Is it established that personal success or happiness is primarily determined by personality and is largely independent of social identities?

Is it established that personal success or happiness is primarily determined by personality and is largely independent of social identities?

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In a discussion about choices about occupation, I shared the image of this tweet. The following was one of the replies:

Of course you can sit and complain about it, but it tells you about your own shortcomings be it laziness, cowardice, fears of all kinds lack of initiative etc.

Further the commenter pointed out that

Personal success or happiness after (everything else being equal) is determined by your personality.

He claims this using the theory of delayed gratification. His point being [from the wiki link]:

In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and other life measures.

Actually he might be right. I have no idea of modern cognitive science results. So I want to know the following:

Are there results in cognitive sciences that show personal success or happiness is determined by one's personality? And that any occupation failure is determined mostly by personal shortcomings and is largely independent of social identities?

There is a growing body of work around social emotional learning that states that factors such as, self-control, grit, and mindset can have a huge impact on long-term success.

But, these are often coined character strengths, not personality. And as such, these strengths can be trained. The Marshmallow Tests may have given evidence that self-control positively correlates with success, but much more importantly that self-control can be trained and is not wholly innate. In his latest book, Walter Mischel (author of The Marshmallow Test, study and book) goes to say that what we grow to become is neither wholly nature or nurture, but a conglomerate.

Angela Duckworth (grit) and Carol Dweck (mindset) have similar views about how we can train our character strengths to better help us succeed.

So, "is determined by?" Probably not. Too much goes into what makes a human human and even personality changes over time.

Independent of social identities? Definitely not. All of the above authors have had their work criticized for letting their work be distributed as, "just the harder and you'll be fine" regardless of social standing (race, sex, income)

This seems to me the old nature versus nurture debate and there is no real answer to this. However, I highly doubt that it is personality (as an inherent trait of you - nature) that's the most important factor for personal success. The question is what shapes your personality.

Family matters a lot, so building your personality over the right type of Childhood experiences seems to have strong effects on personal performance.

Yet, even such mundane things like names can have a huge impact on personal success regarding job oppurtunities.

I don't think you can separate personality from social identity (?) With the marshmallow test, for example, the children who have learned not to trust adults or who live in chaotic environments have more motivation to grab the first marshmallow rather than wait. Their outcomes in life are therefore as likely to be a result of their relationships and environment as they are to be related to unchanging aspects of their personality. I'm sure they've done the experiments controlling for socioeconomic circumstances, etc., but there's no way of controlling for the quality of relationships.

So the answer for me is no, I don't think it's possible to prove such a thing.

Critique [ edit | edit source ]

Most empirical research into Erikson has stemmed around his views on adolescence and attempts to establish identity. His theoretical approach was studied and supported, particularly regarding adolescence, by James E. Marcia. Α] Marcia's work has distinguished different forms of identity, and there is some empirical evidence that those people who form the most coherent self-concept in adolescence are those who are most able to make intimate attachments in early adulthood. This supports Eriksonian theory, in that it suggests that those best equipped to resolve the crisis of early adulthood are those who have most successfully resolved the crisis of adolescence.

On the other hand, Erikson's theory may be questioned as to whether his stages must be regarded as sequential, and only occurring within the age ranges he suggests. For example, does one only search for identity during the adolescent years, or are there times later in life (or earlier) when one is searching for identity. Moreover, does one stage really need to happen before other stages can be completed? Does one need to first achieve industry before achieving identity or intimacy?

Developing Responsible and Autonomous Learners: A Key to Motivating Students

This module takes into consideration the holistic nature of individual student learning and the most effective practices for helping them develop into autonomous and responsible learners. Addressing the whole learner in developmentally appropriate ways includes establishing positive student relationships and listening to each learner’s voice in creating productive learning climates. With this whole learner perspective, teachers are able to help learners become responsible for their own learning in school and in life. By addressing student learning needs and negative behaviors from a place of trust and positive relationships, students are better able to make good choices during learning as well as outside the classroom. These learner-centered practices help students and their teachers to better cope with negative peer pressure and bullying throughout any learner’s journey through the learning system.

The module touches on each of these topics and provides evidence-based instructional practices along with suggested ways to draw from the other modules in this series. It offers related insights from:

  • Cognitive neuroscience, including recent brain study findings.
  • Inquiry-based learning approaches.
  • Blended learning with instructional technology, gaming and digital learning research.

This set of resources provides tools for what teachers of all age groups can do to inspire natural curiosity, creativity and autonomous lifelong learning.

Frustrations among teachers dealing with unmotivated students have been on the rise in recent years, particularly with accountability pressures for helping all students reach learning standards in both high and low performing schools. What teachers may not know is how important the connection is between student motivation and self-determination. Research has shown that motivation is related to whether or not students have opportunities to be autonomous and to make important academic choices. Having choices allows children through young adults feel empowered that they have control or ownership over their own learning. This, in turn, helps them develop a sense of responsibility and self-motivation. The good news is that curriculum resources and assessment tools for reaching these students in personalized ways are emerging with the advent of increased uses of technology in schools.

Teachers can focus on creating responsible and autonomous learners through the use of appropriate student choices. Providing opportunities to choose topics of interest stimulates students’ natural curiosity and eagerness to learn. However, providing choices is most effective in contexts where students are individually supported by others in caring and challenging learning communities. In these cultures and climates for learning, students are more likely to develop diverse competencies needed to be successful lifelong learners. Stimulating curiosity is fostered when students are encouraged to work collaboratively with their teachers and peers in finding answers to their questions in inquiry-based learning environments.

Having choices allows even young children to learn ways to take control or ownership over their own learning. This, in turn, helps students develop a sense of responsibility and self-motivation.

An increasing number of teachers have observed that after second or third grade, many students begin to show signs of decreased motivation to learn. What happened to that natural eagerness to go to school or the curiosity to learn that is so apparent in preschool, first and second grade students? Many teachers fear that presenting more choices to students will lead to losing control over the classroom. However, research shows that in fact the opposite happens. When students understand their role as agent (the one in charge) over their own feeling, thinking and learning behaviors, they are more likely to take responsibility for their learning. To be autonomous learners, however, students need to have some actual choice and control.

That is why teachers need to learn how to help students develop the ability to make appropriate choices and take responsible control over their own learning. Although teaching and reaching students of different ages, backgrounds, interests and experiences may seem overwhelming, the resources in this module can assist teachers in effectively guiding student choices.

As students mature and progress from elementary to middle and high school, research demonstrates an even more critical need for skills of directing and managing one’s own learning choices and progress. When students feel a sense of ownership, they want to engage in academic tasks and persist in learning. To help students develop the capacity to make choices for themselves, teachers need to help students understand their learning interests, dispositions to be active and autonomous learners and capacities or strengths in various content or skill areas.

These learner-centered practices include teachers showing students how to make learning choices and monitor the positive and negative consequences of their choices. This is a trial-and-error process that requires teacher support, modeling and encouragement. For example, if a student expresses interest in reading a particular novel as an English assignment, but then finds that he or she is having trouble understanding it because of unfamiliar words, the teacher can recommend a similar novel that has lower level vocabulary. The teacher can also have the student make a list of the unfamiliar words and look up their meanings.

First-hand experience from the author, Barbara McCombs, PhD

This story began in a Colorado middle school in the United States that was working with McCombs on a project entitled “Neighbors Making a Difference.” The project was aimed at fostering positive relationships between teachers and their students (as well as between students and other meaningful adults in their immediate community). The goal was to prevent student gang involvement and drug use.

Many of the teachers at this middle school were afraid of their “tough” students and had concluded that there was little they could do to reach them. McCombs decided to spend a day at the school and get a closer look at the dynamics between these ill-reputed students and their struggling and fearful teachers, and followed a group of students throughout their day, sitting unobtrusively in the backs of their classrooms.

McCombs learned a lot that day. Afterwards, she remarked somewhat wryly that she was “amazed [the students] weren’t schizophrenic.” She saw students behaving themselves and cooperating in some classes and not in others. McCombs was also an eyewitness to a student fight in the hallways right before their last-period math class. She could not help but assume that students would go to such lengths to avoid participation in an unpopular math class, especially at the end of a long school day.

To McCombs’ surprise, what she saw was a surreal, yet inspiring scene. Without even the visible presence of a teacher or other authority figure, the students filed into the mathematics class and immediately became quiet and self-disciplined. They picked out the appropriate materials from folders along the side of the classroom, sat down at their desks, paired up in preset groups and began working on their current computer projects. And all of this happened without the slightest command or provocation from a teacher.

McCombs finally saw the teacher kneeling in the back of the room looking for some reference materials. A student walked back to ask him a question and that was when it became obvious that the teacher had been there all along. As the students worked, the teacher walked around and checked their progress. McCombs realized that there was much to be learned from this teacher and his seemingly effortless style in facilitating a self-directed learning process for his students. After spending the day witnessing some of the other teachers desperately trying to control their students in rowdy and unruly classroom settings, in this class McCombs saw a teacher who trusted his students to be self-regulated and self-motivated. And that’s what was happening. Not only was the teacher freed from keeping his students in control, he also was able to support and engage students in meaningful assignments. The result was positive motivation without any student disturbances or complaints.

After the class was over, McCombs could not wait to ask the teacher how he achieved such an impressive feat — particularly in light of her previous experiences at the school. The teacher explained his philosophy about the natural desire to learn present in all students and the events that led him to his successful classroom environment. At the beginning of the year, the teacher simply and directly told the students (paraphrasing): “This is your class. we can do it any way you want as long as you learn the math.” In other words, while the teacher did lay out some “non-negotiables” — the essential elements necessary to cover content standards and to ensure that the work got done — he largely left the overall options and details up to his students.

By leaving many of the choices and the rules for how the class should be managed up to his students, the teacher gained their respect and concentration. Most importantly, he met his students’ needs to have some choice and control he instilled in them the ownership that allowed them to take responsibility for their own learning. He relayed that not only were students harder on themselves in setting up classroom rules than he would have been, but because they felt ownership, it was their class and they enforced the rules. His job was easier and he helped instill in his students a sense of responsibility and motivation that transcended everything except their desire to learn. This experience culminated in the inspiration for a book, published by APA, that McCombs wrote with this wise teacher, titled “Motivating Hard-to-Reach Students.”

Interestingly, the phenomenon of students taking less and less responsibility for their own learning is related to the fact that in many school systems, students have progressively fewer opportunities to make choices as they proceed from elementary through secondary school.

With increasing technology use in pre-K through high school classrooms and schools, the importance of student control in these blended learning environments (PDF, 3.62MB) becomes even more important. That is, combining more individualized and technology-supported options can provide a way to engage students beyond what is possible in traditional classrooms.

When new technologies and programs for creating blended classrooms are added, teachers can feel overwhelmed unless they have sufficient knowledge and training to understand which programs are best and which actually distract students and interfere with their learning.

A key to motivating students (PDF, 55KB) is helping them recognize and understand that they can take responsibility for their own learning.

  • Tie learning to students’ personal interests.
  • Let students work together to meet learning goals.
  • Give students a voice in their own learning.

Teaching that fosters motivation to learn is a thoughtful process of aligning student choices so that students see the value of these choices as tools for meeting their learning needs and goals. Modeling the skills involved in making well-informed and positive choices, teachers need to reflect in real-time. Concurrently, teachers must set clear learning goals and help students understand that the choices they can make are within the context of the learning goals set by the teacher. Students learn that they can be successful if they meet clear performance requirements. When students see first-hand that they can be successful, teachers have an opportunity to talk with them about how the standards and expectations are related to their own personal interests or to the skills they will need to succeed in life.

Set clear performance standards from the start. Students need to know exactly what is expected of them, how they will be graded, and what supports will be available to them if they need help learning the information or skills. When teachers communicate performance expectations, they must consider the diverse backgrounds and experiences of each student. Performance outcomes that focus on each student’s abilities and strengths lead to more positive student development and engaged learning, particularly if students are from poor communities or have limited support for learning outside of school.

Help students develop a sense of ownership over the learning process. As part of the process of offering students meaningful choices, teachers must be clear about how the choices relate to the learning objectives or standards.

For example, teachers can provide students with choices about how they may demonstrate mastery of a concept, approach particular assignments, work independently or with peers, and achieve at their competency levels. When students have the opportunity to be involved in making these choices, they take more responsibility for their own learning.

Provide feedback to students that give them precise information about the particular skills they have acquired and/or need to improve in order to be successful in their class.

For example, in pre-K through high school, teachers are increasingly being taught and shown how to begin new learning tasks with opportunities for students to ask questions and seek help from their teacher or peers if they are having difficulty understanding concepts or performances required of them. Students learn to use feedback from their teacher and peers to change their conception of how competent they are in different subjects or learning activities. Feedback also helps students make better learning choices.

Encourage students to assess their own learning progress by using charts or keeping journals, so they can evaluate the progress they are making as they acquire relevant knowledge and skills. As students learn to monitor their own progress, they become more motivated by their successes and begin to acquire a sense of ownership and responsibility for the role they play in these successes.

  • Begin new learning tasks with opportunities for students to ask questions and get help from their teacher or peers if they are having difficulty understanding the concepts or performances required of them.
  • Provide students with meaningful choices consistent with learning objectives (e.g., what work they want to do, what relevant topics they want to study) and exercises that encourage self-monitoring of their comprehension (e.g., becoming aware of their understanding of the materials) and tracking their learning progress (e.g., keeping track of their learning progress in a journal).
  • Help students deal with inevitable disappointment that comes when they don’t perform as well as they hoped they would. For example, students can be taught strategies for using mistakes as learning opportunities and for controlling the negative emotions that can interfere with learning.
  • Praise students for doing well on their assignments and for putting in extra effort. Use specific praise that tells students what they did well and for which learning processes and skills they are being praised.
  • Involve students in setting objectives and participating in decisions about how to individualize objectives in line with curriculum standards, plus individual and collective student interests and choices. For example, students can become involved in setting their own learning goals through guided class discussions where teachers state the learning goals and possible variations in achieving those goals. In small group discussions, students can share their personal interests and then see how these fit with the teacher’s list. By helping students define their personal learning goals and objectives, teachers can guide students to see whether these are consistent not only with their own interests but also how they can be aligned with curriculum standards and expectations. by introducing the unfamiliar through the familiar. For example, teachers can use students’ current knowledge, interests and experiences with a familiar concept, such as trying to master a videogame, to describe the background mathematics and programming that allows the games to work. Students might then be given a choice about designing a particular game routine related to these concepts.
  • Reward success with praise and model how students can monitor their own progress and success with self-reward strategies. Examples of self-reward strategies include doing a favorite activity if they can accomplish their learning goals on time, including age-appropriate projects they complete alone or with selected members in their learning communities.
  • Link learning successes or failures to students’ lack of ability or intelligence. Students can’t change fixed abilities, but they can change learning habits and behaviors like effort and persistence.
  • Compare individual or groups of students with each other in terms of how quickly or well they learn new material. Learning is an individual process and students need to feel good about how they approach and engage in learning tasks, whether they are motivated to persevere in the face of difficulties, and how they handle disappointments and challenges.
  • Pair struggling students with students of higher ability or greater knowledge and skills, as this may result in students becoming dependent (rather than independent) learners. Unless higher ability students across the age-span are trained to work as positive tutors, motivation to learn can suffer for students at both ends of the ability or knowledge spectrums.
  • Engage in teaching strategies that allow students to be passive. Instead, engage their curiosity and promote active learning. Passive teaching strategies provide students with the answers and give them little voice or choice. True engagement means letting students pursue their own questions or solve their own problems with skillful feedback from teachers or other adults supporting their learning and skill development.
  • Ask students to copy your learning strategies. Instead, try to increase their awareness of themselves as self-regulated and strategic learners. Although modeling a learning strategy and asking students to emulate this strategy in their own work is helpful, this is not as effective as “talking aloud” about why a particular strategy is effective and how it works for you or for them.
  • Fragment information without showing students how the fragments connect to form the whole, or “big picture.” Presenting isolated facts without relating them back to the overall theme or concept being taught only causes students to lose interest. This is particularly true if they are not allowed to ask questions or contribute to solving problems associated with the activity. When new technologies are appropriately introduced into the teaching/learning cycle at all grade levels, research confirms that allowing students to pursue their own questions within well-structured learning goals allows students to self-regulate their learning time in more responsible ways, and fosters higher order metacognitive thinking skills.
  • Provide students with choices without also helping them become more aware of their own needs, interests, preferences, internalizations, values, goals and aspirations. Choice by itself is not effective unless students develop the “capacity to choose” what best meets their personal learning needs and goals.

To teach literacy, we must teach the whole child/learner, know the learner, embed literacy into every lesson and subject, build confidence with sound relationships and pedagogy, and teach the critical thinking and metacognitive or social emotional skills that can help students become independent learners for life.

