Attributions for success

Attributions for success

Rosevear (2003) investigates student motivation for music in schools through the framework of Attribution Theory (Weiner, 1986). The theory proposes links between motivation and attributions for effort, ability, task difficulty, and luck. Self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997) is a second framework used for this study to explain students beliefs about their capacity to achieve. These beliefs can influence attributions made to success and failure experiences.

Courtesy: Richard Lee
Attributions for success

Rosevear (2003) surveyed (N=282) students from Years 9 and 10 in metropolitan South Australian State High Schools. The survey consisted of a mixture of music and non-music students, that is, students studying music in Years 9 and 10 and those that are not (non-music students).

The results showed that the most frequent reason students gave for the belief as to why they were successful in school subjects was because of enjoyment. Enjoyment as the sole reasons was 29.8% of the responses and enjoyment in conjunction with other responses totalled 53.8% of the responses. Students perceived enjoyment as an important factor for doing well as school. There was little difference in enjoyment as a reason between music and non-music students. The next most frequent response was ability and then effort.

Responses for non-school pursuits had enjoyment as the main reasons for doing well (38.7%), however, effort comprised of 38.7% of the reason for doing well. This is a marked contrast to effort reason for school subjects. Effort seemed a more likely reasons for success in pursuits other than with school subjects.

The results suggest that enjoyment is a major factor in doing well at anything. Enjoyment, Rosevear (2003) argues, is the result of effort. Enjoyment is something that students make happen through and as a result of their efforts. Effort was found more likely in other pursuits than for school subjects and this may suggest an aspect of less choice in school subject areas resulting in less effort. Optimal challenges (Dweck & Elliott, 1983) are considered important for success and enjoyment and it may be that school subjects are not providing the optimal level of challenge that self-selected pursuits can, resulting in lower effort responses for school subjects.

Finally, Rosevear (2003) provides some guidance on how to improve and encourage student effort attributions, provide optimal experiences and feedback for subject activities to development growth mindsets, provide opportunities for the development of self-regulation strategies to increase effort and task persistence and perhaps align school subjects with a higher level of enjoyment experienced for self-selected pursuits.


Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.

Dweck, C. S., & Elliott, E. S. (1983). Achievement motivation. In P. H. Mussen & E. M. Hetherington (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (Vol. 4. Social and personality development, pp. 643-691). New York: Wiley.

Rosevear, J. (2003). Attitudes of high school students towards learning music. Paper presented at the Australian Society for Music Education National Conference XIV, Darwin, Australia.

Weiner, B. (1986). An attributional theory of motivation and emotion. New York: Springer-Verlag.

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