Professional counselors work in a variety of settings including schools, agencies, business, hospitals, private practice, and universities. Professional counselors also work with a myriad of mental health and behavioral problems in each of these settings. The client’s motivation is a significant factor that will determine whether counseling is effective in addressing many of the mental health and behavioral issues. In most settings there are opportunities for counselors to enhance individual achievement and goal attainment. When working with achievement and goal attainment issues, counselors need to address a specific form of motivation identified as achievement motivation. Furthermore, counselors in school settings need to be familiar with achievement motivation training programs if they want to increase their students’ achievement. A significant component of achievement motivation training involves increasing one’s achievement thoughts and behaviors. However, methods of assessing achievement motivation, particularly measuring achievement thoughts and behaviors, are a challenge. This article provides a review of achievement motivation training principles, a critique of current methods used to measure achievement motivation and introduces a contextual achievement motivation survey to assess achievement thoughts and behaviors.
Different forms of motivation include extrinsic, intrinsic, physiological, and achievement (Atkinson, 1964; Harackiewicz, Barron, Carter, Lehto, & Elliot, 1997). Achievement motivation is referred to as a need to achieve (abbreviated n Ach). Individuals are motivated to achieve when they are challenged and aware that the outcome will be a reflection of their personal success or failure. Achievement motivation has been studied in both business and educational settings. McClelland (1961) researched the achievement behaviors of entrepreneurs, and related findings to economic development. McClelland concluded that levels of achievement motivation exhibited by leaders in business have a direct effect on the economic growth of a nation. Research conducted in business and industry also demonstrated that it was possible to increase the need to achieve in adults over a relatively short amount of time (McClelland & Winter, 1969). In subsequent studies, (Cueva, 2006; deCharms, 1972; Elias & Rahman, 1994; Kolb, 1965; Lopez, 2008; Ryals, 1975; Smith, 1973) researchers have found that levels of achievement motivation held by students in educational settings can be increased and are predictors of students’ success.
Read each statement and answer True or False to indicate if that statement generally describes you.
1. People who work so hard they make the rest of us look bad really bother me. True False
2. I like taking risks. True False
3. I ask others for advice even if I think I know the answer, because it is always better to be safe than sorry. True False
4. I like it when people say in front of others that I am doing a good job. True False
5. I dislike entering a room full of strangers and trying to connect. True False
6. If you met me, you would say that I get on well with other people. True False
7. I would be more successful, but others try to disrupt my plans. True False
8. In a tight situation, I like it when I am in charge and the blame or praise will come to me. True False
9. I enjoy spending much of my time alone. True False
10. I like being independent. True False
11. In fantasies about my career, often I am in a group and they are praising me. True False
12. Life would be better if more people stuck to their business so I could stick to mine. True False
13. I am basically a competitive person, and I compete just for the sake of competing. True False
14. People do not like to admit it, but success in life has less to do with hard work and more to do with luck and being in the right place at the right time. True False
15. Having good friends is important, but I could quickly make new ones if I had to. True False
16. When it is possible to avoid conflict, I do so. True False
17. Most people who know me say I am ambitious. True False
18. If jobs and money are on the line, it is a good idea to let someone else be in charge, in case things go sour. True False
19. If I knew others disapproved of my actions, it would cause me to rethink my plans. True False
20. Being part of a team at work is less important than doing good work on your own. True False
21. I regularly list my goals where I can see them during the day. True False
22. Most evenings, I kick back and relax rather than prepare for the next day’s tasks. True False
22-20: High need for achievement.
19-17: Moderate need for achievement.
16-10: Average need for achievement.
9-6: Moderately low need for achievement.
< 5: Low need for achievement.
Shah, B. (1988). Development of Achievement Motivation Scale. Indian Journal of Psychometry & Education.