Why Am I Working Hard? Students’ Perceptions of Effort Source Influence Self-Evaluations of Ability
Katherine Muenks

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Maryland

Primary Discipline

Students’ self-evaluations of ability have important implications for their motivation and achievement in school, and students often use information about effort to form these evaluations. It is therefore important to examine what factors may influence the way students reason about the relation between effort and ability (i.e., whether they believe that high effort indicates low ability or high ability). Although motivation researchers have found ample evidence that students’ ability conceptions influence their reasoning about the relation between levels of effort and ability, few studies have examined whether student’s perceptions of the source of one’s effort (i.e., whether it is perceived as elicited by the demands of the task or initiated by one’s own motivation) may also play a role. In two experimental studies, one that will utilize a vignette methodology and the other that will occur while students complete an actual task, I will manipulate undergraduate participants’ perceptions of the source of their own effort and the level of their effort as compared to a hypothetical other. Participants will then evaluate their own ability as compared to the other individual. I expect that students who are provided with task-elicited effort cues will endorse an inverse relation between levels of effort and ability, while students who are provided with self-initiated effort cues will endorse a positive relation. Results from these studies could help researchers gain a more complete understanding of how students’ motivationally important ability evaluations are formed, and thus, promote interventions designed to increase the accuracy of these evaluations.
About Katherine Muenks
Katherine Muenks is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology at the University of Maryland, College Park, specializing in Educational Psychology. Her research focuses on aspects of students’ achievement motivation, for which she has utilized experimental, survey-based, and observational methods. She is specifically interested in students’ beliefs about their own effort and ability in school-related contexts, as well as how parents’ beliefs about their children’s effort and ability influence parent-child interactions during academic tasks. In her dissertation, she is examining whether students’ perceptions of the source of their effort influence their self-evaluations of ability. Katherine holds a B.S. in Psychology from The Ohio State University.

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