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Motivation and Transfer: The Role of Mastery-Approach Goals in Preparation for Future Learning


Journal of the Learning Sciences Volume 21, Number 3, ISSN 1050-8406


The study of knowledge transfer rarely draws upon motivational constructs in empirical work. We investigated how students' achievement goals interact with different forms of instruction to promote "transfer," defined as preparation for future learning (Bransford & Schwartz, 1999) Students were given either invention or tell-and-practice activities when learning statistics concepts and their achievement goal orientations were measured at the beginning of the experiment. We also assessed students' goals during the learning activity. We predicted that students who entered the experiment with a high mastery-approach goal orientation would be more likely to transfer, regardless of instruction. We also hypothesized that invention activities would lead to higher mastery-approach goal adoption for the task and more attention to important conceptual features, as students would focus on trying to understand the material. Finally, because we expected that invention activities would promote mastery goal adoption during the task, we predicted a moderating effect of invention activities, such that there would be a smaller effect for students' initial mastery-approach goal orientation on transfer for those who invented compared to those who received tell-and-practice instruction. All three hypotheses were supported. Results are discussed in terms of contributions to research on knowledge transfer, achievement goals, and educational practice. (Contains 10 figures, 5 tables, and 2 footnotes.)


Belenky, D.M. & Nokes-Malach, T.J. (2012). Motivation and Transfer: The Role of Mastery-Approach Goals in Preparation for Future Learning. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 21(3), 399-432. Retrieved January 28, 2020 from .

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