Motivational and Attribution Problems
Students with LD will often lose the motivation to succeed in school. As failure starts to become more prominent, they begin to take on an external locus of control. External locus of control is a motivational term whereby an individual believes that he no longer has control over his fate in life. People with external locus of control believe that they will have a good day or a bad day depending on how outside influences affect them. They feel powerless and no longer believe that they control their own destiny. This differs from people with an internal locus of control, who believe that they are "the captain of their ship," that they control their successes and failures. Students with LD and external locus of control believe that their lives are dictated by luck or fate, rather than by their own internal factors such as determination, hard work, or ability.
Chronic difficulties with academic assignments often lead children with learning disabilities to anticipate failure; success is seen as an unattainable goal no matter how hard they try. Seligman (1992) identifies this outlook as learned helplessness. Youngsters who maintain this attitude frequently give up and will not even attempt to complete the task. As a result, even when success is possible, the individual no longer tries because she has the mindset that failure is inevitable anyway. What individuals believe about the source of their own success or failure on a task is known as attribution. Many students with LD attribute success not to their own efforts but to situations or events beyond their control.
Because of their propensity for academic failure, individuals with learning disabilities tend to become passive or inactive learners. They are not actively involved or engaged in their own learning (Torgeson, 1977) and often fail to demonstrate initiative in the learning process. Swanson (1998) calls these pupils "actively inefficient learners." Motivation is the desire to engage in an activity. Many special education and general education teachers, especially those in middle and high schools, comment that students with learning disabilities are not motivated to learn, and research suggests that this is a common characteristic (Fulk, Brigham, & Lohman, 1998).
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