How Does Students’ Sense of Self-Worth Influence Their Goal Orientation in Mathematics Achievement?

Abstract:  In learning mathematics, students are naturally motivated to protect their self-worth by maintaining the belief that they are competent in this area. However, there is an important question which educators have to answer: “Why do students often confuse ability with worth?” The most important reason is that in our society students are widely considered to be worthy according to their ability to achieve in the given tasks in mathematics. Irrespective of the contributions of the Multiple Intelligence Theory of intelligence in education, unfortunately, mathematics is still regarded as predicting students’ overall ability to learn. Educators should realize that the need in order to protect self-worth arises primarily from fear of failure. Therefore, if this fear of failure is strong, some students will not try and gradually they will produce failure- avoiding strategies to avoid certain tasks in order not to look bad or receive negative assessments from others to protect his/her self-worth. It is important to make sure that the performance goals do not promote failure-avoidance (performance-avoidance-oriented) behavior, such as avoiding unfavorable judgments of capabilities and looking incompetent when the student encounters greater challenges. The main purpose of this qualitative study, therefore, is to explore students’ achievement goal motivation, their self-worth and how these motivational factors impact their learning goals in mathematics. This study hypothesizes that self- worth protection in math has also been considered from a performance-avoidance goal viewpoint. This study emphasizes that educators, who consider true self-worth as the student’s inherent value, should avoid comparing their students’ abilities, capabilities relative to others as well as students’ academic performance and outcomes with others in a class context.

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