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Effective Discipline

Discipline is probably the most difficult and unpleasant part of any educator's job. When instructors effectively communicate rules, set high expectations and provided frequent feedback, the need for discipline will likely be infrequent. However, action is occasionally required to correct a situation where a student has broken the rules or is not putting in the required amount of effort. The approach taken to the disciplinary action often determines its effectiveness. Many traditional approaches to discipline are negative, punitive and reactive, which result in bad feelings for all parties involved. A positive approach to discipline involves a process designed to solve performance problems and encourage good performance. The basic theory behind the positive discipline approach is that when a student is treated as an adult who must solve a problem, rather than as a child who must be punished, the student is more likely to respond positively and correct the problem.

Well before any disciplining action is required, there must be acceptance and understanding of the rules of conduct and the disciplinary system by both teachers and students. Students should know exactly what is expected of them and what the consequences will be if they do not meet those expectations. The rules should be consistent and fair. The discipline system will be more effective when there is consistency between teachers.

Criteria for an Effective Disciplinary System

If discipline is to be effective, it should:

  • Emphasize correcting the problem rather that distributing punishment.
  • Maintain the student's self-esteem and dignity.
  • Provide for increasingly serious consequences if the problem is not resolved.
  • Be easy for the teacher to administer and evaluate.
  • Result in the desired behavioral change in the student.

Key Components of an Effective Disciplinary System

  • Mutual respect between the teacher and the student should be maintained.
  • Maintain or enhance motivation if possible.
  • Hold a Coaching/Counseling meeting as soon as possible to when the problem is first identified.
  • Always hold the meeting in private. If disciplinary action is taken in front of others, the student is likely to become defensive and less open.
  • During the disciplinary meeting:
    • Review the facts and state the problem in terms of desired performance and actual performance.
    • Give the student a chance to explain or ask why the problem is occurring.
    • Listen to what the student has to say.
    • Explain the rational for the policy or rule that was violated.
    • Ask the student for possible solutions to the problem.
    • Clearly communicate the changes that needed to be made and the time frame for making them.
    • Express confidence in the students ability to change/improve. End on a positive note.
  • Keep the discussion confidential.
  • Follow-up as required and provide regular feedback.
  • Take additional disciplinary action if necessary.

Teacher Tips

Appreciating and Valuing Diversity

Are You Really Listening?

Coaching for Success in the Classroom

Goal Setting

Developing an Interest in Science and Math

Developing Communication Skills

Developing Problem-solving Skills

Effective Discipline

Encouraging Cooperative Learning

Encouraging Creativity

Encouraging Students to Explore for Answers

Fostering Independent Thinking

Motivating Students

Overcoming the Fear of Making a Mistake

Practicing Effective Questioning


Self-Evaluation Using Video

Teaching with the Constructivist Learning Theory

Teamwork in the Classroom

There is Not Always Just One Right Answer

Understanding Different Learning Styles