Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Review of the related literature...
 Discussion, conclusions, implications,...
 Appendix: Intervention
 Biographical sketch

Group Title: effects of a physical activity intervention on the self-concept and behavior of fifth-grade boys /
Title: The effects of a physical activity intervention on the self-concept and behavior of fifth-grade boys /
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00099477/00001
 Material Information
Title: The effects of a physical activity intervention on the self-concept and behavior of fifth-grade boys /
Physical Description: ix, 88 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Cleveland, Barbara Stevens, 1940-
Publication Date: 1985
Copyright Date: 1985
Subject: Self-perception in children   ( lcsh )
Sports -- Psychological aspects   ( lcsh )
Counselor Education thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Counselor Education -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1985.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 78-87.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
Statement of Responsibility: by Barbara Stevens Cleveland.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00099477
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000875734
notis - AEH3298
oclc - 014696855


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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
    Table of Contents
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
    Review of the related literature of self-concept
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
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        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
    Discussion, conclusions, implications, and recommendations
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
    Appendix: Intervention
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
    Biographical sketch
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
Full Text






Copyright 1985


Barbara S. Cleveland

Dedicated to Jim, for his continued support and encouragement

and for the existence of Cleveland Ski School


The writer wishes to express her sincere appreciation to

Dr. Janet J. Larsen, chairperson of the writer's committee, for her

generous assistance, invaluable resourcefulness, support, and encour-

agement in preparing this dissertation. A deep sense of gratitude is

also expressed to Dr. Steve Olejnik, whose patient assistance with

the statistical analysis and computerized processing of the data

made the completion of the research possible.

Special recognition is extended to Dr. Donald Avila, whose

studies and writing on the subject of self-concept were the foundation

for the ideas on which this research was based.

Grateful acknowledgment is expressed to Dr. Robert D. Myrick

for his helpful ideas and editorial skills that contributed

invaluably to the scholarship and depth of the dissertation.

Deep appreciation is extended to the parents, teachers,

and students from Shell, Lake Forest, and Waldo Elementary Schools,

who participated so willingly in making this study possible.

Special thanks are extended to Southeast Correct Craft,

Composite Structures, and Ski Warm for the high quality products that

they provided to make the skiing experience safe and successful for

the children.

A special gratitude is extended to those who helped in

numerous ways: Tony Avila, our school psychologist; Joyce Campbell,

counselor at Lake Forest Elementary School; Fred Shortsleeve, counselor

at Waldo Elementary School, and Dr. Peggy Fong, Counselor Education

Department, who was present during parts of the skiing intervention;

to Sofia Kohli whose interest in accuracy and consistency was

essential as she prepared the typing of the final draft of the


A deep appreciation goes to Jim, who cleared the obstacles to

make the completion of this endeavor possible.



ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


1 INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . .

Purpose of the Study ... .............
Rationale for the Study ......
Definition of Terms ......
Organization of the Remainder of the Study .. ...


The Nature and Etiology of the Construct
of Self-Concept .........
The Relationship between Self-Control
and Achievement of Goals ......
Self-Concept and the Role of Self-Referent
Language . . . . . . . . . . .
Review of the Literature of Self-Control .. ....

3 METHODOLOGY ..........

Overview . . . . . . .
Assumptions and Hypotheses .. ....
Subjects and Selection .. .....
Setting . . . .
Water Skiing Training ....
Instrumentation .....
The Piers-Harris Children's Self
Concept Scale
The Burks' Behavior Rating Scales
Research Design .....

4 RESULTS . . . . .

Hypothesis 1 . . . . . .... .
Hypothesis 2 . . . . . . . .
Hypothesis 3 . . . . . . . .

1 I I : I ) I



Discussion . . .
Implications . ..
Limitations .
Recommendation . .
Conclusions .






Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Barbara Stevens Cleveland

May 1985

Chairperson: Janet J. Larsen
Major Department: Counselor Education

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of

experiencing success in a physical activity on fifth-grade boys' self-

concept and behavior. A unique guidance approach to learning water

skiing was implemented. The water skiing intervention provided an

opportunity for the children to develop awareness of the relationship

between self-control and success. The setting for the intervention was

at a nearby ski school located on a lake. This environment was new to

the child and one in which he had no previous success or failure.

A total of 30 boys were identified as the lowest 25% of the population

who took the Piers-Harris Children's Self Concept Scale from the three

participating elementary schools in Alachua County, Florida. The boys

were randomly assigned to an experimental and a control group. Each

group consisted of 15 boys. The experimental group received the three

experiences in water skiing and self-control. The control group

participated in the regular school curriculum.

The first dependent variable, self-concept, was measured

pre- and post-test by the Piers-Harris Children's Self Concept Scale.

The second dependent variable, behavior, was pre- and post-tested by

classroom teachers using the Burks' Behavior Rating Scales.

The results of this study indicate that self-concept was

significantly improved in fifth-grade boys following participation in

the water skiing intervention. Data analysis showed significant

differences in self-concept between the experimental and the control

group. Analysis of covariance resulted in a p value of .0002.

An analysis of the teacher ratings of behavior showed that the

intervention had the greatest effect on the boys who exhibited the most

severe behaviors. Because analysis of covariance was not appropriate

for these data, separate regression lines were plotted to help inter-

pret the interaction. The treatment had the greatest effect on those

boys who were rated as exhibiting the most negative behavior on the

pre-test. Less treatment effect was found among the boys who were

rated as exhibiting few negative behaviors.

Although other studies give results suggesting a significant

positive relationship between behavior and self-concept, the correla-

tion coefficient analysis indicated that no relationship existed

between these variables in this study for subjects receiving the


The implications of this study are that success in a nonschool

related physical activity can improve children's feelings about them-

selves and alter behavior patterns in a positive way.


Every person lives alone-and it is doubtful that anyone can

really know the "self" of anyone else. Through the quest for under-

standing oneself and others, much of human thought, philosophy, and

psychology has been developed. As a child grows and develops, he/she

learns about the world and self. Such learning is intensely personal,

heavily symbolic, often illogical, and is of vital importance for

private happiness and public behavior. It is translated into action

by most of the things that one says and does, by the attitudes one holds,

and the beliefs one expresses (McCandless, 1967).

Young children form some concept of themselves as people. The

self-concept, though essentially private, is influenced and revealed

through a person's interaction with others. The psychological construct

of the self-concept connotes an area of essentially private experience

and self-evaluation. Considerable study on the nature of the "self"

and its relation to behavior and adjustment has been done. Studies

have provided evidence that self-concept of school children has impli-

cations in many aspects of living; it determines the set of expectancies

that are held (Marrow, Bowers, .& Seashore, 1967; McCandless, 1967;

McIntyre, 1952; Roethlisberger & Oickman, 1950). This private

experience and self-evaluation are, therefore, considered to be a

learned process that has been shown to influence learning in the

classroom and in other areas of their lives. Children who see them-

selves in a positive manner live in a less threatening world, and more

of their school experiences are likely to seem challenging to them.

They can risk involvement and find the confrontation of problems reward-

ing (Combs, Avila, & Purkey, 1971). The studies by these researchers

indicated personal fulfillment through growth and accomplishment.

Awareness and the capacity to respond are described as the qualities

of life itself.

The dimension of self-concept, as seen by McCandless (1967),

is a continuum that may vary from extremely poor or negative, to a very

good or positive one. The positive dimension of the self-concept,

reflected in one's personal and social adjustment, is referred to as

"self-esteem." The influence of self-esteem upon success in school has

been documented in innumerable studies (Brookover, Thomas, & Paterson,

1964; Coopersmith, 1959; Combs, 1964; Felker, 1972; Hamachek,

1965; Hill & Sarason, 1966; Mossman & Ziller, 1968; Roth & Puri, 1967;

Wattenberg & Clifford, 1964; Williams & Cole, 1968). The qualities

that contribute to self-esteem produce behavior that is dynamic and

striving toward accomplishment.

Felker (1974) suggested that three feelings contribute to self-

esteem: (1) feelings that contribute to one's sense of value or worth;

(2) feelings that one is a part of a group (belonging); and (3) feelings

that accompany a sense of accomplishment. Maslow (1954, 1962) sees

this striving toward accomplishment as a constructive force in human

existence. This basic striving of organisms for fulfillment has been

called the "growth principle" because the effect is to move a person

continuously toward health and growth as long as possible (Tournier,

1957). The growth principle operates in both physiological and

behavioral matters; the whole organism strives physiologically and

psychologically toward growth (Allport, 1961, 1965). It has also been

called by biologists homeostasiss," the wisdom of the body and the

drive to health. The fulfillment of self which human beings seek in

the expression of the growth principle is actualization of the concept

of self. As a consequence, people may strive very hard to gain self-

esteem in both the present and future (Combs, Avila, & Purkey, 1971).

Among psychologists the growth principle has been described by

Maslow as a need for self-actualization, by Allport as a process of

becoming, by Lecky as self-consistency, by Festinger as dissonance

reduction, by Frankle as a search for meaning, and by Rogers as a search

for self-fulfillment. By whatever name it is called, the principle

refers to the striving of all human beings engaged in a never-ending

search for personal adequacy or fulfillment. Therefore, the effect of

experience on personal meaning begins as early as life itself and con-

tinues as long as a person lives; meanings for one person are probably

in a continual process of change.

Because of the need to achieve maximum enhancement, the self-

concept exerts a most important determining effect upon the richness

and extent of meanings. Persons must have in addition, the freedom to

develop the capability of self-direction and to make the most efficient

use possible of these meanings. Therefore, restrictions upon this

freedom may be impaired less by outside forces than those that have

their origins within individuals themselves.

The meanings that one has are the function of one's percep-

tions of experience. Meanings may be restricting or enhancing. By

adjustment of one's perception, things seem to change their properties;

experiences or objects that were pleasurable become painful or vice-

versa. Instances of extreme martyrdom seem to us superhuman because

the mental attitude under the influence of which they become possible,

even desirable, has not been experienced by us (Tagore, 1818). By

changing the mental focus or perspective, one's view of the world is

changed and becomes in certain respects a different creation with

different values. Differences exist in how one looks at and feels

about oneself and the evaluation of one by others (Combs, Avila &

Purkey, 1971).

Children develop these meanings as a result of the importance

attached to events and persons. If a child is to learn to attach

importance to people and rules, he/she must first find that they are

useful, powerful, and associated with both rewards and punishment

(McCandless, 1967). The child's own cognitions determine the standards

that he/she sets. Of interest to researchers is the manner in which

children impose performance standards upon themselves, monitor their own

performance, and evaluate and reinforce themselves with respect to

their ability to meet these self-imposed standards. The interrelation-

ship between the development of meanings and the self-concept is

manifested in children's behavior and the attitudes they display. Of

concern are the ways in which children may be taught to manipulate

their own cognitions to control their own behaviors and the ways in

which the environment can be manipulated to affect children's cogni-

tions in order to affect self-concept through improvement of self-

control (Bandura, 1971; Mahoney & Thoresen, 1974; Mischel, 1972;

Thoresen.. & Mahoney, 1974).

