Current Theories and Practices

There are a number of theories to form a comprehensive discipline strategy for an entire school or a particular class. Consequently, the following theories may be of use to superintendents, principals, deans of discipline, and instructors: reality therapy, positive approach, effectiveness training, transactional analysis, assertive discipline, and Adlerian approaches.

William Glasser's Reality Therapy involves teachers helping students make positive choices by making clear the connection between student behavior and consequences. Class meetings, clearly communicated rules, and the use of plans and contracts are featured. Researchers have noted modest improvements as the result of this approach.

Positive Approach is based on Glasser's Reality Therapy and is grounded in teachers' respect for students and instilling in them a sense of responsibility. Program components include developing and sharing clear rules, providing daily opportunities for success, and administering in-school suspension for noncompliant students. Research is generally supportive of the PAD program.

The Teacher Effectiveness Training philosophy differentiates between teacher-owned and student-owned problems and proposes different strategies for dealing with each. Students are taught problem-solving and negotiation techniques. Researchers find that teachers like the program and that their behavior is influenced by it, but effects on student behavior are unclear.

Within the context of counseling programs, students with behavior problems use terminology and exercises from Transactional Analysis to identify issues and make changes. The notion that each person's psyche includes child, adult, and parent components is basic to the TA philosophy. Such research as has been conducted has found the TA counseling approach beneficial.

First publicized and marketed in 1976 by developer Lee Canter, Assertive Discipline is a well-respected and widely used program. According to Render, Padilla, and Krank, over half a million teachers have received AD training (1989). AD focuses on the right of the teacher to define and enforce standards for student behavior. Clear expectations, rules, and a penalty system with increasingly serious sanctions are major features. Some research is supportive, but most is inconclusive about the effectiveness of the AD approach.

Named for psychiatrist Alfred Adler, "Adlerian approaches" is an umbrella term for a variety of methods which emphasize understanding the individual's reasons for maladaptive behavior and helping misbehaving students to alter their behavior, while at the same time finding ways to get their needs met. These approaches have shown some positive effects on self-concept, attitudes, and locus of control, but effects on behavior are inconclusive.

Regardless of the specific strategy used, all strategies are dependent upon clear lines of communication. Many of the strategies are best used between educators who have a working relationship with the subject. This being the case, many schools are moving to build educational systems that require relationship-building. The small schools movement and the rigor, relevance, and relationship construct utilize relationships as a fundamental tenant, thereby demonstrating the validity of requiring healthy relationships within educational systems.