Learning Disabled And Normal Achieving Students’ Causal Attributes For Their Performance Outcomes

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Learning Disabled


Students with learning disabilities (LD), or learning difficulties, form a large significant group in China. Research has shown that the prevalence rate in young people up to the age of 18 ranges from a low of 4.86% to a high of 31.62% (He, 2005; Liu, 2000; Wang, 2003; Yao, 2009). A major reason for such a wide discrepancy is the plethora of definitions and diagnostic criterion, none of which have been widely adopted across China. Learning Disabled

The more simplified the criterion used, the higher the rate of identified students. However, no matter which rate is referred, given such a large country, the population of students with LD will always be large. For the purpose of this paper, LD will be used referring to the World Health Organization (WHO) definition that there is a significant disability of learning that cannot be solely accounted for by mental retardation, visual acuity problems, or inadequate schooling (2010, p196). In China over the past two decades, LD has increasingly received attention from many research fields such as education, psychology and medicine. Learning Disabled

The current research LD follows two basic tracks: one is to explore the cognitive development, and the mechanisms of information processing of students with LD, as well as to design effective interventions to solve problems and disabilities that occurred during their cognitive development; the other is to explore their social development, including mind and behaviour, emotional development, social competence, and social cognition, and so on (Yu, 2005). The latter is more recent, but has become a hot topic, in which the research on attribution and motivation of students with LD is a new focus (Chen, 2007; Li, Liu & Dong, 2006; Zhao, 2010).Learning Disabled

Among the various theories of attribution, Weiner’s (1979, 1985, 1986) Attribution Theory is one of the most popular and has been commonly applied by Chinese researchers on LD among different populations (e.g., Luo, 2000; Zhao, Zhang, Geng & Shen, 2005) and in different subjects (e.g., Chang, 2010; Hu, 2009). Weiner’s Attribution Theory Attribution theorists assume that individuals seek to understand why events have occurred (Schuster, Forsterlung, & Weiner, 1989, p. 192).Learning Disabled

Weiner and his colleagues originally developed the research on the causes of success and failure. Guided by Heider’s causal structure (1958), they initially assumed that ability, effort, task difficulty, and luck were perceived as the most responsible causes for success and failure in achievement-related contexts, among which ability and effort were the most dominant determiners (Weiner, 1985). Later, they put forward that factors such as mood, fatigue, illness, biases of others, and unique factors to specific situations were necessary causes (Weiner, Russell,& Lerman, 1978). In the centre of Weiner’s Attribution Theory, are two related models. First, the theory categorized the perceived causes into three dimensions: locus of causality, stability, and controllability (Weiner, 1979, 1986). Locus of causality is concerned as a backward-looking belief, thus, it focuses on whether the cause is internal or external to the individual (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002).Learning Disabled