Teaching for Success: How we can Increase Students’ Internal Locus of Control to Address Anxiety and the Behaviours that get them Fired

Why it matters:

Dr. Dreher connects the high levels of anxiety to external locus of control feeling like the outcomes of their lives are decided and controlled by others. Separately documented yet deeply connected the top fireable behaviours identified by Entrepreneur.com reflect both expected results of such external locus of control and may even contribute to them. 

What educators can do:

The goal is to build a strong internal locus of control a sense of connection between the decisions and actions we make and the outcomes that happen. 

Sunset water Drop phone by Joe Dyer CC-By (Flickr)

First, Let’s model it

Focus on the factors we can control as educators. While factors we cannot directly control as educators very much do impact our students, so too can what we teach and how we teach it. When challenges come up in the classroom, note the parts we can control. The slide projector stops working – we have laptops and the ability to email slides. The internet is down, we can shift the order of our activities. 

Second, Let’s expect it 

Speak of the what’s next, and ask what they can do. In our first class, I note: Life happens, first be safe then call or email me. I also ask what resources are available on campus as it helps the newer students learn from those who have been on campus for a while. Asking what part of the readings most relates to your project? What’s your next step on the project this week? Who could you do an informational interview with to learn more? 

Third, Let’s reward it

One of the ways to change mindset is to change patterns behavior. Rewarding indicates which behaviors to increase. We shape behavior; constantly reinforcing what has been learned prior or disrupting it. I have my students write a scope proposal (what will look at, time estimates), then an update, then a draft, then and a final version with a note indicating what they changed.  The assignments intentionally build so that early decisions and feedback inform later stages. Their decisions matter! How and if they respond to feedback matters! It also helps identify common issues early like too large a question, leaving the literature review to last minute. It has them identify their challenges in the updates and a revised timeline, and also the edits they made from the draft to the final version and the areas of the rubric they worked on so I know what to look for (Bonus: saves searching for what has changed!) 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *