Classroom goal structure and student disruptive behaviour

Br J Educ Psychol. 2002 Jun;72(Pt 2):191-211. doi: 10.1348/000709902158847.


Background: Achievement goal theory suggests that the emphasis on mastery and performance goals in the classroom (the classroom goal structure) is related to students' patterns of learning and behaviour. This theory can offer a preventative holistic approach for dealing with students' disruptive behaviour.

Aims: The present study investigates whether the goal structure in the classroom is related to the incidence of disruptive behaviour.

Sample and methods: A total of 388 ninth-grade students from 60 classrooms in five ethnically diverse high schools responded to surveys asking about the perceived goal structures, their personal achievement goals, and their involvement in disruptive behaviour in their maths classroom. Their maths teachers responded to surveys asking about their goal-related approaches to instruction.

Results: Using hierarchical linear modelling (HLM), at the student level, being male and having lower achievement was related to reports of disruptive behaviour. In addition, personal mastery goals were related to lower reports of disruptive behaviour and personal performance-approach and performance-avoidance goals were related to higher reports of disruptive behaviour. Disruptive behaviour also varied significantly between classrooms. Aggregated student perceptions of a mastery goal structure were related to a lower incidence, and aggregated student perceptions of a performance-approach goal structure were related to a higher incidence of disruptive behaviour.

Conclusion: The implications of the findings to approaches for dealing with disruptive behaviour are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Students / psychology*