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  • Prompt: Describe and rationalize how you can organize your classroom to create a learning environment with a pleasant atmosphere that maximizes on-task behavior, increases the likelihood of appropriate behavior, and minimizes disruptions.
  • Requirements: Include the grade level of your students, environmental conditions, specific seating arrangements for 2-3 particular activities, furniture/equipment, and materials. Include an APA-formatted cover page, citations (where appropriate), and a References page.
  • Length: long enough to cover each topic, short enough to be interesting

PrinciPles of classroom

a Professional Decision-making moDel

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S e v e n t h E d i t i o n

James Levin
Pennsylvania State University

James F. Nolan
Pennsylvania State University

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Levin, James
Principles of classroom management : a professional decision-making model/James Levin,

Pennsylvania State University, James F. Nolan, Pennsylvania State University.—Seventh edition.
p. cm.
ISBN-13: 978-0-13-286862-4
ISBN-10: 0-13-286862-8
1. Classroom management—United States—Problems, exercises, etc. 2. Teaching—
United States—Problems, exercises, etc. I. Title.
LB3013.L475 2014

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

ISBN-10: 0-13-286862-8
ISBN-13: 978-0-13-286862-4

To Sylvia and Herman Levin, Jim and Mary Nolan, Rocky and Andy, Heidi,
Sarah, Geoff and Dan for their support, encouragement, and understanding.

This page intentionally left blank


Principles of Classroom Management: A Professional Decision-Making Model offers
teachers an alternative to the coercive cookbook approach that is common in many
popular classroom management texts. Rather than assuming that children need to be
controlled through the teacher’s use of rewards and punishments, this text asserts that
children are better influenced to behave appropriately through the use of competent
instruction, positive student-teacher-family relationships, intrinsic motivation,
pro-social self-esteem, encouragements and natural/logical consequences. Similarly,
rather than treating teachers like technicians by providing them with a cookbook of
steps or strategies to follow, this text asserts that teachers are professionals. Therefore,
the text expands on a variety of principles, theoretical perspectives, and empirical
findings so that teachers have a depth and breadth of knowledge from which they are
able to make professional decisions with respect to classroom behavior issues.

As in the previous editions, in this seventh edition, we identify and expand on two
foundational beliefs that guide teachers’ behavior. First and foremost, we believe that
teachers cannot control student behavior. Thus, teachers influence student behavioral
change by controlling or managing their own behavior, that is, by making profes-
sional decisions. Throughout the entire text, the reader will encounter language that
consistently emphasizes the teacher’s responsibility to make decisions and act in ways
that will influence students to behave appropriately and be successful academically.
Second, students who enjoy positive relationships with teachers are more likely to be
successful academically and engage in pro-social behavior. Such positive relationships
are potentially jeopardized by rewards and punishments and are likely enhanced by
encouragements and natural/logical consequences.

What’s NeW iN this editioN

Although the basic approach of the text and the underlying principles remain
consistent, we have made several changes, which were sparked by contemporary
educational issues, comments from educators who have used the text, and detailed
reviews of the sixth edition.

Based on feedback from the users and reviewers of the text, and the authors’
own experiences, we made the following changes:

• Although the authors have always believed that students choose how to behave
and that the teacher’s role is to influence student behavior, we noted in previous
editions of the text that the language did not always match those beliefs. In
previous editions of the text, we sometimes talked about managing behavior or
coping with behavior. In this edition, we have worked diligently to ensure that
the language throughout the text conveys the message that the teacher’s role is to
use professional knowledge to decide how to act in order to influence students
to choose to behave appropriately. This change in language is exemplified in the
new titles for Chapters 8, 9, and 10.


vi Preface

• The power of building positive relationships with students and their families has
taken a much more prominent role in the earlier chapters of this edition of the
text. This edition also devotes an entire chapter, Chapter 7, to relationship build-
ing as well as devoting considerable attention to various dimensions of proactively
building positive relationships in Chapters 3, 4, 5, and in working with students
who display unremitting disruptive behavior in Chapters 10 and 11.

• In contrast to many texts that provide a list of do’s and don’ts for building
relationships, Chapter 7 in this text is intended to enable the teacher to generate
strategies for relationship building by using professional knowledge about
authority bases, self-esteem, and motivation. By employing professional knowl-
edge, the teacher can create respectful and caring relationships, enhance student
success expectations through the development of an internal locus of control,
and influence the development of an internal value structure that enhances the
value of desired student outcomes.

• The role of culture and cultural differences has been taken up more prominently
in this edition. As the teaching force in the United States has become increasingly
more white and middle class, the students in our nation’s classrooms have become
more culturally diverse and poorer. Thus, it is critically important that teachers
understand the role that culture can and should play in thinking about how they
should behave in order to influence students to choose to behave appropriately
and to expend effort to be successful academically. In this seventh edition, the
role of culture and cultural differences is discussed in reference to many topics,
including understanding student behavior, appropriate use of teacher authority
bases, teacher expectations, building relationships, breaking the cycle of discour-
agement, and in working positively with families.

• In the sixth edition of the text, we provided three cases, one elementary, one
middle, and one high school, that could be used for iterative analysis on the part
of the reader as a way of assessing how the text was influencing the reader’s
understanding of and response to the cases. In this edition, we have included six
cases for iterative analysis, two at each level.

• In each chapter of this edition, we have also provided pre- and postreading activ-
ities focused on the “Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate
Student Behavior” as an opportunity for the reader to reflect on how his or her
understanding of the principles grows over time.

• In Chapter 2, we have included an expanded section on new uses of technologies
including cyberbullying, cybercheating, and sexting that alerts teachers to some
of the problems that can be created through student access to these technologies.
Obviously technology can bring powerful benefits to the instructional process,
but it can also create new sorts of problems.

• In Chapter 3, the concepts of motivation and self-esteem are defined and then
used to analyze students’ disruptive behavior. The understanding gained from
the analyses enables the professional teacher to target specific components
of motivation and self-esteem for intervention to influence students to behave

• In Chapter 4, we have changed our terminology from “teacher power bases” to
“teacher authority bases.” This change in terminology reminds us that teachers
derive their authority and the ability to influence students by using professional

Preface vii

knowledge to determine their classroom behavior. The notion of relationship
building also plays a more prominent role in the discussion on referent authority.

• In Chapter 5, we have included a new section on student-teacher relationships
and effective teaching and updated the research on effective teaching using
concepts from current research on instruction.

• We have reworked Chapter 6 so that it focuses on designing the physical
environment and effectively establishing and teaching classroom guidelines. We
have expanded our discussions on effectively teaching both procedures and rules
to ensure that students have a clear understanding of what appropriate behavior
looks like and also that they are capable of behaving in the expected way.

• In Chapter 9, we have added a discussion that relates the concept of cultural
stereotyping to the cycle of discouragement for students who exhibit chronic
behavior problems or who underachieve.

• In Chapter 11, we have expanded our discussion of working collaboratively
with families when outside assistance is needed to work effectively in resolving
problems and have added a new section on alternatives to suspensions that reports
some of the empirical findings concerning the negative outcomes associated with
out-of-school suspensions.

• In addition to adding the three new cases to the iterative case analysis sections,
we have updated the references (which are now all located after Appendix C),
added new case studies within chapters, and updated/revised/added exercises
included throughout the text.

hoW to Use this text: a FocUs oN Pedagogy

This text presents in detail a professional decision-making model. The model requires
teachers to use their professional knowledge base to change their behavior (teaching
practices) in order to influence students to choose to behave appropriately.

Conceptualizing and implementing teaching as a way of influencing students is
an inherently challenging endeavor requiring a high level of expertise. Additionally,
it is an approach that is contrary to the unexamined beliefs, past experiences, and
current practices of many educators. Therefore, it is incumbent upon educators who
wish to practice this approach to develop a deep understanding of the content of this
text so that they can employ the approach in classrooms with confidence and, when
called upon, can explain the approach to administrators, professional peers, families,
and students.

To fully understand this model, it is necessary to have a thorough grasp of the
model’s foundational concepts, principles, and classroom applications. The principles,
found at the beginning of each chapter, are statements that relate two or more
concepts. Without these integrative statements the concepts would stand alone, and
their connection to teaching practices would be relatively meaningless. The interpreta-
tion of the principles into classroom practices and the decision-making hierarchies are
applications of the model.

The first four chapters of the text focus on foundational concepts that the wise
teacher must consider in building a set of operational beliefs about influencing student
behavior and its connection to teaching. These concepts include teaching, learning,
discipline problems, motivation, self-esteem, rewards, punishments, authority bases,

viii Preface

and theories of teacher influence. Chapters 5 through 7 focus on concepts and prin-
ciples that teachers can employ to create a learning and instructional environment that
will influence students to behave appropriately and strive for academic success. These
concepts include effective teaching, teacher expectations, classroom design, guide-
lines for behavior, and encouragement. Chapters 8 through 11 focus on concepts and
principles that teachers can employ using a hierarchical approach to influence and
redirect student behavior from inappropriate to appropriate behavior.

To aid readers in learning the professional decision-making model, the authors
deliberately designed the text with pedagogy in mind. The many pedagogical features
to aid the learner include the following:

Iterative Case Studies Six iterative case studies are provided at the beginning
of the text and repeated at three points later in the text. The case studies enable
readers to continually revise their analyses of real classroom events as they
proceed through the text, applying their new understandings of how to influ-
ence students to behave appropriately. Comparisons of earlier with later analyses
should clearly show readers their growth in understanding and applying the
concepts and principles. Instructors and students are also encouraged to use
additional cases studies of their own that they have experienced or observed.

Pre- and Postreading Activity of Explaining Principles In each chapter,
“Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate Student Behavior”
are presented at the beginning and end of each chapter. Readers are asked to
explain the principles before they read the chapter and then again after reading
the chapter. It is a readiness and closure activity that focuses the reader’s attention
on how the principles integrate the various concepts and how the principles are
applied to the classroom.

Prereading Questions This readiness activity is intended to enable readers to
uncover and examine their initial thinking about some of the major concepts that
will be covered in each chapter.

Flow Charts Flow charts are presented at the beginning of each chapter. These
flow charts illustrate the hierarchy of teacher knowledge and how the present
content relates to what was previously learned.

Exercises Exercises are found at the end of each chapter and provide readers
with the opportunity to analyze and apply the chapter’s concepts and principles.

Embedded Cases Each chapter presents multiple cases that illustrate the
concepts and principles in practice. The cases are drawn from real classroom,
school, and community events that the authors have experienced, witnessed, or
been told about.

Tables and Figures Throughout the book, tables and figures are used to
illustrate the content being read.

Appendices At the end of the book there are three appendices. Appendix A
Analysis Inventory of Teacher Behavior that Influences Appropriate Student
Behavior is a tool that the classroom teacher can use to reflect upon her behav-
ior used to influence appropriate student behavior. Appendix B summarizes

Preface ix

teacher behavior that is congruent with the text for Working with Students With
Special Needs. Appendix C Decisions and Tasks for Beginning the School Year
lists important tasks and decisions that teachers should consider that will get
the school year off to a good start.


A Test Bank that includes multiple choice, true/false, and discussion questions and
a PowerPoint® Presentation for each chapter are available online. Instructors can
access these supplements by contacting their local representative for a password.



We are especially grateful to the following reviewers who completed very helpful
reviews of our work on this edition: Kelechi Ajunwa, Delaware County Community
College; Beverly Doyle, Creighton University; Mary Estes, University of North Texas;
Marilyn Howe, Clarion University of Pennsylvania; Anita Welch, North Dakota
State University; and Eleanor Wilson, University of Virginia. A special thanks goes
to Andrew Thompson, during his senior year did an extensive literature search
regarding influences on students’ behavior and alternatives to suspension which are
used in the text.

Ultimately, the authors’ goal is to present a contemporary approach to classroom
management that will improve teaching and learning for today’s teachers and students.
Please feel free to let us know if we have been successful.


