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Reformulating Student Discipline

Jun 16, 2017 by

Need new ideas on school discipline? Well, look no further.

So summer is here and if you are a school leader, then most likely you are in some kind of workshop or update on the latest regulations in that ever changing educational landscape. Some schools this year are trying the new positive behavior supports for students. Let’s take a closer look at what that is and how it is implemented.

School discipline is always a challenge for every school leader. There are always some students who will simply misbehave and cause disruptions in the classroom.  As a school leader, you may have tried everything in order to persuade that student to behave. However, there is a new approach to discipline and it may help a leader in education to ensure that a student is able to benefit from their education and not disrupt the education of others.

Discipline is very important in any environment and especially in the school environment. If there are students who are not behaving this can have very negative consequences. It is very demoralizing for teachers and this means that they are not as effective as they are. Then a student who is misbehaving is disrupting the education of others. They are often distracted by the unacceptable conduct of a student who constantly breaks the rules. Moreover, if one student is continually misbehaving then it could persuade other students to do the same. Then the student who is misbehaving or not conforming to the rules is not getting the best education possible. There is a proven link between poor discipline and poor learning outcomes. Discipline is therefore that vital link that can improve student achievement.

There is growing evidence that the traditional approach to discipline is not sufficient and may even be counterproductive. Here is outlined a new and innovate approach to discipline based on the latest research into the issue. One that encourages school leaders to solve the root causes of bad behavior and not just punish it.

Traditional Discipline

In the past discipline in school was enforced by physical punishment. Those days are thankfully long gone. However, the system of discipline in most schools is still based on the premise of reward and punishment. Good behavior is rewarded while poor behavior is punished. Today there is a whole range of punishments designed to deter students from engaging in bad behavior. They are all designed to ensure that wrongdoing is not rewarded and to teach the student that it is unacceptable. The present system of discipline is one that is based on the idea of Skinner’s behaviorism. That is a system of rewards and punishments can teach a student to behave in a suitable way. For example, a student could be suspended or given detention for an infraction. This is to show that any wrongdoing will automatically result in some unpleasant consequences and establish a link in the student’s mind between certain actions and consequences and over time they will learn that misbehaving simply does not pay. This approach has come under criticism in recent years. There are many who argue that many of those students who are undisciplined and disruptive simply have no choice and cannot control their behavior. The system of rewards and punishment is based around the idea that students can determine their actions. Recent evidence suggests that this is not the case and that many children cannot change their behavior not matter how many times they are punished. Quite simply many forms of poor behavior are a result of students’ problems or even conditions. They cannot help but misbehave and traditional discipline will not improve their problem behavior. The poor behavior displayed by some students is beyond their control and a symptom of deep-seated problems. Only by resolving these problems and helping them to manage them can these students become more disciplined. Increasingly, research indicates that the best way to discipline is to help problem students to solve their problems.

Updated Discipline Strategy

Instead of using punishment to stop the disruptive behavior by students a new approach is now recommended. The students rule-breaking is an indication of some deep seated problem that needs to be addressed. Listening here is key. If students, now here is the key, from all facets of life were listened to, then schools would be gold mines of innovation and productivity. Clearly what is happening here is not just an innovative way of looking at the traditional area of student discipline, but reframing educative practices period. The role of the school leader needs to be one who can help children to solve their problems. What better way to do that, then actually taking students suggestions as to what works best for them? This requires a certain element of trust on the school administration, teachers and guidance counselors. When students have issues and problems then they will act in ways that are disruptive and they cannot help it. No matter how many times they are punished their behavior will not improve. The ill-discipline of students is a result of some outstanding issue and unacceptable behavior is the symptom. Because students cannot really control their behavior because of their issues they need support. The principal needs to understand students’ needs and help students manage their problems. This is the most effective long-term solution to any disciplinary issues.

Central to this new approach is a changed relationship between teacher and student. A school leader needs to persuade their staff to engage with their students. The teachers need to learn not only to discipline the student but to understand them and help them to solve their problems by listening to them. Granted trying to communicate with a troublesome student in some scenarios is not idea. But consistent communication helps students and teachers become allies and not adversaries. A teacher will try and help the student to change their behavior by supporting them in trying to deal with the issues that are the root cause of their ill-discipline. A school leader needs to persuade teachers to be problem solvers. How does this work in real life? If a student is being unruly or breaking the rules, then the teacher needs to interact with the student. Instead of sending a student to the office or keep them in detention they need to communicate with the student. Take time to understand any problems and the root cause of the discipline issue. It is important that principals and teachers are perceived to be fair. If school officials are then the student will respond in a positive manner. Then working with the student, professionals can come up with a plan for prolonged improved behaviors. A teacher can set out a series of objectives with the student so that they act in a most appropriate way. Working with the student has been shown to be more effective than the old-fashioned way of disciplining. A school leader will have to be committed to this approach as it will take more time and resources. However, it can dramatically improve the learning outcomes of some of the most disadvantaged and marginalized students. This is not easy, it takes time, to nurture and cultivate a change in the mindset of how our schools engage in positive behavior supports.

Keywords: School discipline, discipline, problem behavior, students’ problems

Comment Below: on what your school district uses as behavior management mechanisms. Kindly explain how effective this is working for your district.

References

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2002). Handbook of self-determination research. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press. Retrieved from: http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/

Fabelo, T., Thompson, M. D., Martha Plotkin, J. D., Carmichael, D., Marchbanks III, M. P., & Booth, E. A. (2011). Stay Informed. Retrieved from http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=266653

Hozien, W. (2017). Building Trusting Schools. Education Views. Retrieved from: http://www.educationviews.org/building-trusting-schools/

Lewis, Katherine. (2015). What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?Mother Jones. Retrieved from: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/schools-behavior-discipline-collaborative-proactive-solutions-ross-greene/

Michigan State Department of Education. (2017). Positive Behavior Intervention & Supports (PBIS). Alternative to Suspensions Toolkit. Lansing, Michigan. Retrieved from: http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,4615,7-140-74638_72831_72833-361319–,00.html

Skiba, R. J., & Peterson, R. L. (2000). School discipline at a crossroads: From zero tolerance to early response. Exceptional children, 66(3), 335-346. Retrieved from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/001440290006600305

Way, S. M. (2011). School discipline and disruptive classroom behavior: The moderating effects of student perceptions. The Sociological Quarterly, 52(3), 346-375. Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2011.01210.x

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