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Abstract

Academic motivation has been shown to be related to retention to the sophomore year, and the goal orientation model of academic motivation has been widely evaluated in school transition settings. Academic motivation consists of self-efficacy, positive attributions, intrinsic motivation, and goal orientations. Mastery goal orientation focuses on new skills and competencies, while performance goals focus on competition with others and earning recognition. A performance orientation can be performance approach (potentially adaptive) or performance avoidance (a social defense mechanism). Academic motivation can be severely challenged during school transitions; a defensive response to this challenge could result in maladaptive behaviors by first-year students. Mastery approach goals have been shown to be related to more positive academic achievement; meanwhile, performance approach goals have mixed outcomes. Perhaps, performance approach orientations may morph into performance avoidance under the academic challenge of college-level course work. First-year students go through dramatic academic and social transitions, as well as significant developmental and identity issues, thus programs designed to enhance success of first-year students appear to require a mix of academic and social interventions. For example, class belonging of first-year students may be related to both self-efficacy and mastery orientation. Others have encouraged a "plus one" strategy of academic challenge well matched to students' capabilities, and approach coping is favored over avoidant coping in exam preparation. Finally, a critical balance between challenge and support may be most important for students with potentially fragile academic motivation, for example, first generation students, ethnic minorities, and rural students.

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