The Secret Powers of Positivity and Procedure: Creating an Environment of Minimal Discipline, Essay Example
During the course of this paper, elements of positivity and procedural insight are examined in light of classroom management and of the relevant theories of reactance, self-efficacy, and attribution. Goals are proposed which embrace positivity, procedure, and the critical commentary of Chandler (1990) and of other peer-reviewed articles. Particular emphasis is placed upon perennial and/or current best practices.
The Secret Powers of Positivity and Procedure:
Creating an Environment of Minimal Discipline
In today’s world, the availability of information is greater than ever. However, in the arena of competing pedagogical theories, the efficacy of individual practices and personalities- and other qualitative factors- may adversely affect the implementation of a process. This challenge may often be predicted and overcome by examining specific procedures and adopting those elements which best suit both the teacher’s personality and pedagogical belief system and the collective and individual needs of the current students. The following classroom management plan seeks to avoid the extremes of conservative and liberal educational theory and attempts to realize a teacher’s own Hippocratic oath: “First, do no harm”. Accordingly, this problem-centered plan was influenced by postings in the discussion board and by Chandler’s critique of classroom management theories, “WHY DISCIPLINE STRATEGIES ARE BOUND TO FAIL” (1990).
First impressions matter. Students are especially apt to notice what clothing and facial expressions silently communicate; clothing should conform to the school district dress code for the students (where appropriate), suit the teacher’s age and the typical demands of their daily routine, and otherwise display a personal pride and professionalism through cleanliness, an appropriate fit, etc. In the perennial classic HOW TO BE AN EFFECTIVE TEACHER: THE FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL, Wong and Wong relate many disciplinary problems to a lack of procedural awareness in teachers (n.d.). For the teachers, this means that visualizing each step of implementation should begin even as the lesson is being developed, like a very detailed “how to” manual. Providing a regular procedure creates an expectation of safety, consistency, and fairness, reduces disciplinary distractions, and allows teachers and students to collaboratively build a routine and a positive learning culture. For this classroom management plan, the teacher’s attention will be silently requested using a folded index card which then sits upright on the desk. When a student needs assistance, they turn the card pyramid until the side which reads “Please help me” faces toward the teacher. They are expected to complete their work or have the time elapse before they are assisted. When they thus request the teacher’s help, the card pyramid side facing them reads “Please keep working”, as per the recommendation of Wong and Wong (n.d.).
If a procedure or disciplinary strategy is not working, it should be adapted or abandoned (Barbetta et al., 2005). While this may seem uncomfortably close to quitting, teachers should be able to analyze and cope with their own inadequacies and model a positive approach to moving past such barriers. Namely, a goal may be impossible to accomplish using one method but may be completed with the use of a combination of methods or altogether new ones (pp.12-13).
- Each student reacts to teacher requests in a productive way, including (but not limited to): clarifying the requests, questioning the purpose of the request in a positive and/or respectful manner, and complying with the request as stated or written.
- Each student knows that they increase their odds of excellence through effort and practice. The class routine and environment is designed to ease this process.
- Each student accounts for Murphy’s Law.
- Each student shows respect towards each other and their teacher.
The first goal is strongly influenced by reactance theories which hold that a perceived threat to a student’s freedoms provokes a negative reaction (Sylvia, 2005). Reactance theories bear a marked resemblance to Perceptual Deterrence Theory, which typically involves greater extremes in avoidance of the threat (Ogilvie & Stewart, 2010). Although Chandler (2009) argues that the mere forbiddance of a particular behavior only serves to increase its appeal, Sylvia (2005) maintains that promoting social freedoms within the curriculum addresses a portion of the instances in which a teacher’s authority may provide such a negative stimulus as theorized by reactance theorists. Thus, the first goal should embrace positive social learning and a freedom to consider- and appropriately present- different ways of thinking. The encouragement of diversity also recognizes the various learning styles and types among the student body.
The second goal emphasizes the power of the mind and self-assertions, i.e. that indomitable “I think I can” Little Engine that Could spirit which may be squelched or undermined by a rigid classroom disciplinary regime. Still, the basic skills provided in the classroom are necessary to avoid a fragile sense of self-efficacy in certain students. If a student routinely falls short of their goals, he or she may become avoidant or fearful of even the possibility of behavior (Chandler, 1990). Although scaffolding is an educational best practice, the theories of self-efficacy emphasize the need for teacher guidance during every phase of a lesson (Simonsent et al., 2008).
The third goal highlights attribution theory’s focus on critical thinking, anticipating potential challenges, problem-solving, and coping or adapting to said challenges. In attribution theory, outcome is often based upon the level of responsibility and self-empowerment/ self-initiated involvement which a student shows after facing challenges which would bar them from their ultimate goals (Chandler, 2009). Weiner (2008) points out that past results have supported a widespread attitude that persons who contribute to their own problems are less likely to receive help (pp. 433-434). Largely in response to theoretical research of attribution and to the critique of Chandler, this goal acknowledges the existence of negative forces beyond the student’s control and justifies their concerns but does not excuse them from planning and adapting, teaching them the acceptance of the actions which they can take to create a better situation and creating the converse effect to that which Weiner describes (2009; 2008).
