Mastery Motivation

Two preschoolers are attempting to solve a challenging puzzle task. One child makes a mistake but continues problem-solving. The other child makes a mistake but gives up. In early childhood, persistence at mastering challenging tasks, known as mastery motivation, contributes to the development of academic skills  particularly for young children at risk for poor educational outcomes (Berhenke, et al., 2011; Turner & Johnson, 2003).

Mastery motivation is a child’s independent persistence to accomplish moderately challenging tasks. We know that mastery motivation can be different between children, it is malleable or changeable, and teachers can influence it!

Challenging Spatial Reasoning Puzzle Task

In order to develop effective interventions aimed at improving mastery motivation—and to comprehensively evaluate the success of educational interventions—it is essential to validly and reliably measure its variation. Despite evidence that mastery motivation is malleable (Moorman and Pomerantz, 2008), it has not traditionally been emphasized in educational interventions, in part because of a lack of measures that are easy to administer and score, and are demonstrated to be reliable and valid (Zigler & Bishop-Josef, 2006).

We know that mastery motivation can be different between children and that it is malleable, so teachers can influence it!

The Games for Young Mathematicians project is investigating the potential of a game-based math and mindset intervention to improve children’s mastery motivation and school readiness skills. We are also validating an observational measure of mastery motivation.