Language Learning

ISSN 0023-8333

Attribution and Self-Efficacy and Their Interrelationship in the Korean EFL Context
Peggy Pei-Hsuan Hsieh
The University of Texas Medical School at Houston

Hyun-Sook Kang
Illinois State University

This study examined the interrelationships between learners’ attributions and selfefficacy and their achievements in learning English as a foreign language. Participants were 192 ninth-grade English learners in Korea who were asked to provide attribution and self-efficacy ratings upon receiving test grades. Results indicated that learners with different levels of self-efficacy ratings endorsed attributions differently for successful and unsuccessful outcomes. Learners with higher levels of self-efficacy attributed their test results to more internal and personal control factors than those who reported lower self-efficacy levels. For learners who were unsuccessful, those with higher self-efficacy made stronger personal control attributions than learners with lower self-efficacy. Keywords motivation; attribution; self-efficacy; learning English as a foreign language; achievement

Introduction For students in Korea, the acquisition of English competence is often regarded as the key factor in getting ahead in school and in Korean society. Given the importance placed on learning English as a foreign language (EFL), it comes as no surprise that a growing number of studies have addressed the achievement issues surrounding EFL learning in Korea (e.g., Bong, 2001; Kang, 2000; Lee, 2007; Lee & Lee, 2001). Over the past two decades, researchers have been increasingly fond of the examination of students’ motivation in predicting and improving academic
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Peggy Hsieh, The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, 6431 Fannin St. JJL 302, Houston, TX 77030. Internet:

Language Learning 60:3, September 2010, pp. 606–627 C 2010 Language Learning Research Club, University of Michigan DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9922.2010.00570.x


Hsieh and Kang

Korean EFL Learners’ Belief

performance because it has been suggested to be related to students’ initiation of a task, the amount of effort that they expend on a task, and their persistence in the face of challenge (Brophy, 1988; Wigfield, 1994). As a result of its significance in explaining achievement, foreign language motivation research has grown to be a prolific area of study (D¨ rnyei, 2005). o Motivation is a multifaceted construct in that it bears a reciprocal relation to beliefs, expectations, learning, and achievement (Pintrich, 2003). In cognitive learning theories, the existence of cognitive structuring processes in general has long been demonstrated to be related to students’ psychological and behavioral consequences, and in recent research, it has become more evident that students simultaneously build up a network of beliefs about their capabilities and about reasons for success and failure. By seeking explanations for successes and failures and believing that one is capable of being successful, one can predict and control the events that affect outcomes and continue working, with the hope of succeeding again and again. Bandura’s (1977) self-efficacy theory (about the belief that individuals have about their capabilities to complete a specific task successfully) and Weiner’s (1976) attribution theory (about the reasons individuals give for their successes and failures) represent two theories that have contributed substantially to an understanding of students’ beliefs and explanations of their achievement. These theorists suggest the important role students’ beliefs play in their actions, motivation, and achievement (Bandura, 1977; Schunk, 1991; Weiner, 1985). Therefore, in an effort to understand the factors that influence foreign language learners’ achievement, this study uses two prominent cognitive motivation theories to learning (self-efficacy and attribution) to examine how they respectively and collectively relate to Korean secondary-level learners’ EFL achievements. Self-Efficacy Many researchers have attempted to uncover what distinguishes successful foreign language learners from less successful ones. It has been suggested that self-efficacy has a powerful influence on learners’ effort, tenacity, and achievement (Bandura, 1986a; Pajares, 2003; Pajares & Miller, 1995; Zajacova, Lynch, & Espenshade, 2005). There is prolific research that examines the relationship between self-efficacy and general academic achievement (e.g., Pajares, 2003; Pajares & Kranzler, 1995; Pintrich & De Groot, 1990; Schunk, 1984), and the relationship has consistently been found to be a positive one. In the context of learning EFL in Hungary, Cl´ ment, D¨ rnyei, and Noels e o (1994) investigated the role of self-confidence in influencing English proficiency both directly and indirectly through learners’ attitudes toward and
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and goals for learning among middle and high school Korean EFL learners. 2005) that “reflects o more global beliefs that one can cope with almost any task” (McCollum. and French learning self-concept. self-confidence is a socially defined construct (D¨ rnyei.Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief efforts invested in learning English. Although Yang was one of the few to investigate the relationship between self-efficacy and strategy use. there is a need to turn to more cognitively defined constructs such as self-efficacy in the context of learning EFL. September 2010. Results indicated that performance-avoidance goals were negatively correlated with both self-efficacy and the value placed on English. referred to as self-perceptions of competence (Bandura. p. Students who perceived themselves as capable of using effective metacognitive strategies to monitor their academic work time efficiently were more likely to reach success in intermediate-level French. the fact that one third of the participants in this study were taking French classes as an elective course for their higher education at selective American universities limits the generalizability of the findings to other learner populations and to other instructional contexts. Expanding the design of the aforementioned research. Mills. such as societies in which learning English is compulsory and in which a high level of proficiency in English helps students to get ahead in their academic and professional careers. 21). Bong (2001) examined the relationship among self-efficacy. not to personal beliefs about their own capabilities. whereas self-efficacy reflects beliefs about one’s capabilities to complete a specific task successfully. Pajares. items used to measure self-efficacy were more related to learners’ emotion. anxiety in reading the target language. pp. For example. 1986a). Taking into account the limitations regarding the socially defined construct of self-confidence. As one of the few studies on self-efficacy in the Korean EFL context. 2003. and Herron’s (2007) study indicated that self-efficacy for self-regulation was a stronger predictor of college students’ achievement in intermediate-level French than were self-efficacy to receive grades in French class.” More recently. perceived value of English. However. Lee and Lee (2001) found that self-efficacy was strongly correlated with the goal to strive to develop skills and abilities (mastery goal orientation) and moderately correlated with performance-approach goals orientation (striving to document superior ability). 606–627 608 . Yang (1999) investigated the relationship between Taiwanese English learners’ beliefs and strategy use and reported a strong correlation between selfefficacy and functional practice strategies. sample items for self-efficacy used in Yang’s study included “I feel timid speaking English with other people” and “People from my country are not good at learning foreign languages. In spite of its similarities to self-efficacy. Language Learning 60:3.

