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Discipline: Effective School Practices

By xili3094 Oct 20, 2014 1950 Words
Discipline: Effective School
Practices
BY GEORGE BEAR, PHD, NCSP,
University of Delaware, Newark
Traditionally, with respect to school discipline, American educators ha ve had two distinct aims: (a) to help
create and maintain a safe, orderly, and positive learning environment, w hich often requires the use of
discipline to correct misbehavior; and (b) to teach or develop self-disci pline. Both aims are equally
important and should always be included in the development and evaluation of school discipline practices.
Whereas the first is generally viewed as an immediate aim (to stop misbehav ior and bring about
compliance), the second is viewed as long term (to develop autonomy and res ponsible citizenship). Both
aims are reciprocally related in that each promotes the other. Both also se rve a preventive function. That is,
by correcting misbehavior and developing self-discipline, schools help prevent the future occurrence of
behavior problems.
CHALLENGES TO EFFECTIVE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE
Too often, schools fail to understand that maintaining safety, including the correction of misbehavior, is a
prerequisite for developing self-discipline, but it is not sufficient. S chools and other institutions that are
effective in establishing and maintaining order and safety are not necess arily effective in developing self-
discipline or in preventing future behavior problems. This is most eviden t when adult supervision,
systematic rewards, clear rules and expectations, and consequences for m isbehavior are the primary
techniques used to manage behavior. When those external techniques are la ter removed, individuals are
expected to function independently after having learned little other tha n ‘‘don’t get caught.’’ Prisons
provide an excellent example of reliance on external control, as do many sc hools that adopt a similar zero-
tolerance mindset.
Zero Tolerance: Punishment Focus
The zero-tolerance approach to noncompliance and misbehavior exclusive ly focuses school discipline on
punishment—suspension, expulsion, alternative education, ‘‘sentenci ng manuals’’ (i.e., extensive codes of
conduct for minor to major behavioral infractions), and the constant poli cing of student behavior. Although
certainly more positive, programs that simply replace such punitive tech niques with the systematic school-
wide use of tangible rewards for good behavior, regardless of grade level o r individual needs and without
emphasizing other strategies that promote self-discipline, fail to teac h students the skills that will promote
appropriate and independently guided behavior.
Comprehensive School-Wide Plan
Certainly, fair and reasonable policies governing serious and chronic be havior problems, as well as the
strategic use of rewards, should be part of a school-wide discipline progr am. However, effective schools
make this only one part of a much more comprehensive plan. A comprehensive s chool-wide plan consists
of a full range of evidence-based strategies and techniques to achieve fou r important goals: (a) developing
self-discipline, (b) preventing misbehavior, (c) correcting misbehavi or, and (d) remediating and
responding to serious and chronic behavior problems. Strategies for each of these components of
comprehensive school-wide discipline follow.
DEVELOPING SELF-DISCIPLINE
Self-discipline is seen in socially and morally responsible behavior tha t is motivated primarily by intrinsic
factors, not solely by the anticipation of external rewards or fear of puni shment. Research shows that self-
discipline promotes positive relations with others and a positive school climate, fosters academic
achievement, and promotes self-worth and emotional well-being. Strateg ies for developing self-discipline
Helping Children at Home and School III
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are commonly part of evidence-based programs for
character education and for social and emotional
learning. Such programs include the following strategies:
N
Implement curriculum activities that teach social, emo-
tional, and behavioral competencies
. Multiple evidence-
based packaged programs exist for teaching social,
emotional, and behavioral competencies (see
Recommended Resources below for a list of websites
that review such programs). In addition to or as an
alternative to adopting a packaged program, schools
should consider infusing lessons and activities for
developing self-discipline throughout the existing
curriculum, such as in social studies, literacy, and
health education.
N
Provide multiple models of social and moral problem-
solving and responsible behavior
. Multiple models of
targeted behaviors, social cognitions, and emotions
should be included in the school’s curriculum (e.g.,
literature, videos) and, more important, in the real life
of the classroom and school.
N
Provide multiple opportunities for students to apply skills
of social and moral problem-solving and responsible
behavior
. Such opportunities would include class
meetings in which classroom and school-wide pro-
blems are addressed; meaningful student government
activities (e.g., helping others in the community);
programs and activities for conflict resolution, peer
mediation, service learning, and cooperative learning;
and sports and extracurricular activities.
N
Challenge self-centered thinking
. This recommenda-
tion applies to each of the learning contexts above
but especially to the context of disciplinary encoun-
ters. Nearly all children tend to excuse or justify
moral transgressions with various rationalizations
(e.g., ‘‘He started it,’’ ‘‘I didn’t mean to hurt him,’’ ‘‘Others did it, too’’). Such excuses and self-centered thinking should be tactfully confronted, and models
of desired thinking, feeling, and acting should be
highlighted.
PREVENTING DISCIPLINE PROBLEMS
In general, research supports the effectiveness of an
authoritative approach to discipline (as opposed to an
authoritarian or permissive approach) in the prevention
of behavior problems. Authoritative teachers set high
standards and hold high expectations; enforce rules and
standards in a firm, fair, and consistent manner; and
promote autonomy by encouraging students’ active
participation in decisions regarding their behavior.
Although authoritative teachers use punitive and reactive
strategies when needed, they focus more on the use
of positive, proactive techniques for increasing the
likelihood that students will exhibit appropriate behavior
willingly rather than grudgingly.
