in relationship to what individuals seek to accomplish in physical activity settings. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between effort, achievement goal orientations and related social variables to assess the influence of the social environment on motivation in PE.
Methods: Participants were 105 (49 males, 56 females; M =15.18 yrs.) 9th and 10th grade PE students at a high school in the southeast US. Students completed a questionnaire consisting of two validated surveys: the 15-item Social Motivation Orientation in Sport Scale (affiliation, status, recognition; Allen 2005; modified for PE) and the 16-item Achievement Goal Questionnaire – PE (mastery approach, performance approach, performance avoidance, effort; Guan, et al, 2006).
Analysis/Results: Data were analyzed using Pearson's correlations among effort, social variables, and achievement goal orientations and a multiple regression analysis to examine which variables predict effort. The correlational analysis revealed a pattern of moderate positive relationships between effort and three dimensions of achievement goals, and small positive relationships between effort and affiliation, status, and recognition. Achievement goals were also positively related to affiliation and recognition, but showed no meaningful relationships between achievement goals and social status. According to the regression analysis, mastery approach, performance avoidance, and status were significant predictors of effort, accounting for 43% of the variance [F=24.41, (3, 94), p <.001).
Conclusions: Consistent with theoretical predictions, effort was influenced by achievement goal orientations and contributing social factors. This study augments prior research and demonstrates the importance of studying social influences in a physical activity domain, especially with older adolescents and high school students. The findings suggest that practitioners should consider the influence of social factors in developing strategies to encourage effort in PE.