University students' attributions for success and failure: "Layers" of attributions

Year: 1995

Author: Archer, Jennifer, Scevak, Jill

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Fifty-eight students in their first year of a university course were interviewed individually about their reactions to studying at university and their motivation to learn.

Among other questions, students were asked to think of a subject in which they had done poorly and a subject in which they had done well and then to provide explanations for these two results. The interview technique was valuable in that the responses could be probed for evidence of "layers" of attributions. For example, a typical initial attribution for poor performance was lack of effort, but probing revealed that the student did not put in effort because she considered she lacked the ability to succeed. Attributions for success revealed a wide variety of responses including prior knowledge, high ability, effective study strategies, and good teaching. Students' attributions for success and failure then were considered in relation to their Grade Point Average for the first year of university.