The Causal Attributions that Students make for Teacher Behaviour: An Exploratory Study

  • Julie Basnett

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis investigates the causal attributions that students make for teacher behaviour towards them, with the focus being on behaviour likely to be considered "negative." The term "causal attributions" refers to the causes that people give for the behaviour of others (and themselves). Causal attributions impact on emotions and behaviour and, as a consequence, can have a powerful influence upon individuals and those with whom they live and work. Attribution theory was prominent within the 1980s, although originated before this time. Despite this, interest in attribution theory has endured and the theory continues to be applied in research from a range of different disciplines. Although earlier studies have investigated causal attributions within schools, these have often focused upon the causal attributions of teachers. Few studies have focused upon the causal attributions of students and a limited number have focused upon the causal attributions that students make for teacher behaviour. Following an extensive literature review, no studies were found which investigated the relevance of Weiner's models (e.g., Weiner 1995; 2006; 2010) to student causal attributions for "negative" teacher behaviour towards them, including the impact upon the students' emotions and the level of responsibility assigned to teachers as a result of the behaviour.Participants comprised over three hundred Year 10 students from three secondary schools within a north-west local authority who completed a questionnaire containing a scenario and both open-ended questions and those which require scaling of responses. Following this, a follow-up study was designed and this was piloted with a further eight Y10 students to gain their experiences and views of completing the questionnaire.The results of the research suggested that, overall, students attributed the "negative" teacher behaviour to external influences (mainly "stress") and that, on the whole, they would feel "anger" as a result of the behaviour. The results do not fully support the tenets of attribution theory in general, nor those of Weiner in particular. However, based on the results of the research presented in this thesis, potential extensions to Weiner's theories and models are proposed and methodological issues relating to exploring attributions are discussed, as are suggestions for future research.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPeter Farrell (Supervisor) & Caroline Bond (Supervisor)


  • causal attribution; attribution; behaviour; students; teacher

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