Performance Goal Practices: Characteristics of Teacher Usage and Implications for Social Relationships in Elementary School Classrooms



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Performance goal practices have been linked to negative behavioral and emotional outcomes in students. Despite this, little research has been done to understand what leads teachers to use these practices. Additionally, while there is significant research on individual characteristics of students based on their placement in classrooms with high or low performance goal practices, there is a lack of research on how these practices affect their social relationships. These questions were examined in this two journal article dissertation. In the first study, 461 elementary teachers were surveyed on their use of performance goal practices, as well as their years of teaching experience. They were also asked to determine the number of students who drained their energy, a measure of teacher perceived stress. Finally, students from these classrooms were surveyed using peer nominations to determine the number of aggressive students in each classroom, a measure of stress exposure. Multiple regression analyses were used to evaluate what elements of teacher stress might predict the use of performance goal practices in elementary classrooms. In the second study, 576 elementary teachers were surveyed on use their performance goal practices. Students were assessed on their ability in reading and math, and peer nominations were used to determine to what degree each student was accepted by their peers. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to determine whether the use of performance goal practices moderated the relationship between academic achievement and peer acceptance.

Results from the first study indicate that teacher perceived stress and years of experience are predictors of the use of performance goal practices. Results from the second study indicate that in lower elementary classrooms only, the relationship between math achievement and peer acceptance was stronger in classrooms where the teachers reported a higher use of performance goal practices. Overall, these studies suggest that teachers who perceive more stress are more likely to use classroom practices that do not lead to optimal outcomes for their students. Results also demonstrate that for younger elementary students, these practices inform their decisions about classmates' likeability, which could be harmful to the social status of lower achieving students.