‘Locus of evaluation’ is a term first used by Carl Rogers, the Father of the person-centered counselling approach, and is, in my opinion, it is one of the most important terms in Early Years Care and Education.
Let’s first begin by understanding what it is and what it means. ‘Locus’ is Latin for ‘place’ so the term describes the place from which a person makes a value judgement or the place from where they are evaluated. Rogers (in the 1950s) wrote that their are two places from which evaluation can come, internal or external.
If a child or person is operating from an internal locus of evaluation, then they trust their own instincts and the evaluation of their actions comes from within. However, many people and especially children operate from an external locus of evaluation, this means they use the values of others as a guide to evaluating their actions and ideas.
We see it all of the time in life, people judging themselves according to whether others find them acceptable. Modern culture and the rise in social media has seen a vast shift towards getting likes, re tweets or things and seeking desperately to be accepted and valued by others, even people we do not know. What we are seeing now is when the locus of evaluation moves so far to the external locus it is easy to lose touch of your internal locus of evaluation, your own self worth and your own belief in yourself or instincts. The news reports often remind us of the statistics around bullying, self harm, suicide, low self esteem, low confidence and how these are all on the rise and starting at a younger age. Children and young people are accessing social media and all forms of media at a younger age and when this happens you find plenty of external influences on your thoughts and actions.
In the Setting
It is perfectly natural for the child in your setting to seek approval and value from practitioners in the setting just as they seek approval and value from their parents/carers. A 2 year old will most likely not have a high level of self confidence, self esteem and self awareness. They will be relying on adults in their life to nurture them, celebrate their successes, support them through challenges and be there for them. This means that a 2 year old who enters your setting for the first time may have little to no internal locus of evaluation. The only praise, value or feeling of self worth they receive will come totally from external source but as they grow and develop this will change.
What can we do?
We are in the right place at the right time as Early Years Practitioners. We are perfectly located to value, respect and nurture each and every child's internal locus of evaluation. We still impose some nursery rules and boundaries but we should be creating an environment
that encourages and supports a strong belief in oneself, a strong belief in each individuals achievement and actions, a culture where children are seen as individuals with their own unique potential development and personality. Whilst at Pre-school as the Key Person and as Outstanding Early Years Practitioners we should be recognising how each child is unique and creating a learning path and environment that will meet their individual needs and future potential. ‘School Readiness’ should mean being ready for the next challenge in their young life, being emotionally, personally and socially ready to accomplish all they can as a unique individual.
How is this possible?
Excellent question. How can we promote each child to have an belief in themselves as an individual (internal locus of evaluation) when the system seems to want us to evaluate that child against a universal norm and judge their achievement accordingly (external locus of evaluation). The answer, in my opinion, is we most accept and do both. From the child’s prospective we nurture good self esteem, self confidence and build their ability to say, “I can do this”, and believe in themselves. We do this through allowing them to follow their own ideas and creating an environment that supports them to flourish as an individual. We do this by accepting them as a unique individual with the potential to develop in a unique and special way. Some 4 year old s love sitting down and singing whilst some 4 year old s would rather be outside looking for worms. No one child is “better” when you see them all as individuals all seeking their own unique full potential. We have to accept that their is some value in comparisons to the universal norm but I can not see a reason why this external locus of evaluation would be beneficial from the child’s perspective.
The key message is as we grow up our locus of evaluation changes: social media, peer pressure, T.V and Movies all put pressure on us to seek value and seek approval. It is impossible to live your life without an external locus of evaluation and taking it away completely it is not the answer. It is all about balance, accepting who you are and having trust and belief in yourself. It is also main role as an early year practitioner to ensure each child has the resources, time and loving relationships to build a good internal locus of evaluation. We must support children in accepting who they are, how they are different to others and help them to recognise and celebrate that fact. To encourage children to explore different outcomes and how not every tower we build, every flower we paint, every song we sing is the same. But, however you built your tower, painted your flower or sung your song you will be excepting, welcomed and equally praised. In this environment children will grow to accept what they have achieved as an individual for what it is and not for how it compares to others. That is what every child needs to build a strong foundation for the rest of their life