and vice versa.. Poulet. Williams. Providing attributional feedback helps to support their self-perceptions of progress and validates their sense of competency (Schunk. Pintrich & Schunk. September 2010. verbal feedback and encouragement or discouragement). Learners hardly mentioned intelligence or effort for their success. for which Weiner (1977) coined the term attribution. their level of achievement.e.Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief The level of one’s self-efficacy can be influenced by the learner’s past experiences. 1971. the more accurate the attribution. verbal persuasion (i. However. For example. How capable learners feel about completing a task successfully can also be shaped by the way they interpret the reasons for their success or failure. and physiological cues. Extensive research has been done on attributions and achievement indicating that success is more likely to be attributed to internal factors such as ability and effort than is failure and that ability attribution is a strong predictor of achievement (Bempechat. Much empirical evidence has indicated that attributions will influence a student’s expectations for future success and motivation. and. the amount of effort they invest. 1996. Limitations of the study included the small sample size of 36 participants and the fact that interviews were conducted to assess general attributions for both success and failure about the French class rather than specific attributions for students’ actual success or failure on a test. One explanation for this is that as students receive the feedback that they have the capability to do well. It should be noted that the more specific the event. & Wu. As a follow-up to the previous study. 2002). Burden. They reported the frequency of each attribution and found 609 Language Learning 60:3. vicarious experiences. pp. Schunk (1983) found that students who were given ability attributional feedback (such as telling students they are smart or have high ability/talent) demonstrated the highest skill in a task and had higher self-efficacy than their counterparts who received no feedback from their teachers on how they did. Nakkula. Frieze & Weiner. their motivation. Ginsburg. their beliefs about their own competence. Hsieh & Schallert. 1982). and Maun (2004) examined attribution patterns reported by British secondary-level students for their perceived successes and failures in learning a foreign language. as suggested by Schunk (1984). these are not the only factors that influence the development of one’s self-efficacy. 2008. Attribution Weiner (2000) maintained that learners’ attributions can influence their expectancy for future success. 606–627 . Williams and Burden (1999) took a qualitative approach through the use of interviews and found that students tended to attribute success to external factors such as teacher approval more than internal factors such as their learning skills. they develop a sense of efficacy to sustain their motivation. ultimately.

