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Causal perceptions of trade students and the effects of attribution retraining on their behavioural and achievement outcomes

Han, Jason M.F. (1992) Causal perceptions of trade students and the effects of attribution retraining on their behavioural and achievement outcomes. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This project consisted of three studies which employed probed interviews, planned interventions, and experimental manipulation to study trade students' causal attributions. The first study was commenced in the early 1980s and examined the causal explanations of academic outcomes of trade students by means of an open-ended questionnaire. The procedure also entailed interviewing every subject to ensure the subjective meanings of attributions were obtained accurately. The results revealed that the type of causal attributions used was largely effort-related and where more than one factor was involved, they were arranged in layers (Heider, 1958). Viewed in relation to Weiner's (1986) taxonomic classification, the results showed that the trade students used more uncontrollable factors in failure than in success, which indicates that some students were prone to be learned helpless in their attributional schemata.

The second study investigated the effects of an attribution retraining programme on the behavioural and academic outcomes of a sample of learned helpless trade students. Three treatment groups were used — effort, effort plus ability, and control. The results indicated that the ability plus effort group increased their persistence at a problem-solving task while both experimental groups improved their examination performance after retraining. There were variations in the effort group in the way they responded to the failure feedback. Those with a positive interpretation of the effort feedback showed improvements on a number of variables such as study habits and seeking help from the teacher. These results were discussed in the context of relevant research (for example, Nicholls, 1989; and Dweck, 1986).

The third study examined the factors which could have influenced the students' interpretation of failure feedback. Three factors were considered — the attributional schemata, the individual orientation (ego versus task-involvement), and the classroom structure. The results indicated that the classroom structure had a determining influence on how students interpreted failure feedback. These results were discussed against a background of research findings in the areas of attributional schemata, learning environment, and instrumental academic help-seeking (for example, Weiner, 1986; Dweck, 1986; Nicholls, 1989; Karabenick and Knapp, 1991). The importance of considering the instructional environment is highlighted in the discussion, and the implications for TAFE teaching and future research are examined.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Renshaw, Peter
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