Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Bonnie Konopak


The purpose of the present study was to examine: (a) teachers' notions about their students, (b) students' notions about themselves and learning, and (c) important factors that characterize, and possibly influence, these notions. The investigation was based on attribution theory, which proposes a framework for ascribing causes of a person's behavior, given that person's belief system. In this study, five notions, or attributions, were specified: attachment, concern, satisfied, indifferent, and rejection, and were expressed in three forms: oral, written, and behavioral. Subjects included three sixth-grade science teachers, three eighth-grade science teachers, and one science class from each teacher's schedule. For each class, data was collected over eight days. First, the researcher recorded the number of hints given to students during the daily lessons. Following, the teacher was asked: (a) to assign each student to one of the five attribute groups, and (b) to complete a demographic information form. In addition, the students were asked: (a) to assign themselves to attribute groups, and (b) to indicate their beliefs about science learning; further, demographic information was collected both from the students and their school records. The data were analyzed using parametric and non-parametric statistics. First, results showed no statistically significant differences on number of hints given by grade or attribute group, indicating a lack of differential instruction according to these two factors. Second, statistically significant results were found for match between teacher assignments and student assignments by attribute group; the attachment group had significantly fewer matches than did the concern and satisfied groups, indicating differences in teacher attitude toward these groups. Third, statistically significant differences among teacher-assigned groups were found for the demographic variables of gender, race, and socioeconomic status, although no statistically significant results were found among student-assigned groups. Finally, statistically significant differences were found among both teacher-assigned and student-assigned groups according to student beliefs about learning. The findings for demographic variables and beliefs about learning indicate that there are important, but different, factors that characterize and influence teachers' attributions toward their students and students' attributions toward themselves. Such findings have important implications for teacher instruction and student learning in the classroom.