What is your students’ “Locus of control”?

Nilesh Shinde and Prafullachandra Joshi

The day after the semester results, I asked the 10th standard students the reasons behind their satisfactory or unsatisfactory performance. Their responses fell into two distinct categories. Responses in the first category included, “I was successful because of my hard work,” or “I failed because I did not put in my best.” Responses in the second category included, “I did well in the exam because of my good luck,” or “I got a bad percentage because the teacher who corrected my answer paper is against me.”

These responses can be classified on the basis of the students’ personality dimension called Locus of Control (LOC).

Julian Rotter, an American psychologist, developed the personality dimension called “Locus of Control” in the 1950s. Locus of control (LOC)is defined as an individual’s perception about the underlying main causes of the various events that take place in their lives. It measures the extent to which individuals believe their lives are controlled by their own self or external factors. According to Julian Rotter, an individual can be classified as having either Internal Locus of Control (I- LOC/Internals) or External Locus of Control (E-LOC/Externals). I-LOC individuals believe that they can control their life events, because their behaviour is determined by their internal factors like hard work, decision-making, problem solving skills, efforts, persuasion, etc. So, the first category of responses mentioned in the first paragraph are of those individuals who have I-LOC. E-LOC individuals believe that their behaviour is the result of external factors like luck, fate, chance, and the people around them. The second category of responses mentioned in the earlier paragraph is of E-LOC individuals.

Although psychologists have studied the LOC in various populations, this article emphasizes the role of LOC in school children. LOC has a significant impact on students’ lives, as their decisions/choices related to academic performance, classroom behaviours, career development, interpersonal relationships, health, and sexual behaviours, etc., are affected by it.

group Internals and Externals evaluate successes/failures differently. Internals consider themselves responsible for both success and failure. They believe that their own efforts and ability will bring the desired outcome. Externals consider outside factors responsible for their successes/failures. Since I-LOC students hold the internal factors responsible for their success/failure, they become more self-reliant in achieving their goal and are better at problem solving, as they believe in their ability to solve the problem. On the contrary, E-LOC students depend on external factors. This creates less scope for them to be more aware of their own skills, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. This can limit their further improvement.

Research has indicated that there is a positive relationship between E- LOC and superstitious beliefs. This shows the tendency of such individuals to view life as uncontrollable and difficult to cope with, and therefore they hold on to superstitious beliefs. Since the student stage is comparatively an easy time to learn, unlearn, and relearn things, enhancing their I-LOC can help them get rid of their superstitious beliefs. Students will develop a scientific temper, which will guide them in their life during school and beyond.

LOC also has implications for adults working with students, like teachers, administrators, management officials, caretakers, etc. If the people around them have I-LOC, it will help students improve themselves. Research has indicated that in the case of classroom management, teachers with a strong I-LOC generally believe that students are responsible for their behaviour and in their ability to correct such behaviour themselves. Therefore, such teachers will put in more efforts to help students succeed in changing a certain kind of behaviour. Teachers with E-LOC may believe that the students’ misbehaviour is because of external factors like the large number of students in class, school management policies, etc. These teachers may rely more heavily on outside reinforcers to bring about changes.

We can help students develop I-LOC by making them realize that they possess the capacity and skill to improve themselves. They can achieve this by taking more and more responsibility of their life events. We can help them become more aware of their strengths and provide them with the necessary support system to overcome shortcomings.

In the school, if special attention is given to the dynamics of this personality dimension, it will help students, teachers, and the school management officials to create a climate in which all will be highly achievement oriented and constantly improving skills to make the school a better place.

So, let’s ask ourselves………….
What is my students’ “Locus of Control”?

Cultivating I-LOC

Teachers can help students develop I-LOC using some of the following strategies.

  1. Developing attribution pattern: Teachers should be careful while evaluating students’ performances. They should attribute students’ achievements/success to their stable factors like intelligence, aptitude, abilities, etc., and the failures to unstable or temporary factors like lack of hard work, negative attitude, lack of confidence, etc. This will help students realize that they possess the necessary abilities to improve their performance and that their failures were because of temporary factors, which they can control.
  2. Building optimism: Teachers are a great influence on many students and they can use this influence to negate the pessimistic attitude that a student may develop due to factors like a socially disadvantaged background, lack of a role model, lack of support, etc. Teachers can encourage students in whatever abilities they possess and build in students an optimistic attitude.
  3. Analyzing the strengths: Each child has a special ability that may be different from another child. Teachers have to observe and analyze the strengths, which may not necessarily be academic in nature, in each child and help children become aware of their strengths. Knowing their strengths will build their self-image and this confidence will lead to the children performing well in areas that are not their forte.
  4. Setting challenging goals: Teachers should now and then set challenging goals for students to achieve. These goals should neither be too easy or too difficult to achieve. Such goals will help develop motivation and the skills to achieve even bigger goals in students.
  5. Building a support system: Teachers should work persistently toward making the ‘school’ a system/place, which is perceived by every student as approachable, welcoming, and nonthreatening.

Nilesh Shinde is the Consultant School Psychologist at Powai English High School, Mumbai. He can be reached at nileshmshinde23@rediffmail.com.

Prafullachandra Joshi is the Administrator at Powai English High School, Mumbai. He can be reached at prafullachandrajoshi@gmail.coml.

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