Expert learner-centered teachers will know the learner and help that learner take control of literacy activities and goals. Such teachers will model their own love of learning and passion for certain subjects or types of stories by:

  • Telling their own personal story or story of:
    • Others who struggle with learning to read.
    • Those who love to read so much they do nothing else (with humor).
    • How reading unlocked their interests and career choices.
    • Topics to read in challenging areas of interest.
    • Difficulty levels that allow students to build increased fluency and confidence (easy) and expose students to new vocabulary, text structures and concept (too hard).
    • Quality decoding and fluency needed to build comprehension skills for sustained reading of long passages or texts (reading stamina).
    • Participation in meaningful dialogue about literacy topics as a major part of classroom discussions.
    • Assume competence and target individual areas of strength.
    • Build on student strengths to achieve highest gains in reading and writing.
    • Provide sufficient time for struggling readers to read appropriate level texts.
    • Avoid labeling and tracking struggling readers and writers.
    • Predict story meaning by picture books as needed.
    • Identify words that are familiar and not unfamiliar.
    • Look for clues in the context of the story.
    • Identify sentences or phrases that are not clear.
    • Think about what they already know.
    • Generalize what they know as a strategy to extend their thinking to new words and connected concepts.
    • Restate difficult passages in their own words.
    • Poems or music lyrics that stir emotions and interest.
    • Writing assignments that provide choice of genres or authors or topics.
    • Science or math projects that require research into areas of personal interest.
    • Brainstorming lists of those student knows and how to find the best choice who will stay the course.
    • Thinking critically about personal goals and challenges in selection of mentor.
    • Participating in classroom dialogue that expands understanding and engagement in literacy activities.
    • Skimming content to see if it is personally engaging.
    • Watching movies about the topic or book to inspire interest and familiarity with meaning.
    • Finding others who are familiar with authors you like or topics of high interest.
    • Letting natural curiosity guide choices of material to read and write about or act out.

    Those studying social and emotional learning have found effective strategies that may help students control the negative emotions that can interfere with learning (Dwyer, 2014 Jones, Bailey, & Jacob, 2014 Lee & Shute, 2010 McCombs, 2007c, 2011a Meece, Herman, & McCombs, 2003 Vanchu-Orosco & McCombs, 2007 Vanchu-Orosco, McCombs, & Culpepper, 2010 Zins et al., 2004). Although these social and emotional issues were in the past considered outside the realm of student learning and achievement goals, researchers and practitioners are now recognizing their importance to learning success. There is growing recognition that many of the issues students face in today’s classrooms (e.g., bullying, isolation, ridicule, or alienation due to learning difficulties or differences) must be recognized for students to assume their role as engaged and self-directed learners (Domitrovich, Cortes, & Greenberg, 2007 Jennings & Greenberg, 2009 Maurer, & Brackett, 2004 McCombs, 2009 O’Connell, Boat, & Warner, 2009 Raver, Garner, & Smith-Donald, 2007 Raver, Jones, et al., 2008 Roeser, Skinner, Beers, & Jennings, 2012 Ryan & Deci, 2013 Weissberg, Goren, Domitovich, & Dusenbury, 2012).

    Effective strategies include:
    • Helping students identify and label their feelings.
    • Teaching students to conduct an “inner dialogue” where they use self talk to turn around negative thinking.
    • Learning to see the current situation as part of a bigger process in which it is normal to have some setbacks.
    • Helping students see that with additional effort they can overcome learning difficulties.
    • Encouraging students to find learning partners who can work with them on areas where they are having difficulty.

    These strategies are also necessary in new e-learning or blended learning environments becoming prevalent in many schools and classrooms.

    In talking about what teachers can do to teach dispositions such as self-regulated learning, early research by Tishman, Jay, and Perkins (1992) suggested that teachers should model metacognition. Examples include talking aloud about their thinking while solving a math problem or revealing their mental machinations while making a careful decision. Teachers may also want to use visual exemplars that hang on the classroom walls. For example, posters can be put up to illustrate metacognition, such as a picture of a girl with a thought-bubble above her head and reminding herself to stand back and take stock of her thinking, or expressing a catchy slogan that reminds students to think about their thinking as they work.

    More recently, teachers using laptops, mobile devices, and other emerging technologies appropriate to students across the age span are finding creative ways to stimulate learner-centered dialogue aimed at creating true leaders and collaborators (Wiggins, 2014). Students are learning to take the lead in team inquiry and benefit from practicing group inquiry into topics in science, math, social studies, and language arts that represent real world problems. Students take turns being managers of these conversations, thereby learning to be good coaches, empowering others, not micromanaging, expressing personal interest in tem members well-being and successes, being productive and results-oriented, being a good communicator and listener, identifying potential career interests, having a clear vision and strategy for the team, and having key technical skills needed to advise the team (Bryant, 2011).

    As students progress from elementary grades through middle and high school, their abilities to be good collaborators and to lead effective inquiry teams becomes more important and is a big focus of 21st century upper level schooling (Goodwin, 2014 Hoerr, 2014 Kelly & Turner, 2009 Larson & Lovelace, 2013 Sinek, 2009 Walsch & Sattes, 2005). When technology is used effectively by parents and teachers with even the youngest of school-age children, they begin to understand that technology is a tool for learning and not just an entertainment media (Dede, 2009 Duffy, 2011 Duffy & Kirkley, 2004 Hannum & McCombs, 2008 Johnson, 2014 Jukes, McCain, & Crockett, 2011 Rebora, 2014 Stommel, 2013 Tolley, 2014 Weir, 2014.

    To help students develop the capacity to make choices for themselves, teachers need to help students understand their learning interests, dispositions to be active and autonomous learners, and capacities or strengths in various content or skill areas (Deakin-Crick, McCombs et al., 2007 Deakin-Crick, Stringher, & Ren, 2014 McCombs, 2011 MCombs, 2014a, 2014b). These learner-centered practices include teachers showing students how to make learning choices and monitor the positive and negative consequences of their choices. This is a trial-and-error process that requires teacher support, modeling, and encouragement.

    For example, if a student expresses interest in reading a particular novel as an English assignment, but then finds that he or she is having trouble understanding it because of unfamiliar words, the teacher can recommend a similar novel that has lower level vocabulary. The teacher can also have the student make a list of the unfamiliar words and look up their meanings.

    Researchers studying student engagement, motivation and self-regulated learning generally agree that these connected concepts are important for learning and achieving success in school. From a theoretical perspective, this is supported by the self-determination theory of motivation advanced by Deci and Ryan (1985, 2001, 2002 Ryan & Deci, 2000, 2009, 2013). This theory states that if students can be supported in meeting their basic needs for competency, autonomy and relatedness in learning situations, they are more likely to develop into independent, self-directed and lifelong learners. Furthermore, extensive research on Deci and Ryan’s theory has shown that under specific conditions, autonomy-supportive settings in the classroom have positive effects on self-regulated learning and motivation. Autonomy supportive classrooms are those in which students see their perspectives valued, have opportunities to share their thoughts and feelings, and are encouraged to make choices and exercise self-initiative in learning activities.

    Metacognition has generally been defined as one's capacity to "think about thinking" or to "be aware of and in control of one's thinking processes." From those studying metacognition (Carlock, 2011 Chang, 2009 Kanfer & McCombs, 2000 McCombs, 2001, 2006, 2014a, 2014b McCombs & Marzano, 1990 McCombs & Miller, 2007, 2008 McDaniel, 2012 Ponce, & Mayer, 2014 Vassallo, 2013 Wagner & Heatherton, 2013 Walls & Little, 2005), research shows that students can learn to step outside their beliefs about themselves and their abilities and understand that they are the master or agent in reframing such beliefs. Students can be helped to see how their beliefs are able to influence their expectations, feelings, motivation and behavior. Once students understand their own role in creating and constructing their thoughts and beliefs, they can take increased responsibility in regulating their thinking, feelings and behavior. This will often lead to higher levels of motivation, learning and achievement. Metacognition is thus a key area of research because it shows that if students learn how to control their thinking they become more autonomous and self-regulated learners.

    Related to the concept of metacognition, there is also research on the variety of strategies available for helping students learn how to express their emotions in positive ways. In addition, this research offers techniques for students to monitor how their emotions and motivation influence their learning. One of the strongest sources of evidence for how students can learn about the role of affect (the scientific term used to describe a person's externally displayed mood) in their own thinking and learning processes comes from work on emotional intelligence and social and emotional learning (see for example McCombs, 2007b, 2007c Weissberg, et al., 2012 Zins, Weissberg, Wang, & Walberg, 2004). The most effective strategies involve enhancing students’ abilities to recognize and manage their emotions, appreciate the perspectives of others, establish pro-social goals, solve problems and use a variety of interpersonal skills to handle developmentally relevant tasks. Training programs in social and emotional skills can be effectively integrated into the academic program so that students learn to work collaboratively with others and manage negative emotions and stresses.

    Other relevant research connects the role of affect in thinking and learning with the social nature of learning and the importance of positive teacher-student relationships. These relationships help establish a positive context and climate for learning. In a positive environment, students feel caring from peers, free to make mistakes, capable of expressing their voice and able to make appropriate learning choices.

    In addition to enhancing student motivation to learn, research shows a number of other benefits that come from providing more learner choice and control, including:

    • Greater displays of active planning and self-monitoring of learning.
    • Higher levels of student awareness of their own progress and achievement
    • More resourcefulness and efficiency in using learning resources.
    • Higher levels of sensitivity to the social learning context.

    (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009 Jones, Bailey, & Jacob, 2014 Webster-Stratton, Reid, & Stoolmiller, 2008 Weisberg et al., 2012 Zimmerman, 1994.)