Writers who have examined self-concept have emphasized these

three areas as forming the necessary components in the process of

developing self-esteem. Erikson (1963) stresses the development of a

sense of feeling of belonging. Diggory (1966) stresses competence

and Jersild (1952) stresses worth. Erickson finds it essential that

the person perceive himself as an accepted and valued member of the

group. Diggory argues that the basis for self-evaluation or behavior

is purpose. If one is efficient in accomplishing tasks, one is able

to give oneself a positive evaluation. Since one individual can never

have exactly the same experience or background, interpretation of

experiences is highly personal. Viewpoints can change and when they

do, this changes the way an individual looks at the past as well as the

present and the future. This potential for change is important for

self-concept development.

Based on the theories of these researchers it is accepted that

self-concept is learned. Two general conclusions can be drawn. First,

people tend to do things which get them what they want. Secondly,

people often learn by observation and imitation.

As Jersild (1952) has stated, perception of themselves as

being worthwhile in the estimation of others is what makes individuals

feel they are worthwhile personally. How others treat an individual

as well as what others do for him/her are common expressions of the

individual's worth.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study was to measure the effect of a water

skiing intervention on school children with low self-concepts. The

intervention provided the children with an experience in learning a

physical activity unrelated to school. Children who participated in

the water skiing intervention were provided the opportunity to

experience personal success, when they applied basic elements of learn-

ing and self-control. The goal was to develop awareness of the rela-

tionship between self-control and success and to promote feeling of

esteem in children who characteristically indicate a lack of self-worth.

Through intervention process, the researcher attempted to

stimulate more positive attitudes in children and to add new di-mensions

to their personal meanings and perceptions regarding successful

achievement of goals. For a child to learn to trust and respect

himself, if he has begun to perceive differently, necessitates that he

begin to view himself positively, to feel that he is worthy and capable

of achieving success (Felker, 1974).

The researcher evaluated the effectiveness of a water skiing

experience on the variables of self-concept and behavior ratings by

teachers through pre- and posttesting. The results contributed to

the understanding of the relationship of children's concept of

self, their behavior and the achievement of goals.

Rationale for the Study

The rationale for this study was based on Felker's theories

that self-esteem develops from feelings of belonging, feelings of

value or worth, and feelings of accomplishment. The experimental

program was an effort to offer a new and positive experience to

children in order to broaden the frame of reference from which they

made their observations about themselves and the world around them.

If events in a child's life are making him or her feel unable,

unwanted, unlike, and a burden to others, and the meanings the child

finds in his experiences are distorted by the way he sees himself

(Combs, Avila, & Purkey, 1971). Studies of the effect of motor skills

activities on growth of self-esteem provide evidence that when children

have the opportunity to experience successful control over themselves

within the environment, they acquired these feelings of worth (Rudner,

1979; Simpson & Meaney, 1979).

The program was based on the theory (Combs, Avila, & Purkey,

1971) that the most important single factor affecting behavior is the

self-concept. Persons with positive views of self tend to behave in

ways that result in experiences of success with the world and with the

people in it. Self-concept is the screen through which experience is

seen, heard, evaluated, and understood, creating a selective effect

which corroborates and supports already existing beliefs and so tends

to maintain and reinforce its own existence.

Combs, Avila, and Purkey (1971) defend the position that a

positive view of self contributes to psychological freedom and provides

its possessor with a firm platform from which to deal with life.

Because the whole organism strives toward both physical and psychologi-

cal growth, a positive self-concept promotes a spiraling or circular

effect in which success contributes to further success. The circular

characteristic of self-concept is observed at work in children who

cannot read and are unable to do so largely because they believe

they cannot read. This self-perpetuating effect is not limited to

success or failure in academic subjects, but extends to all aspects of

human experience. When a child fails, he has a different perception of his

attributes and competence from the child who has success without apparent


The program described in the following chapters includes a

physical activity experience which provides children with success

through employment of self-control. A water-skiing intervention was

the specific approach for the study. Success and self-control increase

the child's awareness of the power of his own personal effort and the

value of self-control. The importance of effort and self-control is

emphasized in an accepting environment in which there has been no

previous failure. The children receiving the intervention were expected

to increase their ability to control their own behavior and through

success and personal growth promote a more positive self-concept.

Definition of Terms

For the purpose of this study the following definitions were


Self-concept is a construct including all those aspects of the

perceptual field to which we refer when we say "I" or "me." It is the

sum total of the organization of perceptions about self which seems to

the individual to be who he/she is, the frame of reference from which

his/her observations are made, personal reality, and the vantage point

from which all else is observed and comprehended. As the self-concept

changes, what one believes to be true changes with it. Once established,

the self-concept provides a screen through which everything else is

seen, heard, evaluated, and understood.

Low self-concept is the self-report results on the Piers-Harris

Children's Self Concept Scale that places the child in the lower 25% of

his class.

Physical activity is a guidance approach to water skiing.

Self-esteem is the characteristic of accepting oneself in

essentially positive ways. Authors who have written about the nature

of self-actualization describe such persons as possessing a high degree

of self-esteem or self-acceptance. Studies of self-accepting persons

suggest that these persons see the world as a friendlier and more

benign place than do self-rejecting individuals.

Self-control represents a situation in which there is a high

probability that the person would behave inappropriately for the situ-

ation, but instead behaves appropriately (a behavior of lower proba-

bility of occurrence).

Organization of the Remainder of the Study

The purpose, theoretical rationale, need, and definition of

terms were presented in Chapter 1. A review of the literature focusing


on the construct of self-concept and the influence of self-concept

on achievement and success is presented in Chapter 2. In Chapter 3,

the experimental hypotheses are listed, the experimental design and

intervention procedures are described, and research in regard to

criterion instruments is discussed. The results of the study are

reported in Chapter 4. Chapter 5 includes discussion of the results,

limitations of the study, and recommendations for further research.


The review of the literature can be divided into four major

areas. First, the nature and etiology of the construct of self-concept

is discussed. This section includes reference to principal investiga-

tors and the development of ideas about the self by these investigators.

The second major area examines the research on self-concept and the

relationship to achievement of goals. In this section findings of researchers

who have studied school success and self-concept are presented.

The third section examines the theory and research relevant to

the role of self-concept and presents findings that support the belief

that one's inner speech may be one way of connecting internal self-

concept with an external activity if the statements are vocalized. The

literature reviewed supports the predictive relationship between positive

self-language and positive self-concept. The experimental program is

based on the premise that by providing direct experience with directive

and reinforcing inner speech and success in a new and exciting learning

activity, self-concept can be changed. It is believed that to integrate

the successful learning component and its self-concept enhancing quali-

ties with the development of strategies of self-reinforcement, the

effect must be a powerful enough agent of change to promote the academic

success of the participants.

The fourth section contains the review of literature of self-


The Nature and Etiology
of the Construct of Self-Concept

Early in the history of psychology, the philosopher/psycholo-

gist William James (1890) attributed to the ego the individual's sense

of identity and considered the perceptions which an individual had of

himself as an important variable in understanding human behavior.

James believed .that, whenever two people meet, there are really six

people present-there is each man as he sees himself, each man as the

other man sees him, and each man as he really is. The development of

self-esteem is based primarily on the way individuals see themselves

and whether the view each has of himself is positive or negative. The

basic questions are, Does he think well or badly of himself? (Felker,


Sigmund Freud's work added the dimension of dynamics to the

ideas of the "self." In Freud's sense the ego is similar to the idea

of self-worth with an emphasis on the dynamic, directing qualities of

the self (Freud, 1962). Developing from the Freudian approach, psycho-

dynamic theorists see the ego as the efficient organizer and maintainer

of balance (Lowe, 1961). The personality systems represent dynamic

energy systems operating within the individual.

Another group of theorists have approached self-concept from

a humanistic point of view. Based on the assumption that man strives

naturally for those things most conducive to growth and self-fulfillment,

these theorists perceive the individual as having a basic tendency to

strive, to actualize, and to maintain and enhance oneself. According to

Rogers, the individual who develops a self which is uniquely his own

is a fully functioning person. Within this process, the individual

moves from facades and external evaluations and motivations to a

greater awareness of and dependence upon the internal self as an evalua-

tor and motivator (Rogers, 1951). Persons and groups in a climate of

understanding and genuineness move away from rigidity and toward flexi-

bility, away from dependence toward autonomy, and away from defensive-

ness toward self-acceptance.

A contemporary of Rogers, A. H. Maslow was primarily concerned

with "self-actualization," that is, the process of becoming what one has

the potential to become. His ideas dealt with a theory of motivation

which postulated that individual needs are arranged in a hierarchy.

Within the hierarchy of five basic needs, only physiological needs and

safety needs precede the need for love and belonging and the subsequent

need for self-esteem (Maslow, 1954). Maslow, in his theory, described

an inborn motive to develop one's potentialities (self-actualization).

In 1952, Arthur Combs suggested that one's perceptions are so

important that they could even affect one's level of intelligence and

speculated that what one learns may be related to what he perceives

himself capable of learning. He stated further that it seemed necessary

to evaluate development or achievement in light of the child's previous

opportunity to perceive or lack of opportunity, as for example the

child who over a long period of time has been so threatened as to have

been unable to perceive positively.

By adjustment of one's mental attitude, things seem to change

their properties; experiences or objects that were pleasurable become

painful or vice-versa (Tagore, 1918). Consequently, by changing one's

mental focus or one's perspective, one's view of the world is changed

and becomes in certain aspects a different creation with different

values. Differences exist in how one looks at and feels about oneself

and the evaluation of one by others (Combs, Avila, & Purkey, 1971).

An example of this discrepancy is cited by John F. Kennedy in

his book Profiles of Courage. Kennedy described John Quincy Adams

as a man who held more important government offices than anyone else

in the history of the United States. His distinguished service included

the Presidency, the Senate, Congress, minister to major European powers,

participation in various capacities in the American Revolution, the

War of 1812, and events in the Civil War. Yet at the age of 70 he

described his whole life as a succession of disappointments. He stated

that he could scarcely recollect a single instance of success in

anything that he ever undertook (Kennedy, 1976).

Individuals perceive themselves as more or less competent or

acceptable, a set of personal beliefs that does not necessarily cor-

respond with how others see them. All individuals have areas of thought

and feelings about themselves which are unique to them and different

from the thoughts that others have about them. The unique set of per-

ceptions, ideas, and attitudes which an individual has about himself is

included in the construct of self-concept.

The word "self" has been used in many different ways. Some

theorists have suggested that "self" can be dichotomized into that which

refers to the "self" as agent or process and that which refers to

"self" as object of the person's own knowledge and evaluation. In the

second category, knowledge and evaluation of one's own characteristics

or states may be available to one's conscious awareness, or may be

partially or entirely unavailable to awareness (Hall & Lindsey, 1970;

Symonds, 1951; Wylie, 1974).

Attributed to the "self as object" category are active,

behavior-influencing characteristics such as the usage of self-referent

constructs, or inner language; it seems a more active role than the

phrase implies. Some personality theorists, however, suggest processes

which seem to refer to self as agent or self as object, but which go

beyond both senses and are not clearly related to either. For example,

Maslow (1954) postulates an inborn motive to develop one's potentiali-

ties and that growth tendencies of the self are present in everyone

(Wylie, 1974). These active behavior-influencing characteristics and

the role of language are discussed later in the chapter.

