Rae L. Offutt

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching & Learning


An external locus of control has been determined to be detrimental to personal development in the dominant American culture. This study examines what effect participation in learning disability programs over extended time periods has on the internalization of locus of control.

Design of the Study: The subjects of this study were 165 students, 83 learning disabled and 82 normal, from five school districts located in two states in the Upper Midwest. The students were distributed in sixth, ninth, and twelfth grades. The learning disabled students needed to have experienced a minimum number of years (two years for sixth graders, four years for ninth graders, and five years for twelfth graders) in learning disability programs with direct, individualized services to be included in the study. The normal students were matched with the learning disabled for town, school, grade, and sex; and they had never experienced any type of special education. All participants completed the Nowicki-Strickland Locus of Control Scale for Children. Data were statistically treated for significance.

Conclusions: The overall findings in the study were significant and demonstrate a difference in locus of control between learning disabled and normal children. Learning disabled students showed a significant movement toward externality from sixth to ninth grades and another significant shift toward internality as they moved toward twelfth grade. Learning disability students attribute causation of events more often to luck, fate, chance, or significant others (external locus of control), while normal students attribute causation to themselves (internal locus of control).

Recommendations: Educators and parents need to be aware of the potentially negative factor of perpetuating an external locus of control orientation when dealing with learning disabled students. A locus of control instrument should be included in initial diagnostic assessments of children referred for evaluation to assess the child's internality- externality. Special and regular educators, parents, and administrators should avoid overly-zealous praise and overly-protective treatment of learning disabled students which perpetuate an external orientation, and instead strive to promote increased independence and autonomy.