g. an understanding of learner expectations and beliefs is important because it is these beliefs about language learning that influence learners’ achievement. Mitchell. Reciprocal Relationship Between Self-Efficacy and Attribution The two motivational constructs of self-efficacy and attribution used to explain academic achievement have each been studied independently in great depth in areas such as math (e. When given positive attributional feedback. Bempechat et al. Thelwell. 2008). & Hobson. 2003. but when failure is attributed to internal and stable causes. and Gist (1995) also investigated this reciprocal relationship. 2005. Although both theories involve learners’ beliefs and influence achievement (Pintrich & Schunk. Despite the practical implications for language practitioners on learner attributions for Language Learning 60:3. Pajares & Miller. whereas students with high self-efficacy believed that failure was due to insufficient effort. This topic is explored in a study by Schunk (1982) that outlined the reciprocal relationship between self-efficacy and attribution in relation to children’s problem-solving abilities. in turn. it is of greater importance to understand how these attributions relate to academic achievement when combined with self-efficacy. Taking this interaction into a foreign language learning context. The relationship between attribution and self-efficacy is twofold. self-efficacy beliefs decrease. pp. Although it is of interest to examine which attributions are prevalent among these foreign language learners. whereas attributing failure to lack of ability yields a drop in self-efficacy. Sarrazin. Pajares. As an individual’s self-efficacy can be influenced by how he/she explains the outcome of a test. suggesting that high or low self-efficacy beliefs lead to corresponding performance attributions. affect one’s perceptions of self-efficacy and create a cycle between the two. Pajares. Britner. September 2010. 1996. When success is attributed to internal factors. 1986b).. 1997. and sports (e. & Valiante. 2002). writing (e. they have rarely been connected and examined in a foreign language learning context (Hsieh & Schallert.. & Famose.g. Holder. 2003). Martin-Krumm. Peterson. Greenlees.. children’s attributions of their own effort and ability increase and self-efficacy is accordingly amplified. 2003. Linnenbrink & Pintrich.g. 2007). Lane. self-efficacy increases. which. As Horwitz (1988) argued. Results indicated that students with low self-efficacy tended to believe they had no control over the learning outcome. Graham (2006) examined British students’ self-efficacy and attributions through interviews.Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief effort to be the factor that most successful students attribute success to and teacher to be the most frequent factor for unsuccessful students. 2000). 606–627 610 . 1995.. one’s attributions for an outcome can also be affected by the level of confidence one has for a given task (Bandura. Holder. Spence & Usher. Silver.

Do learners’ attributions for the achievement outcomes vary between successful and unsuccessful EFL learners? 3. controllable factors than students with lower self-efficacy. How do learners’ self-efficacy and attributions relate to language achievement. it was pointed out that future research in this area should employ more fine-tuned research tools with a larger sample size. 611 Language Learning 60:3.Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief their successes and failures. Hsieh and Schallert (2008) found that students who attributed failure to lack of effort had higher self-efficacy than students who believed that effort does not play a significant part in the test outcome. This may suggest that students’ selfefficacy suffers when they do not feel that outcomes are within their volitional control. 606–627 . and how well do they predict language achievement? 2. English is one of the required school subjects across the nation and often serves as a key to academic and professional success in Korean society. is necessary in order understand the full picture of how foreign language motivation and achievement are acquired. Do learners’ attributions differ between those who report having high selfefficacy and those who report having low self-efficacy? Our main hypotheses were as follows: (a) Self-efficacy would be positively related to language achievement. the investigation of how Korean students learn English is of particular interest because most of the studies in the area of foreign language motivation have been conducted with learners in North America and Europe. such as the Korean EFL context. The results of this study and the resulting suggestions may provide researchers with a new perspective on Korean learners’ beliefs about learning EFL and may provide ways for educators to help students to achieve competence in English. September 2010. This study attempts to elucidate the contributions of self-efficacy and attributions to the learning of EFL in South Korea. the following research questions were developed for this study: 1. for which a quantitative study would be more appropriate. The direct application of the results to a foreign language learning context. and (c) students with higher self-efficacy would attribute learning outcomes to more personal. In attempting to disentangle the motivational variables embedded in the EFL context and to examine the interrelationships between learners’ motivation and performance on classroom-based achievement tests. Despite the addition of the refined motivational measures in foreign language learning. controllable factors. (b) successful students would attribute learning outcomes to internal and personal. pp. In a quantitative study. whereas unsuccessful students would attribute failure to external factors.

pp. each scored on a 9point Likert scale (e. Measures Attribution Learners’ attributions were measured using two scales: the Causal Dimension Scale II (CDS II) developed by McAuley.78 (1. stability. stability.84 (2. “The grade you received is due to something over which you have power..34 (1.24) Boys M (SD) 6. All participants learned English as a required school subject for at least 6 years in school and reported that the English instruction they had received focused primarily on English grammar rather than on communications skills.47%) 70.Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief Table 1 Participants’ information Girls M (SD) Number of years studied EFL Number of hours/week spent on studying English Grade received in eighth grade 7. The CDS II contained 12 items that measured the dimensions of causal attributions. and the average grade they received in eighth grade. Language Learning 60:3.47% (20.56 (3.39%) 73. and Russell (1992) and the Language Achievement Attribution Scale (LAAS) developed by Hsieh and Schallert (2008). The internal consistency values for the four subscales in this study were as follows: locus of causality.58) 5. Both groups of learners in the two public schools were of lower middle-class socioeconomic backgrounds. Ninety-six percent of the participants reported not having visited any English-speaking country. the average number of hours per week they spent studying English.10 (1.63% (21. 606–627 612 .26. The dimensions included locus of causality (internal control).” “The grade you received is due to something over which others have control”).65.61) All participants M (SD) 6. Table 1 presents an in-depth breakdown of the means and standard deviations of how many years learners have studied English.72) 5. September 2010. and external control. . personal control.81) 4. personal control. .98) 76.23 (2.30% (22.g.54%) Method Participants Participants were 192 ninth-grade students from two schools in Korea: 92 (48%) participants from an all-boys’ school and 100 (52%) participants from an allgirls’ school. Duncan.

1984. Learners then rated the degree to which they believed the result of their test was due to their ability (e.g. A Cronbach’s α coefficient of . their mood. Language Achievement Students’ self-reported scores on the language tests were used as a measure of achievement. common examples provided by Weiner (1985). 606–627 . This procedure of measuring self-efficacy has been used in many studies and has been found to be a good measure of self-efficacy (e. ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree (Hsieh & Schallert. 2008). the teacher. Wood & Locke. the difficulty of the test. These reasons were measured on a 6-point Likert scale. thus ensuring that the attributions for the test results were the learners’ own 613 Language Learning 60:3. . it was excluded from the analyses. Stajkovic & Sommer. “My grade on this test is what it is because of my ability in learning the language”).85 was obtained in this study. effort. 2000. Learners were assured that their identities and responses would be kept confidential. and self-efficacy questionnaires at the time the learners’ first test was returned to them so that they could evaluate whether they perceived their scores to be a success or failure. 1987). Self-Efficacy The self-efficacy instrument asked students to rate on a scale of 0 to100 (0 = very uncertain and 100 = very certain) their confidence of earning 10 possible scores on their next test. Bandura.g. external. The LAAS included eight questions in which learners were asked to report the grade they had received on the test and how satisfied they were with the result.80.Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief . The language achievement measure was used to examine the predictive power of learners’ self-efficacy and attributions.. Procedures Questionnaires were distributed and completed during class meetings in midMay. Due to the low internal consistency for the stability measure. this way of obtaining sensitive data assures that revealing of students’ scores was voluntary. pp. September 2010. Learners filled out the questionnaires immediately before any verbal feedback was given by the teacher. Two attribution scales were used because we wished to not only examine the dimensions of the attributions but also to understand what specific reasons learners gave for their successes and failures.78. The mean and standard deviation for the test scores are reported in Table 2.. and luck. Although self-reports of test scores can be seen as a limitation to this study. It was agreed with the teachers that learners would complete the demographic. attribution.

19 −.129 .10 1.179 .044 −.272 .091 −.041 .186 .103 .248 −.211 .98 1.303 −.592 scores 3 Ability 3.240 .282 ∗∗ ∗∗ ∗∗ .441 .149 ∗∗ ∗∗ −.107 ∗ ∗ ∗∗ ∗∗ −.064 −.056 −.46 1.54 .07 1.117 .076 7 Luck 2.38 28. pp.037 −.199 ∗∗ ∗∗ .091 ∗ 5 Difficulty 3.25 −.489 12 Personal 6.036 −.258 .018 −.073 4 Effort 3.076 6 Mood 2.113 .069 .032 −.161 .24 .311 .36 −.434 ∗ ∗∗ p < .064 .130 .205 .01.219 .370 −.556 −.28 . attribution ratings.054 −.Hsieh and Kang Table 2 Intercorrelations among test score. and self-efficacy 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 M SD 1 Language Learning 60:3.46 .020 .25 1.48 1.64 27.343 ∗∗ ∗∗ .61 1. Korean EFL Learners’ Belief 614 .242 .05.186 −.113 .063 ∗∗ ∗∗ 9 Internal 6.80 −.013 .315 .437 efficacy ∗∗ .32 1.036 ∗∗ 8 Teacher 2.478 ∗∗ ∗∗ 13 Self65.81 .48 .49 1.233 −.043 .027 −.44 .116 .19 scores ∗∗ 2 Test 2 77.098 −.072 .003 .082 .140 ∗ ∗∗ .202 −.330 ∗ ∗∗ ∗∗ ∗∗ ∗∗ −.57 23.499 .040 .284 −.117 −.28 1.052 . 606–627 1 Test 1 71. September 2010.053 −. p < .184 ∗∗ ∗ 11 Stable 5.42 .294 ∗∗ ∗ 10 External 3.078 .242 .054 .044 ∗∗ ∗∗ ∗∗ ∗∗ .182 .