    Benefits can also include broader educational outcomes such as:

    • Staying in school.
    • Higher academic performance.
    • Self-regulation of learning such as doing schoolwork.
    • Feelings of competence and self-esteem.
    • Enjoyment of academic work.
    • Satisfaction with school.

    (Deci & Ryan, 2002 Ryan & Deci, 2009.)

    Reeve, Nix and Hamm (2003) have conducted extensive classroom studies that show when teachers offer students choices, the choices are more likely to increase self-determination and intrinsic motivation when they are presented along with other facilitating conditions:

    • Acknowledging negative feelings.
    • Providing rationale for unappealing choices.
    • Asking students questions about what they do and do not want to do.

    It is also worth noting that when McCombs and her colleagues integrated large bodies of research on the psychological processes and structures underlying self-regulated and autonomous learning (Billings & Roberts, 2014 Carlock, 2011 Dichter, 2014b Duckworth, Gendler, & Gross, 2014 Gross, 2013 McCombs, 1988, 2004, 2014a, 2014b McCombs & Marzano, 1990 McCombs & Miller, 2007, 2008 McCombs & Whisler, 1989), they confirmed that learners are capable of engaging in a number of higher-order processes for controlling lower-order cognitive, affective and motivational processes. These higher order or metacognitive processes primarily consist of self-appraisal and self-management of thoughts and feelings they fundamentally involve realizing the role of the self as agent in the learning process (McCombs, 2001, 2009, 2011 McCombs & Marzano, 1990 McCombs & Miller, 2007, 2008 Vanchu-Orosco, McCombs, & Culpepper, 2010). School-age students learn the role that thinking plays in their feelings and behaviors. Teachers can model this by showing that it isn’t necessary to be a victim of negative thinking and feelings.

    Metacognitive knowledge and skills provide the basic structure for the development of positive self-control and self-regulation of one's thinking and feelings (Billings & Roberts, 2014 Carlock, 2011 Dichter, 2014b Duckworth, Gendler, & Gross, 2014 Gross, 2013 Kanfer & McCombs, 2000 McCombs, 2001, 2006 McCombs & Marzano, 1990 Vanchu-Orosco & McCombs, 2007 Vansteenkiste, Lens, Elliott, Soenens, & Mouratidis, 2014). For optimum development of metacognitive capacities, however, developmental psychologists emphasize that individuals need to have a relatively well-defined and stable self-identity that can give rise to self-awareness (see Harter, 2006, 2012). It is this self-awareness that is the basis for self-regulation (Deci & Ryan, 2002, 2013 McCombs, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c, 2014a, 2014b). This was borne out in research by Cervone et al. (2006) demonstrating that self-regulation provides a link to various forms of self-control in human perceptual, behavioral, emotional and cognitive systems. For students to become more proficient at self-regulation, they need to be given opportunities to follow their own learning plans and goals and rewarded when these goals are accomplished.

    Enhancing students' higher-level metacognitive processes, in general, and reflective self-awareness, in particular, has been shown to have beneficial motivational and performance effects (e.g., Daniels & Clarkson, 2010 Meece, Herman, & McCombs, 2003 McCombs, 2007a, 2007b, 2007b Perry, 2003 Ridley, 1991 Ryan & Deci, 2013). When students become more aware that they are the ones constructing particular thoughts, and they are the ones directing or controlling these thoughts and thinking processes, their motivation is increased to acquire and/or use metacognitive strategies that can sharpen these skills and make learning more fun. Such strategies include executive control, conscious planning, goal-setting and self-regulation of their own learning and learning processes. In addition, evidence suggests that the process is reciprocal (Ryan & Deci, 2013). As students are provided master strategies for monitoring, regulating, and managing their thinking and learning, a sense of personal agency is developed (e.g., Zimmerman & Schunk, 2001). Results include not only higher levels of motivation, but also higher levels of achievement on a variety of learning measures (cf. McCombs, 2014 a, 2014b MCombs & Miller, 2007, 2008).

    To help students understand the relationships between a sense of agency and their own motivation, psychologists and educational researchers have for decades studied the influence of individual learner perceptions and thinking on their emotions (affect), motivation, learning, achievement and other behaviors in a variety of learning settings (e.g., Cervone, Shadel, Smith, & Fiori, 2006 Do & Schallert, 2004 McCombs, 2007c, 2014a, 2014b). As reviewed by Seidel, Perencevich, and Kett (2005) affect and motivation in learning can be viewed from two perspectives:

    Today’s research on learning has an integrated focus based on various perspectives (e.g., neurological brain research, psychological research) that meaningful, sustained learning is a whole person phenomenon (Caine & Caine, 2011 Deakin-Crick, Stringher, & Ren, 2014 King, & McInerney, 2014 McCombs, 2001, 2014a, 2014b Vassallo, 2013 Wagner & Heatherton, 2013 Weinstein, 2014). In the Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act of 2011, the Senate passed legislation acknowledging the important role of social and emotional learning for all school age students into the college years.

    Brain research has continued to show that affect and cognition work together so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects, with emotion driving attention, learning, memory and other mental activities (e.g., Caine & Caine, 2011 Jensen, 1998 Meeri, 2014 Weir, 2014). Research also confirms earlier findings (e.g., Elias, Zins et al., 1997 Lazarus, 2000) that when it comes to learning, intellect and emotion are inseparable and interconnected (e.g., Fiorella, & Mayer, 2015 Heatherton & Wagner, 2011). Likewise, emotional intelligence is important to all aspects of positive human functioning and health (e.g., Duckworth, Gendler, & Gross, 2014 Goleman, 1995 Gross, 2013 Roeser, Skinner, Beers, & Jennings, 2012 Ryan & Deci, 2009,2013 Salovey & Mayer, 1990 Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000 Zins, Elias, Greenberg, & Weissberg, 2000).

    Early research studies discussed by Elias, Bruene-Bulter et al. (1997), including those in neuropsychology, demonstrated that many elements of learning are based on relationships. More recently, research has demonstrated that relationships are central to the development of self-control strategies for regulation emotions and social interactions (Belfield, Nores, Barnett, & Schweinhart, 2006 Boyle & Hassett-Walker, 2008 Jones, Brown, & Aber, 2011 Jones, Brown, Hoglund, & Aber, 2010 O’Neill, Clark, & Jones, 2011 Weissberg, 2007). Researchers and practitioners are concluding that social and emotional skills are essential for the successful development of cognitive thinking and learning skills (e.g., Albright, & Weissberg, 2009 O’Connell, Boat, & Warner, 2009 Pink, 2009 Raver, Garner, & Smith-Donald, 2007 Robinson, 2011 Wagner & Heatherton, 2013 Walls & Little, 2005). Early research by Whisler (1991) presented evidence demonstrating the powerful influence of positive teacher-student relationships on motivation and learning. More recently, Slavin (2014) has posited that without love and emotional support from teachers — whether in face-to-face or online learning environments — reform efforts will not be sustained and students will not engage and succeed.

    Earlier research by Pianta (1999) and Wentzel & Wigfield (2009) confirmed the positive relationships between caring teachers and students’ positive emotional adjustment and learning. Murdock, Miller, and Kohlhardt (2004) report that high school students are more likely to cheat when they perceive their teachers as less caring. In addition, recent studies link student bullying to lack of positive social skills development and suggest that students at all grade levels can help teachers prevent bullying when they take leadership roles and are not merely by-standers (e.g., Blad, 2014 Lee & Shute, 2010 McCombs, 2012, 2014a McDonald, & Hudder, 2014 Mergler, Vargas, & Caldwell, 2014 Novotney, 2014).

    A considerable amount of research has shown that emotions and self-views have specific effects on academic outcomes. For example, studies by O’Mara, Marsh, Craven, & Debus (2006) show that interventions (e.g., explicit metacognitive training, praise, feedback) aimed at changing students’ views of themselves as successful learners in different subjects can be effective in changing adolescents’ self-evaluations. In turn, researchers have shown that increases in students’ self-evaluations positively impact their motivation, learning, and achievement (e.g., Baer, 2014 Dichter, 2014b Duckworth, Gendler, & Gross, (2014 Goldstein, Davis-Kean, & Eccles, 2005 Harmon, 2006 Jones, Bailey, & Jacob, 2014 Law, 2005 McCombs & Miller, 2007, 2008 Narciss, 2004 Zimmerman & Schunk, 2001). Further, Vansteenkiste, Simons, Lens, Sheldon, & Deci (2004) report that students’ depth of processing, test performance, and persistence in learning all increased when they were in autonomy-supporting classrooms where teachers allowed students a degree of choice and control over learning options. Finally, recent research by Anderman, Gimbert, O’Connell, & Riegel (2014) demonstrates that it is possible to assess students’ academic growth with a whole learner approach that acknowledges the role of emotional, social, family or other support and cultural factors in students’ development.

