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Attribution Theory

This theory is concerned with the process individuals utilise to analyse the causes of behaviour. It also addresses the premise that people desire order in their lives and will pay particular attention when things are unclear. For example, when a student receives an excellent grade on a test, this is attributed to hard work and long hours of study. The reverse of this scenario occurs when a student receives a poor grade attributed to insufficient effort put into the task.

Weiner believes that we attribute performance to one of four elements: ability, effort, task difficulty and luck. A teacher€™s knowledge of how students attribute success can help them to improve students€™ self-esteem.

A simple example is a case scenario of two students. A is the high achiever and B is the low achiever. Student A tends to approach achievement opportunities while student B shuns them. Why is this? The consensus is to attribute any success to internal factors like effort and ability. Student B on the other hand feels that success is too far to reach and does not make the required effort to succeed. The notion that you are able to succeed lies in the belief that you can, and the result is a more rewarding outcome.

The student who is aware that success lies within naturally accepts challenges; and in spite of repeated failures will still try to succeed. However, students that know their limitations under the same circumstances are more likely to give up. From the two comparisons cited, we can see that motivation to perform at optimum levels can be attributed to our own behaviours and attitudes regarding capability. Practitioner’s attribution can damage students€™ motivation for learning. Practitioners should, therefore, help students to make appropriate attribution.