Iterative Case Study Analyses 1

Iterative Case Study Analyses: First Analysis 2

SeCtIon 1 Foundations
Chapter 1 The Basics 4

Chapter 2 Nature of the Discipline Problem 23

Chapter 3 Understanding Why Children Misbehave 44

Chapter 4 Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 86

Iterative Case Study Analyses: Second Analysis 112

SeCtIon 2 Prevention
Chapter 5 The Professional Teacher 114

Chapter 6 Structuring the Environment 150

Chapter 7 Building Relationships 174

Iterative Case Study Analyses: third Analysis 200

SeCtIon 3 Interventions for Common Behavior Problems
Chapter 8 Using Nonverbal Interventions to Influence Students

to Behave Appropriately 202

Chapter 9 Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences
to Influence Students to Behave Appropriately 215

SeCtIon 4 Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems
Chapter 10 Classroom Interventions for Working with Students

Who Exhibit Chronic Behavior Problems 236

Chapter 11 Seeking Outside Assistance 274

Iterative Case Study Analyses: Fourth Analysis 291
Appendix A Analysis Inventory of Teacher Behavior That Influences

Appropriate Student Behavior 293

Appendix B General Guidelines for Working with Students
with Special Needs 299

Appendix C Decisions and Tasks for Beginning the School Year 302

References 304

Index 321

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IteratIve Case study analyses 1

IteratIve Case study analyses: FIrst analysIs 2

Section 1 Foundations

Chapter 1 the BASICS 4
Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate
Student Behavior 4

Prereading Activity: Understanding the Principles of
Teacher Behavior 4

Prereading Questions for Reflection and Journaling 5

Introduction 5

Defining the Process of Teaching 6
▶ case 1.1 Getting Students to Respond 9
▶ case 1.2 “Why Study? We Don’t Get Enough Time for the Test

Anyway!” 10

Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate
Student Behavior 11

Professional Decision-Making Hierarchy 18
▶ case 1.3 The Vice-Principal Wants to See Whom? 19

Summary 21  •  Exercises 22

Chapter 2 nAture oF the DISCIPlIne ProBlem 23
Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate
Student Behavior 23

Prereading Activity: Understanding the Principles of
Teacher Behavior 23

Prereading Questions for Reflection and Journaling 24

Introduction 24

Defining a Discipline Problem 25

Problem Student Behavior Outside the Definition 29
▶ case 2.1 Can a Teacher Be a Discipline Problem? 30
▶ case 2.2 Solving a Motivational Problem 31

Extent of the Problem 32

Public’s Perceptions 32


xiv Contents

Teachers’ Perceptions 32

Students’ Perceptions 32

Magnitude 32

The Effect of Classroom Discipline Problems on Teaching 
and Learning 34

Impact on Students 34
▶ case 2.3 Discipline: A Costly Waste of Time 35
▶ case 2.4 The Ripple Effect 35

Impact on Teachers 36

New Concerns: Technology 38

Cybercheating 38

Cyberbullying 40
Summary 41  •  Exercises 41

Chapter 3 unDerStAnDIng Why ChIlDren mISBehAve 44
Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate
Student Behavior 44

Prereading Activity: Understanding the Principles of
Teacher Behavior 45

Prereading Questions for Reflection and Journaling 45

Introduction 45

Societal Changes 46

The Knowledge Explosion and the Erosion of Respect
for Authority 47

The Knowledge Explosion, Teacher and Student Feelings of
Frustration, and the Relevancy of Schooling 48
▶ case 3.1 “This Is the Greatest Thing That Has Happened to Me

in 20 Years of Teaching” 48

Television and Violence 49
▶ case 3.2 Who Really Cares? 50

Television and Alternative Role Models 52

Changes in Ethnicity 53

Understanding Behavior by Analyzing Motivation
and Self-Esteem 54
▶ case 3.3 Being Unprepared 55

Student Mobility 56

Failure to Meet Children’s Basic Needs 56

The Home Environment 56
▶ case 3.4 Hanging on the Corner 57
▶ case 3.5 Marital Conflict 59

Contents xv

The School Environment 60
Physiological Needs 60

▶ case 3.6 Forgetting to Sit Down 61
safety aNd security Needs 61

▶ case 3.7 There Must Be a Better Way 62
▶ case 3.8 Too Much Noise 63
▶ case 3.9 Afraid of Going to School 63

BeloNgiNg aNd affectioN Needs 64

▶ case 3.10 Turning Off Students 64
▶ case 3.11 “I’m Going to Be Sorry When Fifth Grade Is Over” 65

Children’s Pursuit of Social Recognition and Self-Esteem 65

Social Recognition 65
▶ case 3.12 Seeking Faulty Goals 67

Self-Esteem 68
a Parallel Process 69

Bullying 70
▶ case 3.13 “Get Out of My Face” 71

Cyberbullying 73

Sexting 73

Stages of Cognitive and Moral Development 74

Cognitive Development 74

Moral Development 75

Behavior: The Interaction of Cognitive and Moral
Development 76

NeuroscieNce research 79

Instructional Competence 79
▶ case 3.14 Not Being Able to Teach 80

Resiliency 81
Summary 83  •  Exercises 84

Chapter 4 PhIloSoPhICAl APProACheS to InFluenCIng
StuDentS 86
Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate
Student Behavior 86

Prereading Activity: Understanding the Principles of
Teacher Behavior 87

Prereading Questions for Reflection and Journaling 87

Introduction 87
▶ case 4.1 The Tricks-of-the-Trade Approach 88

xvi Contents

Teacher Authority Bases 90

Referent Authority 90
▶ case 4.2 The Involved Teacher 91
▶ case 4.3 Demand without the Warmth 92

Expert Authority 93
▶ case 4.4 Her Reputation Precedes Her 93

Legitimate Authority 94
▶ case 4.5 “School Is Your Job” 94

Reward/Coercive Authority 95
▶ case 4.6 Going to Recess 95

Theories of Teacher Influence 98

Student-Directed Theories 98
▶ case 4.7 Handling Disruptive David 99

Collaborative Theories 104

Teacher-Directed Theories 106
Summary 108  •  Influence Theories on 
the Web 109  •  Exercises 109

IteratIve Case study analyses: seCond analysIs 112

Section 2 Prevention

Chapter 5 the ProFeSSIonAl teACher 114
Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate
Student Behavior 114

Prereading Activity: Understanding the Principles of
Teacher Behavior 115

Prereading Questions for Reflection and Journaling 115

Introduction 115

Positive Student-Teacher Relationships and Effective Teaching 116
▶ case 5.1 Relating to Jennifer 119

The Basics of Effective Teaching 119

Lesson Design 120

Student Motivation: Teacher Variables 123
▶ case 5.2 The Popcorn Popper 124
▶ case 5.3 Talking Between Classes 125
▶ case 5.4 Nonconstructive Feedback 127

Teacher Expectations 128

Classroom Questioning 131

Contents xvii

Maximizing Learning Time 133
allocated time 133
time-oN-task (eNgaged time) 133

Beyond the Basics 134

Teaching for Understanding 136

Creating Communities of Learners 137

Teaching Toward Multiple Intelligences 138
▶ case 5.5 Cooperative Learning in Biology 139

Differentiating Instruction 141
▶ case 5.6 Differentiation Through Technology 143

Student Motivation: Student Cognition 144
▶ case 5.7 Three Years of History Rolled into One 146

Summary 147  •  Exercises 148

Chapter 6 StruCturIng the envIronment 150
Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate
Student Behavior 151

Prereading Activity: Understanding the Principles of
Teacher Behavior 151

Prereading Questions for Reflection and Journaling 151

Introduction 152

Designing the Physical Classroom Environment 152

Environmental Conditions 152

Use of Space 153
seatiNg arraNgemeNts 153
BulletiN Boards aNd disPlay areas 154

▶ case 6.1 Fourteen to Ten, Music Wins 154
▶ case 6.2 Having Your Name Placed on the Board Isn’t Always Bad 155

Establishing Classroom Guidelines 155

Classroom Procedures 155
▶ case 6.3 Hitting the Bull’s-eye 157

Classroom Rules 157
▶ case 6.4 Leave Me Alone 158

the Need for rules 158

determiNiNg Necessary rules 158

develoPiNg coNsequeNces 159

commuNicatiNg rules 164

oBtaiNiNg commitmeNts 165

▶ case 6.5 “I Don’t Know If I Can Remember” 165
▶ case 6.6 “I’m Not Promising Anything” 166

xviii Contents

teachiNg aNd evaluatiNg 166
▶ case 6.7 Calling Out Correct Answers 167
▶ case 6.8 The Smiley Face Self-Analysis 167

Teaching Appropriate Behavior 170
Summary 171  •  Exercises 172

Chapter 7 BuIlDIng relAtIonShIPS 174
Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate
Student Behavior 175

Prereading Activity: Understanding the Principles of
Teacher Behavior 175

Prereading Questions for Reflection and Journaling 175

Introduction 176

The Cultural Embeddedness of Rules and Guidelines 176
▶ case 7.1 Believing What You Want To 178
▶ case 7.2 No One Looks Like Me 180

Creating Group Norms to Structure Appropriate Behavior 181

Relationships 183

Student-Teacher Relationships 183

Building Student-Teacher Relationships 187

Family-Teacher Relationships 194
BeNefits 194

Reluctance to Contact Parents 194

▶ case 7.3 The Doctor Said He Was OK 195

Building Parent-Teacher Relationships 196
▶ case 7.4 Not Doing Homework 197

Summary 198  •  Exercises 198

IteratIve Case study analyses: thIrd analysIs 200

Section 3 Interventions for Common Behavior

Chapter 8 uSIng nonverBAl InterventIonS to InFluenCe
StuDentS to BehAve APProPrIAtely 202
Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate
Student Behavior 203

Prereading Activity: Understanding the Principles of
Teacher Behavior 203

Prereading Questions for Reflection and Journaling 203

Contents xix

Introduction 203

Prerequisites to Intervention 204

Surface Behaviors 205
▶ case 8.1 “…3, 2, 1, Blast Off” 205

Proactive Intervention Skills 206

Remedial Intervention Skills 207

Planned Ignoring 209

Signal Interference 210

Proximity Interference 210

Touch Interference 210

Effectiveness of Nonverbal Intervention Skills 211
▶ case 8.2 Notes versus Math 211
▶ case 8.3 Let Your Fingers Do the Walking 213

Summary 213  •  Exercises 214

Chapter 9 uSIng verBAl InterventIonS AnD logICAl
ConSequenCeS to InFluenCe StuDentS to
BehAve APProPrIAtely 215
Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate
Student Behavior 216

Prereading Activity: Understanding the Principles of
Teacher Behavior 216

Prereading Questions for Reflection and Journaling 216

Introduction 217
▶ case 9.1 Blowing His Stack 217

Classroom Verbal Intervention 218
▶ case 9.2 Marcus, the Little Sneak 219

Adjacent (Peer) Reinforcement 222

Calling on the Student/Name-Dropping 222

Humor 223

Questioning Awareness of Effect 223

Sending an “I Message” 224

Direct Appeal 225

Positive Phrasing 225

“Are Not For’s” 225

Reminder of the Rules 225

Glasser’s Triplets 226

Explicit Redirection 226

Canter’s “Broken Record” 227

xx Contents

Comply or Face the Logical Consequences: “You Have a Choice” 227
▶ case 9.3 “Doing Nothin’” 230

When “You Have a Choice” Doesn’t Work 230
Summary 233  •  Exercises 234

Section 4 Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

Chapter 10 ClASSroom InterventIonS For WorkIng
WIth StuDentS Who exhIBIt ChronIC BehAvIor
ProBlemS 236
Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate
Student Behavior 237

Prereading Activity: Understanding the Principles of Teacher Behavior
That Influence Appropriate Student Behavior 237

Prereading Questions for Reflection and Journaling 238

Introduction 238

The Dynamics of Chronic Disruptive Behavior 239
▶ case 10.1 “I Just Dropped My Book” 239

Long-Term Problem-Solving Strategies 242

Relationship Building 242
▶ case 10.2 Darnell 243
▶ case 10.3 Relating to Evan 244

Breaking the Cycle of Discouragement 246

Talking to Solve Problems 251

Receiving Skills 251

Sending Skills 252

Asking Authentic Questions 253

Specific Short-Term Problem-Solving Strategies 254

Self-Monitoring 255

Anecdotal Record Keeping 258

Functional Behavior Assessment 262

Behavior Contracting 266
Summary 272  •  Exercises 272

Chapter 11 SeekIng outSIDe ASSIStAnCe 274
Principles of Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate
Student Behavior 275

Prereading Activity: Understanding the Principles of Teacher
Behavior 275

Contents xxi

Prereading Questions for Reflection and Journaling 275

Introduction 276

The Nature of Persisting Misbehavior 277

Failure in the Classroom Environment 277

Failure Outside the Classroom Environment 278

Failure as a Result of Primary Mode of Conduct 278

When Outside Assistance Is Needed 278

The Referral Process 279

The Role of the Counselor 279

The Role of the Administrator 280

The Role of the School Psychologist 280

The Consultation Team 280

Working with Families 281

When Families Should Be Contacted 281

The Importance of Working with Families 282

Understanding Families 282
▶ case 11.1 To Drive, You Must Speak Spanish 283

Conducting Family Conferences 284
▶ case 11.2 “Won’t Be Much Help” 285

A Question That Will Surely Be Asked 286

Alternatives to Suspensions 286

Symptoms of Serious Problems 287

Legal Aspects of Seeking Outside Assistance 288
Summary 289  •  Exercises 289

IteratIve Case study analyses: Fourth analysIs 291

Appendix A AnAlySIS Inventory oF teACher BehAvIor thAt
InFluenCeS APProPrIAte StuDent BehAvIor 293
Part I: Have I Done All I Can to Prevent Misbehavior? 293

Chapter 1: The Basics 293

Chapter 2: Nature of the Discipline Problem 293

Chapter 3: Understanding Why Children Misbehave 293

Chapter 4: Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Student 294

Chapter 5: The Professional Teacher 294

Chapter 6: Structuring the Environment 295

Chapter 7: Building Relationships 295

xxii Contents

Part II: Am I Effectively Resolving Misbehavior? 295

Chapter 8: Using Nonverbal Interventions to Influence Students to
Behave Appropriately 295

Chapter 9: Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences to
Influence Students to Behave Appropriately? 296

Chapter 10: Classroom Interventions for Working with Students
Who Exhibit Chronic Behavior Problems 296

Chapter 11: Seeking Outside Assistance 298

Appendix B generAl guIDelIneS For WorkIng WIth
StuDentS WIth SPeCIAl neeDS 299

Appendix C DeCISIonS AnD tASkS For BegInnIng the
SChool yeAr 302

References 304

Index 321


Iterative Case Study Analyses

Six case studies of discipline problems at different grade levels are
described. One or more of the case studies can be analyzed four times.

