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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Lindsey Nadon, Psychology

Student Motivation Matters: A Longitudinal, Person-Centered Perspective on Student Achievement Goals and Psychosocial Functioning

Date & time
Friday, September 22, 2023
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Thesis Office



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


The reasons, or achievement goals, motivating students’ academic engagement share important associations with their academic and socioemotional functioning. Unfortunately, the research literature on achievement goals remains mainly cross-sectional. Moreover, although students can endorse a variety of achievement goals, research remains primarily variable-centered, thus ignoring how these goals act in combination. This thesis sought to provide a longitudinal person-centered examination of the relations between students’ achievement goals and their academic and socioemotional functioning at different educational stages.

In Study 1 (Chapter 2), we relied on Latent Profile and Latent Transition Analyses among a sample of 619 French Canadian elementary school students to estimate achievement goal profiles encompassing students’ own goals and their perceptions of the goals held for them by key caregivers (i.e., their parents and teachers). Four profiles emerged, which remained the same from one school year to the next: Low on all Goals, High on all Goals, Mastery-Oriented, and Low Mastery Goals. Students were moderately to highly likely to remain in their profile over time, and all profiles were marked by a high correspondence between students’ personal goals and their perceptions of their parents’ and teachers’ goals. Higher perceptions of competence were associated with profiles characterized by higher mastery goals. In turn, students corresponding to the Mastery-Oriented profile fared best in terms of anxiety and achievement. These results shed light on the nature and stability of elementary school students’ achievement goal profiles and provide insight into how children interpret goal-related messages in their environment.

In Study 2 (Chapter 3), we relied on Growth Mixture Analyses to examine the developmental heterogeneity of burnout amongst 513 Finnish students transitioning from upper secondary school into post secondary education. Four trajectory profiles emerged: High and Decreasing, Moderate and Decreasing, Low and Increasing, and Low and Stable. High initial levels of global self-esteem and mastery-extrinsic goals were associated with the most desirable profile (i.e., Low and Stable), whereas high performance goals were associated with a more worrisome profile (e.g., High and Decreasing). The Low and Stable profile seemed to protect students from school dropout, underachievement, and substance use, whereas the High and Decreasing profile was associated with lower achievement, more alcohol use and problems, and higher drug use relative to the other profiles. These results offer novel insights into how burnout develops across this key academic transition and highlights the importance of enhancing mastery goals and self-esteem early to prevent burnout development.

Taken together, our results offer novel and nuanced person-centered insight into the relations between students’ achievement goals and various markers of educational and socioemotional functioning over the course of their educational trajectory. The results from this thesis can be used to inform developmentally relevant interventions seeking to enhance students’ mastery goals, perceived competence, and self-esteem to promote their academic and socioemotional functioning over time.

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