Mastery-Motivational Climate

Psychological research has demonstrated that different learning environments can influence the success rates of instructive impact (Ntoumanis & Biddle, 1999, p. 645). These research results are coupled with the fact that society tends to rely on the leaders of groups to produce success in their followers (such as firing sports coaches or company executives when their team isn’t performing sufficiently; not winning games, not making enough profits, etc.) (p. 643). The psychological research and societal perception demonstrate that psychology efforts should be focused on determining methods that improve leaders’ effectiveness.

Mastery-motivational climate is the product of such efforts (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2005, p. 123). Although research has brought to light two climate types, mastery-motivational (effort/improvement/team work; such as focusing on enhancing self-skills and collaborating with others; cooperative atmosphere) and performance (performance/ability based; such as employees comparing their own work to those around them, competitive atmosphere), the former has proven most effective (Ntoumanis & Biddle, 1999, p. 644).

Psychologists have empirically demonstrated, in multiple studies [such as Ames, 1984; Dweck and Leggett, 1988; Nicholls,1989 (Ntoumanis & Biddle, 1999, p. 643); Magyar, Feltz, and Simpson, 2004 (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2005, p. 123)], that leaders who promote an atmosphere of learning, improvement, and working with others, produce a superiorly increased rate of motivational adaptation (use pattern of positive outlook, effective learning tactics, greater effort) (Ntoumanis & Biddle, 1999, p. 643-644) and collective efficacy (everyone on the team believing in the success of the team) (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2005, p. 122). Research regarding mastery-motivational climate also speaks to the significance of the utilization of team members collaborating on decisions, where success is defined and determined, not by specific ability, but based on each team member’s effort and improvement rates (Ntoumanis & Biddle, 1999, p. 644). .

Programs that include mastery-motivation climate are particularly well used in the athletics, school and business systems, as interested parties seek to improve the quality of behavioral production (such as, improving athletic motivation in an effort to improve performance (Strawbridge. & Marshall, 1999, p. 1), improving the quality of physical education programs within school systems to promote increased rates of physical activity (Bowler, 2009, p. 2), inspiring business associates to work together to more cooperatively solve financial analyses and workups ( L’Atelier, 2012, p. 1), etc.). Currently, the effectiveness and utility of the mastery-motivation model is widely recognized and accepted. There are several programs that utilize the many benefits of the mastery-motivation method, but in the interest of brevity, this blog will only cover one area.

In the interest of promoting contentment, successfulness and efficiency in the work place, Christina Nerstad has developed a six principle system which personifies the mastery-motivation climate. First, the business leadership must provide assignments which are both meaningful and varied. Second, the business leadership must promote creative challenges and chances for employees to contribute to decisions being made. Third, the business leadership must encourage self-motivation, learning skillsets, dedication, and acceptance. Fourth, business leadership must avoid playing favorites between the employees, singling people out for talent or lack thereof can cause the other teammates to lose self-esteem and self-worth. Fifth, Nerstad promoted that business leadership should promote an atmosphere of self-development and commitment. Then sixth, it is important to hone individual’s specific talents as well. ( L’Atelier, 2012, p. 1)


Bowler, M. (2009, September 2). The influence of the TARGET motivational climate structures on pupil physical activity levels during year 9 athletics. Retrieved February 24, 2014, from

L’Atelier (2012, February 28). ‘Mastery climate’ more effective than ‘performance climate’ for creating commitment. Retrieved February 24, 2014, from

Ntoumanisn, N., & Biddle, S. J. (1999). A review of motivational climate in physical activity. Journal of Sports Sciences, 17, 643-655. doi:10.1080/026404199365678

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2005). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. SAGE Publications. Strawbridge. , M., & Marshall, N. (1999). Creating a Healthy & Effective Motivational Climate. Retrieved February 24, 2014, from



1 comment

  1. Carolyn Ann Moscoso

    I really enjoyed reading this post stressing a mastery-oriented climate and how coaches or leaders can use this to strengthen their teams. Even if a team particularly in sports has strong collective efficacy they will not necessarily win every competition or game so how can coaches effectively lead their teams even when the desired outcome is not always obtained? Should the coach single out the athletes that made mistakes and compare them to the more successful athletes on the team? The Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team has a wonderful article in the parent section that involves a mastery-oriented climate versus what they call an “ego” climate. Unlike the mastery in which learning is important the “ego” is a win at all costs even if dirty play is involved. (The Key to Success, n.d.) Rivalry would be encouraged in an “ego” environment instead of making all athletes feel that they are an important part of the team. From 1963 to 1975 John Wooten coached the basketball team at UCLA and won 10 NCAA Championships stressing the process of striving for excellence and his coaching approach was very similar to the mastery-oriented climate. (The Key to Success, n.d.) Not only does this make athletics fun for the participants but also can assist with pre game anxiety and reduces fear of failure.

    As a huge fan of professional football anyone who knows Al Davis, general manager of the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League from 1972 to 2011 knew he had a famous quote which was “Just Win Baby.” This seems to imply that that “winning” is the most important factor in team sports no matter the cost. Wooten seemed to think a little differently by saying:
    ‘When the game is over, I want your head up, and I know of only one way for your head to be up. That’s for you to know that you did your best. No one can do more…You made that effort.’” (The Key to Success, n.d.) There is no mention of winning……what would you rather hear from your coach?

    The Key to Success in Sports and in Life, (n.d.) Retrieved March 2, 2014 from

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