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Attribution Theory: How Theories Relate to Student Perfomance and Acheivement

Updated on March 7, 2013

Dimensions of Attribution Theory and Student Achievement

Attribution theory is the study of how individuals explain events that they experience. Learning theorist Bernard Weiner particularly studied how the outcome and a particular cause were related.

His first dimension of attributional response is locus of control. Locus of control describes the cause of an outcome as either internal or external. An internal cause would be something like the skill of the learner, or his mood/attitude. An external cause would be a parent or teacher. Many have observed that learners attribute success to internal causes and failure to external causes.

The second dimension is stability.This refers to the idea that many causes for success are stable. Most see things like ability and knowledge as being fairly stable. Other causes, such as effort and circumstances are considered unstable. The key thought with this dimension is that if a learner’s success is linked to a stable cause, he is much more likely to have repeated success than if it is a result of an unstable cause.

The third dimension is controllability.This means that some of the causes for success are controllable. An excellent example of this is learning strategies. A student can decide in advance a strategy that will help him succeed. Something that is not as controllable would be the difficulty of the task. It could vary, and is not dependent on the student.

Attribution theory, in relation to student achievement, means that students have the best chance for success when the causes have an internal locus of control, with stable and controllable causes. In this scenario a student is set up for repeated successes in learning.

Which dimension is most important to student achievement?

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