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Title: The influence of cultural contexts in learners' attributions for success and failure in foreign language learning
Author: Gonzalez, Ana Sofia M.
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2013
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Attribution theory has deserved increasing attention over the last fifteen years as far as foreign language (FL) learning is concerned. Several studies have been conducted with the purpose of relating students' perceptions of success and failure in FL learning to the students' age, gender, perceived level of success, and language studied. The fact that learners' perceptions of success and failure in foreign language learning can be influenced by their own culture is an idea put forward in the 19805 and that has recently been explored in studies on attribution theory. However, these studies did not involve thorough research of the 'cultures' investigated, being therefore simply based on assumptions about the nations' cultural traits, resulting on scientifically inconsistent findings, mainly due to stereotyping. Considering culture as a set of habits, values and beliefs shared by a group of people and construed by them over time in interaction with each other and the environment surrounding them, leading to similar patterns of behaviour, the purpose of this study is to show how students' cultural characteristics may influence the attributions they present for their successes and failures in learning English as a foreign language. It also attempted to identify differences between the way attributions are classified by learners in relation to their dimensions and the way researchers have classified these attributions, to see whether learners' success and failure attributions differed depending on learners' degree of exposure to other cultures, cultural orientation and age, and if these learners' attributions differed from their teachers'. The study took place in a public and a private university in Luanda, capital of Angola (a West African country), with 366 learners and their English teachers. Learners were involved in three different forms of inquiry: focus groups (conducted to uncover cultural parameters that described learners' culture), questionnaires (aimed at confirming these cultural factors and relate them to attributions for success and failure), and interviews. Data findings were analysed from a social constructivist perspective. A mixed methods approach to data analysis was carried out, starting with a qualitative analysis (through constant comparative analysis and grounded theory), followed by quantitative analysis using principal component analysis ~ (to identify significant factors) and logistic regression (to determine to what extent each factor predicted the occurrence of the attributions mentioned). Results, from all the data gathering methods were brought together. These suggest that the most frequently mentioned attributions and the way these were classified as internal/external. controllable/uncontrollable, stable/changeable by respondents differed from the results presented in previous studies conducted in different cultural contexts. A relationship between some of the attributions mentioned by Angolan learners and characteristics of learners' context was established. This relationship was especially observed in relation to new categories of attributions mentioned, the frequency with which specific attributions were mentioned (especially attributions that were part of initial models of attribution theory), and the lack of difference in attributions mentioned by teachers from the public institution for their learners' successes and failures and these learners' attributions. Implications for teachers and learners are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available