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Attribution and motivation: a cultural study among native and Chinese Indonesian university students

posted on 14.02.2017, 00:30 authored by Sutantoputri, Novita Widiawati
This study explores the relationships between cultural factors (ethnicity, religiosity, and gender) and attribution or the way students perceive the causes of their academic success and failure, along with motivational goals, learned helplessness, self-efficacy, intelligence beliefs, and academic performance in the Indonesian university context. Racial/ethnic identity measurement had three dimensions: private regard, ethnic importance, and social embeddedness; Religiosity had two dimensions: religious behaviour and intrinsic religiosity. Attribution was further differentiated into locus of control, stability, personal control and external control dimensions. A total of 1,006 university students from three public universities and two private universities participated. Both public and private universities were necessarily included as in the Indonesian context the race issue permeates educational settings with mostly Native Indonesian students at public universities and Chinese Indonesian students at private universities. Data were obtained from two time-points: first was for the student surveys which were collected after students’ mid-term tests, along with self-reported mid-term test scores. The second time-point was for students’ final test and grade point average scores at the end of the academic term, collected from each university’s administration. Students’ attributions were hypothesized to predict their motivational goals (learning, performance approach, performance avoidance, and work avoidance), which were hypothesized to subsequently predict academic performance (final test score and grade point average), over and above the effects of prior mid-term performance. However, neither locus of control, personal, nor external control attributions predicted any of the motivational goals; only stability attributions predicted to learning goals. Students’ stability attribution for success also predicted learning goals, and their stability attributions for failure predicted performance approach goals. A new profile approach was implemented to identify learned helpless students, as the existing measurement of learned helplessness was found to be inadequate. Controllability emerged as an important factor for learned helpless students, who perceived low personal control and high external control over the causes of their academic success and failure. Intelligence beliefs, whether entity or incremental, showed no significant predictions to motivational goals; but, self-efficacy did. Students who had high self-efficacy beliefs were more likely to hold learning goals, performance approach goals, and performance avoidance goals, and less likely to hold work avoidance goals. Learning goals predicted students’ final test scores, whereas performance approach goals predicted grade point average scores. Intrinsic religiosity predicted learning goals, performance approach goals, and work avoidance goals; ethnic importance predicted performance approach goals. A multiple goals approach was engaged to add more knowledge to the Indonesian university students’ motivation. Based on the multiple goals approach, four clusters of students holding different goal profiles were educed: high learning/low performance-work avoidance, high work avoidance/low learning-performance, high motivational goals, and high learning-performance/low work avoidance. The approach showed that multiple goals co-existed and that high learning/low performance-work avoidance students had the highest final test scores, while high work avoidance/low learning-performance students had the lowest. Gender differences occurred on work avoidance goals, on which men scored higher. Ethnic differences occurred on intrinsic religiosity, on which Native Indonesian participants scored higher. Religion differences occurred on both religious behaviour and intrinsic religiosity; Christian participants had highest scores on religious behaviour, and Hindu participants had highest intrinsic religiosity. This study adds more knowledge to the study of attribution and motivational goals in the Indonesian context. For example, students with high self-efficacy can hold a performance avoidance goal, interpreted in terms of certain cultural values in the Indonesian context such as not wanting to lose face. Also, religiosity and racial/ethnic identity predicted motivational goals. Cultural differences within the Eastern cultures need to be considered when applying, interpreting, and discussing theories and scales developed in the Western.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Helen Watt

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Monash University. Faculty of Education. Education


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education