The Economics Network

Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

Students’ Explanatory Styles, Study Performance and Engagement

An Economics Network funded project, 2010-11

Institution: Newcastle University
Project leader: Dr Bartosz T. Gebka

The project aims to empirically establish whether students' explanatory style (i.e., how individuals react to positive and negative events) explains their performance in the end-of-year exams following an unexpectedly good (poor) mark in one mid-term exam. Most of the existing studies suggest that pessimistic students are systematically underperforming and more likely to drop out, as compared to their more optimistic peers. Furthermore, pessimists react to disappointing events with a deterioration in subsequent performance. Should it be found that explanatory style influences academic performance and students' reactions to low marks, a strategy to deal with this finding should be considered. Existing methods of teaching and assessment could be reviewed with respect to how they can strengthen optimism in students, and students' awareness of their explanatory style and how to change it could be raised.