Is adolescents’ progress in reading comprehension served by particular attributional views in addition to learning the reading comprehension strategies of reciprocal teaching? A mixed-methods intervention study
A mixed-methods quasi-experimental design was used to identify relationships between adolescent students’ attributions for their reading performance and their reading achievement by gathering baseline data from year 9 and 10 students (n = 175) and then investigating the effects of two stages of intervention on a treatment group (n = 22) and a comparison group (n = 16). The first stage of intervention used the instructional activity of reciprocal teaching to teach students cognitive strategies to improve reading comprehension. The second stage of the intervention combined on-going reciprocal teaching with attributional-retraining, aimed at to developing internal attributions for reading performance; specifically effort-related attributions rather than attributions focussing on ability. A baseline sample (which included the treatment and comparison samples as well as students from the wider year 9 and 10 cohort) completed a questionnaire about their attributions for their reading performance. There was no evidence of the hypothesised correlation between a measure of students’ incremental mindset (internal, unstable and controllable attribution) and standardised measures of reading comprehension. Analysis of the attribution data for the baseline sample showed evidence that internal and external attributions are not, as theorised, two ends of the same continuum, rather they are separate constructs, albeit negatively correlated. The treatment and comparison groups completed a standardised reading comprehension test and the attribution questionnaire at four time points: pre-intervention; between the two stages of intervention; post-intervention; and delayed post-intervention. A sub-sample of six students, representing a spectrum of reading achievement was interviewed to develop a better understanding of the responses provided in the questionnaire. The combined interventions had no significant effect on students’ attributions for their reading performance or on their reading comprehension achievement. Conversely, the first stage of the intervention, reciprocal teaching, did have a significant effect on the treatment group’s reading comprehension achievement immediately following the intervention and the group were observed eagerly participating in the activity with significantly increased engagement. The combined qualitative and quantitative data from the interventions provided evidence about the complexity of adolescents’ attributional beliefs. Students responded with a wide variety of beliefs that did not conform to the theorised pattern of attributional beliefs. The findings raise questions about how students form attributions for their successes and failures, in particular the direction of the causal relationship between achievement and attributional beliefs.