Bertocci (1945) described the ego as having its own possessions

and being itself possessed. This sense may be called the objective

sense. It is the object of knowledge, of striving, on the part of a

knower, striver, feeler, and purpose. It is the development by some-

thing and "in" something; the ego itself is a development in that it

changes. Bertocci suggests a psychological agent whose activities

endure throughout changes in egos, personalities, and all other

experiences which are identified as "my" or "his" experiences. The "I"

is never completely exhausted or absorbed in any one adjustment. He

suggests that "I" refers to a complex, unitary activity of sensing,

remembering, imagining, perceiving, wanting, feeling, and thinking,

the dynamic unity referred to by the word "self." The activities are

distinguishable aspects, not distinct parts of the total unitary

activity of what he calls the psychological self.

The Relationship between Self-Control
and Achievement of Goals

Felker (1974) pursues the idea of self-concept in terms of three

main factors: perceptions, ideas, and attitudes, the sum total of the

view an individual has of himself.

Self-perception, from Felker's point of view, refers to the

sensory data that are received from the environment. Much of the

sensory data is about the self, and when it is about the self, it is

unique to the individual, forming the basis for the ideas and attitudes

which an individual has toward the self.

Self-ideas or ideas and attitudes people have about themselves

are also unique and are central to the "self-concept"; they define the

self in terms of who and what. The meanings attributed to sensory data

are the conclusions that people come to about themselves from percep-

tions of their environment. As meanings become definite ideas, they

operate to define, and in turn give meaning to new data which is

received, and the whole process becomes circular. Nothing is received

in an uninterpreted way and what is received is incorporated into the

whole set of self-referent ideas which the individual has developed.

The factor of self-attitudes, or the sum total of it occupies the

dual role of both having and receiving. The perceptions which are

received from the environment are the foundation from which ideas and

the resulting internal thoughts about self are developed. Consequently,

attitudes develop from internal thoughts and are aimed at the self.

Because self-attitudes are directed inward, the emotions aroused by

these attitudes cannot be avoided. Freud's defense mechanisms.as both

Murphy (1974) and Allport (1961) observed are primarily designed to

maintain a favorable self-concept. Negative attitudes must be dealt

with in some way. The necessity of maintaining harmony may result in

the refusal of the individual to accept as valid things which others

observe about him/her. Although individuals may defend themselves

against negative attitudes of others by rationalization, one cannot avoid

being aware of oneself (Felker, 1974).

The role of the self-concept is threefold. The self-concept

operates as a mechanism for maintaining inner consistency; it determines

how experiences are interpreted, and it provides a set of expectancies.

Each of these three rules is a powerful determiner of behavior.

First, the maintenance of inner consistency refers to the har-

mony or "dissonance" (Festinger, 1957) that one experiences. There

exists a strong motivation to be comfortable, and if a psychologically

uncomfortable situation exists, one is likely to take any sort of action

that will restore a more comfortable condition (Lecky, 1951). What an

individual thinks about himself is a vital part of internal consistency.

Essentially it is not so much whether things are actually different,

but that dissonance is caused when an individual sees two things as being

different. The individual behaves in ways that are consistent with

the ways he sees himself.

Second, the interpretation of experience shapes the way in

which the individual interprets the events which he experiences. Every

experience is given meaning. Exactly the same thing can happen to a

group of people, but each will interpret it from his/her own frame of

reference. Since any action can be interpreted either positively or

negatively, a negative pattern can develop which is extremely difficult

to change.

Third, the self-concept's power and influence determines what

the person expects to happen. According to McCandless (1967), the

central facet of self-concept is this set of expectancies plus the

evaluations of the areas of behaviors with reference to which these

expectancies are held. These self-fulfilling prophecies operate to

determine how one is going to act.

It is well established throughout the literature that a positive

correlation exists between self-concept and academic achievement

(Purkey, 1970; Wyley, 1961). This has been consistently found for

early elementary school children (Wattenburg & Clifford, 1964), inter-

mediate elementary children (Williams & Cole, 1968), and high school

students (Shaw and Alves, 1963). The relationship is found in both

black and white populations and in groups with learning problems of a

serious nature (Caplin, 1969; Gorlow, Butler, & Guthrie, 1963). Combs,

Avila, and Purkey (1971) describe a positive self-concept as having

vital effects on a person's efficiency, as well as on his freedom to

confront new experience. With greater feelings of certainty about

themselves, people can trust their impulses more and view themselves as

dependable. This assurance-producing quality of a positive self-

concept is observable in school children's perceptions of how to

handle potential academic failure. Successful children with positive

self-concepts report engaging in constructive strategies such as

increased studying or practice and asking for help, while unsuccessful,

low self-concept children regarded the same situation as hopelessly

insoluble and could suggest no constructive strategies.

The philosopher, Schlick (1939), ba.s.ed his system of ethics

on the proposition that all humans are motivated to do pleasureful

things. Horowitz (1967) found scientific evidence that social respon-

siveness can be a powerful influence on learning. People repeat

behaviors that get positive responses and eliminate behaviors that get

punishing responses. Neutral responses depend upon other activities in

the environment to determine the probability of repetition. Frequently

individuals repeat behaviors when there is no apparent reinforcer.

White (1959) explains that there is something pleasureful in learning.

Being able to do something new can serve as reinforcement. Children

frequently find pleasure just from doing a newly learned behavior.

The relationship between self-concept and academic variables

also can be explained by the rationale that the low self-concept is due

partly to an inability to self-administer verbal reinforcements.

Researchers have found that low academic achievement and underachievement

are related to low self-concept (Brookover, Thomas, & Patterson, 1964;

Coppersmith, 1959; Fink, 1962; Wattenburg & Clifford, 1964). It has

been shown, on the other hand, that reinforcement and self-reinforcement

are positively related to performance on academic tasks (Felker &

Thomas, 1971).

Research has also supported the hypothesis that self-concept

is related to other characteristics. The relationship between negative

self-concept and high anxiety has been well established in populations

that are widely different in both age and geographical area (Felker &

Stanwyck, 1971). This relationship is confirmed even when the anxiety

measure is a more specific measure such as test anxiety (Lekarcyzk &

Hill, 1969; Sarason & Koenig, 1965).

Self-Concept and the Role of Self-Referent Language

Language is the central factor in the development of self-

concept (Felker, 1974). McCandless (1967) states that the development

of real language at the approximate age of 18 months to two years is the

beginning of the self-concept. The term "concept" assumes the attach-

ment of a name to something which encompasses a number of variables,

some of which distinguish that thing from other things. The development

of the self-concept entails the attachment of the term "self" or "me"

to the set of characteristics that distinguish "me" from other things

and persons in the environment. The role of language is crucial in

formulating this concept.

The role of language carries other important dimensions for the

self-concept. Kohlberg, Yeager, and Hjertholm (1968) have pointed out

that acquiring internal direction is a developmental process that

increases the individual's control over behavior. The process of giving

self-rewards, including verbal self-rewards, has an effective influence

on behavior. The individual develops a pool of statements for self-

reference. If these are negative statements, the person will say

predominantly negative things to himself about himself. Marston (1965)

found that this use of internal language may be one way of connecting

internal self-concept with an external activity if the statements are

vocalized. Felker and Thomas (1971) have found the relationship of

positive self-language is predictive of positive self-concept. State-

ments which children choose as reinforcing to say to themselves have been

found to be related to general self-concept (Felker & Stanwyck, 1971),

and have been found to have a stronger relationship than performance

alone (Felker, 1972). The fact that children learn the word "bad" as

one of the first self-evaluation terms indicates that much of the social

environment is designed to teach the children self-derogation rather

than self-esteem (Rhine, Hill, & Wandruff, 1967).

The counterpart of an adult who gives a child vocal encourage-

ment may be self-directed speech. It has been established that private

speech or inner speech can be learned by the individual to direct

behavior in terms of telling oneself what to do (Kohlberg, Yeager, &

Hjertholm, 1968; Piaget, 1926). Children often talk aloud to them-

selves, but as they grow older, this self-directed speech becomes

internalized. When children have built positive verbal reinforcement

into their own behavior, they maintain their own learning by constantly

reinforcing themselves when they accomplish what they set out to accom-

plish, thereby reducing their need for teacher encouragement (Felker,


The role of inner speech and self-referent language also pro-

vides a crucial insight into self-concept. Jersild (1952) developed

a collection of statements that people gave to describe what they

liked or disliked about themselves. His work has been used as a

source for self-concept items such as are included on the Piers-Harris

Self-Concept Scale (Paris & Harris, 1964). The statements include

It is hard for me to make friends.

It is usually my fault when something goes wrong.

I am smart.

I have good ideas.

I am often sad.

I do many bad things.

I am good in my school work.

It is postulated that the child who has a positive self-concept

has learned to give himself positive self-referent verbal feedback

and that the child who has a negative self-concept has probably learned

to give himself negative verbal feedback, or he has not learned self-

referent language and, therefore, does not give himself much feedback

at all.

Marston suggests that self-reinforcement or positive internal

language can provide a bridge between self-concept and learning (1965).

This link also indicates the connection between related variables in

self-concept and learning (Felker, 1970). The relationship between

positive self-concept and low anxiety has been widely verified. If

negative self-concept is due partly to a lack of learned ability to

give positive verbal reinforcement, an individual in an ambiguous

situation is at a disadvantage because he is dependent upon outside

forces for reinforcement.

An individual can never be certain whether others in the

environment are going to give reinforcement in any given situation and

if others are the only source of reinforcement, such an instable

contingency can result in an anxiety-producing situation. Felker

(1970) found that low self-ratings and low peer ratings interact in

a relationship with high anxiety, in keeping with the idea that

ambiguous sources of reinforcement can be a cause of anxiety. Self-

referent praise and self-reinforcement are behaviors that can be

developed toward the goal of changing a feeling or perception and

has a more lasting result than mere manipulation by others on whom

the child will continue to depend for reinforcement (Felker, 1972).

J. C. Diggory (1966) approached self or self-concept by focusing

on the cognitive dimensions of self and placed primary emphasis on the

way in which individuals evaluate themselves. The self is character-

ized by relationships in which the individual is both the subject and

the object. In his research on self-evaluation, Diggory has placed

emphasis on competence as an aspect of self-esteem and showed that areas

of self-concept can be investigated scientifically. The cognitive

approach appears to hold promise for developing more detailed explanations

of the mechanisms by which self-concept is developed and maintained.

Although there are situations in which individuals should

dislike some of their behaviors and reactions, the general evaluation

an individual makes of himself should be positive. The inability

of children, who have negative self-concepts, to be successful and

to operate well in life is one of the pressing problems of teachers.

Felker (1974) describes self-esteem as either a product or a

process. As a product esteem means high regard or a favorable

opinion. As a process esteem means to regard with respect or affection,

to set a value on, and to rate highly (Albee, 1963). Children should

emerge from the process of self-esteem with a generally favorable

opinion of themselves. The emphasis must be on how self-attitudes

develop and change and on how children develop the skills necessary to

regard themselves with respect. Feelings that contribute to self-

esteem fall into three categories: (1) the feelings about oneself that

center around times and experiences during which one feels a part of a

group; (2) the feelings that have to do with times that one feels a

sense of accomplishment; and (3) the feelings that contribute to one's

sense of value or worth.

Review of the Literature of Self-Control

In the past twenty years extensive work has been done in the

area of behavior modification which has led to the development of

principles aimed at predicting, understanding, and controlling human

behavior. Much debate has accompanied this research as to the ethics

involved in the issues of who should apply controls to whom and whether

control should be deliberate and constructive or remain random and

possibly harmful. Several researchers found a solution to the problem

by providing the individual with skills that he himself could apply in

changing his own behavior. Studies by Mahoney and Thoresen (1974)

have demonstrated that given the necessary knowledge, an individual

can accomplish changes as well as, if not better than, an external

behavioral designer.

The individual also has more access to the responses to be

changed (particularly if they involve such factors as thoughts) and

may be capable of applying behavior change procedures over a long

period of time. This concept has the added strength of implying a

more active role on the part of the individual in arranging and regu-

lating the environmental forces. Behavior is seen as a function of

its environment, which may be rearranged and altered. Skinner (1953)

distinguishes between controlled responses (such as cigarette smoking)

and controlling responses (such as refusing to buy cigarettes). These

"self-controlling" responses must be reinforced (for example, by

improved health or social praise) or they will decrease in frequency.

The complexity and interdependency of behavior-environmental influences

that make up the phenomenon of self-control are a challenge to the

researcher. Evidence has accumulated to indicate that effective self-

regulation can be durably established if attention is given to a signifi-

cant person-environment relationships. Based on their previous studies,

research by Mahoney and Thoreson (1974) pointed toward the possibility

of creating a "technology" of behavior self-control, i.e., a set of

procedures that the individual can learn to use in directing and managing

his own internal and external actions.

Meichenbaum and Goodman (1971) investigated the modification of

problem-solving styles of impulsive children using covert speech as a

self-guidance procedure and found that children given verbal self-

instructional training performed more slowly on the posttest than

the control group. Children who received modeling plus self-

instruction training made fewer errors than either the control group

or the group for whom the task was only modeled.

Mischel (1974) has done a great deal of work to establish

the position that attention is an important determinant of self-

control. Children as young as pre-school age were taught to manipulate

their attention in ways that affected their self-control. Mischel.

and Ebbeson (1970) and Mischel and Moore (1973) demonstrated that when

pre-schoolers were just instructed to "think" about rewards (even when

the rewards were not present) and wait for a more desirable reward,

they exhibited increased self-control in delay of gratification situa-


Research has not been limited to this country. Early studies

by the Soviet researcher Luria (1959, 1961, 1969) provide controversial

data on the age at which verbal control is first in evidence in young

children. According to Soviet theory, children are not always able to

control their behavior by verbal self-instruction. Children 1.5 to 3

years old did not benefit from an instruction to instruct themselves

verbally. Between the ages of 3 to 5.5 years children were found to

be able to exercise some verbal control over motor behavior if

instructed. Without instruction (according to Luria), the pre-

school children perseverate because they do not realise that they have

completed the required motor response. The feedback mechanisms are not

mature enough to provide the feedback necessary for control. In order

to inhibit a motor response it is necessary to supplement the response

with a signal that the response has been executed. According to the

research any discrete speech signal works (e.g., counting) (Luria, 1969;

Tikhomerov, 1976; Yakovleva, 1976). Further discussion of these results

and references to the primary sources are available (see Pressley, 1979).

The Soviet research has triggered numerous studies that

attempted replication. Birch (1971) argued that there is a period of

development during the early school years when children cannot

coordinate and/or simultaneously produce speech with another activity.

Birch reported that children younger than four years of age experienced

more difficulty coordinating verbal and motor response than did older

preschool and school-aged children.

Other studies present evidence to the contrary. In Golden,

Montare, and Bridger (1977) two-year-olds were taught to inhibit motor

behavior that required "delay, then act" response sequences 50% of

the time.

The studies of verbalization effects (such as Bain, 1976;

Golden, Montare, & Bridged, 1977; Meacham, 1973) have revealed that

there are interesting developmental constraints on the verbal control

of motor behavior. However, there is evidence that relevant verbali-

zations, either self or externally produced, can increase children's

motor control (Bem, 1967; Meacham, 1973; Meichenbaum & Goodman, 1971).

Pressley (1979) stated that what is needed is for someone to

study self-verbalization in school-age children in the same analytical

fashion that Mischel and Patterson have studied the controlling

effects of self-verbalization in preschool children.

The type of rationale which is provided to children has been

shown to be a determinant of effectiveness in laboratory studies and

the effectiveness of some types of rationales changed with age.

According to Parke (1974) rationales which emphasize physical conse-

quences of acting in an uncontrolled manner increase the self-control

of preschoolers, elementary school aged children and adolescents.

Fear-based rationales (I will be angry with you . ) are effective

with children three to eight years old, but rationales that orient

the child to the rights, properties, and feelings of others become

increasingly potent with increasing age (Jensen & Buhanan, 1974).

It is reasonable to argue that more sophisticated rationales

increase in effectiveness with increasing age of the subjects and

presumably increasing cognitive development level.

According to Piagetian theory (Piaget, 1971) young elementary

school age children pay more attention to the consequences of actions

than the intentions of actions, but the trend is reversed as children

approach adolescence (Pressley, 1979). Consistent with Piagetian

theory La Voie (1974) found that between seven and eleven years of

age a rationale which emphasized the intentions to deviate, e.g., the

child's self-instruction "it is wrong to want to play with that toy"

was increasingly effective with increasing age. This study demonstrated

that rationales can affect self-control in this age when the rationales

are congruent with the subjects' cognitive level.

Pressley emphasized that a striking aspect of the literature

on cognitive effects in resistance to temptation tasks was that few

of the studies were conducted developmentally. He stated further the

importance of researching the use of these strategies by children

spanning a wide age range, because it was certain that some of the

strategies worked better at some age levels than they did at others,

e.g., the selective attentional strategies. Piaget and Inhelder (1971)

stressed that the ability to generate mental images undergoes develop-

ment and thus it could be expected that children's ability to benefit

from attention-development strategies would also undergo development.

It might be that trying to imagine a wall between themselves and a

distractor (Patterson and Mischel, 1975) would not be appropriate for

children younger than five years of age.

Other interesting questions arose concerning Masters and San-

trock's (1976) work demonstrating that positive affect induction pro-

duced greater self-control. They demonstrated that contingent positive

self-produced affect could act as a reinforcer for ongoing activities,

e.g., persistence on a dull task, and that negative, self-produced

affect could act as a punisher. It may be that positive affect

may increase one's expectancy for obtaining the delayed reward, or may

increase the subjects' feeling that they are capable of waiting for a

reward. Pressley (1979) suggested that much more research should be

conducted in classrooms to determine if the strategies discussed here

can be used to affect children's self-control in meaningful situations.

The applicability and transfer of these techniques to the class-

room environment have been examined by several researchers. Lovitt and

Curtiss (1969) found higher group studies of self-control to be possible

in settings such as classrooms and that young children can learn to

observe and reward their own behavior. Submanagement techniques were

found to be as effective as procedures controlled by others.

Researchers have often used visual discrimination tasks such as

the Porteus Maze and the performance subtests of the WISC-R when investi-

gating impulsive children's information processing. Impulsive children

spend less time and make more errors than normal children and do not

look as long at alternatives as do reflective children, nor do they

look at as many alternatives (Ault, Crawford,& Jeffrey, 1972).

Bugenthal, Whalen, and Henker (1977) reported that verbal self-

instruction training improved the Porteous Maze performance of hyper-

active seven- totwelve-year-olds, but only for boys who believed that

they could control their lives; i.e., they believed that their own

efforts better predicted performance on a task than teacher biases

about their behavior or luck. Thus, Bugenthal et al. (1977) presented

evidence that the effectiveness of verbal self-instruction is dependent

on personality characteristics of the user. Additional research

should be conducted to determine the individual parameters associated

with verbal self-instruction benefits.

Essential to the ability to regulate one's own behavior is the

adequate knowledge of and control over existing environmental factors,

as well as the recognition of the cues and consequences which assist

the individual in knowing what factors influence behavior, and how those

factors can be modified to produce the desired behavior change.

According to Mahoney and Thoresen (1974) the essential com-

ponents for studying self-control identified by research are self-

observation, environmental planning, and behavioral programming.

Directly linked to the idea of self-control through personal

effort is the individual's perception of his effectiveness, i.e.,

individuals who report (on a given scale) that they perceive events as

being largely contingent upon their personal efforts at the present time

as opposed to those who feel more fatalistic about the manner in which

outcomes occur. As a result they differ on any number of associated

dimensions. Rotter (1954, 1960, 1972) has investigated this

concept of perceived control and presented a large body of

empirical evidence developing the concept that an individual's

expectancy of success in obtaining reinforcements (freedom of

movement) is based on the result of his previous attempts to obtain

desired reinforcement. Lefcourt (1976) defines perceived control as a

generalized expectancy for internal as opposed to external control of

reinforcements. "Like freedom of movement, it [perceived control] is

an abstraction deriving from a series of specific expectancy behavior-

outcome cycles . the generalized expectancy of internal versus

external control of reinforcement involves a causal analysis of success

and failure" (Lefcourt, 1976, p. 27). Individuals develop habitual

interpretations of failure and/or success which may differ from person

to person. Success will not necessarily be interpreted in a similar way

by different persons. People do not just register success or failure,

but the interpretation of the causes of these experiences. Rotter

(1966) states that these generalized experiences will result in

characteristic differences in behavior is a situation. His research

explores the manner in which internal cognitive processes interact.

For example, a child may be described as not assimilating new learning

if action-outcome sequences are perceived as being non-contingent;

that is, he will not learn from his experiences unless he believes that

these experiences are lawfully related to his own actions. If events

are only randomly paired there would seem to be little reason for attend-

ing to them with an intent to learn. Rotter (1966) concludes that the

readiness to perceive contingency between one's actions and outcomes

is an essential element in understanding how man comes to terms with

his daily experience. Some individuals develop the belief that valued

reinforcements occur only by chance. In contrast others strongly

believe that humans get what is due to them and are responsible for

their fates. Persons with such opposing perspectives differ consider-

ably in the degree to which they are able to accumulate and learn from

their experiences.

Numerous studies have examined various implications of the locus

of control dimension. Several researchers investigated individuals'

resistance to conformity and the personal characteristics that con-

tribute to compliance or independent judgment using data from choices

made by subjects on the Rotter I-E Scale, Barren's Independence of

Judgment Scale, and Asch's Conformity Tasks. Odell (1959), Crowne and

Liverant (1963), Ritchie and Phares (1969), and others discussed by

Lefcourt (1976, po. 40-49) find consistent evidence that persons with

an internal locus of control respond positively to reasoned arguments

regardless of the source and which seem congruent with their own per-

ceptions and choose active participation and self-direction. Externals

on the other hand appear more responsive to the status of the influence

and more readily accept directions and suggestions of an experimenter.

