Firmin, M., Hwang, C., Copella, M., & Clark, S. (2004). Learned Helplessness: The Effect of Failure on Test-Taking. Education, 124(4), 688 – 693.
Firmin, Hwang, Copella and Clark’s research study focuses on testing the strength of the student against his or her “learned helplessness.” This phenomenon includes the following: Contingency, which addresses the uncontrollability or stability of the situation, and Cognition refers to the various attributes that individuals display in reaction to their environment.
Having prior research studies regarding learned helplessness in motherhood (Kashdan et al. 2000) and boys with ADHD (Milich and Okazaki 1991), Firmin et al. were able to assemble an exam comprised of “easy” and “difficult” questions to be administered in the form of an exam to college students. The goal of the study assesses the students’ degree of frustration during test failure and how frustration triggers learned helplessness within the constraints of an exam. To what extent does a failure experience in the early part of a test influence or elicit helplessness within a student?
Participants included students from two psychology classes from a private Midwestern university. The majority of participants are Caucasian and between the ages of 17 and 20. Each individual was administered an exam ensuring anonymity among scores and responses. A research edition of the Shiley Cognitive Scales was utilized in this experiment with a total of 88 questions in three sections: Vocabulary, Abstraction, and Block Patterns.
The vocabulary portion included 50 words in which the participant was asked to identify a synonym to an original word. The Abstraction section included 24 self-generated responses that completed the appropriate sequence of words, numbers or letters. The final part of the exam, Block Patterns, asked students to choose the most appropriate pattern to fit the rest. Students were split into two groups: one group...
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