DEVELOPING A DISCIPLINE PLAN FOR YOU
Thomas H. Allen, Ph.D.
©1996. All rights reserved. Fair use by teachers and students is authorized. Commercial use is prohibited except by prior written permission by the author.
If you are to teach successfully, you must have the circumstances that make it possible for you to teach and for your pupils to learn. Those circumstances do not happen by accident. You need to develop a plan to ensure that reasonable circumstances for teaching and learning do occur.
Each teacher, class, subject, and situation is different. No plan will fit every situation.
The purpose of this text (and the Classroom Management Workshop it was designed to supplement) is to help you develop a discipline plan for your class, to know how to diagnose problems, and to know how to change the plan to fit changed situations.
Prior to 1970 there were no systematic classroom control models. Schools of education gave random good advice…much of which was useful. In the early 1960’s, our societies’ conventions and the schools started to come unglued. Teachers had previously been able to maintain order by asserting their authority. Pupils generally were reasonably well behaved and rarely required much disciplinary attention from the teacher. The old methods began to fail.
Teachers typically do the best that they know how to do. Some have discipline problems. Many of the teachers currently in the schools have not received systematic help to this day. Unless their school has brought in a workshop presenter, it is unlikely that they have had systematic instruction in developing a discipline plan for their classes.
In the decade from 1969 to 1979, a number of models were developed to deal with the fact that teachers all over the country were complaining that they could no longer teach effectively because of classroom disruption and student inattention.
A number of researchers observed the teaching of many instructors. They noted what worked and what didn’t work. They developed systematic ways to deal with the problems of class control. Several of these systematic models are given in brief form here.
The descriptions of the following models have been digested
by Tom Allen and modified to fit his own experience, other sources and
workshops with such presenters as Lee Canter and Fred Jones. The models are summarized
from Building Classroom Discipline: From
Models to Practice, by C.M. Charles, Longman:
The plan of this class is to work through the available options and develop a plan that will make it possible for you to teach and the pupils to learn…and for you to feel comfortable with what you do to make it possible.
Annual polls of beliefs about the schools consistently rate the lack of discipline at the top of the list of problems. Teachers and the general public agree on this. Even pupils agree that the lack of classroom discipline is the main problem. One poll found that 9 out of 10 teachers complained that student misbehavior interfered with their teaching.
Although fear of physical attack is common, serious injury of teachers is very rare. Verbal encounters with hostile students are more common. Violence among pupils and vandalism are common. But what is disrupting classes is relatively innocuous. Fred Jones researched the problem and found that about 99% of the typically encountered discipline problems are made up of such behaviors as pupils talking without permission, daydreaming, wandering around the room, or otherwise not doing what they have been asked to do.
If Jones is correct that nearly all of what bugs teachers is no more significant than goofing off, why all the concern? This low level misbehavior interferes with teaching and learning. It is a heavy contributor to stress and “burn-out.” The need to deal constantly with noisy, disorderly, and discourteous behavior…and the occasionally serious confrontation with defiant behavior…wears teachers down. It is to deal with these routine distractions and to reduce the likelihood for confrontations that systematic classroom control models have been developed.
Although significant elements of various models have been
presented here, the rationales and examples have been generally omitted due to
space limitations. The selections were
made to give an idea of the range of options open to the teacher…if you want to
know more about one or more of the models, consult Building Classroom Discipline:
From Models to Practice,
by C.M. Charles, Longman:
Underlying all discipline problems and efforts to cope with misbehavior are four basic realities of human nature: We tend to resist doing what others try to make us do; we like to denigrate and “question authority”; every person is different in interests, abilities and learning styles as well as different needs, wants and values; and, as children grow older, they need to be weaned psychologically in order to develop their potential. The ultimate goal should be to develop self-discipline in pupils and to move away from external, authority-imposed control; in the meanwhile, a systematic control system makes it possible for teachers to teach and pupils to learn. This teacher-imposed plan should provide for a transition to self-control and should wither away as it is no longer needed.
Withitness, Alerting, and Group Management
v The ripple effect: when you correct one pupil’s behavior, it tends to change the behavior of others.
v The teacher needs to be with it to know what is going on everywhere in the room at all times.
v Smooth transitions between activities and maintaining momentum are key to effective group management.
v Optimal learning takes place when teachers keep pupils alert and held accountable for learning.
v Boredom [satiation] can be avoided by providing variety to lessons, the classroom environment and by pupil awareness of progress.
