Goal Theory Is Not Dead—Not Yet, Anyway: A Reflection on the Special Issue

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The author suggests how these papers converge in portraying the nature of motivation, learning, and achievement. That portrayal proceeds from a social—cognitive framework that stresses the centrality of goals in framing whether, when, and how students are likely to approach or avoid academic tasks. He points out, however, that approach and avoidance, although an important aspect of motivation, do not fully encompass a domain that is and has been considered the fitting purview of motivation theory and research. Especially in the realm of education, the quality of engagement that eventuates is of equal if not greater importance relative to choice and direction. However, a primary question raised in these comments relates to the nature of goals and how they operate in framing action, thought, and feelings. Some of the work reflected in the wider goal theory literature as well as in some of these papers, suggests that goals are closely linked to a varying role of self in determining the nature and direction of action, feelings, and thought. Some of the work seems to limit goals to a specific kind of objective under limited circumstances. Finally, questions are raised about whether or how the work presented would define the role of context in determining motivation. Clearly, although work reflected in these papers is truly impressive, it is impressive not just for conclusions reached but also for new questions prompted.

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