The first analysis should be completed before you begin to read
and study the text. This analysis will serve as a baseline from which
you can reflect on your growth of understanding and ability to analyze
complex student behaviors as you study the text and reanalyze the

The second analysis occurs after you have read and studied
Section 1, Foundations, which includes Chapters 1 through 4. The
third analysis should incorporate the concepts discussed in Section 2,
Prevention, which includes Chapters 5, 6 and 7. The fourth and final
analysis should use the concepts found in Section 3, Interventions for
Common Behavior Problems, and Section 4, Interventions for Chronic
Behavior Problems, which include Chapters 8 through 11.

For each reanalysis, consider what has changed and what has
stayed the same from the previous analysis/analyses. As you read each
chapter and gain additional understandings and skills, you are encour-
aged to reconsider everything you have written in earlier analyses. For
example, even though the definition of teaching is first introduced in
Chapter 1, if what you read in later chapters causes you to reexamine
the definition, do so and discuss the change in your analyses.


Iterative Case Study Analyses

First Analysis

Select one or more of the case studies. Before studying the text, how would
you analyze the case study? In your analysis, consider why the students may
be choosing to behave inappropriately and how you might intervene to influ-
ence them to stop the disruptive behavior and resume appropriate on-task

Elementary School Case Studies

“I don’t remember” During silent reading time in my fourth-grade class, I have
built in opportunities to work individually with students. During this time, the
students read to me and practice word work with flash cards. One student has
refused to read to me but instead only wants to work with the flash cards. After
a few times, I suggested we work with flash cards this time and begin reading
next time. He agreed. The next time we met, I reminded him of our plan, and he
screamed, “I don’t remember. I want to do word cards.” At this point, I tried to
find out why he didn’t like reading and he said, “There’s a reason, I just can’t tell
you,” and he threw the word cards across the room, some of them hitting other
students. What should I do?

“Let’s do it again” Cathy is in my third-grade class. Whenever I ask the class
to line up for recess, lunch, or to change classes, Cathy is always the last to get
in line. When she does, she pushes, shoves, and touches the other students.
When this happens, I usually demand that all the children return to their seats,
and we repeatedly line up again and again until Cathy lines up properly. I thought
that peer pressure would cause Cathy to change her behavior, but, instead, it has
resulted in my students being late to “specials” and having less time for recess
and lunch.

Middle School Case Studies

“It makes me look cool” I can’t stop thinking about a problem I’m having in
class with a group of 12-year-old boys. They consistently use vulgar language
to one another and to some of the shy kids in the class, especially the girls. In
addition, they are always pushing and shoving one another. I’ve tried talking to
them about why they keep using bad language when they know it’s inappropriate.


The response I get is that “it makes me look cool and funny in front of my friends.”
I have asked them to please use more appropriate language in the classroom, but
that has not worked. I haven’t even started to deal with the pushing and shoving.
What should I do?

“My parents will be gone all weekend” One of my seventh-grade girls was
passing notes to a boy two rows over. After the second note, I made eye contact
with her and it stopped for about half an hour. When I saw her getting ready to
pass another note, I went over to her desk and asked her to give me the note and
told her that that the note passing had to stop. She looked very upset, but she did
give me the note. I folded it and put it in my desk drawer. When class ended, she
ran out of the room crying. My personal policy is not to read students’ notes but,
instead, give it back to the student at the end of class or throw it away. However,
this time, maybe because of her reaction, something told me to read the note. It
said, “Mike, my parents will be away Saturday don’t you and John sleep will be
fun. I promise I’ll do whatever you want me to do and that you and John can do
anything you want to me.” What should I as the teacher do?

High School Case Studies

“Homo” This past week I had a student approach me about a problem he was
experiencing in our class. This eleventh-grade student had recently “come out” as
a homosexual. He said he was tired and upset with the three boys who sit near him.
These boys frequently call him a “homo” and a “fag” every time they see him, both
in and out of class.

“Why don’t you get out of my face?” A twelfth-grade student came up to me
the first day of class and said, “My name is Ted. I don’t want to be here, so just
leave me alone and we’ll get along just fine.” I did not react to his comment but,
instead, said, “After you see what we will be learning, I think you will find the class
interesting.” Ted walked away and took a seat in the back of the room. Later that
week, I noticed Ted was reading a magazine while everyone else was working on
an in-class assignment. Without making it obvious, I walked by Ted’s desk and
quietly asked him to put away the magazine and begin working on the assign-
ment. Ted turned to me and said, “Maybe you don’t understand; I asked you not
to bother me. I’m not bothering you so why don’t you get out of my face”


The Basics

Conceptualizing the Process of Teaching • Understanding Principles of
Teacher Behavior That Influence Appropriate Student Behavior •

Understanding the Professional Decision-Making Hierarchical Approach

PrinciPles of Teacher Behavior ThaT influence
aPProPriaTe sTudenT Behavior

1. The single most important factor in determining the learning environment
is teacher behavior. Intentionally or unintentionally, teachers’ verbal and
nonverbal behaviors influence student behaviors.

2. Teachers have the professional responsibility for assuming the role of
instructional leader, which involves employing techniques that maximize
student on-task behavior.

3. Teachers who have clearly developed ideas of (a) the relationship
between teaching and discipline, (b) the factors influencing student
behavior, (c) their own personal expectations for student behavior, and
(d) a systematic plan to influence appropriate student behavior have
classrooms characterized by a high percentage of on-task student behavior.

4. A preplanned decision-making hierarchy of intervention strategies
increases the likelihood of influencing appropriate student behavior.

Prereading acTiviTy: undersTanding The PrinciPles
of Teacher Behavior

Before reading Chapter 1, briefly describe your understanding of the
implications of the principles for a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:


The Basics


Chapter 1 • The Basics 5

Principle 2:

Principle 3:

Principle 4:

Prereading QuesTions for reflecTion and Journaling

1. Educators generally believe that teaching is a profession. What does it mean for a
teacher to be a professional?

2. Influencing appropriate student behavior is a challenging process. As you think
about your experiences as student and teacher, are there any guidelines that you
could suggest to teachers to make this process more effective?


Many years ago both authors had the opportunity to take a graduate class entitled
“Classroom Management.” It was our first formalized instruction in this area.
A significant change in the appropriate way to conceptualize “classroom management”
has occurred in the 30 years since the authors were graduate students. Then, the goal
was “coping” with disruptive behavior and/or managing student behavior. Now, the
goal is “influencing” appropriate behavior. This change is not trivial or just semantic; it
represents a major change in how teachers view discipline problems and how teach-
ers interact with students who exhibit disruptive behaviors.

A catalyst for this change is a basic understanding that the only person a teacher
can control is herself,1 or, in other words, the only behavior a teacher can control is
her own. Therefore, a teacher does not control students but rather influences them
by changes in her own behavior she can control. Additionally, the
definition of coping is “to handle something successfully” with synonyms including
manage, handle, deal with. The definition of influence is “to have
an effect on the outcome of something or the behaviors of others” with synonyms
including guide, impact, transform ( Furthermore, coping with
discipline problems infers an inevitability that there will be discipline problems that
the teacher must endure. It is reactive and pessimistic in that it implies the teacher can
do little about future student behavior other than cope with it when it occurs.

In contrast, influencing infers discipline problems need not be inevitable
but may actually be preventable. Influencing is proactive, taking place before any

1To foster equality without being cumbersome, gender pronouns will be alternated by chapter. Chapter 1
will have female pronouns; Chapter 2, male; Chapter 3, female; and so forth. The new Chapter 7 will have
both gender pronouns.

6 Section 1 • Foundations

discipline problems even exist, and optimistic in that the teacher can impact students
to behave appropriately, greatly reducing the frequency of discipline problems. The
authors have chosen this orientation because it offers an optimistic approach to
teaching based on a clear understanding of what teachers can control and whom
they can influence. The result is increased teacher empowerment and efficacy that
comes from thinking about the possibility of influencing students to choose appro-
priate behavior and to strive for academic success. A conscious effort has been made
to orient the content of the text toward influencing positive behavior rather than
coping with misbehavior. This becomes very evident in the next section in which
teaching is defined.

At that time when we were enrolled in the graduate course, little research had
been conducted on the subject of how teachers influence students to behave appro-
priately. Even with this limitation, the instructor did an excellent job of organizing
what was available into a systematic approach for influencing students who display
disruptive behavior to behave appropriately. Throughout the course, however, students
continually asked the instructor to define teaching and explain how teaching and
influencing students were related.

Unfortunately, the instructor was never able to give a satisfactory answer.
Questions about the relationship between teaching and influence continually arose:
Should a teacher plan objectives for appropriate behavior in her lesson plan? How
do various teaching strategies increase or reduce the likelihood of students behaving
appropriately? Should a student’s grades be affected by misbehavior?

The lack of a definition of teaching not only plagued this class but also
several other education courses. Even today, many texts still use the term classroom
management, and many teachers who use various “management techniques” still
lack a clear definition of teaching and an understanding of how teachers influence
students. This is most unfortunate because teaching and influencing students cannot
exist independently of each other.

Therefore, we begin by setting forth a definition of teaching and explaining
how influencing behavior is part of the teaching process. The rest of this chap-
ter presents a structural overview of the text. First, we present the principles of
teacher behavior that influence students to behave appropriately. These principles
form the text’s foundation. Second, we provide an explanation of the decision-
making hierarchical approach to intervention. Last, we offer a flowchart of the
knowledge, skills, and techniques that make up a hierarchy of teacher behaviors
that result in successful classrooms in which teachers are free to teach and stu-
dents are free to learn.

defInIng the Process of teachIng

Each year, colleges and universities educate and graduate thousands of students
who then enter the teaching profession. All of these new teachers have accumu-
lated many credit hours of coursework in their chosen area of specialization, in
professional knowledge, in methodology, and in practical experiences. Armed with
this background, they enter classrooms and teach for an average of approximately
20 years or more. The average number of years of teaching experience of in-service

Chapter 1 • The Basics 7

teachers is 16.1 years with close to 40 percent of teachers having more than 20 years
experience (National Education Association, 2010). Even with this background,
however, many teachers, seasoned professionals as well as recent graduates, are
unable to provide an adequate operational definition of teaching. Some argue that
a formal definition is not necessary because they have been teaching for years and
whatever they do seems to work. For those of us who consider teaching a profes-
sionally sophisticated endeavor, however, experience, although invaluable in many
teaching situations, is not the only factor that should be used to develop and plan
instruction. Furthermore, this “gut-reaction” approach is sorely limited when the old
“proven methods” seem not to work, and there is a need for modifying or develop-
ing new instructional or management strategies. This is conspicuously evident in
today’s technology-enhanced classrooms, which are characterized by increases in
student diversity and students with special needs. Others, when asked, define teach-
ing as the delivery, transference, or giving of knowledge or information. Definitions
such as these give no clue to how knowledge is transferred and the strategies that
are used to deliver it. They limit teaching to only the cognitive domain, thus failing
to recognize the extraordinary level of competence needed for making hundreds of
daily content and pedagogical knowledge-based decisions in complex and dynamic
classroom environments.

Teaching always has emphasized the
cognitive domain. However, when teach-
ing is viewed as concerned solely with
cognitive development, teachers limit their
effectiveness when working with students
who exhibit disruptive behavior. These stu-
dents often need growth and development
in the affective domain, such as cooperat-
ing with others, valuing others’ viewpoints,
volunteering, and developing motivation
and interest, as well as in cognitive areas.
Teachers who understand the critical nature
of the affective domain are in a much better
position to work with students who exhibit
disruptive behavior. Indeed, many excep-
tional teachers actually approach their
work with the attitude that the students
need teachers because there are behaviors
that seriously interfere with teaching and
learning (Haberman, 1995). Teachers with
this attitude are better prepared to work
effectively with all students. They do not
get as frustrated or feel as if they are wast-
ing their time because they understand that
teaching is helping students mature not
only cognitively but also affectively.

When teaching is defined, teachers
have a clearer perception of what behaviors

Through careful lesson planning, teachers can design
strategies that have an increased probability of gaining
students’ interests and preventing discipline problems.

