Goal orientation in surgical residents: A study of the motivation behind learning

Rebecca L. Hoffman, Cristina Hudak-Rosander, Jashodeep Datta, Jon B. Morris, Rachel R. Kelz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background The subconscious way in which an individual approaches learning, goal orientation (GO), has been shown to influence job satisfaction, job performance, and burnout in nonmedical cohorts. The aim of this study was to adapt and validate an instrument to assess GO in surgical residents, so that in the future, we can better understand how differences in motivation affect professional development. Materials and methods Residents were recruited to complete a 17-item survey adapted from the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales (PALS). The survey included three scales assessing GO in residency-specific terms. Items were scored on a 5-point Likert scale, and the psychometric properties of the adapted and original PALS were compared. Results Ninety-five percent of residents (61/64) participated. Median age was 30 y and 33% were female. Mean (standard deviation) scale scores for the adapted PALS were: mastery 4.30 (0.48), performance approach (PAP) 3.17 (0.99), and performance avoid 2.75 (0.88). Mean (standard deviation) scale scores for the original PALS items were: mastery 3.35 (1.02), PAP 2.76 (1.15), and performance avoid 2.41 (0.91). Cronbach alpha were α = 0.89 and α = 0.84 for the adapted PAP and avoid scales, respectively, which were comparable with the original scales. For the adapted mastery scale, α = 0.54. Exploratory factor analysis revealed five factors, and factor loadings for individual mastery items did not load consistently onto a single factor. Conclusions This study represents the first steps in the development of a novel tool to measure GO among surgical residents. Understanding motivational psychology in residents may facilitate improved education and professional development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-456
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Burnout
  • Education
  • Goal orientation
  • Professionalism
  • Resident
  • Satisfaction
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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