An Attribution-based Motivation Treatment to Assist First-Generation College Students Reframe Academic Setbacks

Dryden et al. / Contemporary Educational Psychology / December 2020

First-generation college students face unique obstacles that can erode their psychological well-being, academic motivation, and educational development during school-to-college transitions. Although research shows attribution-based interventions foster academic attainment among at-risk students, little is known about treatment efficacy for students with socioeconomic risk factors such as first-generation status. In a randomized treatment study, researchers administered attributional retraining (AR) to first- and continuing-generation college students who differed in academic control beliefs in a two-semester introductory psychology course. AR decreased attributions to uncontrollable causes, which negatively predicted final course grade, and also increased academic control beliefs, which positively predicted final course grade. These findings advance motivation intervention research by demonstrating that an AR treatment can have salutary benefits for first-generation students mediated by theory-derived cognitive processes.