    Research from the psychological sciences continues to confirm that providing students with choice stimulates natural curiosity and motivation to learn (Cornelius-White, 2007 Harter, 2012 Lambert and McCombs, 1998 McCombs, 2012 McCombs & Miller, 2007, 2008 McCombs & Whisler, 1997 Robinson, 2011, 2013). The research also points to very specific student, teacher, and instructional characteristics that teachers can focus on to turn around negative motivational patterns and enhance students’ natural motivation to learn. One very important student characteristic that teachers can influence is students’ sense of self-efficacy or sense of confidence in their ability to be successful learners in different classrooms and different subjects (e.g., Bandura, 1977, 1993, 1997 McCombs, 1986, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2014a Harter, 2012 January, Casey, & Paulson, 2011 National Research Council, 2012 Pajares, 1997 Rimm-Kaufman, Wanless, Patton, & Deutsch, 2011 Schunk, 1994 Schaps, Battistich, & Solomon, 2004).

    Does providing strategies to increase choice and control of one’s learning hurt some students’ (unintended consequences)?

    In general, providing autonomous yet supportive contexts along with appropriate choice and control are positive boosts to motivation and achievement (Deci & Ryan, 2002 Denham, Brown, & Domitrovich, 2010 Payton, Weissberg, Durlak, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2008 Ryan & Deci, 2009, 2013 Vansteenkiste, Simons, Lens, Sheldon, & Deci, 2004 Weare, & Nind, 2011). As indicated in the “Do’s and Don’ts” section of this module, choices should be accompanied by instructions in self-regulation and self-awareness in order to increase students’ confidence. Some studies have indicated that if students overestimate their confidence, it can have future detrimental effects on motivation and achievement outcomes. They may overestimate their ability and become discouraged when they fail. With proper exercise of the strategies recommended here, this potential unintended consequence should be minimal or absent.

    Does providing students with more choice and control work for learning in all academic subjects?

    The strategies for enhancing students’ sense of agency (the understanding that one is responsible for taking charge of and regulating one’s own learning) described in this module generally work for learning in all academic subject areas. Some research (Eilam, 2012 Hunter, 2014 McCaslin, 2009 Narciss, 2004 Pekrun, Goetz, Daniels, Stupinsky, & Perry, 2010 Pietsch, Walker, & Chapman, 2003 Reinsvold & Cochran, 2011 Wallace, & Chhuon, 2014) has shown that there are advantages to tailoring strategies to the specific content areas, such as in reading and mathematics. Examples were presented earlier in the “Do’s and “Don’ts” section.

    A good resource for teachers of young children to promote inquiry-based learning can be found in Samarapungavan, Patrick and Mantzicopoulos (2011).

    How does a teacher evaluate the effectiveness of a particular intervention?

    Teachers can construct their own evaluation tools, such as a short pre/post student survey, to evaluate whether the use of the intervention is making a difference for student motivation and learning. Good indicators of student motivation include the effort students put into assignments, whether or not they persist in the face of failure, whether or not they engage in learning activities on their own time, and whether or not they choose to pursue opportunities for more in-depth learning of a topic (Patrick & Mantzicopoulos, 2014).

    Teachers can also have periodic class discussions and ask students how a particular intervention is helping them make better learning choices and improve self-regulation. They can also be asked about what improvements or changes they would suggest.

    Resources available include the author’s recent national and international work in applying the Learner-Centered Psychological Principles (APA, 1997).

    How long should this intervention last?

    As with most interventions, consistency and repeated use of strategies are recommended. Involving students in choices and having them take increased responsibility in their learning work best. To sustain the sense of efficacy and confidence as students make choices throughout the school years (and beyond), the best strategy is for all pre-K to 12 teachers to be educated in using this intervention (cf., Davis & Elliott, 2014 Duffy, 2011 McCombs, 2014a, 2014b). To further sustain the length of this intervention, teachers should try to understand how their own beliefs and beliefs of their students differ depending on cultural and ethnic differences (Anderman et al., 2014 Cornelius-White, 2007 McCombs, 2014a, 2014b).

    Why does increasing student choice and control work?

    When students first enter school, they generally feel confident in their ability to learn and to direct their own learning. Repeated failures, criticisms from teachers or peers, negative family influences or attitudes, and a variety of other factors can undermine students’ natural autonomy, curiosity and motivation to learn. Students need help with getting back in touch with their natural motivation and curiosity, as well as mastering strategies for self-regulation. Confident learners are a reflection of the connection between positive self-beliefs, motivation and learning outcomes.

    Developmental psychologist Susan Harter has studied how perceptions of self and competence in various life and learning areas occur (see for example Harter, 2006, 2012). Her robust research confirms that perceptions of competence and autonomy emerge in pre-K through primary grades and become more fixed in the periods of preadolescence through adolescence (Upper Elementary, Middle, and High School grades). Developmental psychologists working in the area of achievement motivation also contend that important changes in the concept of the self occur between early, middle, and late childhood (see for example, Dweck, 2002, 2007: Wigfield & Eccles, 2002). During the middle childhood developmental period, Furrer and Skinner (2003) have shown that girls report higher relatedness toward teachers when compared to boys, but relatedness to teachers was a strongpredictor of engagement for boys. Feelings of relatedness to teachers dropped from 5th to 6th grade, but findings show that relatedness to teachers is even more important for engagement and academic achievement for 6th graders. Similar findings of girls tending to benefit more from close teacher relationships are reported by Belfield, Nores, Barnett, & Schweinhart (2006) in their age 40 follow-up analysis of benefits associated with the HighScope Perry Preschool Program.

    Research looking at the decline in intrinsic motivation and personal responsibility for learning as students progress from upper elementary through high school (Deci & Ryan, 2002 Otis, Grouzet, & Pelletier, 2005 Goldstein, Davis-Kean, & Eccles, 2005 Cornelius-White, 2007 Harter, 2012) have found that motivation specifically declines across major school transitions, indicating there is a mismatch between the child’s developmental level and the demands of middle and high schools. Research also indicates that school adjustment in early adolescence (7th and 8th grades) is significantly related to students’ intrinsic motivation and the belief that they are responsible for taking charge of and regulating their own learning (Deci & Ryan, 2002 Ryan & Deci, 2009, 2013 Walls & Little, 2005).

    Research documents differences in how students from different cultural and ethnic groups view themselves as learners (cf. Crotty, 2013 Deci & Ryan, 1985 Graham, 1994 Heine, Lehman, Markus, & Kitayama, 1999 Holloway, 1988 Iyengar & Lepper, 1999 Lodewyk, & Winne, 2005 Peng, Nisbett, & Wong, 1997 Richmond, 2014). For example, d’Ailly (2004) in comparing 5th and 6th graders from Canada and Taiwan, found somewhat different effects of providing choice for Canadian versus Chinese children and between boys versus girls. Recent research continues to verify that gender, culture, and other ethnic and racial variables relate to how willing students are to be autonomous learners in school settings (e.g., Crotty, 2013 McCombs, 2007a Patall, Cooper, & Wynn, 2010 Richmond, 2014) and what strategies tend to work best for various students and age groups when applying choice strategies (e.g., Finn, & Schrodt, 2012 Van den Bergh, Ros, & Beijaard, 2014 Vansteenkiste, et al., 2014).

    Studies reveal that there are important instructional, learning environment, and teacher differences that contribute to the development of autonomous and responsible learners (Czekalinski, 2013 Lodewyk & Winne, 2005 McCombs, 2004 McCombs & Miller, 2006 McCombs & Pope, 1994 Pintrich, 2003 Urdan, 2004). Furthermore, Australian researchers have found that in addition to instructional context variables, it is important for teachers to broaden their own socio-cultural perspectives so that they can understand how individual students are influenced by social and cultural factors in the classroom that arise from the teacher’s or other classmates’ behaviors (Alliance for Education Excellence, 2013 Deakin-Crick, 2014 Walker, Pressick-Kilborn, Arnold, & Sainsbury, 2004).

