Clarifying Misconceptions and Misrepresentations in Achievement Goal Research in Sport: A Response to Harwood, Hardy, and Swain

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 Arizona State University
  • 2 University of Birmingham
  • 3 De Montfort University
  • 4 Norwegian University of Sport Science
  • 5 Michigan State University
  • 6 University of Michigan
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In a recent article, Harwood, Hardy, and Swain (2000) presented what they termed a critical analysis of the conceptualization and measurement of achievement goals in sport. The purpose of the present article is to challenge their interpretation of achievement goal theory and to question many of their subsequent recommendations. Specifically, the present response will focus on Harwood et al.’s (a) interpretation of Nicholls’ personal theories of achievement; (b) their contention that task involvement cannot exist in competitive sport; (c) the proposed tripartite conceptualization of goal involvement states; (d) their understanding of the relationship between the way an individual conceptualizes ability and the foundation of dispositional goal orientations; and (e) their criticisms of the way dispositional goal orientations have been measured in sport. Theoretical frameworks are always a work in progress. To this end, we concur with the spirit of Harwood et al.’s article which implies that our conceptual models should be continuously questioned, tested, and extended. However, we believe their interpretation and recommendations do little to enhance our conceptual understanding of achievement goal theory in sport.

Darren C. Treasure is with the Dept. of ESPE, P.O. Box 870404, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-0404. The other authors are with their respective universities as indicated under their names.