How college students explain their grades in a foreign language course: the interrelationship of attributions, self-efficacy, language learning beliefs, and achievement
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Research on self-efficacy has been extremely prolific in the past two decades with many researchers investigating the relationship between students’ self-efficacy and achievement in a wide variety of domains. Similarly, there has been a wealth of research examining the relationship between attribution and achievement. Self-efficacy are the beliefs people have about whether or not they can successfully complete a task while attributions are the beliefs people have for why they have or have not been successful at a task they have just completed. These two areas of beliefs and their effects on students’ achievement have seldom been researched together though they have each independently contributed to our understanding of how critical students’ appraisals of themselves can be for their success in school. Although studies have reported on how students make attributions in general and research has looked at students’ self-efficacy in areas such as math, science and sports, one domain has been surprisingly neglected, language learning. This study examined the general question of the relationship between foreign language learners’ attribution, self-efficacy beliefs, general language learning beliefs, and their achievement in foreign language classes. Quantitative methods were used to examine Weiner’s attribution theory and Bandura’s self-efficacy theory in the foreign language field. Participants were 500 undergraduates enrolled in Spanish, German, and French classes who were asked to fill out self-report questionnaires about their language learning beliefs, attitudes and motivation towards foreign language learning, and to provide attribution and self-efficacy ratings upon receiving two mid-semester exam grades. Results indicated that self-efficacy correlated positively with internal, personal, and stable attributions, and negatively with external attributions. In addition, self-efficacy correlated positively with ability and effort attributions, and negatively with luck and teacher attributions. Results also indicated that students who made internal or stable attributions for success had higher self-efficacy beliefs than students who made external or unstable attributions. Students who made unstable or internal attributions for failure also had higher self-efficacy than those who made stable or external attributions. Finally, students making internal attributions received higher grades than students making external attributions, and the same was true for students making personal as opposed to non-personal attributions. Implications for research and practice are discussed.