Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Amelia M. Lee


The present investigation, which included two studies, consisted of a cross-cultural analysis of achievement goals and self-perceptions of ability in physical education from a goal perspective theory approach. One hundred and eighty Chinese students and 121 Anglo-American students in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades participated in Study 1 and completed questionnaires assessing their goal orientations, perceived ability, task choice, and satisfaction in physical education. Three hundred and seventy-one Chinese students and 308 American students in fourth, eighth, and eleventh grades participated in Study 2. In Study 2 questionnaires and interviews were used to collect data on students' goal orientations, conceptions of ability, perceived ability, and beliefs about competence in physical education. Factor analyses indicated that the same two-dimensional factor structure of goal orientation, namely task orientation and ego orientation, cuts across the two cultural groups in physical education. Analyses assessing grade-related changes in students' conceptions of ability and achievement goals showed that for both American and Chinese students, as they progressed through the school years they were more likely to construe ability as a stable capacity that may limit or increase the effect of effort on performance and to become ego-oriented. Analyses assessing relationships between variables of interest revealed that for both cultural groups, achievement goals were related to different conceptions of ability, students' self-ratings were significantly positively correlated to their teachers' ratings of their ability, and no consistent relationships emerged between achievement goals and perceived ability. The interview data concerning students' beliefs about their competence in physical education indicated that Chinese students were more likely than American students to see mastery as evidence of their competence. The findings of the present research offer additional empirical support to the view that goal perspective theory is relevant to physical education settings. They also suggest that the present conceptual framework of goal perspective theory has cross-cultural application and validity.