Measuring achievement goal motivation, mindsets and cognitive load: validation of three instruments’ scores

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Medical Education








© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and The Association for the Study of Medical Education Objective: Measurement of motivation and cognitive load has potential value in health professions education. Our objective was to evaluate the validity of scores from Dweck's Implicit Theories of Intelligence Scale (ITIS), Elliot's Achievement Goal Questionnaire-Revised (AGQ-R) and Leppink's cognitive load index (CLI). Methods: This was a validity study evaluating internal structure using reliability and factor analysis, and relationships with other variables using the multitrait-multimethod matrix. Two hundred and thirty-two secondary school students participated in a medical simulation-based training activity at an academic medical center. Pre-activity ITIS (implicit theory [mindset] domains: incremental, entity) and AGQ-R (achievement goal domains: mastery-approach, mastery-avoidance, performance-approach, performance-avoidance), post-activity CLI (cognitive load domains: intrinsic, extrinsic, germane) and task persistence (self-directed repetitions on a laparoscopic surgery task) were measured. Results: Internal consistency reliability (Cronbach's alpha) was > 0.70 for all domain scores except AGQ-R performance-avoidance (alpha 0.68) and CLI extrinsic load (alpha 0.64). Confirmatory factor analysis of ITIS and CLI scores demonstrated acceptable model fit. Confirmatory factor analysis of AGQ-R scores demonstrated borderline fit, and exploratory factor analysis suggested a three-domain model for achievement goals (mastery-approach, performance and avoidance). Correlations among scores from conceptually-related domains generally aligned with expectations, as follows: ITIS incremental and entity, r = −0.52; AGQ-R mastery-avoidance and performance-avoidance, r = 0.71; mastery-approach and performance-approach, r = 0.55; performance-approach and performance-avoidance, r = 0.43; mastery-approach and mastery-avoidance, r = 0.36; CLI germane and extrinsic, r = −0.35; ITIS incremental and AGQ-R mastery-approach, r = 0.34; ITIS incremental and CLI germane, r = 0.44; AGQ-R mastery-approach and CLI germane, r = 0.48 (all p < 0.001). We found no correlation between the number of task repetitions (i.e. persistence) and mastery-approach scores, r = −0.01. Conclusions: ITIS and CLI scores had appropriate internal structures and relationships with other variables. AGQ-R scores fit a three-factor (not four-factor) model that collapsed avoidance into one domain, although relationships of other variables with the original four domain scores generally aligned with expectations. Mastery goals are positively correlated with germane cognitive load.

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