Motivating Persistence in the Face of Failure

Motivating Persistence in the Face of Failure

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Failure often presents a valuable learning opportunity, however, students may need motivational scaffolds to protect them from the negative psychological ramifications of failure. This work explored the effectiveness of a motivation-based intervention called an ego-protective buffer (EPB), that was designed to enhance persistence after failure. An ego-protective buffer (EPB) maintains a stable sense of competence by lessening the impact of failure on one's psyche. The specific instantiation of an EPB tested here was designed to elicit a combination of internal and external attributions for failure. External attributions protect one's sense of competence by averting the blame for failure away from the self, while internal attributions encourage students to take some responsibility for remedying the failure situation. Based on this theory, we embedded an EPB into the rule structure of a computer-based genetics game and unleashed it on 143 seventh graders. In the EPB condition, students were told that winning in the game was a probabilistic outcome, dependent on a combination of chance and skill on the part of the students. In the Control condition, students were told that winning in the game was a deterministic outcome, dependent on students' skill only. Students played the game during two class periods. Measures include pre- and posttests, motivational survey measures, and in-game behaviors. The EPB did have an effect on learning, but only amongst high-failing students. High-failing EPB students learned just as much as their low-failing counterparts. This was not so in the Control condition, where high-failing students learned far less than their low-failing counterparts. So the high-failing EPB group was behaving as if they were qbufferedq from the effects of failure. We also found evidence of a possible mechanism behind this learning effect. In the high-failing EPB condition, students were equally likely to persist after success and failure, while in the Control condition, students were far more likely to persist after success, exhibiting risk averse behaviors. This difference was more exaggerated in a within-subjects comparison, contrasting the same individuals in situations of high and low failure. Finally, persistence after failure was associated with learning across the full sample of subjects. Regardless of condition or failure rate, students who persisted more after failure also learned more. This study, together with the author's related body of work, provides compelling evidence that an EPB is a viable intervention for encouraging persistence in the face of failure.Twenty-four 5th grade students were pulled from class for individual thinkaloud sessions, while they worked with Bettya#39;s Brain ... The study took place in an hour- long session comprised of three phases: Study, Play, and Revise. During the Study phase, students read a passage about fever mechanisms then built concept maps to organize their knowledge on the topic. ... In the TA group, the agents answered the hosta#39;s questions based on their maps, while in the Self group, the studentsanbsp;...

Title:Motivating Persistence in the Face of Failure
Publisher:Stanford University - 2011


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