Academic causal attributions and their implications for teaching

Po Yin Miranda LAI, Man Tak LEUNG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Recent research in student learning has focussed on areas of individual differences such as the cognition of causal attributions and attributional styles. Studies in these areas have flourished in the last two decades and have received much attention especially within the context of academic setting. Academic causal attributions reflect the ways students perceive and explain the causes for their academic outcomes. It has been reported that causal attributions have influence on students' emotional responses, performance, and motivation depending on the locus of causality, stability and controllability. Research findings have also suggested that causal attributions are related with a number of variables including self-concept, learning approaches and achievement outcomes. This study investigates into a group of Hong Kong preservice student teachers' causal attributions and their implications for teacher educators. The participants' attributional dimensions were assessed by McAuley's Causal Dimension Scale (II) which comprised four subscales: locus of causality, personal control, stability and external control. The results showed that the internal consistency reliability estimates were of adequate value for research purposes. Construct validity was tested by confirmatory factor analysis using LISREL 8 and the goodness of fit indices supported the factor structure of the scale. Statistical results also showed that the participants scored lower in locus of causality and personal control but scored higher in stability and external control. On comparison with other local university students, these student teachers were shown to be less internal in locus of causality and have a weaker belief in personal control. They also showed higher scores in both stability and external control than their university counterparts. It is suggested that teacher educators could help facilitate the development of an adaptive attributional style which emphasizes internality and personal control. This may be achieved through student counseling, learning workshops, or through attributional retraining.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1999


Lai, P. Y., & Leung, M. T. (1999, November). Academic causal attributions and their implications for teaching. Paper presented at the Hong Kong Educational Research Association (HKERA) 16th Annual Conference: Exploring New Frontiers in Education, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.


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