The phenomenon of trained helplessness - Pedagogical psychology

Phenomenon of Learned Helplessness

In traditional learning, there is often a phenomenon that a prominent American scientist, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, M. Seligman, called the complex "trained helplessness". What is the essence of this phenomenon?

In pedagogical practice, a vicious vicious circle is often formed, when a low level of knowledge or the inability to convey knowledge to the teacher is punished with poor judgment and moral condemnation. Consequently, instead of mobilizing a schoolchild for active study, the teacher will ultimately demobilize him and lead to an even lagging behind, which, in turn, leads to unsatisfactory grades.

Helplessness and self-esteem. As the results of several studies have shown, the effectiveness of training depends not only on the fact that a person is convinced of his ability to influence this situation, solve a specific problem, but also from the formed in his past experience of expectations. So, very much is determined by whether a person considers this task altogether irresolvable, or he believes that it is beyond his power only. Trained helplessness develops, as a rule, only in the latter case. Moreover, a person can even recognize that the task has a solution, but it is available only to persons with special training, which he does not pretend to. In principle, such an internal setting is enough that failure in this particular case does not affect all further behavior. So, if a schoolboy believes that only a mathematics teacher can deal with an impossible mathematical task beyond his power, the experience gained from failure does not affect the solution of other problems. If he believes that the decision is not difficult for classmates and is not accessible only to him, then such a position can lead not only to poor academic achievement in mathematics, but also to lagging behind in other disciplines and to inability to overcome life difficulties encountered outside of training.

A severe experience of helplessness sometimes arises as a result of the teacher's lack of pedagogical tact. In the set of abusive cliches of some teachers, there are such: "You still will never learn", "You'll never get out of twos," "You'll never have a troika more than three". etc. At the same time, they do not think about what harm they do to their studies and to the development of their personality.

Spheres of helplessness. The attribution of the causes of failure outside or inward is not the only setting that determines the manifestations of trained helplessness. A person can think that he is failing only here and now. But he can assume that failures will pursue him in the future, not only in this particular activity, but in any other. In this case, the relationship between the different settings can be complicated. Indeed, a lagging pupil may believe that the reason for his poor grades is his lack of ability, low level of intelligence. In this case, his helplessness, conditioned by the internal cause, is stable and global. After all, bad abilities can determine not only a lag in all subjects, but also failures in the future. But he can consider that his failures are the result of overwork or nervous exhaustion. In this case, his helplessness, although determined by the internal cause and currently applies to all activities, is not stable (for rest and strengthening of health open up prospects for improving academic performance). However, the reasons for underachieving can be attributed to external circumstances. Then helplessness will turn out to be stable and relevant to all subjects studied (unless failure in the exams is due to the fact that the examiner's requirements go beyond the school curriculum). Exactly the same attitude can concern a particular subject, and then helplessness will be specifically local and will not affect the results of other examinations. Such an internal factor, such as a lack of interest in one particular subject, will determine a local but permanent helplessness in the study of this particular subject. After all, the impression that a person did not have enough time to prepare for this exam creates the preconditions for unstable and local helplessness associated with an external factor (time deficit).

All of the above is directly related to the theory and practice of teaching. Regardless of the reason the student's performance deteriorates, the position of the teacher plays a decisive role in overcoming and securing this lag. Unfortunately, a vicious circle is often formed when unsatisfactory assessments, following one another, do not stimulate the student to more intensive learning. They, as a rule, finally undermine his faith in his capabilities, the hope of improving his position and, ultimately, interest in learning. In this regard, his knowledge and ability to demonstrate them continue to deteriorate. This circumstance, in turn, entails a further reduction in the estimates. As a result, quickly trained helplessness develops. Particularly harmful impact is the comparison of this student with classmates, as well as the attitude of the teacher towards him as an outsider, hopelessly lagging behind.

Teachers who allow themselves replicas of the type: "You still will never learn". or "You will never have good marks", - they themselves drive the student into trained helplessness. If such an attitude is not declared, it usually manifests itself vividly in the very style of dealing with the student: in facial expressions, intonations, gestures, and is unmistakably determined by the pupil himself and his companions. For a child or adolescent who is so dependent in his self-esteem from the opinions of others, especially those he respects, such an attitude may be enough to permanently lose faith in himself.

It should be borne in mind that it is not so important for the pupil whether he is reproached for lack of ingenuity or laziness, poor mastery of the material or inability to concentrate. This circumstance is usually overlooked. It is assumed that such features as laziness, increased distraction are entirely subject to self-control, and therefore need a variety of punishments to force the student to deal with these shortcomings. However, the defect of will, which is the basis of laziness and inability to concentrate on the material, can be perceived as a permanent and irremovable factor, and each new failure only strengthens this setting.

In this case, one can say, mutual learning is of helplessness, for bad grades of the student, used by the teacher as a method of punishment, cause the latter to feel his impotence and thereby exacerbate the underlying irritation and annoyance.

In the student, the learned helplessness manifests itself in all aspects: the interest to study is reduced, one's own successes are not noticed, even if they sometimes happen, the emotional tension is growing. In the light of the foregoing, such typical ways of self-justification of lagging students are perceived in a totally different way, such as a reference to bias, an increased demand for the teacher, or luck and luck. These arguments show not only a faint-hearted desire to relinquish responsibility, but also a fully justifiable attempt to protect oneself from installations that are capable of turning trained helplessness into a stable state. The attribution of defeats to an unsuccessful confluence of circumstances that can always change, or the prejudiced attitude of one particular person contributes to maintaining a belief in one's own capabilities and limits the forecast of future failures. But, of course, to encourage such spontaneously chosen way of psychological protection is also impossible. From the fact that the teenager has established himself in his distrust and fear in relation to the teacher, academic achievement, at least in this subject, will not improve, and for the student's spiritual development, the confidence in the injustice of the teacher is certainly harmful.

As it has been repeatedly emphasized, the main task of the school is the formation of personality. Trained helplessness, refusal of search is an illness of the person and regress in its development. To overcome this condition, all means are good. Any interests (which, of course, are not of an antisocial nature) should be encouraged in order to help a person get rid of trained helplessness and strengthen relations with others. In a sense, teachers, parents and friends should perform the function of a psychotherapist, for, we emphasize, the refusal to search is a disease of the soul, which also threatens the health of the body. With the disease this is very difficult, almost impossible to manage alone. The support that a young man can find in the warm relation of his relatives is irreplaceable here. It goes without saying that this support has nothing to do with the promotion and acceptance of passive behavior, laziness and evasion of duties. Learning leading to helplessness is itself helpless.

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