Studies have revealed that students often intentionally employ avoidance strategies, which may lead to a loss of selfconfidence, low academic achievement, or even dropout. Furthermore, the emergence of the use of avoidance strategies may be a predictor of students’ discontinuation of their education (Butler, 1998; Turner et al., 2002; Urdan, 2004). According to Turner et al. (2002), common avoidance strategies among students are help avoidance, resisting novel approaches to academic work (i.e., novelty avoidance), and purposefully withdrawing effort (i.e., self-handicapping). S tudents may employ these strategies because, according to the self-worth theory (Covington, 1992), they wish to divert others’ attention from their abilities when they are unsure of being able to complete a task; avoidance strategies are a means of protecting their self-worth. In this study, we integrated achievement goal theory (Ames, 1992) and academic emotion theory (Pekrun et al., 2002) to investigate the relationships among students’ perceived classroom goal structures, feelings of shame, and use of avoidance strategies; we further investigated the means through which students’ perceived classroom goal structure indirectly influences their avoidance strategies through feelings of shame. Related studies have reported that middle school students’ motivation and performance decline over time (Shim et al., 2013; Urdan & Midgley, 2003), indicating that, if a researcher collects data at a single time point to test the relationships among variables (i.e., a cross-sectional design), the researcher would be unable to ascertain whether the variables change over time, the direction of such changes, and whether the changes in the variables are interrelated. In addition, studies of middle school students have mostly focused on changes in students’ adaptive learning patterns rather than changes in their maladaptive learning patterns (e.g., feelings of shame and avoidance strategies) over time. In consideration of these factors, we conducted two measurements: one in the second semester of the seventh grade and one in the first semester of the eighth grade. We first investigated the relationship among perceived classroom goal structure, shame, and avoidance strategies in seventh grade and eighth grade students (cross-sectional design). We then evaluated the changes in the three variables and the directions of these changes and determined whether these changes were interrelated from the second semester of seventh grade to the first semester of eighth grade. The aims of this study were (1) to test whether the variables of perceived classroom goal structure, shame, and avoidance strategies change over time and the directions of the changes and (2) to investigate the relationships among perceived classroom goal structure, shame, and avoidance strategies by using both cross-sectional and longitudinal designs. Two research questions guided the study: (1) Do perceived classroom goal structure, shame, and avoidance strategies change over time, and what are the directions of these changes? (2) Are perceived classroom goal structure, shame, and avoidance strategies interrelated in seventh and eighth grade, and are the relationships connected from the second semester of seventh grade to the first semester of eighth grade? For research question 1, we hypothesized that students’ self-reported scores in perceived mastery-goal structure would gradually increase and that those in perceived performance-goal structure, shame, and avoidance strategies would gradually decrease. For research question 2, we hypothesized that students’ self-reported scores in perceived mastery-goal structure would negatively (or nonsignificantly) predict shame, which would then negatively (or nonsignificantly) predict avoidance strategies. We further hypothesized that students’ self-reported scores in perceived performance-goal structure would positively predict shame, which would then positively predict avoidance strategies (research hypothesis 2-1). Moreover, we hypothesized that decreases in perceived mastery goal structure would negatively (or nonsignificantly) predict increases in shame, which would then negatively (or nonsignificantly) predict increases in avoidance strategies. Finally, we hypothesized that increases in perceived performance-goal structure would positively predict increases in shame, which would then positively predict increases in avoidance strategies (research hypothesis 2-2). Students from 21 seventh-grade classes of 12 Taiwanese junior high schools were recruited as participants. This study was longitudinal with two measurement waves to evaluate avoidance strategies, perceived classroom goal structure, and shame. The first measurement was conducted in April 2018 (the second semester of seventh grade), and the second was conducted in October 2018 (the first semester of eighth grade). All students who participated in the study remained in the same classes in seventh and eighth grade. This study was approved by the relevant university ethics committee, and initially, 442 students volunteered to participate (with written parental consent). However, the data from 14 participants were not included in the analyses because these participants were not present for all sessions. The final sample comprised 427 students (206 boys and 221 girls). The mean age of the students was 13.89 (SD = 0.75) years. A half-school-year longitudinal study was conducted to evaluate perceived classroom goal structures (mastery vs. performance), shame, and avoidance strategies in mathematics. Participants completed self-reported questionnaires, evaluating their perceived classroom goal structure, feelings of shame, and avoidance strategies. Two theoretical models, using crosssectional and longitudinal designs, were developed to test the relationships among these variables. The collected data were analyzed using structural equational modeling. In addition, prior mathematical achievement and sex were included in the analyses and were considered control variables. For research hypothesis 1, the results indicated that, from the second semester of seventh grade to the first semester of eighth grade, students’ perceptions of a mastery-goal structure did not significantly change, whereas their perceptions of a performance-goal structure, feelings of shame, and use of avoidance strategies significantly increased. For research hypothesis 2-1, the results of cross-sectional analyses indicated that students who perceived their class as more performance goal–oriented felt more shame and used more avoidance strategies. However, for students who perceived their class as more mastery goal– oriented, this perception did not significantly predict their feelings of shame and use of avoidance strategies. For research hypothesis 2-2, the results of longitudinal analyses demonstrated that an increase in perceptions of a performance goal–oriented class structure predicted increases in shame over the half school year, which in turn predicted increases in employment of avoidance strategies. By contrast, perceptions of a mastery goal–oriented class structure with no changes did not reliably predict changes in shame and employment of avoidance strategies. Two main conclusions may be drawn from the present study. First, our results partly support the hypothesis that students’ maladaptive learning patterns (i.e., perceptions of a performance-goal structure, feelings of shame, and use of avoidance strategies) gradually increase in mathematics from seventh grade to eighth grade. Second, our findings suggest that classroom environments that emphasize obtaining rewards, recognition of competence, and outperforming others based on norm-based standards are more likely to result in students experiencing feelings of shame and using avoidance strategies. Recommendations are proposed on the basis of these findings that may serve as a reference for further research, teaching practices, and junior high school counseling.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental and Educational Psychology