Fourteen high school mathematics and English teachers were interviewed and observed teaching on two occasions. The focus of the observations and the interviews was students’ reasons for working or not working on academic tasks. Analysis of the data showed that classrooms are intensely social places. Even though a social dimension is acknowledged by achievement goal theory, insufficient attention has been paid to the way in which essentially social goals are achieved by engaging in academic work. Teachers assert that many students do, or do not do, the academic work set for them to obtain social goals. Teachers also assert that some students do not have consciously adopted goal. An expanded achievement goal theory that incorporates social goals that are mediated by academic pursuit will provide better understanding of students’ behaviour in classrooms.