V. Thielker, M. Kwok,

and M. Senisais

Although contemporary schooling promotes graduates who are capable of participating thoughtfully in society, educational practices have a tendency to foster passivity. In traditional classrooms, the teacher is seen as the information giver; knowledge flows one way, from teacher to student. This type of environment may have an adverse affect on some students, increasing their likelihood to become disengaged from the learning process. Therefore, education can benefit from helping students take more control of their learning.

Students with an external locus of control may be more affected by positive reinforcement than students with an internal locus of control.

Research suggests that self-competence (Brookover et al., 1964) and evaluations from significant others (Hancock, 2000) positively influence the way in which students perform.



Materials Procedure
A 2 x 2 independent groups ANOVA was used to determine if locus of control (internal or external) and reinforcement administered to participants (positive or no reinforcement) was significantly related to the number of items correct. While not significant, these results indicate a tendency for the data to move in the hypothesized direction; however, this research needs to be replicated in order to further explore this relationship.


Figure 1. Mean number of items correct (+SE) for internal (n=30) and external (n=30) groups in positive reinforcement and no reinforcement conditions.

Table 1

Mean Number of Items Correct in Reinforcement Conditions


Locus of Control Mean Standard Deviation Sample Size



Positive Reinforcement 30.29 8.30 14

No Reinforcement 31.13 11.99 16


Positive Reinforcement 35.83 8.25 21

No Reinforcement 29.83 8.53 9



The hypothesis, that students with an external locus of control are more likely to be affected by positive reinforcement than students with an internal locus of control, was not supported by the data. Our mean values showed no significant difference. Methodological difficulties such as the administration of positive reinforcement, using a small sample size, selection and length of task given to participants may have affected the results. Future studies may carry implications for academic success. In receiving consistent positive reinforcement from educators, students may build self-competence and, in doing so, subvert the tendency to develop an external locus of control.