thus we added attributions to the model to see if this would add additional variance to the prediction of achievement in English. learners were grouped first by whether they perceived their test scores as a success or failure. those who do not perform well make external attributions for this outcome. then by their self-efficacy level.50. Results First. We also wanted to add to the literature on how learners’ attributions predict achievement. we find that language achievement is negatively related to “external attribution. standard deviations. 2008). In the first regression analysis model. controlling for self-efficacy. 606–627 . whereas the predictor variable was self-efficacy. 186) = 58. To test whether learners’ self-efficacy and attribution would predict their achievement in English.Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief explanations. p < . R2 = . correlation analyses were conducted. to examine the predictive power of EFL learners’ self-efficacy beliefs and attributions on their achievements in the EFL classroom. F(1. Data Analysis To analyze the data. and zero-order correlations for all variables in the study are presented in Table 2. as it has been identified as the key motivational construct in predicting achievement in other areas of learning. learners’ English test score at time 2 was the dependent variable.67.” meaning that students who do not believe they have control over the learning outcome are also the ones who do not perform well. This was a suggested approach because most learners may view 90% on a test as a successful grade. September 2010.24. whereas learners with high expectations of themselves may view the same score as a failure (Hsieh & Schallert. Learners’ second test scores were gathered upon receiving their second test result. Means. Learners were categorized into successful and unsuccessful groups not based on their test grades but rather according to their perceptions of whether their grade was a success or a failure. all attributions were added to the analysis. In the second model.001. Results indicated that self-efficacy was significantly related to achievement. In the same way. ranging from r = . The analyses revealed that both classroom-based achievement measures were significantly correlated with self-efficacy scores and with internal and personal control attributions. This analysis was used because we wanted to examine the effects of self-efficacy on achievement.27 to r = . pp. From the correlation analysis. multiple regression analysis was conducted. and were found to be 615 Language Learning 60:3.

1991. 177) = 2. 2007.24 for Model 1.06 −.31 0.12 −.001. which was .Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief significantly related to achievement.02 . This finding reaffirms that self-efficacy is a good predictor of academic achievement. as suggested by other researchers (e.13 .02 . we see a significant improvement in the prediction of achievement. & Lent.15 −.71 1. p < .04 . F(1.28 3.02 .26 3 Note. p < .12 −.35 t 7.16 .22 −.66 5.20 −. 616 Language Learning 60:3. R2 change = .14 .10 −.02 .39 −1.. R2 = . With the addition of this variable. 176) = 20. F(9. and complements previous findings in that the addition of attributions at the second Table 3 Hierarchical multiple regression analyses: Using self-efficacy and attributions to predict achievement (N = 162) Model 1 2 Predictors Self-efficacy Self-efficacy Internal External Ability Effort Difficulty Mood Luck Teacher Self-efficacy Internal External Ability Effort Difficulty Mood Luck Teacher Personal control Standardized coefficient β .52 −1.15 −. personal control was most strongly related to test score.16 −.12 −.37 for Model 3.38 .03 .09 .94 −0.30).05 .32 Part .01 −.47 .49 .04 .49 .94 .83 0.58 .01 −.09 −.40 .14 .36 −0.13 .12 .55 2.78 .10 .18 −.01. Supporting this conclusion is the strength of the bivariate correlation.19 .39 .07 .04 .35 .05 −.24 −.09.16 −. 2005. Zimmerman & Bandura.37. Adjusted R2 = . Multon.31 −.01 . 606–627 .01 −.12 −. This variable predicted significantly over and above the other variables.11 −.01 .08 .00 .17 −.01 .88 . Brown.02 −2.03 .12 4.03 .26 −.48 Zero Significance order Partial .11 .04 .48 .33.47.11 .06 . In the third model.30 for Model 2.12 .25 −. September 2010. with a significant increase in R2 (R2 change = .02 . pp.74 1.14 .49 .19 .07 −.58 −1.90 4.49 . Results are shown in Table 3.88 −1.49 .05 .26 −.01 . R2 = . Mills et al.13 .02 . p < . R2 = . Of the attribution factors. only the personal control variable was added to the analysis.78.04 .04 .12 −..30 −.00 .00 .12 .10 0.49 .g.13 .00 . Bong.24 −.16 2.11 −.08 −0.19 .11 .11 −.16 . 1994).14 .18 −.001.

