Predicting the Use of Self-Handicapping Strategies

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PREDICTING THE USE OF SELF-HANDICAPPING STRATEGIES

Sometimes students engage in behaviors that actually undermine their chances of succeeding academically. For example, they may procrastinate rather than study for an upcoming test, or they may spend time with their friends when they should be doing their homework. These behaviors are called “self-handicapping” because they actually inhibit students’ chances of succeeding. One reason that students may engage in such behaviors is to provide an explanation for their poor academic performance, should it occur. If students fears that they may perform poorly on an academic task, they may not want others to think that the reason for this poor performance is that they lack ability, or intelligence. So some students strategically engage in self-handicapping to provide an alternative explanation for the poor performance. That is why these behaviors are called self-handicapping strategies. Because self-handicapping strategies can undermine academic achievement and may be a sign of academic withdrawal on the part of students, it is important to understand the factors that are associated with the use of these strategies. Self-handicapping represents a concern with not looking academically unable, even if that means perhaps sacrificing performance. Therefore, engaging in self-handicapping behaviors may be related to students’ goals of avoiding appearing academically unable to others. In addition, because self-handicapping may be provoked by performance situations in which students expect to fail, perhaps it occurs more commonly among lower-achieving students, who have a history of poor academic performance. Moreover, it is reasonable to suspect that when students lack confidence in their academic abilities, they will be more likely to use self-handicapping strategies. Finally, there may be gender differences in how concerned high school students are with looking academically unable to others. Therefore, I conducted a...
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