Achievement calibration and causal attributions.Abstract
The way students explain success or failure on a test affects motivation to achieve on future tests. The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether these explanations are related to accuracy of self-assessments of preparedness pre·par·ed·ness
The state of being prepared, especially military readiness for combat.
Noun 1. preparedness - the state of having been made ready or prepared for use or action (especially military action); "putting them prior to a test as well as self-assessments for performance immediately following a test. Attributions for good and poor calibrators were compared to identify possible distinctions between these groups. In general, good calibrators reported attributions that would likely enhance future motivation more than poor calibrators.
People are often inaccurate in their self-assessments, whether in judging their level of attractiveness (Gabriel, Critelli, & Ee, 1994), soundness of their reasoning, quality of their humor humor, according to ancient theory, any of four bodily fluids that determined man's health and temperament. Hippocrates postulated that an imbalance among the humors (blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile) resulted in pain and disease, and that good health was , or correctness of grammar in written work (Kruger & Dunning Dunning
The process of communicating with customers to ensure the collection of accounts receivable.
Dunning can start with gentle reminders and then progress to nearly threatening letters as accounts become more past due. , 1999). Interestingly, inaccurate self-assessments are not necessarily a bad thing, especially when the error is on the side of self-enhancement. In fact, some researchers have found positive outcomes linked with optimistic op·ti·mist
1. One who usually expects a favorable outcome.
2. A believer in philosophical optimism.
op beliefs, such as a propensity to persist in Verb 1. persist in - do something repeatedly and showing no intention to stop; "We continued our research into the cause of the illness"; "The landlord persists in asking us to move"
continue the face of failure (Bandura ban`dur´a
n. 1. A traditional Ukrainian stringed musical instrument shaped like a lute, having many strings. , 1977; Pajares, 1996), willingness to take risks to gain greater rewards (Seligman, 1990), and tendency to cope more effectively with physiological stress (Bandura, 1995; Seligman, 1990). Therefore, in many situations, the value of accuracy in one's self-assessments is debatable de·bat·a·ble
1. Being such that formal argument or discussion is possible.
2. Open to dispute; questionable.
3. In dispute, as land or territory claimed by more than one country. . However, in the classroom, educators posit that inaccurate self-assessments may contribute to poor learning outcomes because over-optimism may lead to underestimating the demands of academic tasks, failing to study sufficiently for exams, engaging in superficial reading of complicated material, and overlooking important information in complex problems (Hacker A person who writes programs in assembly language or in system-level languages, such as C. The term often refers to any programmer, but its true meaning is someone with a strong technical background who is "hacking away" at the bits and bytes. , Bol, Horgan, & Rakow, 2000). Likewise, overly negative self-assessment in relation to a task may result in discouragement, lack of motivation, and failure to approach the task at all (Pajares & Schunk, 2002). Thus, for academic tasks, accurate self-assessment may be best.
Bandura (1977) recommends a strategy for measuring the accuracy of self-assessment for a specific domain of study. The strategy involves asking participants to judge their capability to perform a task and then giving them the same or similar task to perform. Achievement calibration calibration /cal·i·bra·tion/ (kal?i-bra´shun) determination of the accuracy of an instrument, usually by measurement of its variation from a standard, to ascertain necessary correction factors. accuracy is the extent to which judgments of capability (e.g. predictions for performance on an exam) match actual performance (e.g. actual score on the exam). Hacker, Bol, Horgan, & Rakow (2000) utilized this strategy and found that as many as 1/3 of the undergraduate students who participated in their study markedly overestimated preparedness for the first course exam, earning scores 10 points or lower than predicted. Similarly, Garavalia, Ray, Murdock and Gredler (2004) reported that 37% of the students in their study expected to earn final course grades at least a half a letter grade above actual final grades. In both of these studies, lower achieving students tended to be the most inaccurate in their self-assessments. Likewise, Kruger and Dunning (1999) found a significant negative correlation Noun 1. negative correlation - a correlation in which large values of one variable are associated with small values of the other; the correlation coefficient is between 0 and -1
indirect correlation between self-assessment and objective test performances. In four different studies, participants in the bottom quartile Quartile
A statistical term describing a division of observations into four defined intervals based upon the values of the data and how they compare to the entire set of observations.
