Achievement goals of medical students and physicians

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  • In achievement settings, the types of motivation individuals develop are crucial to their success and to the ways in which they respond to challenges. Considering the competitive nature of medical education and the high stakes of medical practice, it is important to knowwhat types of motivation (conceptualized here as achievement goals) medical students and physicians adopt and how these may differ depending on the nuances of their achievement settings. This is a cross-sectional survey study of medical students (N=200) and practicing physicians (N=202). The online questionnaire included measures of achievement goals (performance approach, performance avoidance, mastery approach, mastery avoidance) and background characteristics. Multivariate analysis of variance was used to examine differences in achievement goals of medical students and physicians. Education/career stage, medical specialty, and practice type were used as factors in the analyses. Despite the differences in achievement settings, striking similarities in theachievement goals among medical students and physicians were observed in this study. Both students and physicians were most likely to endorse mastery approach goals (the most adaptive type of motivation) and least likely to endorse performance avoidance goals (the least adaptive type of motivation). Significant differences were observed in mastery approach goals of students and physicians, depending on education/career stage. With respect to medical specialty, although distinct patterns in achievement goals emerged in the student and physician data, the observed differences were not statistically significant. Academic physicians had higher levels of performance goals than community-based physicians. Medical students and physicians thus self-reported themselves as highly mastery approach-oriented; nevertheless, our findings suggest that these goals are more prone to fluctuations than other achievement goals, depending on the stage of one’s education/career. The results largely show that medical students and physicians endorse achievement goals that are beneficial for lifelong learning, well-being, and success.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
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    • Babenko, O., Daniels, L. M., White, J., Oswald, A., & Ross, S. (2018). Achievement goals of medical students and physicians. Educational Research and Reviews, 13, 74-80. DOI:
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