In the following scenario, how would you describe Josie’s and Mimi’s views in explaining their examination results? What would you predict their behavior to be in the next math examination? Who will be more likely to persist and work hard? Why?
Setting: Two Primary 5 students in are discussing their math examination results just after receiving their report cards. Both of them got an unsatisfactory grade.
Josie: I told you, I am not made for Math!
Mimi: Don’t say so. I think we can both work harder to get a better grade next time.
Josie: No no. I had already given my best.
Mimi: Well, I think I didn’t do well because I didn’t work hard enough on Chapter three, and I didn’t sleep well the night before so my mind was in a fog when I was writing the exam…
Research on attribution has such a long standing in psychology because of its pivotal role in predicting one's emotion and behavior, and such predictive power yields important implications for learning.
For instance, students (Josie in the scenario) who consider dispositional attribution in face of failure will be less likely to exert effort ("why bother, after all, I am not fit for math") than those (Mimi) who consider an situational attribution ("I will make sure I am not deprived from sleep the night before math exam in next semester) in future similar situations (another math examination).
Furthermore, for the emotive aspect, over-emphasis on internal attribution in face of failure and external attribution in face of success will cause “learned helplessness”, which means that one will give up and consider that effort will not lead to a meaningful consequence.
Internal attribution (such as "I am stupid") and external attribution ("I need to work harder next time") are found to be dichotomized among Westerners.
However, the dichotomy of these two forms of attribution is less clear among Chinese learners, as they normally consider success and failure are explained by exertion of effort, and in the long run, it will polish up one's ability.
So effort is seen as a means to improve ability. See Chinese Learners
It is tempting to assume learners' characteristics are trait-like qualities, like personality and naturally endowed caliber, so therefore they are, too, very difficult to change. However, this is largely a MISCONEPTION. Learner characteristics are NOT personality traits!
Educational psychologists have found that many learners' characteristics are malleable, sensitive to learning demands and context.
The same student being placed in different learning contexts with different learning demands will manifest drastically different learning characteristics. This implies that we can shape learner characteristics by constructing proper learning contexts and learning demands.
Elements of learning environment and demands that are found to influence learners' characteristics include the teacher’s conception of learning, epistemic beliefs, use of pedagogy and instructional styles, and the nature of the assessment and criteria used just to name a few.
In the past decades, cross-cultural and local researchers helped to advance our understanding in this regard. Since most of the cross-cultural differences found can be understood in light Confucian influences, these relevant aspects of Confucian thought are highlighted here.
Confucius Influence on Chinese learning (Lee, 1996):