Each quartile contains 25% of the total observations. substantially overestimated performance in a variety of domains and, more interestingly, believed their scores were above average.
One purpose of the present study was to explore disparities between expected and actual achievement by investigating how students explain their performance when they do and do not perform in line with expectations. We believe these causal explanations are important to explore because prior research indicates that the causes to which students attribute their performance affect future performance (Weiner, 1986, 2000). In addition, prior research indicates that poor calibrators frequently fail to adjust self-assessments, even in the face of negative feedback from evaluative sources (e.g. receiving a failing grade from a professor) (Hacker et al., 2000). Failure to integrate the feedback and modify expectations might be understood in relation to how the student explains what happened. For example, the student might explain a failing test grade with an external-locus statement, such as "I failed the test because the teacher asked really hard questions." This attribution at·tri·bu·tion
1. The act of attributing, especially the act of establishing a particular person as the creator of a work of art.
2. removes responsibility from the student for the performance so s/he is not likely to modify behavior or expectations.
Failure is a particularly important outcome to investigate because attributions tend to be more ambiguous than success-generated attributions (Kruger & Dunning, 1999). If one fails, the sources of blame are just about endless, whereas, when one succeeds, the credit usually goes to one's ability or effort. Because of the potential disparity dis·par·i·ty
n. pl. dis·par·i·ties
1. The condition or fact of being unequal, as in age, rank, or degree; difference: "narrow the economic disparities among regions and industries" between success and failure attributions, we believe that miscalibrators will provide different reasons for performance than more accurate peers, especially low-achieving miscalibrators
This study is an initial exploration of the relationship between calibration accuracy and causal attributions. Students' calibration accuracy was computed and attributions for performance were collected for two exams in a graduate level Educational Psychology Research methods course. Weiner (1986) suggests that three aspects of attributions are important to consider--locus of causality causality, in philosophy, the relationship between cause and effect. A distinction is often made between a cause that produces something new (e.g., a moth from a caterpillar) and one that produces a change in an existing substance (e.g. , stability, and controllability. Some attributions are more supportive of future motivation than others and we believed that graduate students would generally report attributions that would enhance achievement motivation, given their demonstrated persistence in educational pursuits. Next, we examined the calibration accuracy of the graduate students. We were interested in the consistency of calibration accuracy across achievement groups and expected that poor calibration would be associated with lower achievement. Lastly, we examined qualitative distinctions in the manner in which good and poor calibrating students explained their performance. Following are the three research questions addressed in this study:
1. To what types of causes do graduate students most frequently attribute their test performance?
2. How accurate are graduate students in their achievement calibration?
3. Are there qualitative differences in the manner in which good and poor calibrating graduate students explain test performance?
Fifty-eight graduate students enrolled in two sections of an Educational Psychology Research Methods course at a Midwestern university The P.A. Program is a 2-year program that starts in the summer. The D.O.,Pharm D., and Psy.D are 4-year programs. The D.O. degree is the legal and professional equivalent of the M.D. were asked to participate in the study. Ten students were deleted from the final analyses due to incomplete data, leaving a sample size of 48. Seventy-nine percent of the sample was female and the majority of students were Caucasian (81%). The remainder of the sample was 15% African-American, 2% Hispanic, and 2% reported other for race. The average age was 33 (sd=10). All of the students were seeking graduate degrees in the School of Education with the largest number of students pursuing master's degrees master's degree
An academic degree conferred by a college or university upon those who complete at least one year of prescribed study beyond the bachelor's degree.
Noun 1. in Counseling.
Predictions. Prior to each of two exams, students were given a take-home survey asking them to predict their exam score and describe their reasons for expecting that level of performance. Students returned the survey at the beginning of the test period.
Postdictions. The final question on each exam asked students to postdict their exam score.
Exam scores. Three exams were administered during the course. Only the first two exam scores were used in our analyses, because the third was the final exam Noun 1. final exam - an examination administered at the end of an academic term
final examination, final
exam, examination, test - a set of questions or exercises evaluating skill or knowledge; "when the test was stolen the professor had to make a new set of , and we were unable to administer a follow-up attribution survey. Exams consisted of multiple choice items, ranging from the knowledge to analysis levels of complexity with an emphasis on application items. A table of specifications was created and provided to students for each test to make explicit the connection between instructional objectives and exam items. KR20 coefficients for the tests were .80 and .97, respectively. Scores were determined by computing computing - computer the percentage of items answered correctly.
