EFFECTS OF NOVELTY AND EFFORT ON TEACHERS' SENSITIVITY TO RELEVANCE OF INFORMATION IN ATTRIBUTING CAUSES FOR STUDENT FAILURE (ATTENTIVENESS, IRRELEVANT)

LUCILE LICHTBLAU, Fordham University

Abstract

According to past research, high effort and novelty enhanced subjects' attentiveness to the relevance of information. Accordingly, the present study investigated the effect of these variables on teachers' sensitivity to information in attributing causes for student failure. In one phase of the study, four school principals gave high or low effort messages to their respective teaching faculties (N = 93). Half of the teachers then received a vignette containing relevant information about a student who had failed; half received irrelevant information concerning the student's failure. In another phase of the study, 64 teachers, graduate students in special education, received a vignette containing relevant or irrelevant information about a student who had failed, written in either a novel or familiar prose style. In both phases of the study the teachers were asked to attribute the student's failure to a specific cause or to select a non-causal ("don't know") response. It was hypothesized that "high effort" and "novel" teachers as opposed to "low effort" and "familiar" teachers, given irrelevant information, would reject the data as meaningless and select the non-causal response and that teachers in all conditions, given relevant information, would use this information appropriately to select the correct causal attribution. Contrary to prediction, neither high effort nor novelty improved the teachers' ability to reject irrelevant data, however, teachers in all conditions given relevant information tended to use it as predicted. The majority of teachers, given irrelevant data attributed student failure, erroneously, to emotional problems. It was concluded that the teachers recognized relevant information when they saw it but that they did not know the components of relevance (consistency, distinctiveness, consensus) well enough to realize that irrelevant data lacked these essential features. Teachers who did reject irrelevant information taught higher rather than lower grades or a variety of grades rather than a single grade level. Recommendations included future research to investigate this latter finding, the need to teach the components of relevance to teachers, and the need to caution teachers against attributing failure to emotional factors in the absence of relevant data. ^

Subject Area

Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

LICHTBLAU, LUCILE, "EFFECTS OF NOVELTY AND EFFORT ON TEACHERS' SENSITIVITY TO RELEVANCE OF INFORMATION IN ATTRIBUTING CAUSES FOR STUDENT FAILURE (ATTENTIVENESS, IRRELEVANT)" (1985). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8600091.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8600091

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