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Dweck’s Theory of Self-Attributions in Education Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 24th, 2020

Caro Dweck’s theory focuses on the impact of faith in personal achievements, including self-attribution, personal confidence, and personality styles, on our motivation to learn and achieve results. The scholar refers to two types of personal orientation – helpless orientation and mastery orientation. The individuals with a helpless orientation consider success and failure a result of personal perception of their character and, therefore, they have lower self-esteem as soon as they encounter failure. In contrast, those having a mastery orientation believe that their achievements are connected to the amount of efforts made to accomplish the project. According to Dweck (2007), children of older age have a relatively complex self-concept. In fact, some children focus on an entity theory under which the level of individual’s intelligence does not change and it can lead to lower self-esteem about their skills and abilities. On the other hand, some children base their beliefs on incremental theory, according to which failure does not mean lack of talents. Rather, they are confident that their success increases with the experience they gain through practice, effort, and hard work.

Although Dweck’s (2007) theory is indispensible for educating parents and teachers who should praise hard work and effort students make to foster a mastery orientation and incremental mode of thinking, the theory fails to address biological factors that influence children’s capabilities and skills. Nonetheless, children should not focus on outcomes and achievements during the learning process, but on the actual process and efforts made while studying. Moreover, children should enjoy themselves while learning something, which can make them overcome challenges and difficult tasks in a more efficient way (Dweck, 2007). The theory of mastery orientation, therefore, can shape a new framework according to which all children could take advantage of the learning process and be more engaged in professional and intellectual growth. Changing the conception of learning, which should not be oriented on performance and marking, but on the actual process of solving problems is the key to developing new methods of education children.


In order to change children’s helpless orientation and entity vision of performance, teachers resort to a growth mindset model of beliefs that promotes deeper engagement into a learning process, allows children to easily embrace challenges, and makes them more confident and happy. In contrast, children with a fixed mindset belief cannot consider intellectual growth a learning option because they believe that they have innate gifts and skills. At this point, Dweck (2007) outlines new strategies for minimizing the effects of academic failure. The focus is made on children’s low self-esteem, performance, and underachievement that are traditional outcomes of the educational approaches. The starting point of children’s consciousness and behavior alternation rely on implicit personality theories and aspects of volitional psychology (Schober, 2001). Within the context of Dweck’s method, teachers and parents connect motivation support to influence children’s understanding of the learning process. In this respect, by expanding the incremental framework, children become less concerned with demanding situations and more focused on changing their attributions (Schober, 2001).

Alternating behavior also imply greater attention to children’s attributions. As a result, learners are less concerned with the results regardless of the assessment they receive in the classroom. At this point, Toland (2008) proposes a cognitive behavioral method for retraining children’s self-attributions in terms of success and failure in an academic process. In particular, the model focuses on a positive correlation between increased attainment and learning difficulties. Most teachers, therefore, approve that realization of learning difficulties as a positive experience contributes to changing children’s self-attributions. In addition, Bos et al. (2006) focuses on theory- and evidence-based interventions that are designed to meet the needs of specific groups. In order to change children’s self-attributions, the studies addresses social and cognitive determinants are the triggers for alternating children behavior. Hence, highlighting the areas in which children are the most skillful is another beneficial approach they both teacher and parents employ.

A mastery orientation will be incomplete unless teachers employ a learner-centered approach to an academic process. At this point, the studies by Thompson and Musket (2005) have provided a new method of integrating incremental view and mastery orientation that increases children’s self-concept. Their method was focused on the analysis of participants’ perceptions of such aspects as success and failure, entity and incremental belief, as well as mastery orientation and social comparison. As such, children with high performance rates are often under the pressure of the learning process, regardless of their success in studying. At the same time, the research by Thompson and Musket (2005) prove children who face difficulties more frequently are usually less frustrated when they receive a low grade. Therefore, teacher’s decision to adopt group exercises in which children should independently solve the task is the most efficient one. Their task, therefore, lies in training children’s awareness of the possibility to grow intellectually.

Shaping the right mindset model can make children much happier in their scientific exploration. In particular, the role of instructors is confined to helping students understand various concepts, as well as how these concepts can be gained through the learning process. Instructors usually help students to increase the low level of self-esteem. As a proof, Noel et al. (1987) introduces research on improving students’ performance through evaluating self-attribution biases. In particular, the studies support an attributional model of students’ performance and suggest that educators can significantly improve children’s self-esteem by emphasizing a performance-facilitating pattern. In other words, students that do not blame themselves for their failures are less likely to receive low grades. As a result, it has been proved that student performance is increased as soon as students make effort in the learning process rather than rely on their talents and skills. The studies by Noel et al. (1987) also provide evidence that teacher’s on the causes rather than effects of children’s failure could prevent those from lowering their self-esteem.

In conclusion, learners with an entity belief and fixed mindset are less likely to grow and develop intellectually. Such a perspective hampers their possibility to engage in a learning process and gain experience. However, those children who make efforts and work hard to achieve success tend to believe that their intellectual development and skills are the result of constant practicing. The latter approach to a learning process is much more successful for children’s psychological development and growth. A review literature on methods of training self-attribution and mastery orientation proves that constant interaction with parents, counseling assistance, and performance-facilitating pattern are efficient methods of enhancing children positive perception of an educational process. Focusing on individual needs, therefore, should be the first step for changing children’s cognition and understanding of the actual purpose of learning.


Bos, A. E. R., Muris, P., Mulkens, S., & Schalma, H. P. (2006). Changing Self-Esteem in Children and Adolescents: A Roadman for Future Interventions. Netherlands Journal of Psychology, 62, 26-33.

Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. US: Random House Publishing Group.

Noel, J. G., Forsyth, D. R., & Kelley, K. N. (1987). Improving the Performance of Failing Students by Overcoming Their Self-Serving Attributional Biases. Basic & Applied Social Psychology, 8(1/2), 151-162.

Schober, B. (2001). Implicit personality theories about the stability of behavior and aspects of volitional behavior control–necessary expansions of carol Dweck’s motivation process model? Psychologische Beiträge, 43(1), 77-99.

Thompson, T., & Musket, S. (2005). Does priming for mastery goals improve the performance of students with an entity view of ability? British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75, 391-409.

Toland, J. (2008). Applying Cognitive Behavioral Methods to Retrain Children’s Attributions for Success and Failure in Learning. School Psychology International. 29(3), 286-302.

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