Article review: Teaching children and youth self-control

Waag, JW (1998). Teaching children and youth self-control: applications of perceptual control theory L. M. Bullock & R. A. Gable, (Eds). Reston, Virginia: Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders

With the increasing clamor for inclusive learning, Waag (1998) set out to evaluate how Perceptual control theory (PCT) can be used to educate children and youth develop self-control. The article first presents a background on the factors (resulting from the student and the teachers) that make instruction of children and youth who have emotional/ behavioral disorders (EBD) a challenging endeavor. Through this presentation, the article transitions to alternative interventions to PCT used to instruct learners with EBD on self-control, noting the deficiencies in such interventions. The paper then presents a perspective of what the ultimate goal of education is, “to develop independent and self-directed persons capable of behaving appropriately and constructively without the supervision of others” (p.3), thus establishes a need to evaluate how PCT could help achieve such a goal. Through this introduction, the paper provides a sound background that leads to the express statement of the purpose of the paper.

To support the arguments advanced in the paper, Waag (1998) provides appropriate references. This is especially critical since the suggested intervention contradicts various approaches of prior interventions based on such aspects as behaviorism and cognitive psychology. Central among these differences, is the PCT’s perspective that behavior controls perception rather than perceptions controlling an individual’s behavior (pp. 7-10). To illustrate this perspective, the paper uses not only research support but also relevant examples that help demystify the concept of PCT. An example of a student who is disruptive in the classroom (p. 9), for instance provides one with a practical application of PCT in education. Additionally, the paper presents points of convergence and divergence of PCT with other intervention approaches, noting weaknesses of PCT. Through such examples and comparisons, the concept of PCT, which otherwise appears complex, is presented in simple and fluent manner, an aspect that is one of the strengths of the article  since it does only present a policy initiative but demonstrates how the initiative could be applied.

In terms of methodology, the paper uses a methodology that satisfies the aims it intends to address. Firstly, the paper presents a succinct description of PCT concept, identifying the basic principles, levels, and its relation to the subject of instructing children and youth with EBD about self-control. Secondly, the paper presents an approach for implementing PCT with a rationale for questioning, relevant questions that help children and youth develop self-control, challenges that one could encounter with EBD learners in implementing PCT concepts, and how one could deal with those challenges. Thirdly, the paper identifies the critical features that would make PCT effective in developing positive instructional outcomes. These include identification of an area a learner needs to improve on, setting goals that are measurable and realistic, creating a detailed outline on how the learners achieve those goals and developing a means to self-monitor performance (pp. 25-33). This methodology suffices for the three objectives of the study – to demystify PCT through a presentation of its overview, to describe how PCT-informed questioning can be used to help children and youth embark on achieving self-control, and to describe how one can help learners effectuate their approach to change behavior to one that is socially responsible (p. 4).

In the conclusion, the author also links various parts of the article in a fluent and clear manner. A lacking aspect in this part however is the absence of a restatement of the purpose of the study.  Additionally, the paper does not point out the areas that further research ought to be conducted to advance the application of PCT concept in instruction. Despite such oversights, the conclusion offers a guide on how PCT-informed approaches could be integrated into instructional methods due to their similarity with other approaches currently being applied, practicality of the approaches and the simplicity in application with practice. With this paper, Waag presents an important perspective, based on a learner-centered approach, which may offer better outcomes for children and youth with EBD, with respect to developing self-control.

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