    The following books, designed for teachers, describe strategies for helping students become more autonomous and motivated learners:

    Freeware for educators that includes student experts:

      The challenges of today will be solved by the designers of tomorrow. That’s why Autodesk gives students, educators and educational institutions free access to professional design software, creativity apps and real-world projects. Autodesk Education helps inspire and prepare the next generation to imagine, design and create a better world.
      Resources can be accessed by browsing categories or performing a search.
      Despite a pile of education books reaching in-excess of 20-high, the only book I’ve managed to read from cover to cover this summer is David Didau’s, The Secret of Literacy. This blog is a review.
      Reading, in terms of scale and diversity, is different than it used to be. Thinking, in terms of context and application, is also different. It makes since that learning is also changing — becoming more entrepreneurial than directly didactic. That is, more learner-centered than teacher-controlled.
      When it comes to successful eLearning design, everybody should agree that there’s no such thing as too much information about how the human brain operates. It’s wired for social learning. Our respective environments actually shape our brains and the rest of our bodies. and Time for Teachers: Leveraging Time to Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers
      Examines 17 high-performing and fast-improving schools around the country that have taken advantage of expanded school schedules to provide students with more time for engaging academic and enrichment classes and teachers with more time to collaborate with colleagues, analyze students data, create new lesson plans and develop new skills.
    Theoretical framework:

      This website presents a brief overview of SDT and provides resources that address important issues such as human needs, values, intrinsic motivation, development, motivation across cultures, individual differences and psychological well-being. Also addressed are the applications of Self-Determination Theory to: education, health care, relationships, psychotherapy, psychopathology, organizations, sports and exercise, goals, health and well-being, environment.
      Global Guru’s names Ed Deci and Rich Ryan as two of the “Worlds Top 30 Education Professionals for 2014.”
      This journal provides researchers and educators at all school levels with how others have successfully described the theory and practices that work in diverse settings and with culturally diverse students. The International Journal for Talent Development and Creativity (IJTDC) is a refereed journal published twice a year by both the International Centre for Innovation in Education (ICIE) & Lost Prizes International (LPI).

    Fostering autonomous learning and the learner qualities needed for effective self-directed learning skills requires the types of curiosity stimulating, inquiry-based and collaborative practices described in this module. A blend of effective strategies that are developmentally appropriate for pre-K to 12 students are available at all school levels.

    For example, the successful Perry Preschool Program used the HighScope curriculum as part of Head Start since the early to mid-1960s, demonstrate that young children can be supported in their natural abilities to be self-regulated and become autonomous learners (Barnett, 1996 Cohen, 2006 Schweinhart, Barnes, & Weikart, 1993 Schweinhart et al., 2005). Longitudinal studies spanning more than 40 years have shown that supporting students in their planning skills as well as encouraging them to review their academic work has demonstrated lasting effects (Camilli, Vargas, Ryan, & Barnett, 2010 CASEL, 2003, 2013). Once metacognitive skills are mastered, students gain the confidence to be successful learners and take charge of their own learning. As children get older, they learn more sophisticated metacognitive strategies that support their developmental need to feel competent and self-determined (Dweck, 2007).

    Do developmental differences lead to modifying the way you implement these strategies?

    Individual differences encompass a range of internal learner characteristics as well as outside factors discussed throughout this module. Regardless of these differences and what impact they might have on students’ abilities to become autonomous learners, the recommended solution is to deal directly with individual student’s feelings of alienation and disconnection by using practices that:

    • Connect rather than isolate individuals.
    • Give voice to concerns of all learners in the system.
    • Promote positive growth, development of personal and social responsibility, and lifelong learning for all students.

    Listening to students at all ages helps teachers understand them and their learning needs. It is the first step in understanding how best to help students develop self-directed learning skills that help them take control of their emotions, thinking and behavior.

    Students’ understandings and beliefs about motivation become more differentiated and complex over time as they increase their understandings of what it means to be intelligent and capable as a learner (cf. Allen, Pianta, Gregory, Mikami, & Lun, 2011 Hood, 2014). Young children in early grades also develop perceptions of their competence, self-determination or autonomy in learning situations. Examples of how students in early elementary school can be guided into personalized activities that allow choice and control include:

    During middle childhood (grades 3 to 6), a sense of relatedness (to teachers in particular) becomes increasingly important. For that reason, positive teacher-student relationships are essential for helping students become more autonomous and responsible for their own learning and motivation. The role of appropriate choice and control during these middle years is vital to students’ ongoing engagement and academic motivation. Resources for teachers include:

      : Strategies for middle level students to do fun inquiry-based activities to develop critical grammar and mathematics skills. : Evidence-based practices for fostering self-directed learning through the appropriate use of feedback strategies in technology rich environments at this and the continuum of ages in grades 4-8 and beyond.

    For students at the high school level, peer relationships grow in importance along with needs to be more independent and in control of their activities and futures. At this period, interests in learning new skills such as artistic endeavors, musical creations and writing scripts for their own TV or radio shows become highly engaging. Examples of how youth can be creative and learn to produce their own musical productions or TV shows for their peers include:

      : an innovative project in Switzerland that is expanding to include students from the U.S. and around the world with their Facebook presence. : an interview with motivation expert Carol Dweck, PhD, who helps teachers understand strategies that engage students in STEM topics they avoid — and why students avoid these science, technology, engineering or mathematics topics as they get older.
    What do we know about moderating variables?

    Over the past several decades, research has shown that interventions directed at helping students increase their sense of agency or efficacy can be successful across grade levels, content disciplines and a variety of individual differences (gender, ethnic group, socioeconomic group, abilities and disabilities). For example, several researchers have found that students from different cultural and ethnic groups have different beliefs about efficacy, competence, control and self-worth. On the other hand, research in China has shown that the construct of autonomy that is part of the Deci and Ryan (2002) intrinsic motivation and self-determination theory has similar meanings for Chinese children in grades 4-6 as American age peers (d’Ailly, 2003). More recent research by Anderman, Gimbert, O’Connell, & Riegel (2014) and Harter (2012) identifies variables related to student growth in essential skills for being self-directed and autonomous learners.

    With increased technology options for teachers at all grade levels, learn more about research-based resources that have proven effectiveness in promoting self-directed and autonomous learning from:

    Research has also shown that the effects of instruction, learning environments and teacher differences are important to enhancing student self-efficacy, motivation to learn, as well as learning achievement outcomes (cf. Caldwell & Spinks, 2013 Hargreaves & Shirley, 2012 Fullan, & Langworthy, 2014). The teacher’s own level of self-efficacy or confidence in his/her ability to teach and reach a variety of students has been shown to be important. Other important variables include: classroom goal structures, individual student achievement goals and cultural differences.

      : for teachers interested in their own self-renewal during times when they are feeling the need for community and courage to try new ideas that boost self-confidence.

    All of these variables impact motivation and achievement in the classroom. What this means for teachers is that they need to be aware of their own levels of confidence when working with students. Teachers also need to be sensitive towards diverse social cues and behaviors among students from various cultural backgrounds in terms how they get connect and get relate to each other.

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    Outline of a future science of humanity

    The possible emergence of a new intellectual centre of the world in East and South Asia, mentioned above, may offset and eventually nullify those vested interests. That development in turn could create the conditions necessary for the rise of a science of humanity, one that would be capable of progressively accumulating objective knowledge of its subject matter. Intellectually, the first step in that direction would be to identify the quality that distinguishes humanity from the subject matter of biology, defining humanity as an ontological category in its own right. Comparative zoology provides the empirical basis for such an identification. Comparing human beings with other animals immediately highlights the astonishing variability and diversity of human societies and human ways of life (what humans actually do in their roles as parents, workers, citizens, and so on) and the relative uniformity of animal societies, even among the most social and intelligent animals, such as wolves, lions, dolphins, and primates. Keeping in mind the minuscule quantitative difference between the genome of Homo sapiens and that of chimpanzees (barely more than 1 percent), it is clear that the enormous difference in variability of ways of life cannot be accounted for genetically—that is, in terms of biological evolution. Instead, it is explained by the fact that, while all other animals transmit their ways of life, or social orders, primarily genetically, humans transmit their ways of life primarily symbolically, through traditions of various kinds and, above all, through language. It is the symbolic transmission of human ways of life (both the symbolic transmission itself and the human ways of life that are necessarily so transmitted) to which the term “culture” implicitly refers. Culture in this sense qualitatively—and radically—separates human beings from the rest of the biological animal kingdom.

    This empirical evidence of human distinctiveness shows that humanity is more than just a form of life—i.e., a biological species. It represents a reality of its own, nonorganic kind, justifying the existence of an autonomous science. The justification is provided not by the existence as such of society among humans but by the symbolic manner in which human societies are transmitted and regulated. Stating the point explicitly in this way shifts the focus of inquiry from social structures—the general focus of social sciences—to symbolic processes and opens up a completely new research program, in its significance analogous to the one that Darwin established for biology. Humanity is essentially a symbolic—i.e., cultural, rather than social—phenomenon.

    When the science of humanity at last comes into being, it will make use of the information collected in the social sciences but will not be a social science itself. Its subject matter, whichever aspects of human life it explores, will be the symbolic process on its multiple levels—the individual level of the mind and the collective levels of institutions, nations, and civilizations (see below Institutions, nations, and civilizations)—and the multitude of specific processes of which it consists. The science of humanity will be the science of culture, and its subdisciplines will be cultural sciences.

