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Individualized Learning

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You don’t often hear locus of control being addressed in discussions about learning and education. But, whether or not a learner has an internal or an external locus of control has a significant impact on both the effectiveness and efficiency of their learning.

Before I get too far into this topic, let’s begin by defining locus of control so you know exactly where I’m coming from on this.

While you can find this worded many different ways, if you look at it simply, a person with an internal locus of control approaches life as if their decisions and choices have led to their current state of being.

On the other hand, a person with an external locus of control believes that their state of being/living is the result of external forces such as other people, luck, or circumstances.

In short, it’s about the role a person believes their choices play in the creation of their lifestyle or situation. From the learning perspective, locus of control is about who is perceived as being in control of the learning experience.

Now that you know the difference between an external locus of control and an internal locus of control, consider this question:

Would your child learn better if everything taking place in the classroom was focused on meeting his or her individual learning needs?

It’s not a trick question. But it’s also not a question that most parents have ever considered. You don’t have to be an expert on learning to think there might be benefits to an individualized approach to learning, right? Yet, truly individualized learning is only going to happen for your child in one of two ways.

  • You hire a private tutor who teaches your child one-on-one.
  • You teach your child to individualize (or take control of) his or her own learning experiences.

Learning is a very personal experience that we need to teach our children to manage for themselves. My 12 year old is now in 7th grade and beginning to do this on his own. But, what he is doing now he has been learning to do since he was around 5 or 6 years old. It wasn’t hard to teach him what he needed to know to do this at all; but it was deliberate—extremely deliberate.

My husband and I taught (and continue to teach) him to operate in a manner that allows him to manage his own learning; independent of what is taking place in the classroom. Here are some suggestions to help your child take responsibility for his/her learning and operate with an internal locus of control.

  1. Even when they are very young be sure to hold your child accountable for their choices and actions. Help them to understand that the outcomes they experience in life are the results of their actions and decisions. Understanding this carries over to the classroom is very important for them.
  2. Encourage them to seek after what they need in order to succeed (information, assistance, and opportunities). So many learners walk out of classrooms knowing they don’t have what they need to successfully complete an assignment or study for an exam. But rather than pursue what they need they allow themselves to be intimidated or feel unworthy of the bit of extra attention they need for success.
  3. Be sure to let them know that missteps happen—but success is found when we recover from our missteps and continue to move forward.

Of course, these suggestions are just a starting point. But, used consistently, they are a great starting point that (once in place) will serve your child for a lifetime.

If you’d like to learn more and determine your locus of control follow this link to do so. Then consider how knowing your locus of control can help you help your child.



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