Lefcourt states that insofar as the researcher is perceived as a

legitimate authority, defiance against his requirements can be taken

as the readiness to resist authoritarian dictates. The relationship

between locus of control and resistance to influence has been extended

to moral decision making in studies of cheating (Johnson and Gormly,

1972), and tolerance of discomfort in doing what is considered "correct"

(Johnson et al., 1968). The data suggest that cognitive differences

exist between internals and externals that account for such differen-

tial responses to pressures. Lefcourt (1976) emphasizes that internals

have been found to be more perceptive to and ready to learn about

their surroundings. They are more inquisitive, curious, and efficient

processors of information than are externals. Externals appear to lack

the cognitive processes that would enable them to examine and evaluate

their choices and decisions, or even to see that the choices are avail-

able. It becomes apparent that locus of control plays a mediating role

in determining whether persons become involved in the pursuit of


The link between locus of control and cognitive activity

appeals to common sense in the suggestion that a disbelief in the

contingency between one's efforts and outcomes should preclude achieve-

ment strivings. Without an expectation of internal control, persistence

despite imminent failure, the postponement of immediate pleasure, and

the organizing of one's time to efforts would be unlikely (Lefcourt,


During the 1960s personality characteristics relevant to

scholastic success began to receive extensive attention. Previously

failure in scholastic achievement was most commonly attributed to a

low level of intelligence and success to a high level. Social changes

of the 1960s focused attention to disadvantaged and minorities and

created public awareness of the extent to which various ethnic, racial,

and cultural groups differed in their perceptions of many social insti-

tutions. The Coleman report (Coleman, Campbell, Holson, McPartland,

Mood, Weinfelt, & York, 1966) directed this attention to the personality

characteristics among the disadvantaged which limit or predict their

achievement potential. Of significance were the findings concerned

with expectancies for control. Achievement was found to be best

predicted by a measure of the child's belief that academic outcomes

were determinable by his own efforts.

Many studies add depth and breadth to the predictions of

achievement-related behavior. The ability to defer gratification, i.e.,

self-inflicted deprivation, the ability to pursue distant goals despite

temptations, the awareness that one's own efforts can forestall failure

and the ability to maintain the tension generated by the postponement

of immediate need satisfaction are characteristics presented as a

result of findings from a series of investigations (Bialer, 1961;

Erikson & Roberts, 1971; Mischel, Zeiss, and Zeiss, 1974; Strickland,

1972). Although the empirical data are not without paradoxical

inconsistencies and failures at replication, research findings

indicate that the engagement in achievement activity or long-range

skill-demanding tasks is unlikely if one views himself as being at

the mercy of capricious external forces. The choice to engage in

achievement activity is mediated by internal variable factors, such as

effort, which generates positive feelings, and persistence, despite

failure to persevere.

Fortunately, research has revealed that locus of control

scores assessed by various scales and/or behavioral means are

susceptible to influence. People change in their customary causal

attributions if they encounter experiences that meaningfully alter

the contingencies between their acts and perceived outcomes. De

Charms (1972) established training programs specifically aimed

at encouraging children to recognize and rely on personal

causation. Children were helped to (1) determine realistic goals,

(2) to be aware of strengths and weaknesses, (3) to determine

the concrete action that can faciltiate reaching a goal, and

(4) to consider how to evaluate whether the action is having the

desired effect. De Charms (1971) found that experience in

positions that allow effectiveness increases internality. To be

able to help others is, in a very real sense, being effective,

and this researcher found that the learning of skills which enable

a person to become an effective helper should result in a greater

sense of control.

From the research reviewed it can be concluded that action-

oriented therapies which stress the learning of and effecting of con-

tingent results seem to be the optimal approaches for changing clients'

perception of causality. Lefcourt (1976) suggested a need for con-

tinual research in this area.

The most recent review of the literature by Thomas (1980)

examines the interrelationship of student self-management behaviors,

academic motivation, and basic skills achievement. Results from recent

training studies in self-management, attribution and achievement moti-

vation are presented by the author who finds that large-scale studies of

teacher effectiveness seem to confirm the theory that structure, control,

and direct instruction are associated with gains in student achievement.

He reports findings of a general dissatisfaction with the innovative

programs and methods popularized in the 1960s. The "new permissiveness"

embodied in many school practices has been seen as a factor in the

declining test scores, disruptive classrooms, poorly disciplined students,

and uneducated high school graduates. Thomas cites studies that reveal

the most dominant correlate of achievement to be the extent to which

a teacher or instructional program insures maximum student time on task.

Thomas cites evidence from recent research on self-management

and motivation that presents some important qualifications for the view

that an effective "back to basics" movement requires a return to tra-

ditional teacher-centered structure and control, and an end to per-

missive practices. He finds two general conclusions as the basis for

these qualifications.

The first conclusion is that provided systematic procedures

accompany a structured curriculum, student-managed instruction rather

than teacher imposed control produces a more effective and individual-

ized control of achievement-related and achievement-disrupting

behavior, a heightened sense of personal agency and the possibility of

a continued motivation to learn.

The second conclusion is that the extent to which teacher-

centered and controlled classrooms are characterized by external

rewards, norm referenced achievement standards, competitiveness, uni-

form goals, and an emphasis on achievement rather than effort, the

result for some students is a depression of the affective and motiva-

tional prerequisites of academic achievement. Environments that allow

students to set their own standards, emphasize the relationship between

effort and achievement, and promote the use of student-generated incen-

tives seem not only to produce the greatest long- and short-term

achievement gains, but also are associated with a heightened sense of

personal achievement among students.

The inference made is that the link between motivation-related

behaviors and learning-related behaviors may be a conditional one, so

that students who have accepted or been given the responsibility for

the management of their own learning may be more apt to discover and

use learning strategies on a particular task. They are more likely to

exhibit meta-cognitive behaviors, i.e., to think about thinking, and

to decide for themselves how and when to store and retrieve information.

On the other hand, students who do not have experience in managing their


own behavior, and who have not learned to take responsibility for

success and failure do not see any connection between effort and

success on a learning task.



Children who are not achieving success in school may view

themselves as unworthy. Their self-concept may be lower than that of

other children who are experiencing school success. This researcher

focuses on an intervention process that gave non-achieving children

an opportunity to succeed in a non-school related activity. The

purpose was to measure the effect on self-concept and negative

behavior patterns.

This chapter presents the experimental hypotheses investigated

and the research design implemented. The population and sampling

procedures are described in terms of reliability and validity. Finally,

this chapter discussed the analysis of the data.

Assumptions and Hypotheses

This research was an effort to examine the effect of water

skiing as an intervention in improving the self-concept of fifth-grade

boys and ratings of their behaviors by their teachers. Learning to

kneeboard and to water ski introduced the child to a new experience in

which the relationship between self-control and success was clearly

evident. The questions which were addressed were whether boys who

participated in the intervention showed more gain in self-concept than

the control group and/or whether teachers perceived their behavior as

improved more than those in the control group. Instruction in water

skiing was based on a guidance model.

The control group was in the regular classroom and participated

in the usual curricular activities.

The following null hypotheses were tested at the .05 level of


Ho : There will be no significant difference between

subjects participating in the water skiing

program and the control group in reported self-

concept as measured by the Piers-Harris Children's

Self-Concept Scale.

Ho2: There will be no significant difference between

subjects in the experimental and control group in

the teachers' reports on behavior before and

after the intervention.

Ho3: There is no relationship between self-concept

and teacher ratings of behavior before or after

the intervention.

Subjects and Selection

For this investigation 30 boys, who rated themselves on the

Piers-Harris Self-Concept Scale for Children as exhibiting those

characteristics indicative of low self-concept, were selected from

among 120 fifth-grade students in Alachua County. The population

selected for the experimental and control groups were the 30 boys who

scored below the 25% level on a standardized self-concept scale. The

table of random numbers was utilized in the assignment of subjects

to either the experimental or the control group.


The two schools from which the boys were chosen were public

elementary schools located in the eastern part of Alachua County, Flor-

ida. Both schools have a black/white ratio of approximately 65% white

to 35% black in the student population. The schools draw from similar

low to middle socioeconomic areas. Both schools have a full-time

guidance counselor.

The pre- and post-testing were conducted within the school

setting by the guidance counselor. Children who were by necessity

excluded from the study were those who already knew how to water ski

or those who expressed a strong dislike or fear of water.

The water skiing training was conducted at the nearby ski

school. The ski school was an established training center serving

an international and nationwide clientele. Equipment of the highest

quality and meeting the strictest safety requirements was used. The

instructor had 20 years of competitive skiing and instructing

experience as qualification for this experiment.

The control group participated in the regular school program

under the direction of the classroom teacher.

Water Skiing Training

In this program the children in the experimental group received

training in a physical activity and participated in kneeboarding and

water skiing activities. While expected to be highly motivating, the

experiences also required the child to deal with factors requiring

such inner resources as self-control, courage, and belief in oneself.

As well as providing an opportunity to experience success, the

experience was expected to contribute to the child's awareness that

through his own effort he had the power of self-control in a strange

and possibly threatening environment. In addition, it was expected

that identification as a water skier could give him a sense of belong-

ing to a group proficient in a sport. The sense of accomplishment and

feeling of belonging were factors that were expected to promote a

sense of value and worth.

For a child accustomed to feelings of failure, being successful

in such a seemingly challenging and novel situation was expected to

help the child experience the world as less threatening and to develop

the courage to meet experiences in life as a challenge rather than as

a threat. Success could provide the impetus for a reevaluation of

self-worth within the context of personal meanings. By becoming aware

of his personal commitment, success was attainable. The child alone

was responsible for his success in this previously unexperienced

situation. As a result he may choose to risk involvement in other

aspects of life and confront daily tasks with assurance rather than

avoid them with a "can't do" attitude.

In this program, the degree of success was not dependent upon

level of skill development. The child's first time on the water with

the kneeboard, since this was immediately successful and reinforcing,

provides the necessary sense of accomplishment. In this sense the

experience was different from a school setting in which the curriculum

was controlled and children observed their progress in terms of

comparison with other children.

It was expected that if the child experienced success,

acceptance, and respect in any area of his environment, he would

respond in turn with dignity in other areas. Whatever prompted

self-esteem or self-integrity encouraged psychological freedom and

the likelihood of effective learning in the school environment.


The Piers-Harris Children's Self Concept Scales

The Piers-Harris Children's Self Concept Scale entitled

"The Way I Feel about Myself" was designed primarily for research

on the development of children's self attitudes and co-relates of

these attitudes. Administered in group form it requires

approximately a third-grade reading knowledge. The original pool of

items was developed from Jersild's (1952) collection of children's

statements about what they liked and disliked about themselves

(Piers & Harris, 1964).

Item analysis was conducted using a sixth-grade sample of

127 students. The 30 highest and 30 lowest scores were identified

and on each item Cureton's chi test (Lindquist, 1951) was applied

to determine whether the item significantly discriminated between

the high and low groups at the .05 level or better. In addition,

only those items answered in the expected direction by half or

over half of the high group were used. Eighty items met these two

criteria and constituted the present scale, which can be administered

in approximately 20 minutes.

Reliability. Most of the reliability data come from

the original standardization study which used the 95-item scale.

Internal consistency. To judge the homogeneity of the test,

the Kuder-Richardson Formula 21, which assumes equal difficulty of

items, was employed with resulting coefficients ranging from 0.73 to


Stability. A retest after four months on one-half the

standardization sample resulted in coefficients of 0.72, 0.71, and

0.72 which were judged satisfactory for a personality instrument

in the experimental stage over so long a period of time.

The revised 80-item scale, though shorter, was shown to have

a better reliability since Wing (1966) found for both a two-month

and four-month test-retest coefficient of 0.77 for 244 fifth

graders. It should be remembered that test-retest reliability

coefficients which are calculated on a lumping together of several

ages or grades, or over a shorter period of time, or on any

sample with increased variability, can be expected to be higher.

