Robert Marzano (2003), in his meta-analysis of research on motivation, identifies five lines of research that explain our motivation to learn. One of these is attribution theory, which focuses on what students perceive to be the cause of their success or failure, such as ability, effort, luck, task difficulty, and so on. Of these, Marzano (2003) concludes
Effort is the most useful because a strong belief in effort as a cause of success can translate into a willingness to engage in complex texts and persist over time. (p. 146)
We all know children and adults who attribute their failures and their successes to something or someone outside themselves. We have all heard people say things like, "The teacher doesn't like me," "She told us to study the wrong things," "No one in our family is good at math," "I got lucky," "The boss has it in for me because I'm a woman," or "The dog ate my homework!"