Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Thomas Miller, Ed.D.

Committee Member

John Ferron, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Schneider, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Sullins, Ed.D.


achievement goal theory, alientation, goal orientation, grade point average, mastery, performance


Colleges and universities are under increasing pressure to meet post-baccalaureate graduate and professional school outcomes, with the majority of students indicating their central reason for attending college is to “landing a better job” (Eagan et al., 2016). Thus, even as interest in medical school and veterinary medical school continues to rise (Eagan et al., 2016), thereby increasing the competition to obtain an acceptance, students and parents continue to hold an expectation that their undergraduate institution will adequately prepare them to successfully matriculate into medical school or veterinary medical school. Although a variety of factors influence acceptance to professional school, earning a high grade point average remains one of the most influential admissions factors (AAMC, 2018d; Dunleavy, Sondheimer, Castillo-Page, & Bletzinger, 2011; Elam, Stratton, Scott, Wilson, & Leiber, 2002; Kreiter & Kreiter, 2007; Monroe, Quinn, Samuelson, Dunleavy & Dowd, 2013). Therefore, it is important for colleges and universities to understand how characteristics of goal orientation, including motivation and resilience, may lead to greater academic success.

In order to explore the relationship between goal orientation and grade point average, this study utilized Archer’s (1994) achievement goal theory. Archer’s (1994) achievement goal theory is centered on the notion that students have a predisposition to align with one of three goal orientations: performance-goal orientation, mastery-goal orientation, or alienation-goal orientation, and that their goal orientation will have a significant impact on their academic achievement and resilience. Although motivation and resilience, as it relates to goal orientation, have been shown to positively impact academic achievement in general populations of collegiate students (Amrai, Motlagh, Zalani, & Parhon, 2011; Garcia & Pintrich, 1994), studies evaluating the relationship of these variables among pre-health cohorts are extremely limited.

This study utilized portions of the Modified Archers Health Professions Motivation Survey (MAHPMS) which asked participants to answer questions on a Likert-type five-point scale, with each question aligning to one of three goal orientation subscales (either performance-goal oriented, mastery-goal oriented, or alienation-goal oriented). The survey was emailed to self-identified pre-health students at a small, private institution in central Florida during the fall 2019 semester. After delimiting the data to pre-medical and pre-veterinary medical students enrolled in a full time course load with at least seven credits of natural science coursework, the viable records were analyzed to determine each individual respondent’s preferred goal orientation. Individual mean scores were calculated for each subscale and the subscale with the highest average score represented an individual’s preferred goal orientation. Institutional data was used to incorporate demographic information and fall 2019 cumulative grade point average (GPA).

Results indicated that pre-medical and pre-veterinary medical students largely align with either a mastery-goal orientation or a performance-goal orientation, however, due to a lack of statistical significance, preference for mastery-goal orientation or performance-goal orientation cannot be attributed to grade point average. Statistically significant relationships were discovered between goal orientation and ethnicity and goal orientation and academic major, requiring further exploration. While this study did not reveal statistically significant differences between multiple variables, this research contributes to the lack of research on pre-medical and pre-veterinary medical students. More current research is needed on the population of pre-health students to determine if goal orientation impacts academic success, as it has been shown to do for general college students.