8 Section 1 • Foundations

constitute the practice of their profession. Before we present our formal definition,
however, we must consider an important assumption that underlies it. One of the major
tenets of the theory of psychology developed by Alfred Adler is that each individual
makes a conscious choice to behave in certain ways, either desirable or undesirable
(Sweeney, 1981). Building on this tenet, we believe that individuals cannot be forced
to change their behavior they must choose to do so. Therefore, individuals cannot be
forced to learn or to exhibit appropriate behavior. In other words, teachers do not
control student behavior. Students control their own behaviors. If this idea is accepted,
it follows that a teacher changes student behavior only by influencing the change
through changes in her own behavior, which is the only behavior over which she
has total control. In the classroom, then, a teacher is continually involved in a pro-
cess in which student behavior is monitored and compared with the teacher’s idea of
appropriate behavior for any given instructional activity. When actual student behavior
differs from appropriate student behavior, the teacher attempts to influence a change
in student behavior by changing her own behavior. For the skilled veteran teacher, the
monitoring of student behavior and the appropriate adjustment of teacher behavior
are automatic, transparent, and seamless to the outside observer. The behavior the
teacher decides to employ should be one that maximizes the likelihood that student
behavior will change in the appropriate way. The probability of choosing the most
effective behavior increases when teachers have a professional knowledge of instruc-
tional techniques, cognitive psychology, and child development and use it to guide the
modification of their own behavior (Brophy, 1988).

With this background, we can define teaching as the use of preplanned teacher
behaviors, founded in learning principles and child development theory and directed
toward both instructional delivery and classroom behavior that increase the probability
of effecting a positive change in student behavior. The significance of this definition
in trying to change any student’s behavior is threefold. First, teaching is concerned
with what the teacher controls, her own behavior, and this behavior is preplanned.
Teaching is not a capricious activity. Second, the preplanned behaviors are determined
by the teacher’s professional knowledge. This knowledge guides the teacher in select-
ing appropriate behaviors. It is the application of this specialized body of professional
knowledge and knowing why it works that makes teaching a profession (Tauber
and Mester, 1994). Third, many teaching behaviors are well founded in professional
knowledge. The teacher’s challenge is to select those behaviors that increase the prob-
ability that a corresponding behavioral change will take place in the student. For this
to occur, the teacher not only must know the students’ initial behaviors but also have
a clear picture of desired student behaviors for any given instructional activity.

The emphasis on the use of professional knowledge to inform teacher behav-
ior is critical. The public should expect no less from teachers than it does from
physicians, engineers, or other professionals. When a physician is asked why she
performed a certain procedure, we expect her answer to be more scientifically based
than “It seemed like a good thing to do at the time” or “It worked before.” If teaching
is a profession, teachers must understand and be able to explain the knowledge and
beliefs that lie behind their teaching decisions. If a teacher is asked why she inter-
acted with a student in a particular manner or why she used a particular instructional
strategy, her response should be based on pedagogical or psychological research,
theory, or methodology.

Chapter 1 • The Basics 9

Case 1.1 illustrates the application of the definition of teaching to instructional
delivery. Ms. Kelly was aware of the present student behavior and had a clear pic-
ture of what she wanted the behavior to become during questioning. To effect this
change, she analyzed her behaviors and how they affected her students. Because
changes in teacher behavior influence changes in student behavior, the former is
often termed “affecting behavior” and the sought-after student behavior is termed
“target behavior” (Boyan and Copeland, 1978). Using her professional knowledge,
Ms. Kelly modified her behavior to improve her practice of teaching and bring about
the target behavior. The behaviors she chose to employ were well founded in the
educational literature on questioning methodology (see Chapter 5). Ms. Kelly per-
formed as a professional.

Ms. Kelly believes that students must actively
participate in class activities for learning to
take place. She prides herself on her abil-
ity to design questions from all levels of the
cognitive domain; she believes that students
benefit and enjoy working with questions
that require analysis, synthesis, and evalu-
ation. However, she is sorely disappointed
because very few students have been volun-
teering to answer questions and those who
do volunteer usually give very brief answers.

Observation of Ms. Kelly’s class indi-
cates a fairly regular pattern of behaviors
during questioning. Standing in front of the
class, she asks the first question: “Students,
we have been studying the westward move-
ment of pioneers during the 1800s. Why
do you think so many thousands of people
picked up and moved thousands of miles
to a strange land knowing that they would
face incredible hardship and suffering dur-
ing the long trip?” Two hands shoot up.
Ms. Kelly immediately calls on Judy. “Judy,
why do you think they went?” “They wanted
new opportunities,” she answers. Ms. Kelly
immediately replies, “Great answer. Things
where they lived must have been so bad
that they decided that it was worth the

hardships that they would face. In a new
land, they would have a new beginning, a
chance to start over. Another thing might be
that some of the pioneers might not have
realized how difficult the trip would be.
Do you think that the hardships continued
even after the pioneers arrived in Oregon
and California?”

After discussion, Ms. Kelly realizes how
her behaviors are affecting student behavior.
Instead of increasing participation, they
actually hinder participation. After further
discussions and reading about question-
ing strategies, Ms. Kelly decides to change
her questioning behavior. She begins to ask
questions from different locations throughout
the room. She also waits three to five seconds
before calling on any student. After a student
answers, she again waits at least three sec-
onds and then points out the salient parts
of the response, rephrases another question
using the student’s response, and directs this
question to the class.

As before, her behaviors affect student
behavior. However, this time more students
volunteer initially, responses are longer, and
additional students are willing to expand on
initial answers.

CAse 1.1
Getting Students to Respond

10 Section 1 • Foundations

Case 1.2 illustrates the relationship between teacher behavior and targeted stu-
dent behavior in classroom management. Like Ms. Kelly, Mr. Fox changed his behavior
to one that reflected a well-accepted educational practice. With this change came cor-
responding changes in student behavior.

How do teachers become aware of the methodology and theory to support their
behaviors and from where do the methodology and theory come? The methodology
and theory are generated by research, often conducted by educational psychologists in
controlled laboratory settings. Their findings are then applied to classroom situations,
where they may or may not be applied properly and may or may not result in expected
outcomes. Research about teaching moved into the modern era only within the past
35 years. When reliable, replicable studies began to be conducted in actual classrooms
with real teachers (Berliner, 1984), research developed rapidly. Indeed, research now
shows that a set of teacher behaviors, referred to as effective teaching or effective
instruction, is present in many classrooms in which students make noteworthy gains
in learning. Teachers need to incorporate these behaviors into their daily instruction.
They may do so by becoming thoroughly familiar with the professional literature that
synthesizes and summarizes the research (see also Chapter 5). Some teachers may
prefer a more experiential approach. These individuals may wish to participate in
many of the formalized workshops that use the research to develop effective teaching
practices, such as Marzano, Frontier, and Livingston’s “Effective Supervision” (2011),
Charlotte Danielson’s “Framework for Effective Teaching” (2007), and Dean et al.’s
“Classroom Instruction That Works” (2012).

Although not as plentiful, there now is a body of knowledge concerning effec-
tive classroom management (Charles and Senter, 2010; Curwin, Mendler, and Mendler
2008; Emmer and Evertson, 2008; Evertson and Emmer 2009; Kounin, 1970; Redl and
Wineman, 1952).

Mr. Fox has a rule that test papers will not
be passed out until all students are quiet
and in their seats with all materials, except
a pencil, under the desk. He explains this
to the class before every test. Without fail,
he has to wait five to ten minutes before
everyone in the class is ready. Typically,
some students complain: “Why do we have
less time just because a few other kids take
their good old time?” Sometimes students
will get visibly angry, saying, “This isn’t
fair,” “This is stupid,” or “Why study? We
don’t get enough time for the test anyway!”
Mr. Fox dreads test days.

During a discussion of this situation
with another teacher, Mr. Fox is introduced to
the concept of logical consequences; in other
words, allowing students to experience a logi-
cally related consequence of their behavior.
Employing this concept, Mr. Fox announces to
the class that he will pass out tests on an indi-
vidual basis. “Once you are ready, you receive a
test.” He walks down the aisles giving students
who are ready a test paper and passing by
without comment those who are not. As a result
of his changed behavior, student behavior
changes. Complaining stops, and in a few min-
utes, more students are ready to take the test.

CAse 1.2
“Why Study? We Don’t Get Enough Time for the Test Anyway!”

Chapter 1 • The Basics 11

As stressed throughout this text, positive student behavior is closely connected
to effective instruction. Effective instruction prevents many discipline problems
by increasing on-task behavior. Without effective instructional practices, teachers are
unlikely to be able to successfully maintain appropriate student behavior. However,
although effective instruction is absolutely necessary, it is not in itself sufficient to
guarantee that classrooms are free from disruptive behavior. Even the best teachers
experience some disruptive behavior.

PrIncIPles of teacher BehavIor that Influence
aPProPrIate student BehavIor

As a result of the research on effective instruction, student behavior, and positive class-
room learning environments, a number of well-accepted principles governing teacher
behavior to prevent and successfully intervene with disruptive behavior have emerged.
Some of these principles are quite specific to a particular philosophical underpinning
(see Chapter 4), whereas others are philosophically generic. This text presents 38 generic
principles of teacher behavior that influence appropriate student behavior developed
through years of experience, research, and study. Each of the remaining 10 chapters
emphasizes some of these principles and discusses in detail how they may be incorpo-
rated by the teacher into effectively influencing students to behave appropriately.

The following paragraphs summarize the contents of each chapter and its relevant
principles. These paragraphs are followed by an explanation of the decision-making hi-
erarchical approach to influence appropriate classroom behavior. Just as it is good class-
room practice to provide the learner with an anticipatory set before in-depth instruction,
these sections provide the reader with the scope, sequence, and structure of this text.

Chapter 2 discusses the nature of the discipline problem. First, there is a review
of the limitations of current definitions of what behaviors constitute a discipline
problem. Offering a new operational definition of the term discipline problem rectifies
these limitations. This definition is then used to classify common classroom behaviors.
Second, misbehavior is analyzed historically by frequency and type to determine what
schools are like today. Research concerning the effect of disruptive behavior on both
teachers and students is presented. Finally, the use of technology is examined. As ben-
eficial as technology can be for teaching and learning, it is also being used by students
to bully others 24/7 and by some students to cheat on tests and assignments.

The related principles of teacher behavior that influence appropriate student
behavior are the following:

A discipline problem exists whenever a behavior interferes with the teaching act,
interferes with the rights of others to learn, is psychologically or physically unsafe,
or destroys property.

For effective teaching to take place, teachers must be competent in
influencing appropriate student behavior so as to maximize the time spent
on learning. Such teachers enjoy teaching more and have greater confidence in
their ability to affect student achievement.

Chapter 3 explores the underlying complex influences on student behavior and
provides multiple reasons why children misbehave. Societal changes have created an

12 Section 1 • Foundations

environment vastly different from that in which children of previous generations grew
up. How these out-of-school changes have influenced children’s attitudes and behav-
iors is examined first.

Like adults, children have strong personal, social, and academic needs. At the
same time, they undergo rapid cognitive and moral development. Also, schools
are more culturally diverse than in any previous time. The chapter goes on to
describe typical behaviors associated with children’s attempts to meet their needs
as well as normal developmental behaviors. Behaviors that may appear when the
home or school fails to recognize and respond to these needs and developmen-
tal changes are detailed. The analysis of motivation and self-esteem coupled with
a concept called a parallel process is presented as a means to understand disrup-
tive behavior. A  particularly negative way to meet one’s needs is through the use of
bullying behavior. In-person bullying and cyberbullying are examined from both the
bully and the bullied perspectives. Bullying is a widespread and serious problem
with particularly long-term negative effects. The concepts of resiliency and protec-
tive factors are discussed and used to explain how many students overcome negative
experiences to become competent adults.

Student mobility is increasing mostly as a result of economic pressure. When
these students attend their new schools, their academic performance often decreases
and disruptive behavior increases. Finally, new neuroscience findings are starting to
explain that adolescent behavior that was once considered problematic is most likely
normal and is a result of brain maturation.

We emphasize that the teacher has little control over many of the changes that
occur in society and in children. However, she does have total control over her instruc-
tional competence. Excellent instruction is a significant way to lessen the effects of
uncontrollable factors and to prevent misbehavior.

The following principles of teacher behavior that influence appropriate student
behavior are found in Chapter 3:

An awareness of the influences of misbehavior, which are often beyond the
schools’ control, enables teachers to use positive intervention techniques rather
than negative techniques, which stem from erroneously viewing misbehavior as
a personal affront.

Satisfaction of basic human needs such as food, safety, belonging, and
security is a prerequisite for appropriate classroom behavior.

The need for a sense of significance, competence, virtue, and power
influences student behavior.

Cognitive and moral developmental changes result in normal student
behavior that often is disruptive in learning environments.

Instructional competence can lessen the effects of negative outside influences
as well as prevent the misbehavior that occurs as a result of poor instruction.

Chapter 4 invites the reader to explore the connection between teacher behavior
and teacher beliefs as related to influencing student behavior. Different strategies for
influencing students are presented as either compatible or incompatible with certain
schools of thought. When teachers employ behaviors that are inconsistent with their

Chapter 1 • The Basics 13

beliefs about children, they feel emotionally uncomfortable and usually do not see the
desired change in student behavior.

Teachers exert influence through the use of four authority bases. In this chapter,
each authority base is placed along a continuum, which begins with those most likely
to engender students’ control over their own behavior and proceeds to those bases
that foster increasing teacher direction of student behavior.

The second section of the chapter describes three theoretical models of class-
room management. A series of nine questions helps the teacher define her beliefs
about classroom management. These questions are then used to analyze, compare,
and contrast the three models. It is the teacher’s underlying beliefs concerning how
children learn and develop and who has the primary responsibility for controlling a
child’s behavior that determine which model provides the best fit.