Causal Attributions. The Revised Causal Dimension Scale (CDSII; McAuley, Duncan, & Russell, 1992) consists of an open-ended question--"Why do you believe you earned the grade that you earned on this exam?"--followed by a 12-item scale with which students classify the reason. A semantic differential Semantic differential is a type of a rating scale designed to measure the connotative meaning of objects, events, and concepts. Nominalists and realists
Theoretical underpinnings of Charles E. ranging from I to 9 is used to rate each item. The stem for each item is "Is the cause(s) something:" and a sample item is "That reflects an aspect of yourself" vs. "reflects an aspect of the situation." Four 3-item subscales provide measures of locus of causality, external control, stability, and personal control. McAuley, Duncan, & Russell, (1992) provide extensive evidence of the reliability and validity of the scale. In the present study, alpha coefficients for exam I and exam 2 were .69 and .85 for locus of causality, .78 and .85 for external control, .66 and .77 for stability, and .89 and .82 for personal control, respectively.
Achievement calibration. Calibration is operationalized as students' accuracy in predicting and postdicting grades on the two exams and is the absolute difference between the actual grade and the predicted or postdicted grade.
Students completed the prediction survey and turned in the completed survey immediately prior to the administration of each exam. As a final question at the end of each exam, students reported their postdicted grade. Immediately following the return of the graded exams, students completed the causal attribution survey. Four calibration scores were derived for each student by comparing the predictions and postdictions to students' actual scores for exams 1 and 2 (e.g. Predicted exam 1 grade vs. Actual exam 1 grade). A mean calibration score, along with the standard deviation In statistics, the average amount a number varies from the average number in a series of numbers.
(statistics) standard deviation - (SD) A measure of the range of values in a set of numbers. , was computed for prediction calibration (M=8.2, sd=4.6) and postdiction calibration (M=7.7, sd=3.9) for each student. Accuracy was determined on a relative basis with students within one standard deviation of the mean classified as average. Students in the upper tail of the distribution were classified as good and students in the lower tail were classified as poor calibrators. In order to identify students at the extremes of calibration accuracy, only students who were consistently poor and consistently good across prediction and postdiction accuracy were included in the comparative analysis of attributions for good versus poor calibrators.
Results and Discussion
To answer the first question, we computed means for the four subscales of the Revised CDSII. The descriptive statistics descriptive statistics
see statistics. for each subscale are presented in Table 1. In general, students rated their attributions for performance to a greater degree as something over which they had control as opposed to something over which they had little control (locus of causality). The average student rating for stability was 4.9 and 4.4, a midpoint mid·point
1. Mathematics The point of a line segment or curvilinear arc that divides it into two parts of the same length.
2. A position midway between two extremes. on the 1 to 9 scale, and is indicative of a dispersion dispersion, in chemistry
dispersion, in chemistry, mixture in which fine particles of one substance are scattered throughout another substance. A dispersion is classed as a suspension, colloid, or solution. of student ratings across the scale. Students were more polarized A one-way direction of a signal or the molecules within a material pointing in one direction. towards personal control with mean ratings of 7.0 and 6.3. The lower mean for both exams for the external control subscale indicated polarization polarization
Property of certain types of electromagnetic radiation in which the direction and magnitude of the vibrating electric field are related in a specified way. towards attributions associated with internal control. Therefore, the causal attributions for exam performance tended to be controllable by the student, with the locus of causality being within the student while the degree to which students believed the cause to be a stable factor varied across students.
In response to our second question, students' average predicted grades differed from actual grades by 8.2 percentage points (sd 4.6) and postdicted grades by 7.7 percentage points (sd=3.9). The maximum difference from actual grades was 23 percentage points for predictions and 22 percentage points for postdictions. A paired-samples t-test indicated no difference between prediction and postdiction calibration accuracy, t(47)=.800; p=.428. Therefore, students predicted and postdicted their test grades equally well and, on average, these graduate students were approximately 1/2 of a letter grade inaccurate in their pre and postdictions.