In an effective learning environment, accessibility plays an important role. Simonsen et al. (2008) include the minimalization of distractions from desk spacing, disruptions of routine, and assignment-related questions as considerable aspects of best practice (p. 355). Wong and Wong (n.d.) write that an “ineffective teacher is too eager to present lessons; consequently, when disruptive behavior occurs, they discipline—often without a plan” (p. 141). The authors state their belief that promoting a sense of responsibility is applicable for a reward system as well and that the communication of a discipline plan and a consistency of routine will strengthen procedures and general discipline and ultimately allow for more freedom within the learning plans. Creating an accepting, supportive, communicative, and friendly environment is in and of itself a teaching strategy (pp. 19-20).
Chandler’s underlying cause for his presumptive skepticism is warranted (1990). There are hundreds of pedagogical theories tested in a variety of ways, and each behavioral strategy will have limitations. Nonetheless, Chandler fails to account for these limitations as strengths in certain cases. For example, his arguments conclude that a student will quite simply want what is forbidden them, making the usage of reverse psychology a relatively simple task. Generalizations will not always work for-or against- disciplinary plans.
When generalized approaches fail, teachers may choose to focus on a wide-scope approach first and then gradually narrow that focus until the problem behavior has been addressed. For a supported wide-scope approach, Luiselli et al. (2005) recommend: 1) improving methods of instruction, 2) forming behavioral procedures, 3) increasing student engagement time, 4) strong positive reinforcement, and 5) administering data-based evaluations. Simonsen et al. (2008) connect many of these five actions to the teacher’s own involvement during the planning and implementation of a lesson- even to the arrangement of the classroom desks (pp. 356-357).
No single approach is adequate for every situation, and evidence-based best practices of classroom management include a theoretical amalgam or continuum (Simonsen et al., 2008). Providing a flexibility of approach provides a diverse system of discipline which is more responsive to the student body. Regardless, during the establishment of a routine following winter or summer breaks, for example, consistency and clarity will provide the groundwork for further development, and it is important to connect the goals with the rules which allow for their fruition. Students should be encouraged to ask relevant questions regarding these goals, and the teacher may include an anecdote to lighten the mood without compromising the establishment of their authority and credibility. For example, the teacher may draw upon the infamous “My dog ate my homework” excuse to recount a time when a pet or sibling actually ate their own homework. Thus, the teacher simultaneously connects with and engages student attention, provides concrete, common examples of Murphy ’s Law, and explains the importance of being prepared and of avoiding excuses.
Even within the same four classroom walls, modern education displays elements of globalization. Luiselli et al. (2005) reiterate this connected approach to discipline and learning but provide promising results of a teacher-initiated intervention program. Chandler (1990) describes any perceived negativity or threatened state as the initiator in a snowball effect, producing an expectation that other teachers will duplicate the source reactions and will discourage the same behaviors. Within this interconnection is opportunity: to create a supportive environment which bolsters good self-esteem and empathy and understanding for others. In childhood, the positive influence of even a single peer can wield a great power to produce a positive change, so the effects of positivity cannot be understated and can be reflected in discipline and academic performance (Luiselli et al., 2005).
Barbetta, P., K. Norona, & D. Picard. (2005).Classroom Behavior Management: A Dozen Common Mistakes and What to Do Instead. PREVENTING SCHOOL FAILURE, 49(3), 11-19.
Chandler, T. A. (1990). Why discipline strategies are bound to fail. Clearing House, 64(2), 124.
Luiselli, J., R. Putnam, M. Handler, & A. Feinberg. (June 2005). Whole-School Positive Behaviour Support: Effects on student discipline problems and academic performance. Educational Psychology, 25(2-3), 183-198.
Ogilvie, J., & Stewart, A. (2010). The Integration of Rational Choice and Self-Efficacy Theories: A Situational Analysis of Student Misconduct. Australian & New Zealand Journal Of Criminology (Australian Academic Press), 43(1), 130-155. doi:10.1375/acri.43.1.130
Silvia, P. J. (2005). Deflecting Reactance: The Role of Similarity in Increasing Compliance and Reducing Resistance. Basic & Applied Social Psychology, 27(3), 277-284. doi:10.1207/s15324834basp2703_9.
Simonsen, B., S. Fairbanks, A. Briesch, D. Myers, & G. Sugai. (2008). Evidence-based Practices in Classroom Management: Considerations for Research to Practice. EDUCATION AND TREATMENT OF CHILDREN, 31(3), 351-380.
Weiner, B. (2008). On theoretical co-existence versus theoretical integration. European Journal Of Psychology Of Education – EJPE (Instituto Superior De Psicologia Aplicada), 23(4), 433-438.
Wong, H., & R. Wong. (n.d.). HOW TO BE AN EFFECTIVE TEACHER: THE FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL. Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.: CA.
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