This presentation examines attribution theory in relation to the adoption of TEL (technology enhanced learning) by academic staff in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). A staff survey and focus groups at the University of Surrey was designed to establish not only what staff did, or did not do, in relation to TEL, but also their motivations and rationale for particular behaviours. As with many surveys of this type, staff reported a skills deficit as a primary reason for non-engagement with TEL; this did not tally with their experience and technological proficiency as demonstrated by their use of technology in their personal lives. This finding is congruent with studies such as Bennett (2012) which indicate that the provision of skills workshops alone do not impact on the adoption of learning technologies; which one might expect to be the case if a skills deficiency was actually the problem. Therefore, as the self-reported causes were shown to be problematic we set about investigating viable alternative explanations.
Attribution theory is interested in ‘causal explanations given for events by ordinary people’ (Kelley & Michela, 1980, p.460), for instance other peoples’ successes are often ascribed to aptitude rather than effort. Causal attributions play a central role in human behaviour and therefore, are important determinants of [their] interaction with that world’ (ibid). Using focus groups we looked at the causal attributions that staff made in relation to learning technologies; such as, the locus of control, their beliefs as to the stability or instability of perceived barriers to adoption and, whether they were internal or external in nature. For example, by ascribing non-engagement to lack of time, the cause is external, stable, and outside of their control; therefore, in their eyes, it would be hopeless to attempt any innovations. ‘Stable beliefs about the causes of failure are important impediments to motivation, whereas unstable ascriptions for failure result in hope, which facilitates motivation’ (Weiner, 2010, p.35).
The beliefs which underlie causal attributions leading to particular behaviours are wrapped up in issues of self-esteem, control and expectancy. However, by recognising that we are dealing with the effects of emotion and belief, we can direct resources to address some of the fears and misconceptions which are the real source of the invisible barriers to the adoption of TEL. We will also discuss the scaffolding of small scale risk-taking for staff in the innovative development of their practice. Drawn from attribution theory, this approach is expected to lead to an incremental change in causal attributions and thus, behaviour.
Bennett, Elizabeth (2012) Learning from the early adopters: Web 2.0 tools, pedagogic practices and the development of the digital practitioner. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.
Kelley, H.H. & Michela, J.L. (1980) Attribution Theory and Research. Annual Review of Psychology. [Online] 31 (1), 457–501. Available from: doi:10.1146/annurev.ps.31.020180.002325 [Accessed: 27 March 2014].
Weiner, B. (2010) The Development of an Attribution-Based Theory of Motivation: A History of Ideas. Educational Psychologist. [Online] 45 (1), 28–36. Available from: doi:10.1080/00461520903433596 [Accessed: 3 March 2014].
|Affiliation||University of Surrey|