The Neo-Skinnerian Model:
Shaping desired Behavior. B.F. Skinner is the father of the behavioral school of psychology. A recently popular outgrowth of Skinnerian behaviorism is Behavior Modification. For a useful presentation, see the section on the Behavioral Systems Family in Joyce and Weil, Models of Teaching, particularly the introduction to the section and chapters on “Learning Self-Control” and “Assertive Training.”
v Behavior is conditioned by its consequences. Behavior is strengthened if followed immediately by reinforcement. Behavior is weakened if it is not reinforced. [“Extinction.”] Behavior is also weakened if it is followed by punishment.
v In the beginning stages of learning, reinforcement provided every time the behavior occurs produces the best results.
v Behavior can be maintained by periodic reinforcement. Reinforcers include verbal
approval, smiles, “thumbs up,” high grades, free reading time, goodies, prizes and awards.
The Ginott Model:
v Discipline is little-by-little, step-by-step. The teacher’s self-discipline is key. Model the behavior you want in students.
v Use sane messages when correcting misbehavior. Address what the student is doing, don’t attack the student’s character [personal traits]. Labeling disables.
v Use communication that is congruent with student’s own feelings about the situation and themselves.
v Invite cooperation rather than demanding it.
v Teachers should express their feelings—anger—but in sane ways. “What you are doing makes me very angry. I need you to …”
v Sarcasm is hazardous.
v Praise can be dangerous; praise the act, not the student and in a situation that will not turn peers against the pupil.
v Apologies are meaningless unless it is clear that the person intends to improve.
v Teachers are at their best when they help pupils develop their self-esteem and to trust their own experience.
The Glasser Model:
Good Behavior Comes from Good Choices. Glasser’s recent work focuses on the class meeting as a means of developing class-wide discipline. See the chapter on The Classroom Meeting in Joyce and Weil, Models of Teaching. [For those who have their classes under control and would like to try to go beyond teacher-imposed discipline, William Glasser’s approach is worth serious consideration.]
v Students are rational beings capable of controlling their own behavior.
v Help pupils learn to make good choices, since good choices produce good behavior.
v Do not accept excuses for misbehavior. Ask, “What choice did you have? Why did you make that choice? Did you like the result? What have you learned?”
v Reasonable consequences should always follow negative or positive student behavior.
Class rules are essential to a good learning climate. However, they must be enforced consistently.
v Classroom meetings are a good way to develop and maintain class behavior. [The group diagnoses the problem and seeks solutions.]
The Dreikurs Model:
Confronting Mistaken Goals
v Discipline is not punishment. It means self-control.
v The teacher’s role is helping pupils to impose limits on themselves.
v Teachers can model democratic behavior by providing guidance and leadership and involving pupils in setting rules and consequences.
v All students want to belong. Their behavior is directed to belonging.
v Misbehavior is the result of students’ mistaken belief that it will gain them peer recognition. [It is usually a mistake to assume that misbehavior is an attack directed at the teacher.]
v Misbehavior is directed at mistaken goals: attention-getting, power-seeking, revenge, and displaying inadequacy. The trick is to identify the goal and act in ways that do not reinforce mistaken goals.
v Teachers should encourage students’ efforts, but avoid praising their work [?] or character. [Others disagree.]
v Support the idea that negative consequences follow inappropriate behavior by your actions.
Marlene and Lee Canter have developed a discipline model based on thousands of hours observing teachers in the classroom. What they have included in their model is based on what the successful teachers do. Assertive Discipline is a direct and positive approach to make it possible for the teacher to teach and the students to learn. It is based on several principles:
v Teachers should insist on responsible behavior.
v When teachers fail, it is typically due to poor class control. They can’t teach and the kids are denied the opportunity to learn.
v Many teachers believe that firm control is stifling and inhumane.
Frederick H. Jones is director of the Classroom Management Training Program which develops and promotes procedures for improving teacher effectiveness. The emphasis is on learner motivation and classroom behavior. His model is based on extensive observation of classroom teachers and student behavior. Teachers find the model easy to understand because it is a refinement of the practices of effective teachers into a system.
v About 50% of classroom time is lost due to student misbehavior and being off task.
v 80% of lost time is due to talking without permission.
v 19% is lost to daydreaming, out of seat, making noises, etc.
v 1% is lost to more serious misbehavior.
Most of the lost time can be avoided by systematically employing effective body language, incentive systems, and efficient individual help.