62.71.” “external.” “the teacher.18) more than did unsuccessful learners (M = 3. including “ability.Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief level significantly increased the variance explained in test scores in the context of learning EFL. partial η2 = .” and “luck” variables) were conducted as follow-up tests to the MANOVA. September 2010. SD = 1.03. whereas learners’ groups. successful learners tended to rate test outcomes according to the amount of effort they put into studying (M = 5. F(1. p < . whereas unsuccessful learners did not feel that ability was the reason for their failure.54.” and “personal” factors. Similarly. and LAAS. partial η2 = .89. Previously.47.05. MSe = 9. p < . were the independent variables.17. MSe = 26. MSe = 16. Significant differences between successful and unsuccessful learners were also found in the actual reasons for learners’ believed success and failure.01. SD = 1.35.61). 176) = 6.33. In addition. SD = 1. 606–627 . learners in the successful group also tended to attribute their success to personal control factors (M = 7. SD = 1.” “effort.99) more than 617 Language Learning 60:3. Attributions of Successful and Unsuccessful Learners Multivariate F tests indicated significant differences between successful and unsuccessful learners in terms of attributions.95. The two sets of attributions (the CDS II and the LAAS) served as dependent variables.28) than unsuccessful learners (M = 6.96). pp.001. p < . SD = 1. SD = 1.31. Results showed that successful learners tended to endorse internal attributions more strongly (M = 6. p < .69. a MANOVA was conducted.44). 184) = 5. To address the second research question of whether successful and unsuccessful EFL learners and learners with varying levels of self-efficacy differ in their endorsement of attributions. Kang (2000) reported that Korean middle-school EFL learners with low instrumental-knowledge orientation tended to attribute their success or failure to variables beyond their control. F(1.04.” “difficulty of the test.69.74.05. Wilks’s λ = . including “internal. F(9. This may suggest that learners who assume greater responsibilities for their learning outcomes (those who attribute outcomes to factors within their control) do better than those who do not assert personal control in the learning of EFL.40. learners in the successful group attributed test outcomes to ability (M = 4. ANOVAs on each dependent variable (CDS II.184) = 9. Specifically. based on their perceived success or failure in language achievement and their high or low self-efficacy. partial η2 = .26.30) more than those in the unsuccessful group (M = 6.05.” “mood. F(1. partial η2 = . SD = 0. The current study also demonstrated that attributing test outcomes to factors over which learners have control was strongly related to their achievement in the EFL classroom. 184) = 7.01. This indicates that successful learners attributed test outcomes to their high level of ability.

s.46) 7. it can be suggested that these learners make adaptive attributions for success.44) 2.62 5.Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief Table 4 Mean (standard deviations) attribution scores for successful and unsuccessful learners Attribution Internal External Stable Personal Ability Effort Difficulty Mood Luck Teacher Successful M (SD) 6.44. 1979. 184) = 20.10.57 (1. These are remarkable results because it is conducive to learning and academic achievement for learners to view success as a result of internal factors and factors within their control.37 9.70) 4.05 p < .90 (1. did learners in the unsuccessful group (M = 3. p < .13 (1.04 (1.13) 2. SD = 1. Thus. p < .33 20.36 0. The means and standard deviations for specific attributions are presented in Table 4. F(1.34) 6.87 0.65 2. n. which is highly associated with high self-confidence (Tremblay & Gardner.001.39) Unsuccessful M (SD) 6.36.90 (1.89 (1.28) 3. September 2010. whereas controllable factors lead to feelings of control. pp.s.05) 2.69 (1. learners’ motivation can be influenced by the types of attributions that they make.61) 3.07) Difference between two groups 0.44 (1.26 1. Stable factors influence expectation of success.01 0.31 (.30) 2.69 (1.96) 4. MSe = 38. However.35 (1.01 p < . The attributions of failure to lack of ability would be maladaptive because they are associated with a lack of volitional control.18) 5.19 (1. 2000).99 2.42 0.40) 2. findings suggest that the Korean EFL Language Learning 60:3.12 (1.44) 3.95 (1.s.45) 3.001 n. As suggested by many attributional retraining theorists such as Dweck (1975). behaviors. and Robertson (2000). 606–627 618 .48) 2.45).01 (1.64 0. n.01 n. partial η2 = .30 1.21 (1.11 F 7.54 0.30. n.s. such as some of their attributes or actions.60 0.82 1. Attributions can influence students’ motivations. and expectations for future success (Weiner. 1995).99) 3. From the results gathered here.54 0.61 (1. Foersterling (1985).09 0.17 (1.30) 4.03 Significance p < . Students who believe that they have control over academic outcomes hold higher expectations for success and tend to be more highly motivated. n. as indicated by the internal and personal ratings on the CDS II scale and supported by the LAAS results of learners’ strong endorsement of ability and effort attributions. emotional reactions. such that successful learners believed that success was due to high ability.05 (1.34 0.96) 3.s.56 (1. unsuccessful learners in this study did not believe lack of ability was the reason for their failing grade.s.

