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Title:Determinants of Academic Achievement: The Interaction of Children's Achievement Orientations With Task Requirements
Author(s):Licht, Barbara Gail
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Psychology, Developmental
Abstract:Previous research has found dramatic differences among children in the way they respond to failure in intellectual achievement situations. "Mastery-oriented" children respond to failure in an adaptive fashion. Effort and concentration are intensified; and task performance may be enhanced as a result. Sometimes these children show more mature problem-solving strategies following failure than they had shown before failure occurred. "Helpless" children, however, respond to failure in a maladaptive fashion. They decrease their effort and concentration; and they often show a marked deterioration of problem-solving strategies and task performance when failure occurs.
The present study examined the hypothesis that children's achievement orientations (i.e., helpless versus mastery-oriented) interact with the acquisitional demands of academic material (i.e., requires dealing with confusing concepts versus does not require dealing with confusing concepts) to determine children's performance.
Helpless and mastery-oriented children were identified by the nature of their causal attributions for failure. Children who attributed their failures to variable or controllable factors, such as insufficient effort, were considered mastery-oriented. On the other hand, children who attributed their failures to invariant or uncontrollable factors, such as insufficient ability, were considered helpless. Test anxiety and children's assessment of their own intelligence were also measured because of their theoretical relationship to causal attributions for failure.
Causal attributions and text anxiety interacted with the acquisitional demands of the academic material in the predicted way. When the material required dealing with confusing concepts, it was the mastery-oriented and the low test anxious who excelled. This was not the case, however, when the material was not confusing. Self-assessed intelligence also interacted with the acquisitional demands of the material, but it did so differentially for girls and boys. While boys showed a trend toward the expected interaction (i.e., viewing oneself as bright was more facilitative when the material was confusing than when it was not), girls responded in a counter-intuitive manner. For girls, viewing oneself as bright was predictive of good performance only when the material was not confusing.
In the past, individual differences in achievement within a particular academic area have been explained primarily in terms of the "main effects" of aptitudes and/or interests. However, these findings strongly suggest that academic achievement is more fully understood within an "interactional" framework in which performance is seen to be determined by how well a child's achievement orientations fit with the acquisitional demands of the material. These findings are discussed in terms of their relevance to some known patterns of individual differences in achievement--in particular, sex differences in mathematical versus verbal achievement.
Issue Date:1980
Description:116 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1980.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8108581
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-13
Date Deposited:1980

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