Like it or not, evaluation is as much a part of education as is learning. In most schools and universities students are regularly tested and evaluated by their teachers, who communicate their appraisals in the form of a grade. When the papers are handed back, the grades are posted, or report cards are sent home, students find out if they have succeeded or if they have failed.
How do students react to these academic evaluations? According to a growing number of studies, the answer to this question depends upon their attributions: students' inferences about the causes of their performances and evaluations. Elaborating on theoretical foundations established by Heider (1958), Jones (Jones, 1978; Jones & Davis, 1965), and Kelley (1967, 1971), these investigations assume that students actively strive to understand the origins of their academic outcomes. They ask not only "What did I get on the test?" but also "Why did I get this particular grade?" In reviewing the results of these investigations, we will concentrate on four basic areas: (1) the nature and dimensionality of attributions formulated in academic settings, (2) the impact of success and failure on attributions, (3) the mediating role of attributions in determining expectations and affective reactions, and ( 4) the behavioral consequences of various types of. attributions.
Copyright © Cambridge University Press. This book chapter first appeared in The Social Psychology of Education: Current Research and Theory.
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Forsyth, Donelson R. "An Attributional Analysis of Students' Reactions to Success and Failure." In The Social Psychology of Education: Current Research and Theory, edited by Robert S. Feldman, 17-38. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.