The principles of behavior that influence appropriate student behavior that are
found in Chapter 4 are the following:

Theoretical approaches to classroom management are useful to teachers because
they offer a basis for analyzing, understanding, and influencing student and
teacher behavior.

As social agents, teachers have access to a variety of authority bases that
can be used to influence student behavior.

The techniques a teacher employs to influence student behavior should be
consistent with the teacher’s beliefs about how students learn and develop.

Chapter 5 explores the effective instructional techniques used by the profes-
sional teacher. Effective teaching prevents most discipline problems. The discussion of
effective teaching is divided into three parts. The first part, Positive Student-Teacher
Relationships and Effective Teaching, explores the relationship between the teacher’s
instructional effectiveness and the types of relationships that the teacher develops
with students. The second section, Basics of Effective Teaching, describes the knowl-
edge gained from research on teacher effects. This research focuses on teacher behav-
iors that facilitate student achievement on lower-level cognitive tasks as measured by
paper-and-pencil tests. The third section of the chapter, Beyond the Basics, describes
more recent conceptualizations of teaching and learning, which focus on student cog-
nition and higher-order cognitive learning tasks.

Chapter 5 emphasizes the following principles:

Developing positive relationships with students will enhance the teacher’s instruc-
tional effectiveness and exert a greater influence on student learning.

Student learning and on-task behavior are maximized when teaching strat-
egies are based on what educators know about student development, how people
learn, and what constitutes effective teaching.

Chapter 6 details how to structure the learning environment to minimize
disruptive behavior. Many classroom behavior problems arise because students are
either unaware of or unclear about what types of behaviors are expected of them

14 Section 1 • Foundations

or why certain procedures must be followed in the classroom. This lack of aware-
ness usually occurs when the teacher herself is unclear about how and why she
wants her students to behave. Thus, developing meaningful classroom guidelines is
extremely necessary.

The processes for designing classroom guidelines, i.e., procedures and rules, are
presented with emphasis on the importance of having both a rationale and stated con-
sequences for each rule. Techniques to communicate guidelines to students in a way
that maximizes understanding and acceptance are offered. Ways to plan for teaching
procedures, rules and appropriate behavior are discussed.

The principles of Chapter 6 include the following:

When environmental conditions are appropriate for learning, the likelihood of
disruptive behavior is minimized.

Students are more likely to follow classroom guidelines if the teacher models
appropriate behavior; explains the relationship of the guidelines to learning,
mutual student-teacher respect, and protection and safety of property and indi-
viduals; and obtains student commitment to follow them.

Teaching students appropriate behavior increases the likelihood that dis-
ruptive behavior will be prevented.

Enforcing teacher expectations by using natural and logical consequences
helps students learn that they are responsible for the consequences of their
behavior and thus are responsible for controlling their own behavior.

Many teachers need to keep up to date on the latest techniques by attending
professional development workshops.

Chapter 1 • The Basics 15

Chapter 7 highlights the importance of developing proactive, positive relationships
with all students and their families. The initial section of the chapter discusses the
influence of cultural background on teacher and student values, norms, and expectations
for appropriate behavior. In addition, the chapter advocates the use of cooperative
learning activities and the teaching of social skills as techniques for creating classroom
group norms that are supportive of pro-social behavior and student engagement in
learning activities.

The benefits to students and teachers of positive student, teacher, and family
relationships are outlined in the later sections of the chapter. Building positive
student-teacher relationships using teacher authority bases, student motivation based
on values and expectations for success, and student self-esteem are examined. Building
proactive family-teacher relationships using three criteria that reinforce the value of
parental support is detailed in the final section of the chapter.

The principles described in Chapter 7 include the following:

When classroom guidelines and rules match the culture of the students’ home
community, the likelihood that students will behave appropriately is increased.

When the teacher creates group norms that are supportive of engagement
in learning activities, the likelihood that students will behave appropriately is

When teachers use their professional knowledge base to build positive
student-teacher relationships, the likelihood that students will behave appropri-
ately and demonstrate higher academic achievement is increased.

When teachers proactively build relationships with families that communi-
cate that home support for school endeavors is important, that families have the
ability to help, and that the school welcomes and encourages their involvement,
the likelihood that students will behave appropriately and demonstrate higher
academic achievement is increased.

Chapters 8 and 9 explore how teachers can effectively influence students to
behave appropriately through the use of a three-tiered hierarchical decision-making
model of nonverbal and verbal behaviors called intervention skills.

Research reviewed in Chapter 8 reveals that the majority of misbehaviors are verbal
interruptions, off-task behavior, and disruptive physical movements. The frequency of
these surface disruptions can be greatly reduced with proper planning, instructional
strategies, environmental structure, and verbal and nonverbal teacher behaviors.

Chapter 8 covers the first tier of the decision-making hierarchy. It discusses the
appropriate use and limitations of four nonverbal intervention skills: planned ignor-
ing, signal interference, proximity interference, and touch interference. The chapter
includes an intervention decision-making model that hierarchically orders nonverbal
behaviors teachers can use to influence student behavior. The hierarchy begins with
those nonintrusive techniques that give students the greatest opportunity to control
their own behaviors and proceeds to intrusive strategies in which the teacher assumes
more responsibility for managing student behavior. Five implementation guidelines
are also presented.

16 Section 1 • Foundations

Chapter 8 covers the following principles:

Teacher intervention techniques need to be consistent with the goal of helping
students become self-directing individuals.

Use of a preplanned hierarchy of remedial interventions improves the
teacher’s ability to influence appropriate behavior.

The use of a hierarchy that starts with nonintrusive, nonverbal teacher
behaviors gives students the opportunity to exercise self-control, minimizes
disruption to the teaching/learning process, reduces the likelihood of student
confrontation, protects students’ safety, and maximizes the teacher’s alternative

Chapter 9 discusses in detail the second and third tiers of the decision-making
hierarchy: verbal intervention, and the application of logical consequences. Twelve
verbal intervention techniques are presented along with nine guidelines for their
appropriate use as well as their limitations. Once again, these techniques are ordered
along a continuum that ranges from nonintrusive student control to intrusive teacher
management of behavior. The use of verbal intervention is founded on the assumption
that teachers do have effective alternatives to angry, personal, sarcastic confrontations
with students. Such alternatives typically defuse rather than escalate misbehavior.

The third tier of the decision-making hierarchy, the use of logical consequences,
is a powerful technique in influencing student behavior. The concept of logical con-
sequences is explained in detail along with the guidelines teachers use to develop
effective logical consequences for a wide range of misbehavior. The assertive delivery
of logical consequences is also discussed.

The following principles are dealt within Chapter 9:

An intervention hierarchy that consists of nonverbal intervention, followed by
verbal intervention, and application of logical consequences, when necessary,
seems most effective in coping with common behavior problems.

Some forms of verbal intervention defuse confrontation and reduce
misbehavior; other forms of verbal intervention escalate misbehavior and

Chapter 10 looks at long-term and short-term classroom interventions for stu-
dents who exhibit chronic behavior problems. Two long-term problem-solving
strategies—relationship building and disrupting the cycle of discouragement—are
presented. In addition, the use of conversation and conferencing to solve problems is
discussed. Most strategies used with chronic behavior problems involve referral out-
side the classroom. However, there are four effective field-tested, in-classroom tech-
niques: self-monitoring, anecdotal record keeping, functional behavior assessment, and
behavior contracts. The effective use of these techniques assumes that the teacher’s
classroom behaviors have met the prerequisites discussed in previous chapters and
reviewed here. The step-by-step implementation of these strategies is described, and
a detailed discussion of the critical communication skills that can make the difference

Chapter 1 • The Basics 17

in successfully resolving chronic misbehavior is presented. Last, teacher-controlled
exclusion from the classroom, an interim step between in-classroom interventions and
outside referral, is explained.

The following principles are part of Chapter 10:

When dealing with students who pose chronic behavior problems, teachers should
employ strategies to resolve the problems within the classroom before seeking out-
side assistance.

Breaking the cycle of discouragement in which most students with chronic
behavior problems are trapped increases the likelihood that the problems can be
resolved within the classroom.

When teachers talk with students privately and use effective communica-
tion skills with students who have chronic behavior problems, the likelihood that
the problems can be resolved within the classroom increases.

Interventions that require students to recognize their inappropriate behav-
ior and its impact on others increase the likelihood that the problems can be re-
solved within the classroom.

Interventions that require students who exhibit chronic behavior problems
to be accountable for trying to control their behavior on a daily basis increase the
likelihood that the problems can be resolved within the classroom.

The final chapter, Chapter 11, offers advice on seeking assistance. When in-
classroom techniques have been exhausted and have not resulted in appropriate student
behavior, it is necessary to seek outside assistance. Teachers are offered guidelines to
follow when deciding whether or not outside consultation is warranted. The concept of
a success/failure ratio is explained along with a discussion of how this ratio contributes
to persisting misbehavior.

Other students may need outside referral even though they do not display any
forms of chronic misbehavior. These students may exhibit signs of emotional stress
or family dysfunction. The chapter discusses six warning signs of these problems.
A referral process that stresses multidisciplinary team consultation is offered as an
effective means of working with these students. The roles of the counselor, families,
administrator, and school psychologist are presented along with the legal issues that
must be considered when making outside referrals.

Family support and cooperation with the school is critical when working with
students who misbehave chronically. The chapter outlines specific guidelines that
teachers can use to decide when families need to be contacted. Techniques on how to
conduct family conferences to facilitate and enhance parental support and coopera-
tion are discussed.

The principles of teacher behavior that influence appropriate student behavior
in Chapter 11 are these:

Professional teachers recognize that some chronic misbehavior problems are not
responsive to treatment within the classroom or are beyond their expertise and
necessitate specialized outside assistance.

18 Section 1 • Foundations

When outside assistance must be sought to manage a chronic misbehavior
problem adequately and appropriately, the use of a multidisciplinary team is the
most effective approach.

Family support and cooperation with the school are critical when attempting
to influence a student who exhibits chronic behavior problems. Careful planning
and skilled conferencing techniques are essential in developing a positive
homeschool working relationship.

ProfessIonal decIsIon-MakIng hIerarchy

Professionals, regardless of their fields, use the specialized body of knowledge they
possess to make decisions in their area of expertise. For example, engineers rely on
their knowledge of science and mathematics to make engineering decisions, and phy-
sicians rely on their knowledge of biology and medical science to arrive at medical
decisions. Educators who make hundreds of instructional decisions on a daily basis do
so after considering their specialized knowledge in pedagogy, cognitive psychology,
and child development.

In these professions and in others, hierarchies, taxonomies, and classification
systems are used to organize vast amounts of isolated bits of data into manageable,
comprehensible bodies of knowledge. Some common examples of classification sys-
tems to organize scientific information are the periodic table of elements in chemistry,
the taxonomy of the plant and animal kingdoms in biology, and the electromagnetic
spectrum in physics. In the social sciences, there are the taxonomies of cognitive,
affective, and psychomotor abilities in education and stages of cognitive and moral
development in psychology, as well as many more.

Hierarchies may be used for more than just organizing information may also
be used to guide professional decisions. Scientists, who use the scientific method
to guide their inquiries, and doctors, who diagnose and treat patients by using a
step-by-step approach, are using hierarchical approaches. The advantages of using
a hierarchical approach are twofold: (1) it allows for the systematic implementation
of the knowledge that informs the practice of a given profession, and (2) it provides
the practitioner with a variety of approaches rather than a limited few. Thus, the
hierarchical approach increases the likelihood that successful outcomes will result.
The hierarchical strategies are based on professional knowledge, and if early strate-
gies are ineffective, numerous other strategies may produce positive results.

Applying a hierarchical approach to classroom decisions allows teachers to
employ knowledge effectively in order to understand and influence student behavior.
When such an approach is not used, a teacher may find herself with few alternatives
for influencing student behavior. Consider, for example, Case 1.3.

Needless to say, Ms. King’s approach to handling a common student behavior was
a gross overreaction. It not only led to an administrator-initiated meeting but also prob-
ably to an increase in student misbehavior because students recognize the discrepancy
between the minimal student behavior and maximum teacher response. Furthermore,
Ms. King’s approach left her with few if any alternatives in influencing other students
who called out answers in the future. It is highly unlikely that parents, students, admin-
istrators, or other teachers would support this approach. The technique of exclusion

Chapter 1 • The Basics 19

from class is usually reserved for use after many less intrusive strategies have been
attempted. In other words, changes in student behavior are best accomplished when
the teacher employs intervention strategies in a hierarchical order.

When teachers use a professional body of knowledge to make decisions, the
decisions made are usually professionally acceptable and defendable, and they result
in desired changes in students’ behaviors. When teachers make “gut” or emotional
decisions, sometimes called reactions, the decisions more often than not result in
unexpected and undesirable student behaviors. Additionally, they may not be
professionally acceptable and defendable. The principles of teacher behavior and the
hierarchy of intervention skills presented in this text have served many educators well
in making effective decisions concerning how to influence student behavior.

