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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Elliot, A., Murayama, K., Kobeisy, A. & Lichtenfeld, S. (2015). Potential-based achievement goals. British Journal of Educational Psychology 85(2): 192-206.

Author(s) from Durham


Self-based achievement goals use one's own intrapersonal trajectory as a standard of evaluation, and this intrapersonal trajectory may be grounded in one's past (past-based goals) or one's future potential (potential-based goals). Potential-based goals have been overlooked in the literature to date.

The primary aim of the present research was to address this oversight within the context of the 3 × 2 achievement goal framework.

The Study 1 sample was 381 US undergraduates; the Study 2 sample was 310 US undergraduates.

In Study 1, we developed scales to assess potential-approach and potential-avoidance goals and tested their factorial validity with exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses. In Study 2, we used confirmatory factor analysis to test both the separability of past-based and potential-based goals and their higher order integration within the self-based category.

Study 1 supported the factorial validity of the potential-approach and potential-avoidance goal scales. Study 2 supported the separability of past-based and potential-based goals, as well as their higher order integration within the self-based category.

This research documents the utility of the proposed distinction and paves the way for subsequent work on antecedent and consequences of potential-approach and potential-avoidance goals. It highlights the importance of focusing on distinct types of growth-based goals in the achievement goal literature.

School of Education