    In contrast to the current social sciences, but like biology and physics, the science of humanity will have an inherent general standard for assessing particular claims and theories. As an autonomous reality, humanity is necessarily irreducible to the laws operating within the organic reality of life and to the laws operating within the physical reality of matter. It nevertheless exists within the boundary conditions of those laws—i.e., within the (organic and physical) reality created by the operation of those laws. Consequently, it is impossible without those boundary conditions. All the regularities of autonomous phenomena existing within the boundary conditions of other phenomena of a different nature (i.e., organic regularities existing within the boundary conditions of matter and cultural regularities existing within the boundary conditions of life) must be logically consistent with the laws operating within those boundary conditions. Therefore, every regularity postulated about humanity—every generalization, every theory—beginning with the definition of its distinctiveness, must entail mechanisms that relate that regularity to the human animal organism—mechanisms of translation or mapping onto the organic world. Indeed, the recognition that humanity is a symbolic reality implies such mechanisms, which connect every regularity in that reality to human biological organisms through the mind—the symbolic process supported by the individual brain.

    The postulation of the mind and other distinguishing characteristics of humanity follows directly from the recognition of humanity as a symbolic reality, because such characteristics are logically implied in the nature of symbols. Symbols are arbitrary signs: the meanings they convey are defined by the contexts in which they are used. Every context changes with the addition of every new symbol to it—which is to say, every context changes constantly. Every present meaning depends on the context immediately preceding it and conditions the contexts and meanings following it, the changes thus occurring in time. That fact means that symbolic reality is a temporal phenomenon—a process. (It must always be remembered that the concept of structure in discourse about culture can only be a metaphor nothing stands still in culture—it is essentially historical, in other words.) The symbolic process—that is, the constant assignment and reassignment of meanings to symbols (their interpretation)—happens in the mind, which is implicitly recognized as distinct from the brain (or from whatever other physical organ it may be associated with) in languages in which “mind” is a concept. The mind, supported by and in contrast to the brain, is itself a process—analogous, for instance, to the physical processes of digestion, happening to food in the stomach, or breathing, happening to air in the lungs. More specifically, it is the processing of symbolic stimuli—culture—in the brain. That fact makes culture both a historical and a mental phenomenon. In the science of humanity, moreover, it necessitates a perennial focus on the individual (methodological individualism, indeed already recommended by Weber), the individual being defined as a culturally constituted being and the mind being seen as individualized culture (“culture in the brain”). It also precludes the reification of social structures of whatever kind, be they classes, races, states, or markets. Although the mind is the creative element in culture (the symbolic process in general and the specific processes of which it consists on the collective level), its creativity is necessarily oriented by cultural stimuli operating on it from the outside. The symbolic process, just like the organic process of life, takes place on the individual and the collective levels at once, involving both continuity and contingency. Like genetic mutations in the process of life, change is always a possibility, but its nature (and thus the direction of evolution in the case of life and the direction of history in the case of humanity) can never be predicted.


    The normal human body contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. A chromosome is a long thin structure containing thousands of genes, which are biochemical units of heredity and govern the development of every human being.

    SRY Gene (Sex-determining Region Y gene)

    At about 6 weeks, the SRY gene on the Y chromosome causes the gonads (sex organs) of the embryo to develop as testes.

    If the embryo has no Y chromosome, it will not have the SRY gene, without the SRY gene, the gonads will develop as ovaries.

    Sometimes the SRY gene is missing from the Y chromosome, or doesn't activate. The foetus grows, is born, and lives as a little girl, and later as a woman, but her chromosomes are XY. Such people are, usually, clearly women to themselves and everyone else.

    Koopman et al. (1991) found that mice that were genetically female developed into male mice if the SRY gene was implanted.

    One of the most controversial uses of this discovery was as a means for gender verification at the Olympic Games, under a system implemented by the International Olympic Committee in 1992. Athletes with a SRY gene were not permitted to participate as females.

    Atypical Chromosomes

    Individuals with atypical chromosomes develop differently than individuals with typical chromosomes - socially, physically and cognitively.

    Studying people with Turner's syndrome and Klinefelter's syndrome might help our understanding of gender because by studying people with atypical sex chromosomes and comparing their development with that of people with typical sex chromosomes, psychologists are able to establish which types of behavior are genetic (e.g. determined by chromosomes).

    Turner's Syndrome

    Turner's syndrome (XO) occurs when females develop with only one X chromosome on chromosome 23 (1 in 5000 chance).

    The absence of the second X chromosome results in a child with a female external appearance but whose ovaries have failed to develop.

    The physical characteristics of individuals with Turner's syndrome include lack of maturation at puberty and webbing of the neck.

    In addition to physical differences, there are differences in cognitive skills and behavior compared with typical chromosome patterns.

    The affected individuals have higher than average verbal ability but lower than average spatial ability, visual memory and mathematical skills. They also have difficulty in social adjustment at school and generally have poor relationships with their peers.

    Klinefelter's Syndrome

    Klinefelter's syndrome (XXY) affects 1 in every 750 males. In addition to having a Y chromosome, these men also have an additional X on the 23rd chromosome, leading to the arrangement XXY.

    Physically they appear male, though the effect of the additional X chromosome causes less body hair and under-developed genitals. The syndrome becomes noticeable in childhood, as the boy has poor language skills. At three years of age, the child may still not talk. At school, their poor language skills affect reading ability.

    When they are babies, their temperament is described as passive and co-operative. This calmness and shyness remains with them throughout their lives.

    This suggests that level of aggression have a biological rather than environmental component.


    The social identity approach is fast becoming a prominent framework for understanding effective leadership in sport and exercise contexts. The last five years, in particular, has seen a proliferation of research informed by the identity leadership approach, with a focus on two broad outcomes: performance and health. Using these two key outcomes as an organising framework, we provide a critical narrative review of research that has examined the presence, role, and benefits of identity leadership in sport and exercise contexts, and identify fruitful avenues for future research. Applying a broader lens, we then make five key recommendations for future identity leadership research in sport and exercise contexts. Specifically, we highlight the need for research (a) using more rigorous and varied research designs, (b) using stronger measures, (c) comparing the effects of identity leadership to the effects of other types of leadership, (d) assessing further potential mediators of relationships between identity leadership and key outcomes, and (e) exploring the possible dark side of identity leadership.

    Biological Approaches

    How much of our personality is in-born and biological, and how much is influenced by the environment and culture we are raised in? Psychologists who favor the biological approach believe that inherited predispositions as well as physiological processes can be used to explain differences in our personalities (Burger, 2008).

    In the field of behavioral genetics, the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart—a well-known study of the genetic basis for personality—conducted research with twins from 1979 to 1999. In studying 350 pairs of twins, including pairs of identical and fraternal twins reared together and apart, researchers found that identical twins, whether raised together or apart, have very similar personalities (Bouchard, 1994 Bouchard, Lykken, McGue, Segal, & Tellegen, 1990 Segal, 2012). These findings suggest the heritability of some personality traits. Heritability refers to the proportion of difference among people that is attributed to genetics. Some of the traits that the study reported as having more than a 0.50 heritability ratio include leadership, obedience to authority, a sense of well-being, alienation, resistance to stress, and fearfulness. The implication is that some aspects of our personalities are largely controlled by genetics however, it’s important to point out that traits are not determined by a single gene, but by a combination of many genes, as well as by epigenetic factors that control whether the genes are expressed.

    Try It

    Erik Erikson’s Model of Adult Development

    Erik Erikson’s model of psychosocial development was outlined over half a century ago (Erikson, 1950, 1963) and exercised a formative influence on life span developmental psychology. While his account of early development is given relatively less attention nowadays by students of child and infant development, his concept of adult development – that is of psychosocial development evident from adolescence onwards – continues to stimulate considerable quantitative and qualitative research, both in the fields of life span development and in the psychology of adulthood and ageing (Bradley, 1998 Hamachek, 1990 Kotre, 1984 Logan, 1986 Marcia, 1966 Orlofsky, 1993 Waterman, 1999 Yufit, 1969). Unlike previous models of psychological development that were outlined by Freud, Kohlberg, Piaget and Vygotsky which all mapped the growth of the person against biological development, in effect, stopping at puberty, Erikson first articulated the idea of lifelong 𠆎pigenetic’ development, located within a matrix of biological, psychological and sociological processes, and leading to the progressive ‘maturing’ of human character (Erikson, 1963). This model assumed that development took place through a series of eight distinct stages, four during infancy and childhood, followed by adolescence as a pivotal fifth stage between childhood and adulthood, shifting the individual’s concerns away from the institutions of childhood toward those of adulthood. Adulthood in turn was seen as a second 𠆌ycle’ of development, with three stages of early, mid and late adulthood, characterised by the development of intimacy, generativity and integrity, respectively (Erikson, 1950, 1963, 1982).

    During the evolution of his model, and especially after his rise to the status of public intellectual in the 1970s, a number of criticisms were levelled at Erikson’s theory from psychology as well as from the wider social sciences. These include sustained critiques of the lacunae in his model – particularly its gendered bias (Gilligan, 1982) and its historical specificity (Arnett, 2000) – as well as criticisms over the lack of rigour in its formulation and Erikson’s frequent propensity ‘to go well beyond the information given’ (Stevens, 2008: 112). Researchers in personality theory have questioned the very idea of �ult development’, arguing that stability rather than change characterises adult personality, pointing to the lack of empirical evidence of ‘points of transition’ in longitudinal and cross-sectional studies of personality (Costa and MacRae, 1994).

