Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Educational Psychology & Higher Education

First Committee Member

CarolAnne Kardash

Second Committee Member

Harsha Perera

Third Committee Member

Alice Corkill

Fourth Committee Member

Micah Stohlmann

Number of Pages



Students benefit when they are willing to engage in optimal challenges (Clifford, 1991). Engagement in challenges, however, comes with academic risks, as failure may be a result. This study investigated motivational factors, including expectancy, subjective task value, mastery goal orientation, and performance avoidance goal orientation as predictors of achievement-related outcomes, including course grade and academic risk-taking. Data were collected from 317 university students enrolled in education classes. Students were given a reading passage and asked to choose questions to answer based on the passage. Students who chose harder questions were categorized as taking more risk. Students also answered questions about demographics, prior achievement, and current class grade. Data were analyzed using structural equation modeling techniques. Results found that students who reported higher expectancy and value also reported higher mastery goal orientation, and that students who reported higher cost also reported higher performance avoidance goal orientation and lower course grades. Additionally, performance goal orientation was found to significantly predict academic risk-taking, but not course grade. Mastery goal orientation was not found to significantly predict academic risktaking. Cost was found to have an indirect effect on academic risk-taking mediated by performance avoidance goal orientation. Results suggest that student perceptions of cost may influence achievement-related outcomes both directly, as in the case of course grade, and indirectly, as in the case of academic risk-taking. Results of this study suggest that students’ perceptions of cost may impact performance avoidance goal orientation, which may in turn influence participation in optimally challenging tasks.


Achievement goal orientation theory; Education students; Expectancy-value theory; Higher education; Motivation theory; Structural equation modeling


Education | Educational Psychology | Statistics and Probability

File Format


File Size

1.0 MB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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