Two hierarchies are presented in this text. The first is a summary of how the
concepts and principles that underlie effective teacher behavior can be organized,
presented, studied, and used. The four sections into which the chapters are grouped
represent this hierarchy. The first section, Chapters 1 through 4, presents the founda-
tional knowledge base. The second section, Chapters 5, 6, and 7, addresses prevention
strategies or teacher behaviors that influence students to behave appropriately The
third section, Chapters 8 and 9, deals with teacher behaviors that influence students to
stop common discipline problems and return to acceptable behavior. The fourth and
final section, Chapters 10 and 11, addresses teacher behaviors that are used for work-
ing with students who exhibit chronic misbehavior problems.

The second hierarchy concerns the implementation of intervention strategies
initiated by the teacher when discipline problems become evident. This hierarchy
is a decision-making model that uses specific techniques that have been shown to
influence students to stop the inappropriate behavior and increase the likelihood

Ms. King decides one way to maintain disci-
pline in her eighth-grade class is to be firm
and consistent with the enforcement of class-
room rules and procedures from the begin-
ning of the school year. One of her rules is
that students must raise their hands to be
called on before answering questions. She
explains this rule to the class: “By eighth
grade, I’m sure you all understand that every-
one has an equal chance to participate. For
this to happen, everyone must raise his or
her hand to be called on. I hope I will have to
tell you this only once.”

During the year’s first question-and-
answer session, Jill calls out the answer.

Ms. King reminds her, “Jill, you must raise your
hand if you want to answer. I do not expect
this to happen again.” However, it isn’t much
longer until Jill calls out again. This time, Ms.
King says, “Jill, please leave the room and
stand in the hallway. When you feel that you
can raise your hand, come back and join us.”

In a few minutes, Jill returns to class
and as before calls out an answer. This time,
Ms. King says, “Go to the office and speak
with the vice-principal.” Within minutes, Jill
is sent back to class. Later that day, Ms. King
receives a message in her mailbox requesting
her to set up a meeting with the vice-principal
to discuss the matter.

CAse 1.3
The Vice-Principal Wants to See Whom?

20 Section 1 • Foundations

fIgure 1.1 A Hierarchical Approach to Successful Classroom Management.

Section 1 Foundations (Chapters 1–4)

Conceptualizing the process of teaching
Understanding principles of teacher behavior

that influence appropriate student behavior
Understanding the decision-making hierarchical

Defining a discipline problem
Understanding the extent of discipline problems

in today’s schools
Understanding how discipline problems affect

teaching and learning
Understanding the impact of cybercheating and

cyberbullying on students
Understanding societal change and its influence

on children’s behaviors
Recognizing student needs
Recognizing bullying
Understanding developmental changes and

accompanying behaviors
Recognizing the importance of instructional

Understanding resiliency
Understanding the impact of mobility on

students’ behavior
Understanding and employing different

teacher authority bases

Understanding theories of classroom management
Student directed
Teacher directed

Section 2 Prevention (Chapters 5–7)

Developing effective teaching strategies
Building positive student-teacher relationships
Designing effective lessons
Enhancing student motivation using

teacher variables
Communicating high teacher expectations

to all students
Employing classroom questioning effectively
Maximizing time-on-task
Teaching for understanding
Creating learning communities
Teaching for multiple intelligences
Differentiating instruction
Enhancing student motivation using

student variables
Designing the physical environment
Establishing classroom guidelines

Determining procedures
Determining rules
Determining consequences

Natural • Logical • Contrived
Communicating rules
Obtaining commitments
Teaching rules and appropriate behavior

of students exhibiting continuous appropriate behavior. Using the decision-making
model, the teacher finds a variety of nonintrusive strategies that provide the student
with the opportunity to manage her own behavior while curbing the common forms
of classroom misbehavior efficiently and effectively (Shrigley, 1985). As the teacher
moves down through the intervention hierarchy, the techniques become more and
more intrusive, with the teacher playing an increasingly larger role in influencing
student behavior. The overall hierarchy of the text is shown in Figure 1.1. In addi-
tion, each chapter begins with a flowchart depicting those parts of the hierarchy that
have been covered in previous chapters and the specific parts of the hierarchy that
are now to be discussed. We hope this arrangement provides a systematic, step-by-
step approach to building a comprehensive system that teachers can use to influence
students to choose appropriate behavior with the ultimate goal of having students
become self-regulating.

Chapter 1 • The Basics 21

Building Relationships
Understanding cultural embeddedness

of behavior
Creating positive group norms
Building student-teacher relationships
Building family-teacher relationships

Section 3 Interventions for Common
Behavior Problems (Chapters 8–9)

Using proactive intervention skills
Using preplanned remedial nonverbal

Planned ignoring
Signal interference
Proximity interference
Touch interference

Using preplanned verbal interventions
Adjacent reinforcement
Calling on the student
“ I message”
Direct appeal
Positive phrasing
“Are not for’s”

Reminder of rules
Glasser’s triplets
Explicit redirection
Canter’s “broken record”
Applying logical consequences

Section 4 Interventions for Chronic Behavior
Problems (Chapters 10–11)

Relationship building
Disrupting the cycle of discouragement
Talking to solve problems
Using self-monitoring
Using anecdotal record procedure
Using behavioral contracts
Understanding the nature of persisting

Recognizing when outside assistance is needed
Making referrals

School psychologists

Working with families
Considering alternatives to suspension
Protecting student rights

fIgure 1.1 continued

This chapter first discussed a critical prem-
ise concerning teachers influencing stu-
dents to behave appropriately that the reader
should clearly understand before continuing.
Teaching is defined as the use of preplanned
behaviors, founded in learning principles and
child development theory and directed toward
both instructional delivery and classroom
behavior that increase the probability of
effecting a positive change in student behavior.

Therefore, by deliberately changing her behav-
ior, the teacher can influence positive changes
in students’ academics as well as classroom

Second, the principles and the hierarchical
approach to teacher decision making, on which
the entire text is based, were explained. These
serve as the foundation on which specific strat-
egies to influence student behavior are devel-
oped throughout the rest of the text.


22 Section 1 • Foundations

1. Many teachers define teaching as the delivery
of knowledge or the giving of information.
In your opinion, are these definitions ade-
quate? If so, explain why. If not, what are the

2. What problems may arise when teachers base
most of their decisions on “gut reactions”? Give
specific examples.

3. In recent years, there has been much discussion
over whether or not teaching is a profession. In
your opinion, is teaching a profession? If yes,
explain why. If no, why not and what must
occur to make it a profession?

4. Review the definition of teaching presented in
this chapter. Do you agree with it or should it be

modified? If you agree, explain why. If not, what
should be changed?

5. The definition of teaching in this chapter focuses
on the teacher changing her behavior to influence
students because that is the only behavior over
which she has control. Given this, how might you
reply to a principal who believes that teachers
should be able to control their students’ behavior?

6. This chapter discusses how teacher behav-
iors (affecting) influence changes in student
behavior (targeted). For each targeted behavior
that follows, suggest an appropriate affecting
behavior and explain why such a teacher behav-
ior would increase the likelihood of a positive
change in the student’s behavior.


Situation Targeted Behavior Affecting Behavior

calling out answers raising hand
not volunteering volunteering
daydreaming on-task
forgetting text prepared for class
short answers to questions expanded answers
few students answer questions more participation
passing notes on-task
walking around room in seat
noisy during first five minutes of class ontask from start of class

7. Suggest some ways that a busy teacher can
keep up with the latest research on effective

8. This text offers 38 principles of teacher behavior.
Principles are usually quite broad statements.
How can a teacher use these principles to guide
her teaching practice and specific management

9. This text chapter supports the use of a decision-
making hierarchical approach to teacher
influence. Discuss the advantages as well as the
disadvantages to such an approach.

10. Principles of Teacher Behavior After reading
Chapter 1 and doing the exercises, use what
you have learned to briefly describe your

understanding of the implications of the princi-
ples listed at the beginning of the chapter for a
classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Principle 3:

PrinciPles of Teacher Behavior ThaT influence aPProPriaTe
sTudenT Behavior

1. A discipline problem exists whenever a behavior interferes with the
teaching act, interferes with the rights of others to learn, is psychologically
or physically unsafe, or destroys property.

2. For effective teaching to take place, teachers must be competent in
influencing appropriate student behavior so as to maximize the time
spent on learning. Such teachers enjoy teaching more and have greater
confidence in their ability to affect student achievement.

Prereading acTiviTy: undersTanding The PrinciPles
of Teacher Behavior

Before reading Chapter 2, briefly describe your understanding of the
implications of the principles for a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Nature of the Discipline Problem
Defining a Discipline Problem • Understanding the Extent of Discipline

Problems • Recognizing the Problems in Today’s Schools • Understanding
How Discipline Problems Affect Learning • Addressing a New Concern:


The Basics


Chapter 2
Nature of the Discipline

24 Section 1 • Foundations

Prereading QuesTions for reflecTion and Journaling

1. What makes a problem a discipline problem? How do discipline problems differ
from other problems that teachers must address?

2. Why is it important that teachers differentiate discipline problems from non-
discipline problems?

3. What effect do you think discipline problems have on teachers, students, and
schools in general?

4. How has technology, particularly the Internet and cell phones, been used
by students to negatively impact teaching and learning?


When educators, public officials, or parents with school-age children discuss
schooling, the topic of classroom discipline inevitably arises. Discipline and classroom
management are topics that have been widely discussed by both professionals and the
public for a considerable period of time.

In these discussions, it is generally assumed that everyone knows what is
meant by a discipline problem and understands the major problems that discipline
poses for educators. However, when we have asked pre- or in-service teachers at
workshops, “What is a discipline problem?” there has been no consensus whatsoever
in their responses. Thus, contrary to popular belief, there does not seem to be a
professional operational definition of what behaviors constitute a discipline prob-
lem. So what would seem to be the obvious starting point for effective classroom
management, that is, the definition of a discipline problem, has yet to be adequately

A second common topic among educators, public officials, and parents is the
magnitude of discipline problems in today’s schools. Many think that our schools are
plagued by crime, violence, and frequent disruptive classroom behavior, but is this
true? Do today’s schools differ greatly from those of 10 or 20 years ago? How does
the lack of an agreed-upon definition of a discipline problem affect the gathering of
statistics to assess the extent of disruptive behavior?

Although almost everyone agrees that it is important for students to behave
properly in a classroom, a survey of pre- and in-service teachers shows no agreement
on why it is important. What are the actual effects of misbehavior on students and
their learning and on teachers and their teaching?

Finally, technology has had many positive impacts on teaching and learning.
In some disciplines, technology has fundamentally changed the way teachers teach
and students learn. However, technology has also been used by students in ways
that have very negative impacts on academic integrity (cybercheating) and on the
well-being of students (cyberbullying). What are these impacts and how extensive are
their influences?

In this chapter, we (1) develop a working definition of what is a discipline
problem in a classroom, (2) assess the magnitude of the discipline problem in today’s
schools, (3) determine the effect of misbehavior on both students and teachers, and
(4) describe how technology is used by students to cheat and bully other students.

Chapter 2 • Nature of the Discipline Problem 25

defInIng a dIscIplIne problem

Teachers often describe students who exhibit discipline problems as lazy, unmotivated,
belligerent, aggressive, angry, or argumentative. These words at best are imprecise, judg-
mental, and descriptive of a wide range of behaviors. After all, a student can be lazy or
angry and yet not be a disruptive factor in the classroom. Furthermore, attribution theory
(Weiner, 1980) tells us that our thoughts guide our feelings, which in turn guide our
behavior. Therefore, when they describe children using negative labels, teachers are much
more likely to feel and behave negatively toward those children (Brendtro, Brokenleg,
and Van Bockern, 1990). Negative teacher behavior is ineffective in helping children
learn appropriate behavior and actually influences students to continue to display inap-
propriate behavior (Levin and Shanken-Kaye, 2002). Thus, for a definition of a discipline
problem to be useful to a teacher, it must clearly enable a teacher to differentiate student
behavior that requires immediate corrective action from behavior that does not.

The amount of material that has been written on discipline and classroom
management is staggering. Hundreds of books and articles on this subject have been
produced for both the professional and the general public, the great majority of them
appearing since the mid-1970s. They typically cover such areas as the types and
frequency of behavior problems, the causes of student misbehavior, and the strategies
that teachers can employ to improve classroom management. However, surprisingly,
the most basic question, “What types of student behaviors are discipline problems?”
has rarely been considered.

A teacher’s ability to differentiate from a myriad of student behavior that which is
a discipline problem needing immediate teacher attention is a prerequisite of effective
classroom management. Without this ability, it is impossible for teachers to design and
communicate to students rational and meaningful classroom guidelines, to recognize mis-
behavior when it occurs, or to employ intervention strategies effectively and consistently.

In developing an operational definition, it is helpful to examine some inadequate
definitions found in the literature. Kindsvatter (1978) defined discipline in terms of
student behavior in the classroom, or “classroom decorum.” He uses terms such as
behavior problems and misbehavior but never gives meanings or examples for them.
However, he does associate discipline with student behavior (which we will see does
not always have to be the case).

Feldhusen (1978) used the term disruptive behavior, which he defines as a vio-
lation of school expectations interfering with the orderly conduct of teaching. This
definition is significant because it states that misbehavior is any student behavior that
interferes with teaching. In defining disruptive behavior in this manner, Feldhusen
attempts to provide teachers with a guideline for monitoring student behavior: any
behavior that keeps the teacher from teaching is a disciplinary problem; any behavior
that does not interrupt the teaching process is not a discipline problem.

