Achievement goal orientation and learning strategies as predictors of musical creativity.

young girl playing violin

How does achievement motivation affect musical creativity? First we have to understand what musical creativity and achievement motivation is.


Creativity is considered a characteristic relating to a person, process or product (Sternberg, 2003). However, some argue that the emphasis is the product, not the person or the process. This is continually debated (Klausen, 2010). However we choose to view creativity it requires a balance between originality and value. It is the production of something novel and appropriate. Creativity is also viewed as a psychological attribute which can be nurtured and measured in students (Amabile, 1996; Runco, 2009). 

Central to this article is the understanding of musical creativity and how achievement goal orientations can enhance learning strategies and musical creativity.

Musical creativity

Musical creativity is viewed as a situated social activity and is understood as everyday creativity in which a novel musical product is produced. Musical creativity can be demonstrated through composition, improvisation, performance, listening, writing, and analysing (Burnard et al., 2004). 

Achievement goal orientations

Achievement goal orientation is a motivational orientation that affects individual’s behaviour in achievement situations (Elliot, 2005; Elliot & McGregor, 2001). Two goal orientations are identified, mastery (learning) and performance (ego). Each of these dimensions can be divided into approach or avoidance (Elliot, 1999; Elliot & Thrash, 2001). 

Mastery approach goal orientation

A mastery approach is focused on learning and the development of competence. Learning goals foster deeper cognitive strategy use, higher levels or achievement and attribution of success to effort. when a learning orientation is salient in the classroom, goals and external rewards are no emphasised. The emphasis is on completion of the task for learning sake. This type of orientation is supportive of choice, seeking out interesting and challenging activities and mastering new skills.  Furthermore, research has identified students use more cognitive engagement and deeper processing strategies and self-regulated learning strategies (Dweck et al., 1988).

The lack of external rewards assists in more identified or integrated regulation and intrinsic motivation. Learning becomes endorsed by the learner, adopting the value of the activity (Dweck et al., 1988). 

Performance approach goal orientation

A performance-approach is focused on demonstration of normative competence and is motivated by extrinsic factors such as competition and incentives. Performance goals lead to an absence of patterns of adaptation for learning (Midgley et al., 2001; Midgley et al., 1998). 

A performance goal orientation conveys the notion that high achievement and good grades in comparison to others is important. These would be considered external regulation as they encourage reward for work and are extrinsic. When performance and achievement in comparison to others is salient in the classroom context, students will be externally regulated. They may also choose to do easier tasks in order to avoid failure. Their reasons for school work are external or introjected and brings into the motivational arena, undesirable academic-related behaviour (Dweck et al., 1988).

Performance Goal orientation purports effort and ability are inversely related. Performance goals will use ability attributions for both success and failure. Attributing ability to failure is maladaptive and can lead to learned helplessness (Dweck et al., 1988). Ultimately, the goal orientation of a student will influence their learning strategies. 

Learning strategies

Cognitive learning strategies are a set of consciously acquired and applied approaches to learning. The authors (Mawang et al., 2020) in their study on musical creativity, suggest that goal orientation and learning strategies applied to a musical task will affect musical creativity.

Mawang et al (2020) investigated the cognitive learning strategies and achievement goal orientations in relation to composition activities among secondary school students. The authors argue that as found in prior literature, students’ learning strategies and achievement goal orientation influence musical practice behaviour, performance and achievement. Therefore, these factors have an impact on musical creativity and may be predictive of musical creativity outcomes for students.

The study analysed the musical compositions of secondary school students. The authors found that the best predictors of musical creativity were the use of deep processing strategies and mastery-approach goals. Deep processing accounted for 26% of the variance of participants musical creativity. Followed closely by mastery-approach strategies. 

In contract, a surface processing strategy and performance-avoidance goal orientation negatively predicted musical creativity. These results imply that students who favour a mastery-approach to their goals and learning are more likely to attain high musical creativity when compared to those who favour a performance approach and performance-avoidance strategy. 

In the Music classroom

Music teachers and schools should opt for more task orientated activities and try to avoid competitive and ego-orientated activities and outcomes. The aim should be to devise ways of nurturing students’ intrinsic motivation through mastery goal focussed activities. Encourage activities which required deep processing learning strategies. 

Teachers can do this by reducing social comparison, reduce within-class ability grouping and utilise feedback where mistakes aare viewed as point of learning and where effort is important for success rather relying solely on ability.

Pintrich and Schunk (2008) provided a very helpful list of the things teachers can do to enhance mastery learning in their students:

  1. Focus on meaningful aspects of learning activities.
  2. Design tasks for novelty, variety, diversity and interest.
  3. Design tasks that are challenging but reasonable in terms of students’ capabilities.
  4. Provide opportunities for students to have some choice and control over the activities in the classroom.
  5. Focus on individualised improvements, learning, progress and mastery.
  6. Strive to make evaluations private, not public.
  7. Recognise student effort.
  8. Help students see mistakes as opportunities for learning. 

© iteachpiano (2020)

Amabile, T. M. (1996). Creativity in context: Update to the social psychology of creativity. Boulder CO: Westview.

Burnard, P., & Younker, B. A. (2004). Problem-solving and creativity: Insights from students’ individual composing pathways. International Journal of Music Education, 22(1), 59-76.

Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95(2), 256-273.

Elliot, A. J. (1999). Approach and avoidance motivation and achievement goals. Educational Psychologist, 34(3), 169-189.

Elliot, A. J. (2005). A conceptual history of the achievement goal construct. In C. S. Dweck & A. J. Elliot (Eds.), Handbook of competence and achievement motivation (pp. 52-72). New York: Guildford.

Elliot, A. J., & McGregor, H. A. (2001). A 2 x 2 achievement goal framework. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80(3), 501-519.

Elliot, A. J., & Thrash, T. M. (2001). Achievement goals and the hierarchical model of achievement motivation. Educational Psychology Review, 13(2), 139-156.

Klausen, S. H. (2010). The Notion of Creativity Revisited: A Philosophical Perspective on Creativity Research. Creativity Research Journal, 22(4), 347-360.

Mawang, L. L., Kigen, E. M., & Mutweleli, S. M. (2020). Achievement goal motivation and cognitive strategies as predictors of musical creativity among secondary school music students. Psychology of Music, 48(3), 421-433.

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

Midgley, C., Kaplan, A., Middleton, M. J., Maehr, M. L., Urdan, T., Anderman, L. H., et al. (1998). The development and validation of scales assessing students’ acheivement goal orientations. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 23(2), 113-131.

Runco, M. A. (2009). Creativity, Definiton. In B. Kerr (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent. Thousand Oaks, USA: SAGE Publications.

Schunk, D. H., Pintrich, P. J., & Meece, J. L. (2008). Motivation in education: Theory, research, and applications. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Pearson-Merrill, Prentice-Hall.

Sternberg, R. J. (2003). Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creatvitiy Synthezised. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Leave a Reply