Attribution Theory


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This is a presentation on beliefs, self-schemas, and attribution theory.

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Attribution Theory

  1. 1. ATTRIBUTION THEORY Beliefs about Causes and Control
  2. 2. Beliefs and Self-Schemas • What do students believe about themselves – their competence and the causes for success or failure? • Let us start with a basic question: “What do they believe about ability?”
  3. 3. Beliefs and Self-Schemas Entity view of ability Incremental view of ability • Belief that ability is a fixed characteristic that cannot be changed • Belief that ability is a set of skills that can be changed
  4. 4. Attribution Theories of Motivation • Describe how the individual’s explanations, justifications, and excuses about self or others influence motivation. • According to Bernard Weiner, most of the attributed causes for successes or failures can be characterized in terms of 3 dimensions: 1. locus (location of the cause –internal or external to the person) 2. stability (whether the cause is likely to stay the same in the near future or can change), and 3. controllability (whether the person can control the cause).
  5. 5. Attribution Theory • Every cause for success or failure can be categorized on these 3 dimensions (locus, stability, controllability). • For example, luck is external (locus), unstable (stability), and uncontrollable (controllability). • Ability is usually considered stable and uncontrollable, but incremental theorists would argue that ability is unstable and controllable.
  6. 6. Attribution Theory • Feeling in control of your own learning seems to be related to choosing more difficult academic tasks, putting out more effort, using better strategies, and persisting longer in schoolwork (Scunk, 2000; Weiner, 1994a, 1994b).
  7. 7. Attributions in the Classroom • When usually successful students fail, they often make internal, controllable attributions: They misunderstood the directions, lacked the necessary knowledge, or simply did not study hard enough. • As a consequence, they usually focus on strategies for succeeding next time. • This often leads to achievement, pride, and a greater feeling of control (Ames, 1992; Stipek, 2002).
  8. 8. Attributions in the Classroom • The greatest motivational problems arise when students attribute failures to stable, uncontroll able causes. • Such students may seem resigned to failure, depressed, h elpless--unmotivated (Weiner, 2000).
  9. 9. Beliefs about Self-Efficacy and Learned Helplessness • Self-efficacy is our belief about our personal competence or effectiveness in a given area. • Bandura (1997) defines self-efficacy as “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments” (p.3).
  10. 10. Self-Efficacy & Attributions • Self-efficacy and attributions affect each other. • If success is attributed to internal or controllable causes such as ability or effort, then selfefficacy is enhanced. • But if success is attributed to luck or to the intervention of others, then selfefficacy may not be strengthened.
  11. 11. Learned Helplessness • When people come • Learned Helplessness appears to cause 3 types of to believe that the deficits: events and motivational, cognitive, an outcomes in their d affective. lives are mostly • Students who feel hopeless uncontrollable, th will be unmotivated and reluctant to attempt work. ey have developed • Because they become learned helplessness pessimistic about (Seligman, 1975). learning, they miss practice to improve skills and abilities, so they develop cognitive deficits.
  12. 12. Beliefs about Self-Worth • Covington and his colleagues suggest that attributions and beliefs about ability, selfefficacy, and selfworth come together in 3 kinds of motivational sets: 1. Mastery-oriented students 2. Failure-Avoiding Students 3. Failure-Accepting Students
  13. 13. (Source: From Educational Psychology Figure, p.430 by A. Woolfolk, 2008)
  14. 14. Beliefs about Self-Worth (Woolfolk, 2008)  Teachers may be able to prevent some failure-avoiding students from becoming failure accepting by helping them to find new and more realistic goals.  Some students may need support in aspiring to higher levels in the face of sexual or ethnic stereotypes about what they should want or what they should not be able to do well.  Instead of pitying or excusing these students, teachers can teach them how to learn and then hold them accountable.  This will help the students develop sense of selfefficacy for learning and avoid learned helplessness.
  15. 15. (Source: From Educational Psychology Figure, p.432 by A. Woolfolk, 2008)
  16. 16. Reflect: How do beliefs about ability affect motivation? What are the 3 dimensions of attributions in Weiner’s theory? Explain. What is self-efficacy and how does it relate to learned helplessness? What can we do to help students develop their sense of self-efficacy?