As students progress in their academic learning, a lack of motivation may negatively influence their achievement goals, leading to the adoption of goals that further undermine motivation and academic performance (Midgley et al., 2001; Payne et al. 2007; Scherrer et al., 2020; Dinger et al., 2013; Wolters 2004)). However, there are certain gaps in the literature such as the day-to-day fluctuations in achievement goals, and the reciprocal links between academic success and achievement goals. As a result, Neubauer et al. (2022) conducted a study that aimed to examine the association between daily fluctuation in goal setting and students’ academic success and failure.  

The study included 108 students in fifth and sixth grade from Germany. The researchers first instructed students on how to respond to surveys through smartphones. Then, the students responded to the survey delivered to the smartphones 4 times per day for 4 weeks, There were specific times in the day that the students had to answer the prompts. The first survey was scheduled before school, the second one was at school, the third one was during the late afternoon, and the fourth one was during the evenings. 

The research study examined multiple variables. The first variable was students’ academic goals, which were assessed every morning before school using a 5-point Likert Scale (1=not all true, 5 = completely true). Three goals were presented: Mastery (e.g. “today, it is important to me to learn as much as possible”; performance-approach, (e.g.“today it is important to me to perform better than others”), and performance-avoidance (e.g. “today it is important to me to avoid performing poorly compared to my classmates”. Additionally, students’ perceived academic success and failure were assessed every evening on school days using a 5-point Likert Scale (1 = not all true, 5 = completely true). Furthermore, academic achievement was measured by averaging the final grades in Math, German, and English that the student received in grades 4 and 5. The researchers then recorded students’ achievements using a scale with 1 representing the lower achievement and 6 representing the best achievement. 

 The results of the study suggested that there is a correlation between day-to-day variability in goals, academic success, and academic failure:

  • Students reported more academic success on the days on which they had higher mastery goals and more daily academic successes were associated with a higher likelihood to adopt mastery and performance-approach goals the following morning. 
  • Moreover, performance-avoidance goals predicted daily experiences of academic failure. And academic failure was associated with an increase in performance-approach goals and performance-avoidance goals the following morning. 
  • Furthermore, more daily academic success and less daily academic failure were associated with higher future achievement.

Neubauer et al.’s (2022) study suggests the importance of differentiating performance goals in approach and avoidance components because they are related differently to academic success and failure. With this new finding, teachers can promote students’ perceived importance of daily learning activities to facilitate students’ mastery goals. Parents can help facilitate students’ adoption of mastery goals by emphasizing the importance of giving one’s full effort in learning rather than outperforming others. EPIC can now apply the research results to advance the understanding of goal setting and its correlation to motivation and persistence.   


To learn more about Neubauer et al.’s (20220 study, please retrieve the article here:


This post was written by Emma Hong.



Dinger, F. C., Dickhauser, O., Spinath, B., & Steinmayr, R. (2013). Antecedents and consequences of students’ achievement goals: A mediation analysis. Learning and Individual Differences, 28, 90–101.

Midgley, C., Kaplan, A., & Middleton, M. (2001). Performance-approach goals: Good for what, for whom, under what circumstances, and at what cost? Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(1), 77–86.

Neubauer, A. B., Schmidt, A., Schmiedek, F., & Dirk, J. (2022). Dynamic reciprocal relations of achievement goals with daily experiences of academic success and failure: An ambulatory assessment study. Learning and Instruction, 81, 101617.

Payne, S. C., Youngcourt, S. S., & Beaubien, J. M. (2007). A meta-analytic examination of the goal orientation nomological net. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(1), 128–150. 

Scherrer, V., Preckel, F., Schmidt, I., & Elliot, A. J. (2020). Development of achievement goals and their relation to academic interest and achievement in adolescence: A review of the literature and two longitudinal studies. Developmental Psychology, 56(4), 795–814. 

Wolters, C. A. (2004). Advancing achievement goal theory: Using goal structures and goal orientations to predict students’ motivation, cognition, and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96(2), 236–250.