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4/29 Evan Fishman - Academic Motivation: How Teachers Impact Their Students’ Causal Thinking


Evan Fishman

April 29, 2015



Dr. Fishman is a postdoctoral researcher at the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching at Stanford University.  He received his doctorate in educational psychology from Arizona State University.  His research is based in student motivation and he has developed a model called the perceived control of the attribution process that helps resolve discrepancies about the inherent function of attributions.  This line of research has provided important information on how to improve students’ overall academic experience.  Research involving Dr. Fishman’s model has been presented to domestic and international audiences.  Because this model bridges the learning and social contexts of the school setting, it allows for a holistic examination of a students’ experience and reveals practical implications for educators.

Student beliefs are a primary component in predicting academic outcomes.  Despite this, teachers rarely take the time to foster confidence or adaptive beliefs in their students.  What can teachers do to improve their students’ motivation?  Attribution theorists have shown that students engage in causal search following stressful events, such as a failed exam.  Their behavior following this event depends largely on how they attribute the cause of the failure.  What if students felt that it was “up to them” to determine why they failed?  Would they make more adaptive attributions?  I present a model that addresses these issues and demonstrates how teachers can improve student outcomes by emphasizing their potential to control the causal reasoning process. 


CSET Speaker Series: Pondering Excellence in Teaching