Students' Constructions of Mastery-Approach Goals Contextualized in Inquiry-Based and Traditional Science Curricula

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Journal of Experimental Education

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Recent science education reforms call for greater integration of scientific practices, such as inquiry and constructing models, which may have implications for students’ meaning-making of mastery-approach goals. Yet, limited achievement goal theory (AGT) research has been conducted in these new learning environments. The present study addressed this gap by examining students’ constructed meanings of mastery-approach goals across inquiry and traditional contexts. Further, we applied a sociocultural perspective of AGT by situating meanings in the values and expectations of each context. Participants were 73 seventh graders from five science teachers’ classrooms (two traditional classrooms, three inquiry classrooms). Students were interviewed and qualitative thematic analysis was conducted for students’ mastery goal meanings based on three framings drawn from prior AGT research: thoroughly understanding, improving, and mastering. A total of 19 themes emerged reflecting students’ espousal of a diversity and range of mastery meanings. Frequency and chi-square analyses distinguished the prevalence of each theme by curriculum context. Results suggest students’ mastery constructions are contextualized in curricula, with a majority of inquiry students emphasizing “knowing deeply,” including in disciplinary and prosocial ways. Correspondingly, accepting teachers as authority was emphasized in traditional contexts. Methodological and theoretical implications of this sociocultural approach are discussed.


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