The scale is thus judged to have good internal consistency and

adequate temporal stability.

For interpretation of individual scores, the standard error of

measurement should be employed, but can only be estimated since Wing's

coefficient of 0.77 is the best approximation to the stability of the

test and the reported quartile but no standard deviations. An average

of standard deviations reported in several samples at different grade

levels gives approximately 13. The SEM would thus be approximately

6 points. A difference significant at the 0.05 level would require a

change of almost twice the SEM. It is recommended, therefore, that

individual changes in scores of less than 10 points be ignored (Piers

& Harris, 1964).

Some writers have questioned whether young children have a

stable self-concept. They feel that attitudes toward self, which

later become fairly well generalized, are at first more a function of the

immediate situation and so cannot be measured in any consistent fashion.

While this may be true for pre-schoolers, it seems clear from the

results quoted above, that at least by age eight, self attitudes have

a reasonable amount of stability (Piers & Harris, 1964).

The Burks' Behavior Rating Scales

The Burks' Behavior Rating Scales (Burks, 1983) are specifically

designed to identify patterns of pathological behavior shown by

children who have been referred for counseling because of behavior

difficulties in the classroom or home. It is suitable for use with

children in grades one through nine. The manual states that it

attempts to gauge the severity of negative symptoms as seen by outside

persons either parents or teachers. The 110 items used as criteria

describe behaviors that are infrequent among normal children. It is

also pointed out in the manual that the BBRS does not assess how the

child's inner world is experienced, that this must be assessed by

other tests.

The rater performs a quantitative judgment by determining the

degree to which each identified behavior is seen in the child being

rated. Factor analysis found the 110 items to cluster in 19 groupings.

Each grouping is a subscale measuring a particular commonality of

conduct. These categories of behavior have been named according to

the type of behavior shown. They are

1. Excessive self-blame

2. Excessive anxiety

3. Excessive withdrawal

4. Excessive dependency

5. Poor ego strength

6. Poor physical strength

7. Poor coordination

8. Poor intellectuality

9. Poor academics

10. Poor attention

11. Poor impulse control

12. Poor reality contact

13. Poor sense of identity

14. Excessive suffering

15. Poor anger control

16. Excessive sense of persecution

17. Excessive aggressiveness

18. Excessive resistance

19. Poor social conformity

Factor analysis of the subscale scores from difficult popula-

tions-such as normal children, disturbed children of differing ages,

educable mentally retarded children, orthopedically handicapped

children, and speech and hearing handicapped children-shows that

different patterns of factors tend to appear in each population.

Extensive use of the Burks' Behavior Rating Scales indicates

it has some ability to

1. Identify patterns of disturbed behavior that dis-

tinguish between several groups of children

2. Show changes in behavior patterns over a period of


3. Indicate areas in a child's personality where further

evaluation might advantageously take place

4. Provide a source of information useful to school

personnel for conferences with parents

5. Predict which children will do well in special educa-

tion classes and which will not

6. Be of practical value when used by both parents

and teachers

Standardization. The 110 scale items were chosen from a large

pool of items originally constructed by the author. Items were

selected after having met the following standards: (1) demonstrated

ability to distinguish between children placed in classes for disturbed

children and children in regular classes; (2) retained a sufficiently

high test-retest reliability correlation coefficient; (3) judged

by a panel of educational specialists to be properly descriptive of

a specific observable aspect of behavior and easily understood; and

(4) shown a statistical propensity to be grouped with other items into

a category that could be assigned a behavioral meaning and a label.

Item score weights. The five-point scale, against which each

item is checked, implies a linear increase from Steps (1) through (5).

The author recognized that estimates of degrees of exhibited behavior

are always subjective in nature, and the basis for judgment about

severity will be to some extent characteristic of the rater. However,

the deviate behavior symptoms described on the scale are not likely to

be seen in abundance in any regular classroom.

Reliability and validity. Item reliability can be made

to appear very high if standardization procedures are carried out

only on children who behave normally. The great majority are given

ratings ("You have not noticed this behavior at all") on most items

and are given the same ratings the second time. For this reason, item

reliability was established by having 95 disturbed children from grades

1-6 rated and rerated within a period of 10 days by their teachers.

Significant differences were found for several items, but these

differences were attributed to a shift in the means and of insufficient

magnitude to make a practical difference. Considering the sample

employed, all items demonstrated high correlation coefficients

ranging between .60 and .83. The average item/item retest correlation

was .705.

The case for validity of the BBRS came from several sources.

The instrument was constructed over a period of four years. Clinical

observations of children, evidence from the literature, and extensive

use over eight years have established content validity. Five

sources, criterion-related studies, contrasted groups studies,

content studies, and factor analytic studies and construct validity

investigation have supported the case for validity.

Research Design

The study was designed to provide approximately three hours of

intervention within a six-week period. Fifteen students were

assigned to the group receiving the water skiing instruction. Fiften

students were be assigned to the control group. Assignment to the

groups were based on selection utilizing a table of random members.

The research design employed the Pretest-Posttest Control

Group design. In this design the control group and experimental group

were chosen through the process of randomization to achieve experimental

equivalence. The two groups were pretested and posttested on the

dependent measures. The experimental group received the experimental

treatments while the control group did not.

The experimental design was diagramed as follows:

Group Pre-test Independent Variable Post-test

(R)a El Y1 X Y2

(R) C Y1 Y2

a(R) refers to random assignment.

This design controled for the rival hypothesis that the threats

to internal validity described by Campbell and Stanley (1963) could have

influenced significant differences between the experimental and control

group post-test scores rather than the experimental treatments.

While this design controled for the eight threats to internal

validity (history, maturation, testing, instrumentation, regression

selection, mortality, and interaction of these), it did not directly

control for such effects as the interaction of the treatment program

with other variables. Threats to external validity concerned the

relevance of the findings regarding the effects of the treatment beyond

the confines of the experiment.

Campbell and Stanley (1963) describe four threats to external

validity or generalizability:

1. The interaction of testing and treatment was controlled

for in that the total fifth-grade class in both schools

is pre-tested. While pre-testing may sensitize the

children to the valuing aspect of certain positive

self-concept attributes, the constructs of self-

concept is not addressed, nor are any references made

to children's responses on the measure.

2. The interaction of selection bias and the treatment was

a possible source of threat to validity in that the

variable of the personality characteristic, that lends

an individual to voluntarism or cooperation, exists.

The random selection procedure should have provided a

diverse group of students, who have many similarities

and differences of great enough variety as to minimize

the effect of this one common characteristic.

3. The threat of reactive arrangements seems unlikely in

this experiment in that while selected students had the

option of participating in an activity, they were not

informed that they were part of an experiment.

4. The threat of other interactions with the treatment

or multiple treatment interference can never be con-

trolled for with complete assurance, but does not

appear to be a factor in that specific combinations of

conditions are not likely to be impacting this group

of children as a whole due to their diversity. No

known historical event such as a major children's

movie depicting a character who finds success as a

result of change in self-esteem has occurred.


This study was an examination of the effects of an intervention

process involving water skiing on the self-concepts of fifth grade

boys and teacher ratings of their behavior. The water skiing lessons

provided a success experience in an activity external from the school

environment in which learning was dependent on the effort of the

student. The training was expected to increase the student's ability

to control his behavior to achieve a goal. Through the development

of skills in water skiing, the student is expected to develop a more

positive self-concept.

A sample of thirty boys, whose self-ratings on the Piers-Harris

Children's Self-Concept Scale fell in the lowest 25% of a population of

120 fifth-grade boys, was identified from three elementary schools.

The boys were randomly assigned to an experimental and a control group.

Fifteen boys received the treatment involving the water skiing lessons.

The other fifteen boys, who comprised the control group, received no


Classroom teachers rated the behaviors of the boys on the

Burks' Behavior Rating Scales. The categories of behaviors rated by

the teachers were those identified in previous studies of self-

concept as those negative behaviors that were shown to decrease if

self-concept were enhanced.

The researcher examined the change between the scores on the

self-concept scale and the behavior ratings on the pre- and post-

measures. The interval of time between the pre-test and the post-

test was approximately six weeks.

The data collected were examined in order to test the three

hypotheses. For the first two hypotheses an analysis of covariance

was computed using the Statistical Analysis Systems (SAS) General

Linear Models Procedure. The results were used to determine the

differences in the control and experimental groups on all measures

after adjustments for pre-test differences. The first two hypotheses

were tested by this analysis. For the third hypothesis a correlation

coefficient served to find the relationship between the two dependent

variables, self-concept and behavior.

Hypothesis 1

There will be no difference between the subjects

who participated in the water skiing program

and the control group in reported self-concept

as measured by the Piers-Harris Children's

Self Concept Scale.

Before testing for significant differences on the post-test for

the Piers-Harris using ANCOVA, a test for the interaction between

the pre-test and the treatment was calculated. This was necessary

since ANCOVA assumes that there is no interaction. The computed

F ratio for the interaction equaled .38 (p < .5437). Since the

probability of the computed F ratio was greaterthan the criteria set

for statistical significance (a = .05), there was insufficient

evidence to reject the null hypothesis of no interaction. Therefore,

the ANCOVA was appropriate for this data set.

Table 1 shows the means of the experimental and control groups'

self-concept scores adjusted for the covariate (pre-test). The

adjusted mean for the experimental group was 54.4 and the adjusted mean

for the control group was 40.0. The computed F-statistic equaled

18.33 (p < .0002). Since the probability of the computed F ratio was

greater than the criteria set for statistical significance (a = .05),

there was sufficient evidence to reject the null hypothesis. There-

fore, subjects who participated in the water skiing had significantly

higher self-concept scores than the control group.

Table 1. Means of the experimental and control groups on the self-
concept scale adjusted for pre-test by covariance

Pre- Post- Adjusted F
Group N test test Mean Value

Experimental 15 35.60 52.8 54.4 18.33*

Control 15 38.73 41.6 40.0

*p < .05

Hypothesis 2

There will be no significant difference between

the subjects who participated in the water

skiing program and the control group in

teachers' reports of behavior as measured on the

Burks' Behavior Rating Scales.

As in the previous analysis, the test for interaction was

also conducted. This test resulted in a computed F-statistic of

63.9 and a p value of .0001. Although the observed probability is

less than the criteria for significance, an interaction was found to

exist between the scores of the treatment group and the control group.

Since the ANCOVA was inappropriate, separate regression lines were

plotted for the treatment and control groups to help interpret the

nature of the interaction.

The regression lines for the treatment group equaled =

54.01 + .453 pretest. The regression line for the control group was

72 = -18.43 + 1.087 pretest. A plot of these regression lines

appears in Figure 1. The two lines intersect at the point of 114.26

at the pretest and 105.77 on the posttest.

For scores above 114.26 on the pretest, the treatment group

scored below the control group on the Burks' posttest. The higher

the Burks' pretest score, the larger the difference between groups

on the posttest score. This can be interpreted to mean that the

program was most effective for the students with the most severe

behavior problems. Therefore, the second hypothesis was rejected.

