Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Wenfan Yan

Second Advisor

Patricia Krueger-Henney

Third Advisor

Brian J. Daniels


The phenomenon of learned helplessness is the state in which an individual no longer views their outcomes as contingent upon their effort in response to previous failure outcomes and stressful events which were out of their control. Learned helplessness symptoms are often observed amongst students who experience other challenges simultaneously, such as low academic achievement, emotional disability (ED) diagnosis, and/or low-socioeconomic status (low-SES). The existing LH research focuses on identification, labeling, and offering interventions, such as learned optimism (LO) and attribution retraining. The lack of qualitative data, specifically student input, is a gap in the current body of research that is possibly preventing a more comprehensive understanding of LH, critical insights into the experience of the phenomenon, and more comprehensive interventions. The purpose of this study is to begin to fill this gap by incorporating qualitative data involving student input into the conversation around LH. This mixed-methods approach first inquired about the correlations between LH and causal/resulting factors. Statistical significance was found between attribution styles and certain correlating factors across all three life realms (academic, personal relationships, and extra-curricular activities) and composite scores. Interviews were also conducted to promote student voice and help explain the quantitative findings. The data were integrated and discussed. Educators and educational researchers can incorporate the results of this work to create actionable steps to support struggling LH students to gain a sense of control over their own academic outcomes.