    From a sociological perspective, Erikson has been accused of having 𠆊 conformist cast to his psychosocial perspective … using his psychology to buttress the conventional pieties of post-World War II political ideology’ (Roazen, 1980: 339). Roazen among others criticised him for too readily accepting the nature of the American society in which he forged his own identity. He and others pointed out the lack of any critical interrogation of the social context in which adult personality is formed (see for example, Kovel, 1988: 68�). The failure to examine the social context in which individuals grow up or to offer any conceptual framework to explain how different societies may accentuate, moderate or attenuate the various 𠆌rises’ of adult development is all the more noteworthy because Erikson himself had frequently argued – against the Freudian emphasis upon the dominant influence of intra-psychic processes – that body, mind and society were equally critical in determining the processes and patterns of growing up (e.g. Erikson, 1963: 243 Erikson, 1980: 49).

    Perhaps because life span developmental psychology has become obsessed with developing operational measures and refining theoretical formulations of Erikson’s stages of adult development to the relative neglect of its social context, life course sociologists have tended to ignore the call made by Erikson for social scientists to provide a fuller account of how systems ideologies and power groups support or fail to support ‘the generative potential in adults and the readiness for growth and development’ (Erikson, 1982: 82). Given that one of the principal aims of this paper is to offer such an account, connecting the development of what Erikson, following Jahoda, termed ‘the healthy personality’ (Erikson, 1980: 53) with broader social change, the relative neglect of Erikson’s ideas within the sociology of the life course is arguably another factor contributing to the continuing failure of life course sociology to engage with life span psychology.

    Even within the sociology of ageing and old age where a life course perspective has long been actively pursued (Marshall and Bengston, 2011) the emphasis has been on either exploring the influence of early life conditions on health or economic outcomes in later life, or on tracking the extent of reciprocity between the generations. Rather than framing old age as a dynamic stage in life, with crises and conflicts of its own, the sociology of ageing and old age has treated it as a destination arrived at, after the engine of social change has moved on (Gilleard and Higgs, 2005). The marginality of age remains, pace Erikson, as ensconced as ever in the social and behavioural sciences despite his attempt to reformulate its ‘virtues’ within society (Erikson, 1964: 113). Although the work that led to Childhood and Society (1963) was conducted through a mix of clinical casework, ethnographic observation and participation in the longitudinal study of adolescence, part of his motivation was to ground the study of human development within society (Erikson, 1963: 13 Friedman, 1999: 234 Stevens, 2008: 12). He introduced the term ‘triple book-keeping’ to reflect the need to take into account the various interaction between somatic processes, ego processes and societal processes in shaping individual lives (Welchman, 2000: 40).

    This ‘triple book-keeping theme’ however was never further articulated nor was it theoretically elaborated by Erikson, though it continued to preoccupy him throughout the rest of his career. In planning his never-accomplished re-write of The Life Cycle Completed, his last book published in 1982, he expressed his desire ‘to register the fate of the basic human strengths and core disturbances under changing technological and historical conditions’ (Friedman, 1999: 459). We would argue that pursuing this task might well produce valuable results both for life course sociology and for the sociology of ageing and old age. To do so, we suggest, necessitates that we turn away from the current themes of life course sociology and instead explore an alternative entry point, that of the concept of identity in Erikson’s work and within sociology more broadly.

    When asked about their competence, 94% of American professors claimed they were ‘better than average’ – a sign of self-inflation

    In many cases, the consequences are broadly as you would expect. When questioned about their attitudes and behaviours, people in more individualistic, Western societies tend to value personal success over group achievement, which in turn is also associated with the need for greater self-esteem and the pursuit of personal happiness. But this thirst for self-validation also manifests in overconfidence, with many experiments showing that Weird participants are likely to overestimate their abilities. When asked about their competence, for instance, 94% of American professors claimed they were “better than average”.

    This tendency for self-inflation appears to be almost completely absent in a range of studies across East Asia in fact, in some cases the participants were more likely to underestimate their abilities than to inflate their sense of self-worth. People living in individualistic societies may also put more emphasis on personal choice and freedom.

    Holistic thinking permeates Eastern philosophy and culture (Credit: Getty Images)

    Crucially, our “social orientation” appears to spill over into more fundamental aspects of reasoning. People in more collectivist societies tend to be more ‘holistic’ in the way they think about problems, focusing more on the relationships and the context of the situation at hand, while people in individualistic societies tend to focus on separate elements, and to consider situations as fixed and unchanging.

    As a simple example, imagine that you see a picture of someone tall intimidating someone smaller. Without any additional information, Westerners are more likely to think this behaviour reflects something essential and fixed about the big man: he is probably a nasty person. “Whereas if you are thinking holistically, you would think other things might be going on between those people: maybe the big guy is the boss or the father,” explains Henrich.

    4. Conclusion: Looking Inward, Looking Forward

    Perhaps there is only one true pleasure of blissful freedom from stress, present in all apparently diverse pleasures, including those of the hot bath, sexual consummation, youthful friendship, and freedom from responsibility for children which figured in the short Afghan list of §2.1 &ndash and its impure mixtures with frights and with the burning pains of hot spice are only due to ways it can be caused due to our biology and past conditioning. Or perhaps there will be much more intrinsic, and not merely causally relational, diversity. How we and our hedonic experience are situated or constituted in our brains and organisms remains to be seen. And bringing normative wisdom to bear on emerging physiology will presumably be called for, at least to the extent that the concept of pleasure, at least in its primary use by naive experiencers (who seem to fix the reference of the term in part through pleasure presenting as good to them), is an evaluative and normative one, however legitimately this may bracketed by scientists and philosophers when theorizing about it. (Cf. Sidgwick 1907, 129, on the Stoics taking this appearance to be an always deceptive one, and not only, perhaps like Plato [Moss 2006] and Aristotle [Moss 2012], as an occasionally corrigible one.)

    In doing so we may aim to capture much in earlier views while keeping in mind that pleasure is something biological, psychological, and experiential which remains in large part unknown, the nature or category of which it is inappropriate to stipulate a priori. Perhaps pleasure expresses the unimpeded functioning (Aristotle) of our Natural anxiety-free and pain-free State (Epicurus) by which we are able to reach outward from our hedonic core to engage with more representational brain processes &ndash and through these, with love, to all the world (citations in n. 25). But perhaps pleasure has a more complex reflexive intentional structure, as suggested in some of the medieval literature mentioned in §2.3.1 and n. 20 ad loc., and understanding the self-organization of recurrent neural activity will someday help us to introspect this better. Elements at least of these suggestions and others are compatible. Or perhaps pleasure divides in two, perhaps along the lines between the &lsquowanting&rsquo and &lsquoliking&rsquo discussed in the preceding section, no one natural kind responding to all we intuitively seek, with dopaminergic reward needed to organize our exploratory pleasures of pursuit until we are ready for opioid bliss and repose. But we should also not forget more humble and basic biological facts: that mood varies with energy and thus with circadian rhythms affecting body temperature and also with the current availability of nutrients in the blood (Thayer 1989, 1996) that how much pleasure we experience also depends on getting enough, and good enough, sleep that pleasure increases immune response (Rosenkranz et al, 2003), and that how we feel may grow in part out of monitoring bodily homeostasis (Craig 2002, 2009, 2015). These facts are telling about what may, perhaps, turn out to be more a syndrome of typically causally connected features than a simple or unified psychobiological phenomenon, such as would better fit philosophers&rsquo penchant for simple kinds and simple explanations.

    The prospects seem good for new and deep scientific understanding of pleasure and of how it is organized in the brain. We may have much to gain from the practical results of this new understanding &ndash especially if, as Voznesensky says,

    But pleasure should also be of special interest even to philosophers of mind not especially interested in value or affect, in part for the strong challenge that apparently contentless moods pose to representational accounts of mind. Deeply subjective or phenomenal aspects of our experience, that may more easily be ignored elsewhere in the philosophy of mind, seem to stare us in the face here, where what is at issue centrally seems no informational content or broad functional role but simply &ldquowhether you&rsquore happy or sad&rdquo. However, appearances of bare intrinsic fact and simple pictures taken for firm foundations have often proved misleading in the studies of mind. As the sciences of mind and brain mature, they will offer new evidence about pleasure and its roles in our and kindred minds and about whether and how these roles may pull apart, perhaps making pleasure more than one natural kind. Real answers to major questions about the unity, diversity, and nature of pleasure and its relations to pain, motivation, awareness, and value must likely await further results of this new science and their scientifically informed and philosophically sensitive interpretation.