Hypothesis 3

There is no relationship between self-concept and

teacher ratings of behavior before or after the


For the treatment group, Table 2 summarizes the relationship


/' 198.97



/ 114.26

100 110 120 130 140 150 160 170 180 190 200

Burks' pre-test scores

Y1 = 54.01 + .453 pre-test Treatment =

Y2 = 18.43 + 1.087 pre-test Control

Pre-test: 100 Pre-test: 200

99.31 144.61

90.27 198.97

Pre-test: 100

Pre-test: 200

Figure 1. Behavior rating regression slopes for the experimental and
control groups

Prior to the intervention, the treatment group's correlation

between the scores on the Burks' and Piers-Harris scores was 156

(p = 5.76). Following the treatment this group's scores showed a

correlation of .079 (p = .778). These figures indicate that no

significant correlation existed for scores on either behavior or self-

concept either before or after the treatment.

Table 2. Correlation coefficient between experimental and control
groups' scores on self-concept teacher ratings of behavior

Variables n r f


Self-concept/behavior 15 -.157 .5760


Self-concept/behavior 15 -.079 .7783

Prior to the intervention, the treatment groups' correlation

between the scores on the Burks' and the Piers-Harris scores showed a

correlation of -.157 (p = .576). These results indicate that no sig-

nificant correlation existed between behavior or self-concept scores

after the intervention.

For the control group the correlation between the pre-scores

on Burks' and the pre-scores on the Piers-Harris was .372 (p = .171).

Following the treatment this group's scores showed a correlation of

.472 (p = .075).

Since no correlation appears to exist between behavior and self-

concept for the group receiving the treatment, the decision rule is

to fail to reject the null hypothesis. Therefore, Hypothesis 3 was not


The researcher investigated the effects on fifth-grade boys of

a water-skiing intervention based on a model of self-control and

positive self-referent language. The training, which was unrelated

to school experience, increased the student's ability to control

behavior and improve confidence in his ability to achieve goals.

The results showed that self-concept scores increased significantly

for the experimental group. Behavior as rated by the classroom

teacher showed the most improvement when compared with the control

group in those children in the experimental group who exhibited the

most severe behaviors.


The researcher examined the effects of an intervention in which

a group of low-achieving fifth-grade boys experienced success in a

non-school related activity. The investigation was a comparison of

self-concept and behavior of the experimental and control groups before

and after the treatment. During the water skiing intervention sessions,

belief in oneself, positive self-referent language, and self-control

were emphasized. The steps in the learning process were broken down

into simple components, sequentially arranged so that by listening

and practicing each step until mastered, the actual act of skiing

could be accomplished successfully. The children were able to

recognize their undeniable success.

From the 120 children who participated in the protesting,

the investigator identified 30 boys who scored in the lowest 25% of

the population. The 30 boys were randomly assigned to an experimental

and a control group. The 15 children in the experimental group par-

ticipated in three sessions in which they learned to ride a kneeboard

and to ski on two skis. The control group received no treatment.

The boy's success in skiing was a result of their own effort

to follow directions and to assure themselves through inner language

that they have the ability and courage to succeed. In addition, the

training placed each boy in a new environment that held no previous

experiences of either success or failure. Boys who described them-

selves on the self-concept scale as a person who gives up easily

were motivated to control their behavior and make a sustained effort

to follow directions.

Evidence that self-concept and success are positively

related is supported consistently in the literature in studies of

achievement and success-enhancing behavior. Children who have con-

fidence in their ability find pleasure in challenge and achievement.

Increases in children's self-concept are often accompanied with

decreases in attention-seeking problematic behaviors, especially in

acting-out children. Confidence replaces uncertainty as children's

experiences contribute to the perception that they are successful

and worthwhile in the estimation of others; therefore, their frame of

reference and content of self-referent language are broadened.

The first dependent variable, self-concept, was measured by

the Piers-Harris Children's Self Concept Scale. This scale contains

80 items in which the individual answers "yes" or "no" to a

descriptive statement. The scale is used to assess differences in

self-concept among the children. A high score indicates positive


The second dependent variable, the Burks' Behavior Rating Scales,

containing 19 categories describing adjustment to school, was used

to measure the children's behavior according to teacher report.

Low scores indicate positive behavior adjustment. The categories rated

by the teachers were those identified in previous studies of self-

concept as those behaviors that were shown to improve if self-concept

were enhanced.

In reporting the results, the correlation between behavior and

self-concept was not supported. No statistical correlation could be

found to exist in the treatment group either before or after the

intervention. The children with the lowest self-concept were not

necessarily the children with the most problem behaviors.


Analysis of covariance produced results which gave evidence

that the fifth-grade boys who participated in the water skiing sessions

differed significantly in their level of self-concept from those who

did not participate. Data indicate that all participants improved

their self-concept score except for one child who scored the same.

There were, however, considerable differences across subjects in the

extent of the changes. Water skiing was an effective experience

because it demonstrated, systematically, how sustained effort would

result in undeniable success. The boys were successful as a result

of their personal effort, and their success was recognized by the

significant persons in their lives.

Of special interest was the relationship between teacher ratings

of behavior before and after the intervention. The analysis of the

data showed that the intervention was the most effective for the

children who had the most severe behavior ratings. An interaction was

found to exist showing that the behavior changed least for the

children who did not exhibit problem behaviors and most for those

who did. Comparing the experimental to control groups, the higher

the Burks' pre-test score, the larger the differences on the post-

test score.

An explanation for this occurrence is that the children who

report low self-concept do not necessarily also exhibit severe or

moderate behavioral indicators. Participants were selected from the

group of children whose scores on the Piers-Harris Children's Self

Concept Scale were in the lowest 28% (as described in Chapter 3).

Behavior was not considered in the selection process. Teachers were

asked to rate the behaviors to describe the children as they per-

ceived them before and after the treatment. Some of the children were

rated as exhibiting behavioral indicators associated with poor

academics, poor attention, poor anger control, and poor impulse

control, as might be expected. Other children with low self-concept

scores were not attention seekers and were described as children who

would try not to stand out in a group. Those children were seen as

fairly compliant workers, with few negative behavioral indicators.

These were the children whose behavior ratings had very little change.

Informal reports from parents and teachers indicated that these

children seemed more outgoing. A few parents mentioned a decrease

in dependency behaviors and increase in goal-directed behavior.

To be willing to report low self-concept eliminates the

defensive child who acts out a defiant bravado and has "no faults."

The child who does not feel good about him/herself and is able to

report this can be either a hard worker who wishes to be accepted by

others or a child with moderate and severe behavior problems. The

parents were enthusiastic even though somewhat apprehensive about

their children's participation and were most cooperative in having the

children at the ski school at the appointed time. The parents also

were supportive of the basic premises that were presented when the

informed consent form was signed.

Only one boy did not have a parent present during the lessons.

She was working full time to support a family of seven children; how-

ever, she said she was most supportive and encouraging when he came

home. She listened to his description of what he did and looked at

his magazines about skiing.

Competence in swimming varied among the participants. Two

boys were completely non-swimmers and had never been in water over

knee deep. Several others were essentially non-swimmers, in that

although they had played in water and believed they knew how to swim,

they would be at risk in water over their heads if not wearing

flotation. By the end of the program, all the children were relaxed

and enjoyed "swimming" while wearing flotation. A few of the boys

were fairly strong swimmers at the beginning of the program.

Swimming achievement and confidence in the water contributed to more

rapid achievement in skiing. Level of accomplishment did not seem to

influence amount of increase in self-concept.

By the end of three sessions all boys could come out of the

water on two skis. All but one boy were relaxed and proficient at

kneeboarding and wanted to keep doing it as a continuing interest.

Some were proficient enough to begin learning on one ski. The

children's interest may contribute to future goal-directed behavior.

It can be said that the children tested their limits to show their

strength and courage. However, it was noted that every child

expressed feelings of apprehension at the beginning of the study. The

children could only attribute their success to their own efforts

thereby increasing feelings of self-worth.


The study has implications for educators, parents, and others

who work with children and who are concerned with finding methods of

improving self-concept and channeling behavior in a productive direc-


1. The treatment program describes a step-by-step method

that can be replicated easily given proper equipment

and an instructor who has training in boat handling,

and who understands a child's need for success.

2. The treatment program demonstrates that success and

recognition of success by self and others is important

to the development of positive self-concept and the

acquisition of productive behavioral skills.

3. The treatment effects on the children contribute to

the supportive evidence that justifies implementing

physical activity programs for children who are

experiencing difficulty in school achievement.

4. The study contributes to the literature that supports

the premise that self-concept is learned and can



Certain limitations to this study existed. Because of the

sparcity of existing literature based on the effects of physical

activity on improving self-concept, few guidelines for the study were

available. As a result, procedures were developed with little direc-

tion from other studies.

It must be recognized that this treatment cannot be used with

children who are very obese, or with children who are extremely

frightened of water. It would take a longer period of time.

Variables such as home problems and social dynamics within the

school may adversely affect the participants and may limit the changes

that might otherwise occur in some children. On the other hand

these same variables may increase the amount of positive growth that

is maintained by some children.

The intention of the investigator was to conduct a blind study

in which the teachers did not know which children were receiving the

treatment. However, some of the children in the experimental group

gave enthusiastic accounts of their accomplishments in the school

setting and some children wrote descriptive paragraphs or drew pictures.

A few teachers might have inferred from this that these children were

in the water skiing program.


The following recommendations for further research are prompted

by the results of this investigation.

It is recommended that similar programs that use a physical

achievement be implemented. Further study might indicate certain

types of physical activity other than water skiing that are motivating

and have a high achievement rate and yet are challenging enough to

produce positive changes in the self-concept of children.


The researcher measured the effects of a water skiing

intervention on children who reported low self-concept on the Piers-

Harris Children's Self Concept Scale. The intervention provided the

children with an experience in learning a physical activity unrelated

to school. Basic elements of learning and the use of self-cohtrol

applied by a highly motivated child produced immediate success. This

successful application of personal effort on the part of the child

contributed to increased positive self-concept and to the awareness

of the relationship between self-control and success.

Water skiing was an effective means for helping the children

acquire positive self-referrent language and for providing a success

experience that children were highly motivated to achieve. It also

provided children with an accomplishment that they could not deny

or destroy. It can be demonstrated and performed by others.

Water skiing is perceived as something exciting that most

people, especially children, do not know how to do. It is often

perceived by others as dangerous, risky, and involving high speed.

It is generally supposed that children will have difficulty learning

to water ski.

Under proper conditions the only true perception for children

is that it is exciting as water skiing can be learned easily by normal

10-12 year old children. Children who can climb on playground equip-

ment use the same type of strength needed to ski. Almost without

effort, they can learn to ride the kneeboard in water.

All of the children who participated in the study completed the

program. All expressed regret when the program ended. The boys were

all successful and accomplished a challenging goal that required them

to demonstrate courage and perseverence. Each boy was proud of his

individual level of success.

It is hoped that those children who participated in the study

have developed new dimensions of perception and that they will con-

tinue to trust in themselves and their capabilities.



The water skiing program was designed to be as failure free

as possible. The plan was for the child to succeed, and that the

learning skills were generalized to success in any learning experience.

The steps in the lessons structure the experience as a series of

experiences in learning. With the basic commitment of wanting to

learn to ski the child was motivated to listen, to rehearse mentally,

to produce a mental image of oneself performing the behavior and

concentrating on self-control.

The program was designed so that the child experienced a

series of small steps that would result in an accomplishment which

appeared difficult and dangerous. The premise, to be enforced

frequently, was that the child recognized that what he/she believes

about "self" was crucial in learning any skill.