Using this guideline, it seems relatively easy to identify discipline problems.
Or is it? Let’s test it by applying it to a number of common classroom behaviors:
(1) a student continually calls out while the teacher is explaining material, (2) a student
quietly scratches his name into his desk with a pencil, and (3) a student quietly passes
notes to his neighbor. According to Feldhusen’s definition, only the first student is
exhibiting a discipline problem because his calling out interferes with the teacher’s
ability to teach. Unless a teacher were quite observant, the second and third behaviors
could go unnoticed. Even if the teacher were aware of these behaviors, he could easily

26 Section 1 • Foundations

continue to teach. However, how many teachers would agree that scratching one’s
name on a desk and passing notes are not discipline problems? Teachers realize inher-
ently that such behaviors are discipline problems and must be dealt with. Therefore,
Feldhusen’s definition is inadequate.

Emmer and colleagues (1989) offer a more comprehensive definition: “Student
behavior is disruptive when it seriously interferes with the activities of the teacher or
of several students for more than a brief time” (p. 187). Under this definition, disruptive
behavior interferes not only with the teacher or teaching act but also with students or
the learning act. This is an important enhancement because it recognizes the right of
every student to learn (Bauer, 1985), and most of the time in a classroom, the need of
the group must override the need of an individual student (Curwin and Mendler, 1980).

Unfortunately the definition includes the terms seriously, several, and brief time.
Although these terms are used to generalize to a wider range of situations, they allow
room for disagreement and misinterpretation. First, a brief time or a serious inter-
ference for one teacher may not be a brief time or serious interruption for another.
Second, is it only when several students are disrupted that a discipline problem exists?
If we apply this definition to the three types of behaviors listed previously, the student
who calls out and possibly the note passer would be identified. The student who is
defacing the desk would not be covered.

By far one of the most comprehensive definitions come from Shrigley (1979),
who states that any behavior that disrupts the teaching act or is psychologically
or physically unsafe constitutes a disruptive behavior. This definition includes
behaviors that do not necessarily interfere with the teaching act but are definitely
psychologically or physically unsafe, such as running in a science lab; unsafe use of
tools or laboratory equipment; threats to other students; and bullying, teasing, and
harassing of classmates. However, the same problem is evident in this definition as
in Feldhusen’s: name scratching and note passing would not be considered discipline
problems because they do not interfere with teaching and are not unsafe.

In examining contemporary texts, identifying or defining discipline problems is
addressed in three ways. The first approach suggests that misbehavior or a discipline
problem exists if the behavior is inappropriate for the particular setting and the behavior
is done willfully (Charles, 2002). This definition is very subjective because inappropri-
ateness is open to as many interpretations as there are teachers and willfulness requires
the teacher to be an interrogator or mind reader. Thus, agreement among teachers as to
whether or not a given behavior is a discipline problem would be difficult.

The second approach is not to provide any criteria to judge whether a discipline
problem exists but instead to place student behavior into categories of magnitude
ranging from non-problematic to serious issues that may spread to other students
(Evertson et al., 1994). There are many issues regarding this approach, for example,
what is considered a non-problem—talking among students and inattentiveness may
require more immediate attention from the teacher than a behavior listed as a major
problem, such as not doing assignments. Additionally, there are no guidelines as to
how the teacher should address the behaviors in each category.

The third approach is to define discipline as what teachers do to teach students
how to behave appropriately (Charles, 2002; Iverson, 2003; Maag, 2004). This definition
focuses on teacher behavior and is not useful for identifying students’ behavior that
are inappropriate or, in other words, students’ behaviors that are discipline problems.

Chapter 2 • Nature of the Discipline Problem 27

It should be clear from this discussion that any definition of the term discipline
problem must provide teachers with the means to determine instantly whether or not
any given behavior is a discipline problem. Once this identification has been made,
the teacher can then decide what specific teacher intervention should be employed to
influence students to act appropriately.

Consider the following six scenarios. For each, ask yourself the following

1. Is there a discipline problem?
2. If there is a discipline problem, who is exhibiting it?
3. Why is or isn’t the behavior a discipline problem?

Scenario 1: Marisa quietly enters the room and takes her seat. The teacher
requests that students take out their homework. Marisa does not take out her
homework but instead takes out a magazine and begins to flip quietly through
the pages. The teacher ignores Marisa and involves the class in reviewing the

Scenario 2: Marisa quietly enters the room and takes her seat. The teacher
requests that students take out their homework. Marisa does not take out her
homework but instead takes out a magazine and begins to flip quietly through
the pages. The teacher publicly announces that there will be no review of the
homework until Marisa puts away the magazine and takes out her homework.

Scenario 3: Marisa quietly enters the room and takes her seat. The teacher
requests that students take out their homework. Marisa does not take out her
homework but instead takes out a magazine and begins to flip quietly through
the pages. The teacher begins to involve the class in reviewing the homework

When teachers are not prepared to start classes on time, discipline problems can result.

28 Section 1 • Foundations

and at the same time moves closer to Marisa. The review continues with the
teacher standing in close proximity to Marisa.

Scenario 4: Marisa quietly enters the room and takes her seat. The teacher
requests that students take out their homework. Marisa does not take out her
homework but instead takes out a magazine and begins to show the magazine
to the students who sit next to her. The teacher ignores Marisa and begins to
involve the class in the review of the homework. Marisa continues to show the
magazine to her neighbors.

Scenario 5: Marisa quietly enters the room and takes her seat. The teacher
requests that students take out their homework. Marisa does not take out her
homework but instead takes out a magazine and begins to show the magazine
to the students who sit next to her. The teacher does not begin the review and,
in front of the class, loudly demands that Marisa put the magazine away and get
out her homework. The teacher stares at Marisa for the two minutes that it takes
her to put the magazine away and find her homework. Once Marisa finds her
homework, the teacher begins the review.

Scenario 6: Marisa quietly enters the room and takes her seat. The teacher
requests that students take out their homework. Marisa does not take out her
homework but instead takes out a magazine and begins to show the magazine
to the students who sit next to her. The teacher begins the homework review
and, at the same time, walks toward Marisa. While a student is answering a ques-
tion, the teacher, as privately as possible, assertively asks Marisa to take out her
homework and put the magazine away.

If you are like many of the teachers to whom we have given these same six
scenarios, you probably have found answering the questions that preceded them
somewhat difficult. Furthermore, if you have taken time to discuss your answers with
others, you undoubtedly have discovered your answers differ from theirs.

Much of the difficulty in determining what is a discipline problem can be
avoided using the following definition, which recognizes that discipline problems are
multifaceted: a discipline problem is behavior that (1) interferes with the teaching
act, (2) interferes with the rights of others to learn, (3) is psychologically or physically
unsafe, or (4) destroys property. This definition not only covers calling out, defacing
property, or disturbing other students but also other common behaviors that teachers
confront every day. Note, however, that the definition does not limit behavior to stu-
dent behavior. This is very important, for it means the teacher must consider his own
behavior as well as his students’ behavior.

Using our new definition, review the six scenarios again and compare your
analysis with ours. In Scenario 1, there are no discipline problems because neither
Marisa’s nor the teacher’s behavior is interfering with the rights of others to learn. The
teacher has decided to ignore Marisa for the time being and focus on involving the
class with the homework review.

In Scenario 2, the teacher is a discipline problem because the teacher has inter-
rupted the homework review to intervene with Marisa, who isn’t interfering with any
other students’ learning. In this situation, it is the teacher who is interfering with the
rights of the students to learn.

Chapter 2 • Nature of the Discipline Problem 29

In Scenario 3, there is no evident discipline problem. Neither Marisa’s nor the
teacher’s behavior is interfering with the other students’ right to learn. The teacher
has not decided to ignore Marisa but has wisely chosen an intervention strategy that
allows the homework review to continue.

In Scenario 4, both Marisa and the teacher are discipline problems. Marisa is
interfering with the other students’ right to learn. Because Marisa is a discipline prob-
lem, by ignoring her, the teacher also interferes with the other students’ right to learn.

In Scenario 5, Marisa and the teacher are again discipline problems. Marisa’s
sharing of the magazine is disruptive, but the teacher’s choice of intervention is also
a problem. In fact, the teacher is interfering with the learning of more students than

In Scenario 6, Marisa is still a discipline problem. However, the teacher is not
because the intervention strategy allows him to work with the class and, at the same
time, attempt to influence Marisa to behave appropriately.

The guidelines provided by the definition make it far easier to determine whether
or not a discipline problem exists, and if it does, who has the problem. Most non-
discipline problems can be dealt with at some later time, after the other students have
begun their work, during a break, or before or after class. When a discipline problem
is evident, however, the teacher must intervene immediately because, by definition, an
existing behavior is interfering with other students’ rights or safety. When a teacher
inappropriately or ineffectively employs management strategies that result in interfer-
ence with the learning of others, he, in fact, becomes the discipline problem.

Let’s examine Case 2.1. Did Tom’s late opening of his book interfere with teaching
or his classmates’ learning? Was it unsafe or did it destroy property? Wasn’t it Mr. Karis’s
behavior that caused escalation of a minor problem that would have corrected itself?
Using our definition, Mr. Karis was the discipline problem. It is doubtful that any teacher
intervention was necessary at all. See Chapter 7 for a full discussion of when teacher
intervention is appropriate. Note that under the terms of the definition, inappropriate or
ill-timed classroom procedures, public address announcements, and school policies that
tend to disrupt the teaching and/or learning process are discipline problems.

problem student behavIor outsIde the defInItIon

By now, some readers have probably thought of many student behaviors that are not
covered by our definition, for example, students who refuse to turn in homework,
who are not prepared for class, or who are daydreaming, as well as the occasional
student who gives the teacher “the look” that says “I dare you to try to teach me.”
A careful analysis of these behaviors will reveal that under the terms of the definition,
they are not discipline problems. They may be motivational problems because the stu-
dent does not expect to be successful in the classroom or the student sees no value in
what is being taught in the classroom, or possibly symptoms of problems that exist in
a student’s personal life outside school.

Motivational problems can occur because of low levels of self-confidence, low
expectations for success, lack of interest in academics, feelings of lost autonomy,
feelings of not being accepted by peers, achievement anxieties, or fears of success
or failure (Levin and Shanken-Kaye, 2002; Stipek, 2001). Thus, working with students

30 Section 1 • Foundations

who have motivational or other problems often involves long-term individualized
interventions and/or referrals to professionals outside the classroom.

A theoretical in-depth coverage of motivation is beyond the scope of this
book; however, Chapter 5 presents an introductory coverage of motivation from
both teachers’ and students’ perspectives, along with practical strategies to address
motivational problems. Students with low motivation typically exhibit behavior
(daydreaming, lack of participation, unfinished assignments) that is not disruptive to
other students’ learning. However, some of the suggested strategies used to address
motivation problems disturb the learning of others or reduce the time spent on
learning. Therefore, it is best to work with these students individually after involving
the rest of the class in the day’s learning activities. Doing so allows the teacher to pro-
tect the other students’ rights to learn and to maximize the time allocated for learning.
Chapters 8–11 detail intervention strategies used to address discipline problems.

Some of these strategies, particularly anecdotal record keeping, can be used
quite successfully for motivational problems. It cannot be stressed enough that moti-
vational problems must be properly addressed, usually by focusing on the student’s
expectation of success and the value the student places on the learning activity, so that
they do not develop into discipline problems (see Chapter 5). Case 2.2 illustrates how
one teacher ensures that this does not occur.

Mr. Hill recognized that Bill’s behavior did not interfere with the teaching and
learning act and so did not need immediate action. He employed effective strategies
that protected the other students’ rights to learn. The strategies were the beginning
of a long-term effort to build up Bill’s interest (value) and confidence (expectation of
success) in mathematics and to have him become an active, participating member
of the class. Many readers have probably witnessed similar situations in which the
teacher unfortunately chose to deal with the student’s behavior in ways that were
disruptive to the entire class.

Usually when the bell rings, the students in
Mr. Karis’s ninth-grade social studies class
have their books out and are quietly waiting
to begin work. Today, when Mr. Karis is fin-
ishing taking roll and asking a few questions
to review the previous day’s work, he notices
that Tom is just starting to get his book out.
Mr. Karis asks Tom why he isn’t ready. Tom
replies that he has a lot on his mind. Mr. Karis
then reminds Tom in a strong tone that when
the bell rings, he is to be ready to start. Tom
replies in a tone that makes it very clear that
he is annoyed, “Look, you don’t know what

my morning’s been like!” Mr. Karis tells Tom
that he “is not to be spoken to in that tone of
voice.” Tom quietly mumbles to himself in a
voice too low for anyone to really hear “Why
the #### not?” Mr. Karis says, “Did you say
something?” The rest of the class members
are now either talking among themselves or
deeply involved in the outcome of the con-
frontation rather than in social studies. By the
time Tom decides it probably is not in his best
interest to continue the escalating conflict, at
least five minutes of class time have elapsed
and no teaching or learning has taken place.

Case 2.1
Can a Teacher Be a Discipline Problem?