partial η2 = .35.63. partial η2 = .02 (1.45) Low selfefficacy M (SD) 6. 176) = 2.29 (1. September 2010.63. p < . p < .93 0. Wilks’s λ = .81) 7. F(1.39.05 p < . Results suggest that learners with higher self-efficacy tended to view test outcomes as a result of something about them and thus indicated having more confidence to perform well in the EFL class.13 Significance p < .001 n. Having such a belief could possibly lead to learned helplessness. F(1.74 (1.75. 184) = 9. than those with higher self-efficacy (see Table 5 for means and standard deviations).90. Learners with higher self-efficacy tended to attribute test outcomes more strongly to internal control factors. p < . p < . Interaction Effects Further analysis (2 × 2 MANOVA) demonstrated a significant interaction between successful or unsuccessful language achievement groups and high or low self-efficacy levels.12.37) Difference between two groups 0.39.10 (1. F(1.35 9. 184) = 12.36 Attribution Internal External Personal Stable F 5.s.01. MSe = 28.64 (1. thus creating an inability to foresee positive future outcomes and leading to low expectations of future success. 184) = 5. MSe = 34. learners with lower self-efficacy tended to attribute test outcomes more strongly to external factors.59 (1.01 p < .Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief Table 5 Mean (standard deviations) attribution scores for learners with high or low self-efficacy High selfefficacy M (SD) 6.01. learners with lower self-efficacy reported that test outcomes resulted from some external factors beyond their control.001.41. MSe = 10. A follow-up test using the ANOVA indicated that significant interaction effects were only found in personal control factors. partial η2 = . partial η2 = .39 4. 184) = 3.88. F(9.43) 2.05. Conversely.02. Wilks’s λ = . On the other hand. partial η2 = .05. pp. F(9.58) 3.12. F(1.12 12. 176) = 2.06. 606–627 .38 (1.69.03. among learners who perceived the test outcome as unsuccessful.87) 5. Attributions of Learners with High and Low Self-Efficacy Results of the MANOVA indicated that learners with different levels of selfefficacy endorsed attributions differently. those who reported having higher 619 Language Learning 60:3. learners in this study have demonstrated healthy attributions for their learning outcomes.01. p <. MSe = 11. p < .71) 6. and personal control factors.22 (1. partial η2 = .54) 5.41. Specifically. than those with lower selfefficacy.05.54 0.85 0.12.

s.95) 6.07. no significant interaction effects were found for successful learners. pp. The pattern of the interaction is shown in Figure 1.5 6 5. On the other hand. indicating that these learners had a high sense of personal control over the learning outcome regardless of their self-efficacy level. 7. This is worth noting because whether a person attributes failure to controllable or uncontrollable factors will likely influence the person’s future behaviors. September 2010.07 (1. learners with different levels of self-efficacy had different perceptions of personal control over the learning outcome.36) Low selfefficacy M (SD) 5. Whereas unsuccessful learners with high selfefficacy reported high levels of personal control over the learning outcome.5 Personal Control 7 6.43 0. SD = 1.95).66) than those who reported lower self-efficacy (M = 5.64.18) Difference between two groups 1. SD = 1. see Table 6.96 (1.5 5 Low Self-Efficacy High Self-Efficacy Unsuccessful Successful Figure 1 Mean personal control scores for successful and unsuccessful students with high or low self-efficacy.66) 7.83 Significance p < . self-efficacy assumed greater personal control for the learning outcome (M = 7. 606–627 620 . unsuccessful learners with low self-efficacy tended to believe they had little control over the failure.74 1.Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief Table 6 Mean (standard deviations) personal control attribution scores for learners with high or low self-efficacy High Selfefficacy M (SD) 7.64 (1.41 Group Unsuccessful Successful F 3. Although perceptions of achievement levels may be similarly low (as in this case when learners see themselves as being unsuccessful).05 n.37 (1. Although it is promising to see that unsuccessful Korean EFL learners who had higher self-efficacy took responsibility for their Language Learning 60:3.

