Publication Details

Lawson, R. J. (2011). Concepts of ability and their effect on approaches to learning and motivational orientation. International Review of Social Sciences and Humanities, 1 (1), 30-46.


There are a wide variety of experiences, psychological attributes, beliefs, prior knowledge and skills that students enter a learning situation with, that have been acknowledged (Biggs, 1999). They also enter with a range of expectations about their learning (Prosser and Trigwell, 1999). For example, the value that students' place on the learning experience will have an impact on their motivational orientation during their learning (James, 1892). Their selfefficacy will also affect their learning behaviours, with low self-esteem and motivation leading to lack of effort and persistence (Bandura, 1986). The concept of ability (whether it is fixed or changeable), is a belief that has been shown to impact on a learner's behaviour through persistence, effort, and motivation (Dweck, 1999), but no work had been conducted about the effect concepts of ability have on students' approaches to learning. This study explores the relationships between HE students' concepts of ability and motivational orientation, examining whether these factors are related to the approach students take to their learning. It then goes on to explore whether concepts of ability can be influenced by the approach taken to teaching. The implications for educators are discussed in the light of the findings.