Types of Discipline in the Classroom

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Discipline is a key component to effective classroom management. Classroom discipline refers to the strategies a teacher uses to manage student behaviors and attitudes during instructional time. A teacher who uses consistent discipline strategies exhibits more effective classroom management than an inconsistent teacher. Though teachers usually develop their own styles of discipline for their classrooms, most discipline strategies can be categorized into three main styles or approaches.

1 Preventative Discipline

Teachers with effective classroom management strategies establish expectations, guidelines and rules for behavior during the first few days of class. Clearly explaining expectations is an essential component to preventative discipline. The goal of preventative discipline is to provide proactive interventions to potential disruptive behaviors by clearly explaining to students what behaviors are and are not appropriate.

The most basic component to preventative discipline is a concise outline about classroom expectations for students as well as for teachers; students need to know what is expected of them for the remainder of the class. Such guidelines might include rules regarding talking, homework or language use in the classroom. A preventative discipline strategy also establishes the types of consequences that will follow a forbidden act or behavior. Preventative discipline strategies create a safe, nonconfrontational classroom atmosphere in which students feel that they understand what is to come.

2 Supportive Discipline

Even the best laid preventative discipline strategies may fail periodically throughout the school year. When a teacher offers a verbal warning or a suggestion for correcting behavior while a student is disobeying an established classroom rule, the teacher is using supportive discipline. Supportive discipline is distinct from punishment in that it provides a student with suggestions and options for correcting a behavior before a consequence is necessary. For example, if a student is wandering around the class after a teacher has announced it is time to sit down, the teacher may say, "I made the announcement that it is time to sit down. Find your seat so we can get started or I will need to hold you after class." The student has been given the option to accept or avoid further punishment; the behavior has been redirected through a teacher's supportive discipline strategy. Reminders, redirection and nonverbal communication are all examples of supportive discipline.

3 Corrective Discipline

When a student has failed to redirect her behavior after repeated attempts at supportive discipline, a teacher may opt for a corrective discipline strategy. Corrective discipline refers to the set of consequences delivered to students following an infraction. There is a wide degree of variation among corrective discipline strategies, some more effective than others. For example, engaging in a verbal altercation with a student is a corrective discipline technique, but it may escalate a volatile situation and undermine your authority as a teacher and leader. Corrective discipline strategies should be adapted to the students' age or grade level; though placing students in a time out may be effective for kindergarten, high school students are much less likely to comply with such provisions. Consistent application of consequences is an essential component of corrective discipline strategies.

Hannah Wahlig began writing and editing professionally in 2001. Her experience includes copy for newspapers, journals and magazines, as well as book editing. She is also a certified lactation counselor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mount Holyoke College, and Master's degrees in education and community psychology from the University of Massachusetts.