The power of the situation: Students' motivational responses to studying in psychology and social work

Year: 2002

Author: Beveridge, Alex, Archer, Jennifer

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Using the theory of achievement goals as its theoretical framework, the present study investigated university students' reactions to undertaking a psychology course and a social work course. The social work course adopted the principles of problem based learning while the psychology course had a traditional university approach of massed lectures and laboratories. For the current study, 36 first year students studying for a degree in social work (96% response rate) and 34 fourth year social work students (99% response rate) completed two questionnaires: one questionnaire focused on students' perception of the achievement goals encouraged by staff of the social work course, their attributions for success and failure in social work, and the study strategies they used in social work; while the other questionnaire (administered at a separate time) contained the same items in relation to the psychology course. In addition, 14 first year students and 11 fourth year students were interviewed about their experiences of both courses. Both quantitative and qualitative data indicate that students perceived that the problem based features of the social work course encouraged the adoption of a mastery achievement goal while the more traditional psychology course encouraged the adoption of a performance achievement goal.