The quality of the teacher–student relationship is of
primary concern. Warmth, acceptance, and support are
delivered noncontingently and thus are not conditional
upon a student’s behavior. Effective teachers strive to
develop a positive relationship with every student in their
classrooms, and seek to promote positive relationships
and a sense of community among the students
themselves. In sum, authoritative teachers create a
classroom climate, and school-wide climate, in which
students follow norms for appropriate behavior out of
respect for the teacher and one another.
Additional prevention strategies commonly used by
authoritative teachers include the following:
N
Develop social problem-solving and decision-making
skills among students.
N
Establish and maintain close communication with
each student’s parents or caregivers, and work hard to
garner the parent’s support.
N
Provide academic instruction and activities that
motivate learning.
N
Create a physical environment that is conducive to
teaching and learning.
N
Establish predictable procedures and routines.
N
Frequently monitor student behavior and respond
immediately to signs of misbehavior.
N
Use praise and rewards strategically to maximize
effectiveness in improving behavior while minimizing
the risk of diminishing intrinsic motivation. One key to
doing this is by using praise and rewards in an
informational rather than controlling manner (see
Bear, 2005 for specific techniques).
CORRECTING MISBEHAVIOR
Research supports an authoritative style of discipline not
only in the prevention of behavior problems but also in
their correction.
Authoritative Approaches to Correcting Misbehavior
Authoritative educators guide rather than control
students. They view disciplinary encounters not merely
as situations that may require punishment as a means
of correction, but as opportunities to teach appropriate
behavior and help develop self-discipline and prevent
future behavior problems. Similar to their approach to
prevention, authoritative educators combine respon-
siveness (e.g., demonstrating support and caring;
striving to prevent lasting harm to the teacher–student
relationship) with demandingness (e.g., remaining firm,
communicating clear expectations of appropriative
behavior, imposing fair consequences). When correct-
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Discipline
ing misbehavior, effective educators tend to use one of
two general types of behavioral techniques: punitive
and replacement.
Punitive techniques.
These various forms of punish-
ment range from unpleasant verbal reprimands, ‘‘the evil eye,’’ proximity control (i.e., standing near the student), and taking away privileges (e.g., recess) to much harsher
forms such as suspension, expulsion, removal to an
alternative education program, and corporal punishment
(i.e., spanking, which is allowed in approximately half of
the states, although most professional organizations
oppose it).
Replacement techniques.
These strategies are
intended to achieve the same goals as punitive
methods, but focus on teaching or strengthening desired
behaviors that might replace the undesired behavior.
Common replacement techniques include direct instruc-
tion, positive reinforcement, modeling, social problem-
solving, conflict resolution, and anger management
training.
Punishment: Limitations and Alternatives
Educators who are most effective in correcting misbe-
havior use both punitive and replacement techniques.
Limitations of punishment.
Effective educators
clearly recognize the limitations of punishment: (a) It
teaches students what not to do and fails to teach
desired or replacement behavior; (b) its effects often are
short term; (c) it teaches students to aggress toward or
punish others; (d) it fails to address the multiple factors
that typically contribute to a student’s behavior; (e) it is likely to produce undesirable side effects (e.g., anger,
retaliation, dislike toward the teacher or school, social
withdrawal); (f) it creates a negative classroom and
school climate; and (g) it can be reinforcing (i.e., negative reinforcement), such as in time-out and suspension, by
allowing students to avoid or escape from situations they
find aversive (e.g., academic work, peer rejection, a harsh
and uncaring teacher).
Alternatives to punishment.
Due to these limita-
tions, when correcting misbehavior, effective educators
work hard to avoid using punishment. Instead, they focus
on strategies for developing self-discipline and for
preventing misbehavior. When correcting misbehavior,
they are much more likely to use mild forms of
punishment, such as physical proximity, taking away
privileges, verbal reprimands, and ‘‘the evil eye’’ than harsh forms of punishment such as suspension. When
punishment is used, it is used fairly, judiciously, in the
context of a caring and supportive relationship, and
typically in combination with replacement techniques
that teach or strengthen desired behaviors. The latter
would include techniques that emphasize social and
emotional competencies and positive teacher–student
relations, such as joint social problem-solving and
induction, where the focus is on the impact of one’s
behavior on others.
REMEDIATING AND RESPONDING TO CHRONIC AND
SERIOUS BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS
For the majority of students in most schools (i.e., the
universal tier), the above strategies and techniques are
generally sufficient for developing self-discipline and for
preventing and correcting behavior problems. Students
with chronic or serious behavior problems, and especially
those shown to be resistant to interventions, require
more comprehensive and intensive services, resources,
and supports.
Similar but More Intensive Strategies
The strategies and techniques used for chronic and
serious behavior problems differ more in intensity than
design, relative to the strategies described above for
more everyday discipline issues. That is, many of the
same techniques are used, but delivered in a more
frequent and systematic fashion (e.g., requiring a class-
room aide or smaller class size).
More Targeted and Intensive Strategies
Other strategies, however, are more specific to this
group of intervention-resistant students, and more
congruent with an intensive (Tier 3) level of supports
and interventions. Such services and supports should be:
N
Comprehensive, targeting multiple risk and protective
factors
N
Broad-based, adopting a system in which a network of
mental health specialists, educators, and others in the
community work together with students and their
families
N
Evidence-based
N
Intensive, sustained over time, and implemented with
fidelity
N
Individualized
N
Cognizant of the importance of early intervention,
including interventions provided at an early age as
well as those provided when indicators of behavior
problems first appear
These interventions, services, and supports address not
only the needs of students with chronic behavior problems,
but also those who may have no history of behavior
problems but nevertheless exhibit a serious behavior
problem requiring immediate intervention, supports, and
Helping Children at Home and School III
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S4H18–3

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