Using Cognitive Interviewing to Assess Primary Students' Perceptions of Classroom Goal Structures




Hartigan, Amanda Dozier

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Goal orientation theory provides a framework for understanding how the classroom environment impacts student outcomes by investigating the different purposes individuals have for engaging in activities and how environmental factors influence these orientations. Previous research has focused on students' perceptions of classroom goal structures through the use of surveys, primarily with middle school students. The current study was designed to further this research by applying cognitive interviewing techniques to determine the validity of modified survey items used to assess classroom goal structures with young children. The sample included 19 students enrolled in first and second grade in a mid-Atlantic elementary school. Cognitive interviews were conducted as students responded to modified teacher goal scales of the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales -PALS (Midgley, Maehr, Hicks, Roeser, Urdan, Anderman, Kalplan, Arunkumar, & Middleton, 2000). Students were specifically questioned on what they thought the item was asking and what examples they could give to support their answer choice. Student answers were coded on several criteria, and these codes were used to calculate a global cognitive validity score for each of the eight survey items. Analysis of student responses indicated moderate to high validity scores for some goal structure items, specifically those items related to making mistakes, trying hard, and public demonstration of grades. Implications and future research with young students and goal structures are presented.



Educational psychology, Elementary education, Cognitive interviewing, Goal orientations, Goal structures, PALS, Primary students