Attainment value is the importance students attach to the task as it relates to their conception of their identity and ideals or their competence in a given domain (Wigfield, 1994). For example, students who identify themselves as athletes set goals related to their sport. Students who pride themselves on being good students seek affirmation in the form of grades or test scores. These students are motivated to attain the goals because they are associated with the students’ perceptions of who they are. Providing students with models who value academic achievement may be one way to increase attainment value. In addition, educators can personalize the school experience by helping students to integrate academic goals into their ideals. Educators can help students to become more personally invested in their educational experience by making it meaningful for them.
Jody, an eighth grader, has a high IQ and high achievement test scores. (She scored above the 99th percentile on both tests.) She spends many evenings writing beautiful but slightly macabre short stories. Jody looks up to writers such as Edgar Allen Poe. “He was so cool…Dark, and disturbed, and brilliant… Most writers are so dark…. Who wants to be normal? How boring!” In school, Jody hardly puts forth any effort in any of her classes. After all, doing well in school is so predictable… so conventional! “Most of my favorite writers did poorly in school. Everybody knows that real creative geniuses weren’t brown-nosers. How could you help Jody to see the importance of school given her present value system?
Strategies to Increase the Attainment Value of Tasks
- Provide students with models who value academic achievement. Rimm (1995) suggested that same sex models who resemble the student in some way are the most effective models.
- Personalize students’ school experience by helping them to integrate academic goals into their ideals and values. Educators can help students to become more personally invested in their educational experience by making it meaningful for them.
- Give students tasks that have meaning and integrity in their own right rather than tasks that are subparts of some larger entity. Students experience a sense of accomplishment when they do a complete job from beginning to end.
- Allow students to engage in projects that have large scale ramifications or implications (i.e.- creating a new invention, helping someone in need).
- Interact with the student on a more equal level and show unconditional positive regard for the student.
- Use vocational interest testing and personality testing.
- Allow students the opportunity to engage in “deep” discussions, when possible. Entertain multiple viewpoints on a topic within class discussions.
- Show the student that you value him/her as a unique individual. Encourage the student to express his/her individuality in projects and assignments.