School discipline refers to the accordance with certain codes of behavior within a school environment and extends from policies regarding classroom behavior, classroom dress code, and classroom etiquette to the types of punishment enforced if such rules are broken. School discipline in boarding schools, theories of discipline, and teacher incentives are aspects important to any discussion of school discipline. An investigation of topics in school discipline that are often discussed and debated, such school uniforms, corporal punishment, and zero tolerance policies is presented.
Keywords Adlerian Approach; Assertive Discipline; Corporal Punishment; No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB); Positive Approach; Positive Reinforcement; Reality Therapy; School Discipline; Teacher Effectiveness Training; Teacher Incentive Fund; Zero Tolerance Policy
School discipline refers to the accordance with certain codes of behavior (also know as the "school rules") by students within a school. Aside from behavioral standards, adherence to a school's policies regarding clothing, timekeeping, social behavior and work ethic are also measures of school discipline. School discipline can also refer to the punishment attained as a result breaking a school's rules.
The aim of school discipline is generally to create an environment that is most suitable for learning - one that is safe and enjoyable. A learning environment where a teacher is not able to control order and discipline will lead to lower academic achievement and unhappiness for students. In some cases, school discipline is governed by forces outside of these educational and student welfare concerns. In schools that are built upon religious foundations, school discipline is defined according to the religious lifestyle students are expected to lead. Similarly, in boarding schools where students not only attend classes, but live, school discipline extends into leisure time, meal time, sleeping times, etc.
School discipline has inherently been an important part of the educational system since the very first schools and educational institutions. The methods of enforcing and maintaining school discipline have changed over time in conjunction with the changing opinions, research, and inspections of the topic. Perhaps the most widespread and longest held method for enforcing and maintaining school discipline is corporal punishment.
Corporal punishment is the use of physical harm in order to punish or correct behavior. Contemporarily, corporal punishment is widely rejected as a method for correcting discipline in the school setting, and is even illegal in 15 countries worldwide. In the not so distant times when teachers were seen as substitute parents, and were given liberties as such, punishments of children's bad behavior most frequently took the form of smacks with a paddle or cane.
There were several problems with the use of corporal punishment. Unless there were strict methods of monitoring and regulating its use, the practice was susceptible to overuse and abuse. In addition to this, beginning in the late 18th century, attitudes against the use of corporal punishment on anyone were growing. With the installation of compulsory education, parents faced the possibility of being forced into sending a child to an institution whose stance regarding school discipline and punishment was in opposition to their own. As a result, corporal punishment was abolished in many areas and replaced with more positive forms of behavior enforcement.
In North America and Europe, most forms of school discipline revolve around positive reinforcement utilizing praise, marks of merit, and increased opportunities to maintain a flourishing learning environment. When such reinforcement does not successfully maintain school discipline, a variety of punishments are utilized such as detentions, suspensions, and eventually expulsions. In some cases, schools will decide to take a very hard line against any type of infractions against specific rules (especially those in relation to drugs, weapons, trespassing, etc.). This policy of very little tolerance for transgression is called a zero tolerance policy.
There are numerous current theories and practices that outline the actions and policies for most effectively controlling the environment in a positive way. William Glasser's Reality Therapy utilizes class meetings, clearly communicated rules, plans, and contracts in order to facilitate a teacher-student relationship that allows students to make positive choices through an understanding of the connection between their actions and consequences. In research studies, reality therapy has proven to result in modest improvements of behavior. Positive Approach, based upon reality therapy, stipulates that a teacher demonstrate their respect for students and instills in them a sense of responsibility through a use of a development and sharing of clear rules, daily opportunities for success and in school suspension for non-compliant students.
Assertive Discipline, developed by Lee Canter in 1976, emphasizes a teacher's right to create and enforce standards for student behavior. This program, which is well-respected and widely known, revolves around clear expectations and rules as well as a penalty system with increasingly serious consequences. Adlerian approaches to school discipline, named after physicist Alfred Adler, place an emphasis on the understanding of why a student exhibits negative behavior and aims to help a student amend that behavior and get their needs met. Despite their differences, the theories and practices for enforcing school discipline all rely on open lines of communication between educators, administrators and their students. As a result, more and more educational systems are being created with requirements for relationship building.
Despite the multitude of discussions and viewpoints focused on how to successfully approach school discipline, problems in its enforcement remain a long endured part of the educational system. The misbehavior of children is common in all schools but is usually kept in manageable doses by teachers and administrators. However, in cases of poor administration and execution of school discipline, there looms the opportunity for a more widespread and potentially harmful breakdown of order.
In recent years, there seems to have been an eruption of breakdowns within the educational system as illustrated by acts of violence against teachers and other students. Despite the frequency of such horrible occurrences in the contemporary world, such acts are not limited to this century and were happening as early as the 18th and 19th centuries.
Effective discipline requires that parents, children and teachers consent to it. It is necessary that each party has a respect for school discipline and agrees with the set parameters of expectations and potential consequences. While students are not expected to enjoy punishment, if they have a clear understanding of the school rules and view them as equitable and reasonable, there will most likely be little resistance if they are accordingly followed. Along this line, it is imperative that punishment never appear to be arbitrary in nature as it can cause hostility and resentment.
As a result of problems with school discipline, there has been a sizeable reduction in the amount of people who want to be teachers. In addition, teacher resignations are most usually a result of problems with student behavior and attitudes. This situation has created a cyclic problem because the lack of teachers has led to teacher shortages which in turn have led to the elimination of certain classes or the instruction of classes by people who are unqualified. This situation creates even more problems with school discipline as students are left in an unsteady environment with little or no consistency. In many countries and areas, there have been incentives made as enticements for people to become teachers, to vary degrees of success.
In the discussion above, there was brief mention of the ways in which boarding schools and religious institutions differ from day schools and public schools with regards to school discipline and its enforcement. Boarding school discipline takes a very different form with, more often than not, an arbitrary system of rule enforcement and discipline. Since the 19th century, boarding schools in Europe have utilized a "captain" system of discipline which requires that elder students play a very active role in the disciplining of students their junior. In this way, the elders would administer punishments that often constitute the harshest forms of school discipline. The punishments administered for transgressions in this "captain" system can include, even in modern times, forced exercise to the point of exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and even severe abuse. The arbitrary and severe nature of such a system enforces an unquestioning adherence and respect for rules, and an environment of absolute compliance that is often deemed necessary in such institutions. Aside from boarding schools, the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, Valley Forge Military Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy all use similar forms of the "captain" system to create the necessary environment of strict discipline and adherence.
Theories of Discipline
Coming away from the systems of school discipline enacted in boarding schools, it is important to gain a working understanding of the more positive approaches to ensuring order and discipline in the school environment. Reality Therapy focuses on encouraging positive student-teacher...
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