Pearson-product moment correlations between exam grades and predictions and postdictions indicated improvement in calibration accuracy from exam 1 to exam 2. Correlations were stronger between postdictions and actual grades than predictions and actual grades. Correlations between predicted and actual grades for exam 1 and 2 were .07 (p = 0.63) and .36 (p = .012), respectively. Correlations between postdicted and actual grades for exam 1 and 2 were .44 (p = .002) and .51 (p < .000), respectively. Thus, the relationship was significant for all but the exam 1 prediction.
To determine if calibration accuracy differed from pre to postdiction for high, medium, and low-achieving students, we divided students into high, average, and low achievement groups by classifying students 1 standard deviation or more above the mean as high achievers, students within 1 standard deviation of the mean as average achievers, and students more than 1 standard deviation below the mean as low achievers. The results of an ANOVA anova
see analysis of variance.
ANOVA Analysis of variance, see there indicated differences among the three groups in calibration accuracy for all pre and postdictions (see Table 2). Tukey post hoc post hoc
adv. & adj.
In or of the form of an argument in which one event is asserted to be the cause of a later event simply by virtue of having happened earlier: analyses revealed that the differences were between low achieving students and the other two groups for all four measures of calibration accuracy (see Table 3). See issue website http://rapidintellect.com/AEQweb/sum2005.htm
For our third question, we examined the attributions of students who were consistently poor (n=5) and consistently good (n=5) in their calibration accuracy. Students who were good calibrators tended to attribute their performance to studying (n=4) and their own behaviors. In addition, their attributions remained stable from exam 1 to exam 2. In contrast, poor calibrators attributed their performance to external factors and took no personal accountability for their performance. One person reported "luck" as the cause of their score while 3 students stated that they didn't know why they performed in the manner in which they did. None of the poor calibrators mentioned efforts that could be undertaken to enhance performance, even though 3 of the students scored in the C and D range on both tests. The average grade for the good calibrators was 89 for exam 1 and 90 for exam 2, while the average grade for poor calibrators was 78 and 72, respectively. Consistent with findings reported by Forsterling and Morgenstern (2002), more accurate calibrators achieved at higher levels than less accurate peers.
The present study found that students' causal attributions for exam performance tended to be controllable by the student, with locus of causality being within the student while the degree to which the student believed the cause to be stable varied across students. In addition, calibration accuracy was significantly lower for lower-achieving students than for average- and higher-achieving students. Finally, good calibrators were more likely to take personal responsibility for their academic performance, while poor calibrators tended to attribute academic performance to external factors external.
The findings of this study have a few important implications for education. First, determining students' calibration accuracy is relatively simple and may be easily obtained by classroom teachers. Identifying students who are poor self-assessors (miscalibrators) may help teachers identify students who hold maladaptive Maladaptive
Unsuitable or counterproductive; for example, maladaptive behavior is behavior that is inappropriate to a given situation.
Mentioned in: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy achievement beliefs. Second, students who are inaccurate in their grade expectations may also attribute their performance to causes that degrade TO DEGRADE, DEGRADING. To, sink or lower a person in the estimation of the public.
2. As a man's character is of great importance to him, and it is his interest to retain the good opinion of all mankind, when he is a witness, he cannot be compelled to disclose future achievement motivation. Lastly, attributional retraining re·train
tr. & intr.v. re·trained, re·train·ing, re·trains
To train or undergo training again.
re·train programs may be enhanced by helping students develop more accurate self-evaluations. However, any interventional research should consider the possible costs and benefits associated with modifying students' self-assessments, including methods to reduce deleterious deleterious adj. harmful. effects on students' sense of self-worth or esteem. A possible solution is to avoid attempts to correct students' general ability to accurately self-assess, focusing instead on self-assessment for specific tasks and activities. In addition, well-defined, concrete tasks that are challenging, yet doable are most likely the best choices to use in efforts to improve accuracy.
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L. Garavalia, University of Missouri--Kansas City
E. Olson, University of Missouri--Kansas City
S. Comeau, University of Missouri--Kansas City
Garavalia, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences; Olson and Comeau are doctoral students in the Counseling Psychology Counseling psychology as a psychological specialty facilitates personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span with a focus on emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns. Ph.D. program in the School of Education.