This from the Leading Blog “Which Should You Have? Performance Goals versus Learning Goals” based on research from Carol Dweck.
“Performance goals are about “winning positive judgments of your competence and avoiding negative ones. In other words, when students pursue performance goals they’re concerned with their level of intelligence: They want to look smart (to themselves or others) and avoid looking dumb.” A person usually does this by playing it safe.
Learning goals are ones that are about increasing your competence.
“It reflects a desire to learn new skills, master new tasks, or understand new things…”
In order to do develop new competencies students often go through a phase of confusion, failure, and discomfort. Think about what it feels like to learn a new video game, learn to juggle, or speak another language. Being a beginner requires us to quiet our egos and a willingness to look like a beginner, often in front of others.
Both goals she noted are common and can fuel achievement.
“The tasks that are best for learning are often challenging ones that involve displaying ignorance and risking periods of confusion and errors. The tasks that are best for looking smart are often ones that students are already good at and won’t really learn as much from doing.”
I’ve watched a number of people join my Aikido class and quit soon thereafter because they want to learn it quickly. They don’t like being beginners.
Interesting that our schools have structured themselves to emphasize and reward levels of achievement not “degrees of learning”. NCLB has further encouraged the focus on achievement. As the Leading Blog says:
“..most people would opt for performance goals. Who wants to take a chance of being criticized for looking dumb? Are we learning or looking good?”
Interesting that so many schools that call themselves “Learning Communities” are structured to encourage performance and achievement goals.
Sadly, it is rare to find an educator who will allow themselves to “look dumb” in front of other educators or their own students. When we hide the difficulties involved in learning from our children, or decide that we should stick to things we know, and stay away from things that are unfamiliar so we don’t look bad; we become role models for playing it safe and provide a poor example for young learners.