1986. Our results support the important role that both self-efficacy and attribution play in language achievement. in turn. The positive correlation between self-efficacy and language achievement found in this study should not discount the potential importance of foreign language learners’ attributions. and pull away from future tasks. Discussion The primary goal of this study was to investigate how Korean EFL learners attribute successes and failures in their language classes. they tend to put in more effort and persist in the face of challenges (Weiner. When students feel in control of the learning situation. 1993). this study has identified that successful academic outcomes are also significantly related to feelings of personal control over the learning task. September 2010. & Seligman. 2000). self-efficacy. Schunk & Zimmerman. develop low expectations for future success. 2006). which can then lead to lower achievement and motivation (Bandura.Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief perceived low achievement. Schunk. This study also reveals that successful English language learners tend to ascribe their success to internal and personal factors more than unsuccessful learners. higher self-efficacy learners attributed low scores to factors under 621 Language Learning 60:3. Whereas learners with lower self-efficacy tended to attribute test results more to external factors and felt they had less personal control for poor outcomes. in which British students explained their successes in learning French by external factors. 606–627 . those with low self-efficacy may feel discouraged.. 1984). pp. we are able to pinpoint the exact attribution learners endorsed for their achievement. On the other hand.g. As Bandura (1997) stated. Successful learners more strongly endorsed ability and effort attributions for their test outcomes than did unsuccessful learners. Although many researchers suggest that self-efficacy alone is predictive of academic success (e. Bandura. to validate self-efficacy as they experience success (Schunk & Pajares. students who attribute negative outcomes to uncontrollable factors like lack of ability or teacher bias (some examples of maladaptive attributions) may develop learned helplessness (Peterson. This study stresses the importance of the identification and alteration of learners’ unhealthy attributions. contrary to the findings of Williams and Burden (1999). 1986b. Students who have high self-efficacy tend to have positive outcome expectations and. which complements Schunk and Pajares’s (2005) findings. and achievement are related. 1986b. 2005). expectations of success. Licht & Kistner. which may lead to low self-efficacy and low motivation. Maier. We examined how well self-efficacy and attributions would predict learners’ achievement levels in authentic EFL classes. Using the LAAS.

motivation. inadequate preparation. Foreign language teachers should identify students’ unhealthy attributions. As attributions and self-efficacy are strongly related to future effort. These attributions can discourage the investment of time and effort. Thus. Foreign language teachers can help students develop a sense of efficacy through attribution retraining. they might be able to attain future language success. As Horwitz (1988) has reported. 2006. Language Learning 60:3. Attributing failure to factors within learners’ personal control. 606–627 622 . 2000). and behaviors. not just focus on learners’ performance. Although the study only looked at Korean English language learners. such as believing that they have no volitional control over future learning outcomes. leading to learned helplessness and poor future test performance (Bandura. the assessment of students’ beliefs and reasons for success and failure should be carried out for all students. pp. it can be suggested that by helping students develop awareness of their own cognition. 2000). many language learners make presumptions of who can succeed in language learning based on their previous learning experiences and cultural backgrounds. can lead to higher expectations of success if study habits are changed. Results of the findings give precedence to the importance of teachers’ roles in monitoring students’ beliefs. This relationship is important in the field of foreign language because beliefs about personal and external locus of causality are closely related to a student’s sense of his or her ability to learn a foreign language. September 2010. which may lead to higher expectations of future successes and achievement (Horner & Gaither. or misuse of strategies. Through this study. 1986b. which would involve specific teacher feedback confirming learners’ adequate abilities and emphasizing the effort and perseverance required to complete a given task successfully. This type of adaptive attribution should be taught so that learners take responsibility for their learning outcomes. 2004. healthy attributions for success or failure.Hsieh and Kang Korean EFL Learners’ Belief their control. foreign language teachers should pay special attention to learners’ cognitive beliefs. Weiner. persistence. Robertson. Educators and administrators who work closely with language learners need to understand how they can help learners develop a strong sense of self-efficacy and make appropriate. Schunk & Zimmerman. and expectations of future success. The interrelationship between attribution and self-efficacy is clearly demonstrated in this study. such as lack of effort. learners will be more likely to invest effort in future tasks perceived as worthwhile. motivation. and these beliefs can influence their ultimate performance. It is promising to know that high self-efficacy learners take responsibility for their failures.

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