So this week I’ve decided to focuses my blog on whether the way our work is marked affects our motivation? I came across this area of research after reading my friend Sarah’s blog…that can be found here (http://cheeseandwinetarquin.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/attribution-theory-how-our-beliefs-affect-our-motivation/) so, as the title of Sarah’s blog suggests, my motivation theory is going to be linked to something called ‘The Attribution Theory’. I’ll start off how I always do by explaining what it is and then ill link to how the attribution theory is relevant within education.
Motivation is something we all struggle with and all have different ways of dealing with, I myself, make lists for the week of what work I need to complete then tick it off as each piece gets done, ticking each box and seeing the work load go down and down motivates me to finish it all. But what is the Attribution Theory, and how does it motivate (or not) us to complete work and stop procrastinating!
So the attribution theory is related to how we attach meaning to both our behaviour and other people’s behaviour, for example; is somebody upset because they are depressed or has something happened to make them sad? It deals with how the social perceiver uses information to arrive at causal explanations for events and examines what information is gathered to form a causal judgement (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). Heider (1958) put forward two ideas:
- When we explain the behaviour of others we look for enduring internal attributions, such as personality traits (jealousy)
- When we try to explain our own behaviour, we make external attributions. Such as the environment.
There are several explanations that people use to explain success or failure:
- The cause of success or failure may be internal or external
- The cause of success or failure may be either stable or unstable. Stable means that the outcome will be the same if we perform the same behaviour on another occasion. Unstable means that the outcome is likely to be different on another occasion.
- The cause of success or failure may be either controllable or uncontrollable. Controllable means we feel that we can alter it if we wish to, uncontrollable is one that we do not believe we can alter.
Right, onto how the attribution theory can be applied to education. There’s four factors related that influence motivation in education:
Ability: is internal and stable, the learner has no direct control
Task Difficulty: is external and stable; it is largely beyond the learners control
Effort: is internal and unstable, the learner has a great deal of control
Luck: is external and unstable with very little control.
Students will be more successful at academic tasks if they attribute their success to internal and unstable factors over which they have control (effort) or internal and stable factors over which they have little control but sometimes can be disrupted by other factors (ability disrupted by luck).
One of the websites I used whilst conducting research included guidelines for teachers to follow if they wish to use the attribution theory within their classrooms, I thought I’d include just a few of the ones I found the most interesting (ill post the link in my references if anyone fancies reading up on anymore of them)
- It is extremely hazardous to motivational health for students to fail repeatedly after making a serious effort at academic tasks. I thought this point was really important, if a student believes they have put in as much effort as possible and is still failing at the task, they will suffer psychologically and emotionally. Why should they carry on trying if they are just going to fail? It is important to arrange tasks so that students who work hard are able perceive themselves as successful.
- Excessively competitive grading and evaluation systems are likely to impair the learning of many students. I included this point as it has popped up in a lot of comments being made at the moment. I believe that the grading system needs to be in place in order for students to know how they are doing, however I think that it needs to be regulated in order to maintain consistency, I also believe that proper feedback also needs to be given so that students can improve on their previous efforts.
- In general, it is best for students to believe that it is their own behaviour rather than external circumstances that leads to success or failure. This is also known as an ‘internal locus of control’. Lefcourt (1976) showed that the most successful students have a tendency to overestimate the degree to which their own behaviour leads to success or failure.
A study conducted by Kloosterman (1984) into the attribution theory within mathematics. He found that students perceptions of success or failure in maths are followed by attributions, which then influence effort and finally achievement.
So in conclusion, I believe that it is important to include attribution theory into education. If students know what can influence their success or their failures then they can take this into account when working on their next assignments. It is important for students not to think that certain things will guarantee them a pass, to counterbalance this, it is also important for them not to think that no matter how much effort they put it, they will always keep on failing. If a teacher can notice a student getting to a point of no motivation and constant failing, then they can adapt the assessments used to aid the student, for example, by using performance based assessments (refer to my previous blog (https://beckywebber23.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/blog-six-performance-based-assessment/) if you aren’t sure what this is.
That’s it! Thanks for reading. Comments as always, appreciated.
Fiske & Taylor (1991) retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/attribution-theory.html
Heider (1958) retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/attribution-theory.html
The guidelines I talked about above can be found here: http://education.purduecal.edu/Vockell/EdPsyBook/Edpsy5/edpsy5_attribution.htm
Also… a final point: If any of you came to my talk a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned something about a school phobia, if anyone is interested in reading up on that, I found an article the BBC produced (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8367283.stm). Seems it is a real thing after all!