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Effects of Causal Attributions following Mathematics Tasks on Student Cognitions about a Subsequent Task

Gerard Seegers, Cornelis M. Van Putten and Harriet J. Vermeer
The Journal of Experimental Education
Vol. 72, No. 4 (Summer, 2004), pp. 307-328
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20157376
Page Count: 22
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Effects of Causal Attributions following Mathematics Tasks on Student Cognitions about a Subsequent Task
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Abstract

The authors investigated the effects of former learning experiences on how students adapt to challenging mathematics tasks. A distinction has been made between domain-specific variables (goal orientation, self-concept of mathematics ability) and task- (or context-) specific appraisals (estimated competence for, attractiveness and relevance of the task). A model has been developed to explain how motivational variables interact in determining students' adaptive behavior when confronted with a learning task. In this study, the authors examined the adequacy of this model. The main question was whether this model needs to be extended by including causal attributions following mathematics tasks. To answer this question, the authors conducted 2 series of analyses. First, they investigated how causal attributions depend on domain- and task-specific variables. Second, they examined whether attributions of task outcome add to the explained variance in task-specific appraisals on a subsequent task confrontation. The findings show that when students attributed a good performance to their personal ability, a positive effect on their estimated competence in a subsequent task confrontation resulted. However, attribution of a poor performance to lack of effort had a negative impact on students' estimated competence. Consequences for modelling adaptive processes are discussed.

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