Do goals lead to outcomes or can it be the other way around?: Causal ordering of mastery goals, metacognitive strategies, and achievement

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Goal theory research has mostly focused on the unidirectional effects of goals on learning strategies and academic achievement. Reciprocal relationships have mostly been neglected.


The primary aim of this study was to examine the reciprocal relations and causal ordering of mastery goals, metacognitive strategy use, and academic achievement.


A total of 8,773 secondary students drawn from three cohorts in Hong Kong participated in the study.


We found that mastery goals and metacognitive strategy use exhibited reciprocal effects. Interestingly, and contrary to previous research, academic achievement was shown to predict mastery goal adoption and metacognitive strategy use but not the other way around. Results of the model were shown to be invariant across students of different genders, year levels, and school bands. Implications for goal theory research are discussed.

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