Lesson I

Orientation. The child meets the instructors and is given time

to examine the boats and skiing equipment.

During the child's exploration and questioning, the instructor

observes indicators of the child's level of apprehension, excitement,

fear, confidence, feeling of inadequacy, determination, and self-

control. A fearful, apprehensive child requires more time in the

initial stages in the shallow water or on shore.

Safety. The child is fitted in a ski vest and shown how to

tighten the straps and how to fasten and unfasten the buckles. The

vest (jacket) is to be worn at all times near the water.

Rules about running on the dock and staying seated when the

boat is moving are discussed.

Communication system. In order to facilitate learning, the

child and the instructor must communicate accurately with each other.

Basic signals for go, stop, faster, and slower are rehearsed.

Swimming. The child will be encouraged to demonstrate skill

and confidence in the water and the instructor will ask how well

he/she can swim. (The child is wearing the flotation vest.)

How to learn-link to school skills. The instructor introduces

this concept that school skills and ski skills have common

characteristics. For instance: "Learning skills you have developed

at school are very important and remembering them and using them

will help you succeed in learning to ski."

The instructor will stress the importance of the following

ski-school skills: (1) listening and observing, (2) rehearsing

mentally how it looks and how it will feel, (3) trying what he/she

has pictured doing, (4) evaluating what happened, telling self what

was done that was right and what needs to be changed, (5) relaxing

and praising oneself.

The instructor should allow discussion to emphasize that

learning anything difficult is done in a calm, deliberate manner in

methodical steps. "You will learn if you do each step as the lessons

progress. Some steps are harder than others and you may have to keep

trying. Becoming angry and losing control is not helpful and neither

is saying "I can't."

Physical ability. It can be demonstrated that the child is

physically capable of skiing, if this is a concern, by having the

child put skis on before entering the water, having him/her sit down

on the backs of the skis, assume the skiing position, and pulling

him/her on land. This is done on a non-abrasive surface. Wet vinyl

plastic is ideal.

Introduction to equipment. Riding the kneeboard is taught first

as it requires minimum coordination, provides immediate success, and is

fun. The child is told to wade into the water until chest deep and

test the flotation. This experience will promote confidence in the

safety system. The kneeboard is floated out and each child is

encouraged to paddle it and float on it near the shore. When the

child can maneuver the kneeboard by paddling, the ski rope handle is

given to him/her. Instructions are given on where to hold it and how

to assume the correct body position. The child is pulled by hand

through the shallow water by the instructor. The 50-foot ski rope is

then attached to the boat. The instructor gets into the boat

approximately 50 feet away from the child and then pulls the child

along on the board to the side of the boat. The instructor must

evaluate for confidence level. If apprehension is expressed or observed

by the child, the instructor should not go on to the next step. When

the child is ready for the next step, the instructor provides praise

for effort, for example, (a) "Picture what you are trying to do."

(b) "Let your body become calm and relaxed." (c) "This part seems to

be giving you trouble; make sure that you get this very well so that

the next step will be easier to take." (d) "Some of the steps will be

easy, some may be hard, but keep trying." When apprehension is

controlled about lying on the board in the water, the instructor

demonstrates pulling the knees up to the chest and straightening the

body to a kneeling position. How to shift weight to the arms is

explained. Next the child is told to imagine the steps and to repeat

them back. The instructor explains to the child in review that he/she

will ride the kneeboard lying down until comfortable and relaxed, then

move to a kneeling position. The goal is to be able to turn the board

and cross the wakes. Praise is given using expressions such as, "You

have really learned a lot already. You are really a good listener.

I'm impressed that you are working so hard to concentrate." The boat

should be positioned so that there is no slack in the line and that

the point of the kneeboard and the child's prone body and the rope are

in line with the stern of the boat. This is essential to the

failure-free nature of the teaching. The boat is allowed to move

forward at idle speed--fast enough to move the child on the floating

board, then stopped slowly and the child told that the boat will go

faster to make the board ride up on the water: "You will be going

about 10 m.p.h. You go faster than 10 m.p.h. on your bicycle."

"Enjoy the ride, you've worked hard so far. This is the fun

part. If you get tired or want to stop for any reason, just let go."

The instructor should again idle the boat until the child

looks ready, then say "Ready." Then the instructor should add power

firmly and evenly to 10 m.p.h. depending on the size and confidence

level of the child. While towing the instructor should encourage the

child by discussing enthusiastically the child's progress with the

other observer.

If the child does not initiate experimenting with the board,

the instructor should bring the boat to a slow stop and tell the child how

great he/she is doing and that the instructor just wanted him/her to know

how to lean his/her body to turn to one side or the other and that it

is fun to ride over the wake--like a little roller coaster ride.

The instructor should praise the obvious physical skills and

determination. He/she should eliminate directing any step if the child

is taking the initiative to figure it out himself.

The kneeboarding experience usually lasts about 30 minutes. By

the end of this time all but the most timid child should be confidently

riding on his knees and crossing the boat wakes.

A short rest is given before attempting to ride skis. Someone

demonstrates for the child while he/she rides in the boat.

The skiing part of the lesson requires about 15 minutes, depend-

ing on the child's level of confidence.

First, the child's feet must be fitted snugly in the bindings on

the ski. For children under 75 pounds training skis are tied together

at both the front and back, allowing the skis to separate only about 6

to 8 inches. This eliminates the problem of the child allowing his

legs to spread apart.

The physical requirements are reduced to a minimum by teaching

the child to balance his body in a knees-up crouched position with arms

straight and around the knees. Elbows should be at the top of the

knees at water level. The child can hold this position throughout the

start and planing off of the skis.

Unless the child is extremely confident and coordinated he should

not attempt to stand up until the skis plane. At this time he can care-

fully straighten his legs, keeping his back straight and shoulders level.

It must be explained that the skier should not try to pull up by pulling

in on the rope. Arms must be kept straight and legs must lift the body

up. The skis should move at a shallow angle through the water easily

on the start, and not forced against the water, by bracing with the legs.

The boat must be allowed to do the work.

At this point, as with the kneeboard, the child should be in

shallow water and the instructor should pull the child by hand through

the water to insure that the child can hold the position.

Plenty of time must be given to this step as it will prevent

many circlings of the boat and possible discouragement for the child.

The child then repeats the same exercise while the instructor pulls the

child toward the boat.

The child's goal is to keep the ski tips about 6 inches out of

the water, the skis steady, and the arms straight, elbows around the

knees. Again, he should let the boat pull him until the planing position

is reached and then straighten the legs slowly until he is standing

with his back straight and knees slightly bent.

Remind the child to visualize these steps and rehearse mentally.

Encourage the child to take responsibility for telling you when he's

ready and if he wants to go faster or slower. Remind him that if he

wants to stop to let go and the boat will circle him with the rope.

If the preceding steps are well rehearsed the average child

should come up on the skis in one to three tries. If the child can

hold the position described above and has the confidence to hold on,

the skis will plane off with the child staying in the sitting position.

Managing this should be considered as having succeeded in skiing.

The remainder of the time should be used for riding the skis with

emphasis on keeping the back straight, knees slightly bent. If competen-

cy is reached encourage the child to turn the skis and try to cross the


Lesson II

The skills learned in Lesson I are practiced. Also, the child is

given the choice as to what he wants to try first. The only condition

is that he will try to make progress and learn something new during the

second session.

Generally most children want to ride the kneeboard first because

it is less complex and initially can be more exciting. Children readily

learn to ride back and forth and even jump the wakes. Speed can be

gradually increased at the child's request. Maximum speed on the

kneeboard should be around 18 m.p.h. Children are often able to make

the board jump about a foot off the water when crossing the wake. The

Hydroslide used in this experiment can be turned around in a 360-degree

spin with a little experimentation on the part of the child.

Lesson III

Reinforcement and practice of skills learned in Lessons I and II

and the further development of skills are emphasized.

The child skis approximately an hour each of the three sessions.

The progress is completely individual. Usually children will ski during

the first session. In the second hour the child will improve his knee-

boarding by going faster, turning better, and possibly crossing the wake.

In the second and third sessions, if the child is comfortable coming out

of the water and can stand up easily, the instructor should untie the

ropes that hold the skis together. The child should be encouraged to

cross the wakes. The instructor should encourage the child to relax,

look around, and wave at the people. The back should be straight,

knees slightly bent, and arms straight. The arms can be held lower

now, with a slight bend in the elbows, and approximately between the

chest and waist level. A relaxed appearance is the child's goal.

Some children learn very quickly and are very confident in their

physical abilities. Occasionally a child will be able to ski on one

ski by the third hour. As soon as the child is comfortable and con-

fident and wants to try to ski on one ski, his first step is to lift a

ski slightly off the water by shifting his weight to the other leg.

Choice of which leg to ski on is entirely up to the child. He must

decide which way feels more natural. When he can stand with all his

weight on one leg, he is ready to drop a ski.

To kick off a ski, the child puts the most weight on the

leg he/she intends to ski on. The child must now carefully slip

his/her heel free from the binding slowly and carefully until the only

weight on this ski is on the ball of his/her foot. The child should be

told to slowly lift the foot out of the binding and just to stand

there like a stork-on one foot. The instructor must stress not to

try to kick off the ski; the goal is to use a minimum of movement.

Once the child has learned to balance, he/she can slowly put the free

foot down on the back of the ski right behind the other foot. A

tactile assist for this is to tell the child to touch the back of the

leg with the foot and slide the foot down the back of the leg to the


Patience is the main quality that the instructor must

demonstrate. No matter how long the step takes, the child must be

praised for his/her effort.


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Barbara Stevens Cleveland was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, on

January 7, 1940. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from

the University of Missouri in Education, she married James G. Cleveland

and began her teaching career. She was employed as a teacher in the

Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. She completed her Master

of Arts degree in guidance and counseling from George Washington

University in 1966. She continued graduate studies in counselor edu-

cation at the University of Florida and in 1981 received a Specialist

in Education degree. During this time, she was employed by the Alachua

County Schools as a guidance counselor. She continued working as a

counselor and began coursework for the doctoral program in school

psychology at the University of Florida. She is a member of teachers'

and counselors' organizations and Pi Lambda Theta edcuators honor

society. She presently resides in Hawthorne, Florida, where she works

at Shell Elementary School.

I certify that
conforms to acceptable
adequate, in scope and
Doctor of Philosophy.

I certify that
conforms to acceptable
adequate, in scope and
Doctor of Philosophy.

I certify that
conforms to acceptable
adequate, in scope and
Doctor of Philosophy.

I have read this study and that in my opinion it
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
quality, as a dissertation for the degree of

J L. La ren R-herperson
f ss r of Co nselor Education

I have read this study and that in my opinion it
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
quality, as a dissertation for the degree of

P D.of MyriCounselor Educationk
Profeis of Counselor Education

I have read this study and that in my opinion it
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
quality, as a dissertation for the degree of

Donald Avila
Professor of Foundations for Education

I certify that
conforms to acceptable
adequate, in scope and
Doctor of Philosophy.

I have read this study and that in my opinion it
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
quality, as a dissertation for the degree of

Cecil D. Mercer
Professor of Special Education

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the College
of Education and to the Graduate School, and was accepted as partial
fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

May 1985

Dean, College of


Dean, Graduate School

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