Understanding of Attribution and Motivation Among Ethnicity?

What is Ethnicity? Meaning of Ethnicity “The fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition.” Some about of Ethnic; Relating to a population subgroup (within a larger or dominant national or cultural group) with a common national or cultural tradition. Relating to national and cultural origins. Denoting origin by birth or descent rather than by present nationality. Characteristic of or belonging to a non-Western cultural tradition.

An ethnic group or ethnicity is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities, such as common ancestral, language, social, cultural or national experiences. Unlike other social groups (wealth, age, hobbies), ethnicity is often an inherited status based on the society in which one lives. In some cases, it can be adopted if a person moves into another society. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be defined by a shared cultural heritage, ancestry, origin myth, history, homeland, language or dialect, symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, art, and physical appearance.

Ethnic groups, derived from the same historical founder population, often continue to speak related languages and share a similar gene pool. By way of language shift, acculturation, adoption and religious conversion, it is sometimes possible for individuals or groups to leave one ethnic group and become part of another (except for ethnic groups emphasizing racial purity as a key membership criterion).

Ethnicity is often used synonymously with ambiguous terms such as nation or people. In English, it can also have the connotation of something exotic (cf. “White ethnic”, “ethnic restaurant”, etc.), generally related to cultures of more recent immigrants, who arrived after the founding population of an area was established.

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Now reading – Attribution and Motivation Among Ethnicity; Do attributional explanations for success and failure act as an important motivational force in different ethnic groups? According to Graham (1989,1994), because attributional theory considers the role of thought in determining behavior, it is particularly fruitful in examining motivation in different cultures and ethnic groups.

Beliefs About Effort and Ability

Are attributional belief patterns similar among different ethnic groups? A comparison of poor African-American, Hispanic, Indo-Chinese, and White fifth- and sixth-grade students found similar attribution patterns for all groups (Bempechat, Nakkula, Wu, & Ginsberg, 1996). All groups rated ability as the most important factor for success in math. In a subsequent study comparing African-American, Hispanic, Indo-Chinese, and White fifthand sixth-graders, Bempechat, Graham, and Jimenez (1999) found cultural similarities as well as cultural specifics. For all ethnic groups, failure was attributed to lack of ability and success to external factors. In contrast, Indo-Chinese students had stronger beliefs that failure was due to lack of effort. Attribution for failure due to lack of ability is a problem for all students because it is believed to be uncontrollable.

Graham (1984) compared middle- and low-SES African-American and White students on attributions for failure following a problem-solving task. The middle-class children in both ethnic groups were more likely to attribute failure to lack of effort and maintained consistently higher expectancies for success after experiencing failure. For both groups, this is indicative of an adaptive attributional pattern following failure, similar to that found in research by Diener and Dweck (1978). The findings of this research are important because they demonstrate the positive motivation pattern of African-American students—a pattern that has received little attention.

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Stevenson and Lee (1990) compared beliefs of American and Asian students concerning the role of effort and ability for success in mathematics. They asked mothers in Minnesota, Japan, and Taiwan to assign 10 points among ability, effort, task difficulty, and luck to rank their importance in academic success and school performance. All the mothers assigned the points in the same rank order: (1) effort, (2) ability, (3) task, and (4) luck. American mothers scored ability and effort as about equal. In contrast, Taiwanese and Japanese mothers assigned effort a higher value than ability. Peak (1993) noted that, in Japanese elementary schools, ability is rarely mentioned, whereas effort is consistently portrayed as key to success. In contrast, in the United States, students who try very hard are often labeled nerd or grind.

These perceptions of effort and ability take on increased importance when homework is considered in the context of effort. Japanese and Chinese students spend at least twice the amount of time and effort on homework than do American students (Stevenson & Lee, 1990). American teachers assign less and consider it less valuable. Peak (1993) pointed out that homework reflects teachers’ beliefs on whether extra practice makes a difference and whether students are willing to engage in extra effort on behalf of their studies. American parents do not appear to consider good study habits as critical to academic success as do Asian parents.

Implications for Teachers

What can teachers draw from the attributional beliefs among different ethnic groups in terms of classroom practice? The important issue is to understand the motivational processes, such as attribution, operating within a particular ethnic group (Bempechat et al., 1996; Graham, 1994). When similarities are found across ethnic groups, educational interventions do not necessarily have to be targeted to children differentially based on their ethnic group membership.

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Graham (1989) emphasized the importance of teacher feedback in influencing concepts of ability and expectations of minority, low-SES students. Recall the previous discussion of indirect attributional cues. It is important to be aware of feedback that may indirectly convey to students that they have low ability. Graham (1994) suggested that in view of the number of African- American children in negative educational situations, it is especially important to be sensitive to how minorities feel, think, and act in response to non-attainment of goals.


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