THE EFFECTS OF A PHYSICAL ACTIVITY INTERVENTION
ON THE SELF-CONCEPT AND BEHAVIOR
OF FIFTH-GRADE BOYS
BARBARA STEVENS CLEVELAND
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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
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.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1 INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . .
Purpose of the Study ... .............
Rationale for the Study ......
Definition of Terms ......
Organization of the Remainder of the Study .. ...
2 REVIEW OF THE RELATED LITERATURE OF SELF-CONCEPT ..
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 ....
The Piers-Harris Children's Self
The Burks' Behavior Rating Scales
Research Design .....
4 RESULTS . . . . .
Hypothesis 1 . . . . . .... .
Hypothesis 2 . . . . . . . .
Hypothesis 3 . . . . . . . .
1 I I : I ) I
5 DISCUSSION, CONCLUSIONS,
AND RECOMMENDATIONS .
Discussion . . .
Implications . ..
Recommendation . .
APPENDIX: INTERVENTION . ..
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . .
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ...
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
THE EFFECTS OF A PHYSICAL ACTIVITY INTERVENTION
ON THE SELF-CONCEPT AND BEHAVIOR
OF FIFTH-GRADE BOYS
Barbara Stevens Cleveland
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 &
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
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
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
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.
REVIEW OF THE RELATED LITERATURE OF SELF-CONCEPT
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
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 &
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Figure 1. Behavior rating regression slopes for the experimental and
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.
IMPLICATIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
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
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-
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Dean, College of
Dean, Graduate School