Date of Award

Fall 1983

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Bardwell, Rebecca

Second Advisor

Davis, Anne

Third Advisor

Taft, Thomas B.


Atkinson's Theory of Achievement Motivation posits that high need achievers are more motivated to succeed on tasks that offer an error rate of around .50 whereas low need achievers are more motivated to succeed on tasks that offer an error rate of around .10. While many researchers have delved into the relationship of need achievement to areas such as retention, risk taking, persistence, aptitude, and gender, relatively few have looked into the relationship of need achievement to programmed instruction. The purpose of this study was to explore whether achievement motivation was related to performance on a programmed lesson in which the error rate was either .10 or .50. Secondary purposes were to investigate the relationship between gender and performance on a competitive academic task as well as the relationship between need achievement and aptitude. Two programmed instructional lessons in elementary statistics were constructed in order to meet the above error rate conditions. Acquisition of knowledge from these lessons was measured by a test that was especially constructed for this study. Need achievement was measured by the Questionnaire Measure of Individual Differences in Achieving Tendency. The subjects were 72 Marquette undergraduate students who were directed to complete the above mentioned materials during two separate sessions. Final results suggested that need achievement and program error rate did not interact to affect acquisition of knowledge. This would indicate Atkinson's theory did not apply to programmed learning. Overall males did better than females in acquisition of knowledge. However, the lack of an interaction between need achievement and gender suggested there is no difference within the various motivational types for males versus females. This tended to refute Horner's contention that the performance of achievement oriented women in a competitive mixed sex condition would be lower than their male counterparts. No relationship was indicated between need achievement and aptitude. The most interesting main effect was program error. This last result supported Skinner's contentions about program instruction. That is, performance tended to be stronger if there was immediate feedback of the correct response with an accompanying low error rate.



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