Eccles Wigfield and Colleagues Work on Subjective Task Values

Eccles and her colleagues have elaborated the concept of subjective task value. Building on earlier work on achievement values (e.g., Battle, 1966), intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (e.g., Deci, 1975; Gottfried, 1990), and on Rokeach's (1979) view that values are shared beliefs about desired end-states, Eccles (Parsons) et al. (1983) outlined four motivational components of task value: attainment value, intrinsic value, utility value, and cost. Like Battle (1966), they defined attainment value as the personal importance of doing well on the task. Drawing on self-schema and identity theories (e.g., Markus & Nurius, 1984), as well as the work by Feather (1982, 1992) and Rokeach, they also linked attainment value to the relevance of engaging in a task for confirming or disconfirming salient aspects of one's self-schema (see Eccles, 1987).

Like Harter (1985, 1998), Deci and his colleagues (e.g., Deci & Ryan, 1985), Csikszentmihalyi (1988), Gottfried (1990), and Renninger (1990), they defined intrinsic value in terms of the enjoy ment the individual gets from performing the activity, or the subjective interest the individual has in the subject.

They defined utility value in terms of how well a task relates to current and future goals, such as career goals. A task can have positive value to a person because it facilitates important future goals, even if he or she is not interested in task for its own sake. For instance, students often take classes that they do not particularly enjoy but that they need in order to pursue other interests, to please their parents, or to be with their friends. In one sense then, this component captures the more "extrinsic" reasons for engaging in a task (see Deci & Ryan, 1985; Gottfried, 1985; Harter, 1985), but it also relates directly to the internalized short- and long-term goals an individual may have.

Finally, Eccles and her colleagues identified "cost" as a critical component of value (Eccles et al., 1983; Eccles, 1987). Cost is conceptualized in terms of the negative aspects of engaging in the task, such as performance anxiety, fear of both failure and success, the amount of effort that needed to succeed and the lost opportunities that result from making one choice rather than another.

Eccles and her colleagues have conducted extensive empirical tests of different aspects of this model. For example, they have shown that ability self-concepts and performance expectancies predict performances in mathematics and English, whereas task values predict course plans and enrollment decisions in mathematics, physics, and English and involvement in sport activities even after controlling for prior performance levels (Eccles, 1984; Eccles et al., 1983; Eccles & Barber 1999; Eccles Adler, & Meece, 1984; Eccles & Harold, 1991; Meece et al., 1990; Updegraff et al., 1996). They have also shown that both expectancies and values predict career choices (see Eccles, Barber, & Jozefowicz, 1999; Eccles, Vida, & Barber, 2004). Recent studies show that both ability self-concepts and subjective task value predict activity/course/career choices (Eccles & Vida, 2003; Updegraff et al., 1996).

Development of Subjective Task Values

There has been much less work on the development of subjective task values during the middle childhood years. Eccles, Wigfield, and their colleagues have examined change in the structure of children's task values, as well as mean level change in children's valuing of different activities. Even young children distinguish between their competence beliefs and their task values. In Eccles et al. (1993), Eccles & Wigfield (1995) and Wigfield et al. (1995), children's competence-expectancy beliefs and subjective values within the domains of math, reading, and sports formed distinct factors at all grade levels from first through twelfth. Thus, even during the very early elementary grades children appear to have distinct beliefs about what they are good at and what they value.

As with competence-related beliefs, studies generally show age-related declines in children's valuing of certain academic and nonacademic achievement tasks (e.g., Eccles et al., 1983, 1993; Eccles & Midgley, 1989; Fredricks & Eccles, 2002; Gottfried, Fleming & Gottfried, 2001; Jacobs et al., 2002; Wigfield & Eccles, 1992). For instance, in longitudinal analysis of elementary school children, beliefs about the usefulness and importance of math, reading, instrumental music, and sports activities decreased over time (Wigfield et al., 1997). In contrast, the children's interest decreased only for reading and instrumental music, not for either math or sports. The data for interest in, and perceived importance of, math and sports is illustrated in Figures 14.5 and 14.6. A similar pattern exists for reading and instrumental music.

Using data from other samples, the decline in valuing of math continues through high school (Eccles, 1984). Eccles et al. (1989) and Wigfield et al., (1991) also found that children's ratings of both the importance of math and English and their liking of these school subjects decreased across the transition to junior high school. In math, students' importance ratings continued to decline across seventh grade, whereas their importance ratings of English increased somewhat during seventh grade.

Researchers have not yet addressed changes in children's understandings of the components of task value identified by Eccles et al. (1983), although there likely are age-related differences in these understandings. An 8-year-old is likely to have a different sense of what it means for a task to be "useful" than an 11-year-old does. Further, it also is likely that there are differences across age in which

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