Learned Helplessness

Description of the Concept

Students who experience repeated failure in school may come to believe that no matter what they do, they will never learn. They begin to avoid doing their assignments, make little or no effort, and stop trying after only a few attempts. Such students are frustrating to teach because their behavior is difficult to understand, explain, and change. A common explanation is that these students “lack motivation” to learn. The learned helplessness model, developed in the late 1960s by Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman and his colleagues, explains why some students develop a pattern of behaviors that interfere with learning, often labeled as “a lack of motivation.” Seligman defines learned helplessness as the giving up or quitting response—when individuals believe ...

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