Chapter 2 • Nature of the Discipline Problem 31

Mr. Hill teaches fourth grade. One of his
students, Bill, rarely participates in class
and often is the last one to begin class-
work. One day, the class is assigned math
problems for seatwork. After a few minutes,
Mr. Hill notices that Bill has not started.
He calmly walks over to Bill, kneels down
beside his desk, and asks Bill if he needs
any help. This is enough to get Bill to begin

his math problems. Mr. Hill waits until three
problems are completed; he then tells Bill
that because Bill understood them so well,
he should put them on the board. After
the class has finished the assignment,
Mr. Hill begins to review the answers, stress-
ing the correct procedures Bill used to
solve the problems and thanking Bill for his
board work.

Case 2.2
Solving a Motivational Problem

Daydreaming students are not interfering with teaching or the rights
of others to learn. Therefore, the teacher should first involve the rest
of the class in the learning activity before individually influencing the

32 Section 1 • Foundations

extent of the problem

public’s perceptions

According to all 43 Gallup polls of the “Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools,”
discipline is one of the most serious problems facing public schools. From the poll’s
inception in 1969 until 2000, the issue of discipline was the major concern on 16
occasions. For the next decade, the issues of financial support and overcrowded schools
were the public’s top concerns followed by discipline. In 2001, 15 percent of respon-
dents reported discipline as a major problem; this fell to11 percent in 2006, and to 6
percent in 2011 (Bushaw and Lopez, 2011). In 2003, 35 percent of surveyed parents in a
national sample identified discipline as an important aspect of schooling (Markow and
Scheer, 2003).

teachers’ perceptions

In a nationwide sampling of teachers in 1984, 95 percent believed that efforts to
improve school discipline should have a higher priority than they then had (Harris,
1984). In a 1999 national survey, 65 percent of teachers said that discipline problems in
their schools were very serious or fairly serious problems (Langdon, 1999). Additional
studies all point to the importance teachers place on discipline. In 2003, 45 percent
of a national sample of teachers stated that discipline was their first priority (Markow
and Scheer, 2003); in 2004, 20 percent of new teachers identified classroom discipline
as their greatest challenge (Markow and Scheer, 2004).

students’ perceptions

Students are aware of the frequency of disruptive behavior. Nationwide in 1993, the
majority of students in grades 8, 10, and 12 reported that student disruptions were
fairly common occurrences in their classes. Sixteen percent of the eighth graders and
11 percent of the tenth graders surveyed reported that their teachers often interrupted
instruction to manage disruptive student behavior (National Education Goals Panel,
1994). In 2000, 16 percent of the tenth graders surveyed reported frequently inter-
rupted instruction (National Education Goals Panel, 2000).


In attempting to assess the magnitude of the discipline problem in the past, Doyle
(1978) pointed out that serious historical investigation of student behavior was lack-
ing and that the studies that were available at that time used data that were typi-
cally incomplete and in some cases unreliable. Doyle reviewed evidence from the few
available sources and found that crime (violence and vandalism) was not a serious
concern among school officials during the late 1800s to the early 1900s. However
evidence exists that juvenile crime outside school was a problem during this period.
In the early 1900s, less than 50 percent of the school-age population was enrolled
in school. Of this, only 40 percent finished eighth grade, and only approximately
10 percent graduated. Thus, the children most likely to commit crimes were not in
school (Hawes, 1971; Mennell, 1973; Schlossman, 1977). It was the growing concern

Chapter 2 • Nature of the Discipline Problem 33

over juvenile street crime that initiated a movement for public education. Authorities
argued that street crime could be lessened if those youths responsible for it were
brought under the influence of the school (Doyle, 1978). Doyle therefore concluded
that youth behavior in the 1970s was no worse than it was in the past, but what was
once a street problem was now a school problem, the result of more students attend-
ing school for longer periods of time.

Since the early 1980s, researchers have made a concerted effort to distinguish
between crime (violence and vandalism) and common misbehavior (bothering
other students, talking passing notes, etc.). Such a distinction is essential because
crime and routine classroom misbehavior are inherently different problems that
require different solutions, administered by different professionals both in and out-
side the school. Whereas teachers are responsible for handling routine classroom
misbehavior, crime often must come under the control of the school administration
and outside law-enforcement agencies.

Once crime is separated from common misbehavior, what do the schools of the
1980s to the early 2000s look like? In the later part of the twentieth century, Wayson
(1985) stated that “most schools never experience incidents of crime and those that
do, seldom experience them frequently or regularly” (p. 129), but disruptive behav-
ior of “the kinds that have characterized school children for generations . . . continue
to pose frequent and perplexing problems for teachers” (p. 127). After a thorough
examination of studies, Baker (1985) concluded that there had been improvement,
but “the level of disruptive behavior in the classroom is a major problem for public
education” (p. 486).

These conclusions were supported by numerous studies reporting that teachers
and administrators consistently ranked common classroom misbehaviors (excessive
talking, failure to do assignments, disrespect, lateness) as the most serious and fre-
quent disturbances, whereas they ranked crime (vandalism, theft, assault) as the least
serious disturbance to their teaching or the least frequently occurring (Elam, 1989;
Huber, 1984; Langdon, 1997; Levin, 1980; Thomas, Goodall, and Brown, 1983; Weber
and Sloan, 1986).

Thus, the schools of the late 1980s and early 1990s were perceived as experiencing
less crime than the schools of the 1970s; even though classroom misbehavior continued
to be a major problem, it too was perceived as lessening. As we moved through the
late 1990s and into the new millennium, there were indications that these trends were
continuing. As discussed earlier in this chapter, although discipline problems remain
a major concern, in 2007, the public ranked discipline problems as the second—after
financial support—most serious problem facing public schools (Rose and Gallup, 2007).
In 1999, only 7 percent of teachers ranked discipline as the most serious problem facing
their schools (Langdon and Vesper, 2000).

Although it is difficult to believe if you watch the evening news, which dispro-
portionally reports isolated incidents of extreme school violence, contrary to popular
belief, crime and violent behavior in schools seem also to be trending downward.
The latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicate that the
total theft and violent and serious violent crime rates for students ages 12 to 18 all
declined from 1992 to 2002 to 2008. The total student victimization rate fell from 10
percent to 5 percent to 4.7 percent, and the violent crime victimization rate declined
from 4.8 percent to 2.4 percent to less than 1 percent (DeVoe et al., 2004; Robers,

34 Section 1 • Foundations

Zhang, and Truman, 2010). Nationally, 2007–2009 aggregate data for rural, suburban,
and urban schools indicate that serious crime and violence such as theft (3 %), students’
possession of weapons (6 %), students being threatened or injured with a weapon
(8 %), and physical attacks on teachers (4 %) are relatively infrequent occurrences
(Robers et al., 2010). Irwin Hyman, a noted researcher on school violence, tracked
violent behavior for more than 20 years and concluded as the millennium was ending
that there were no indications that there had been an increase in school-based violence
(Hyman and Perone, 1998). In fact, the data indicate a decrease in school-based

Students are much more likely to be victims of serious crime away from school
than when in school. For the 2008–2009 academic year, 15 student ages 5–18 were
killed in school; for the same time period and age group, approximately 1700 student
homicides occurred away from school. In 2008, the rate of nonfatal violent in-school
crimes for students ages 12–18 was 4 per 1000 students, and the rate for the same
crimes away from school was 8 per 1000 (Robers et al., 2010)

Schools continue to remain one of the safest places for children. Thus, as we
continue in the new millennium, both discipline problems and serious crime and
violence seem to be decreasing from the early 1990s, but they still remain a major
concern of educators and the public. Successful teachers are those who continue to be
effective in influencing students toward appropriate behavior and the use of nonvio-
lent means to solve their conflicts.

the effect of classroom dIscIplIne problems
on teachIng and learnIng

Impact on students

When classrooms are characterized by disruptive behavior, the teaching and learning
environment is adversely affected. The amount of interference in the teaching and
learning environment is related to the type, frequency, and duration of the disruptive
behavior. Disruptive behavior also affects students’ psychological safety, readiness to
learn, and future behaviors.

For many years, we have had the opportunity to interact with thousands of
college students preparing to become teachers as well as thousands of in-service
teachers and school administrators who want to improve their own classroom man-
agement skills or those of the teachers they supervise. One of the first questions we
always ask is, “Why do students have to behave in a classroom?” At first, we were
somewhat embarrassed to ask such a basic question because we believed there was
a universally obvious answer. However, to our surprise, the answer was not obvious
to others. The answer, of course, involves the widely accepted learning principle that
the more time spent on learning (time-on-task or engaged time), the more learning
will take place (Brophy, 1988). In other words, disruptive, off-task behavior takes time
away from learning, not only for the individual student but given our definition of a
discipline problem developed earlier in this chapter, potentially many other students
as well.

Case 2.3 illustrates the tremendous amount of time that can be consumed over
a school year by some very minor off-task behaviors. Over a period of a week,

Chapter 2 • Nature of the Discipline Problem 35

Mr. Kay is a seventh-grade social studies
teacher who teaches five classes a day. He
is content to allow his students, on entering
the room, to stand around and talk rather

than prepare their materials for class. As a
result, class usually does not begin until five
minutes after the bell has rung.

Case 2.3
Discipline: A Costly Waste of Time

25 minutes that could have been directed toward learning are not. Over the 40-week
school year, 1000 minutes are consumed by off-task behavior. This amounts to more
than 22 class periods, or approximately one-ninth of the school year, that could have
been directed toward learning goals. If the calculations also consider the 120 stu-
dents Mr. Kay teaches per day, 2640 “student class periods” were not spent on learn-
ing social studies.

Some teachers are reported to spend as much as 25 percent (Lippman, Burns,
and McArthur 2004) to 80 percent (Walsh, 1983) of their time addressing discipline
problems. This figure simply highlights a previously mentioned basic fact of teaching:
to be a successful teacher, one must be competent in influencing appropriate student
behavior to maximize the time spent on learning.

Case 2.4 illustrates the fact that disruptive behavior can result in a “ripple
effect.” In other words, students learn misbehavior from observing it in other chil-
dren (Baker, 1985). The off-task behaviors of Rebecca’s friends draw her off task.
This type of observational learning is often accelerated when the onlooking student
notices the attention the disruptive student gains from both the teacher and his

Ripple effects are not limited to the initial misbehavior. The methods the teacher
uses to curb the misbehavior and the targeted student’s resultant behavior can cause

Rebecca is a well-mannered, attentive fifth-
grade student. For the first time since start-
ing school, she and her two best friends
are in the same class. Unlike Rebecca, her
friends are not attentive and are interested
more in each other than in class activities.
The teacher often has to reprimand them for
passing notes, talking to each other, and gig-
gling excessively during class.

One day, Rebecca is tapped on the
shoulder and is handed a note from her
friend across the room. She accepts the note
and sends one back. With this, her friends
quickly include her in their antics. It takes
the teacher a number of weeks to remove
Rebecca from her friends’ influence and
reduce the off-task behaviors of the other
two girls.

Case 2.4
The Ripple Effect

36 Section 1 • Foundations

a second ripple effect (Kounin, 1970). Studies have shown that rough and threatening
teacher behavior causes student anxieties, which lead to additional disruptive behav-
iors from onlooking students. Students who see disruptive students comply with the
teacher’s management technique and tend to rate their teacher as fair are themselves
less distracted from their classwork than when they observe unruly students defying
the teacher (Smith, 1969). Clearly, the dynamics that come into play with even minor
classroom disruptions are quite complex. Aggressive teacher behavior toward students
has also been related to students’ poor emotional health and future disruptive behav-
ior (Hyman and Snook, 1999).

Common day-to-day off-task student behaviors such as talking and walking
around exist in all classrooms to some degree. Although less common, some class-
rooms, indeed some entire schools, are plagued by threats, violence, and vandalism.
The most recent data, for 2007–2009, indicate that 32 percent of students ages 12–18
were bullied, 11 percent had been in a physical fight on school property, 6 percent
carried a gun onto school property, and 4 percent had drunk alcohol and 5 percent
had smoked marijuana at school. Additionally, 5 percent of students reported being
victimized, including 3 percent reporting theft and 2 percent violent victimization
(Robers et al., 2010).

Students use a variety of strategies to avoid being victimized, including avoid-
ing certain locations in the school building, staying away from school-sponsored
events, staying in groups while at school, and staying at home rather than attending
school out of fear that someone might hurt or bother them. One study estimates that
1.1 million students fear for their safety while at school (Children’s Defense Fund,
2002). Obviously, when students are fearful for their own safety or the safety of their
property, their ability to concentrate on their schoolwork is diverted. Fear creates a
hostile learning environment, increases a feeling of mistrust in the school, and reduces
students’ confidence in their teachers’ ability to effectively work with students (Wayne
and Rubel, 1982). Some studies indicate that a student’s ability to learn in the class-
room is reduced by at least 25 percent because of fear of other students (Dade County
Public Schools, 1976; Lalli and Savitz, 1976).

In conclusion, minor and major misbehavior reduces learning time for both dis-
ruptive students and onlooking students. Less learning time equates to less learning.
Although a clear cause-and-effect relationship has not been shown, there is a positive
correlation between poor grades and all types of misbehavior (DiPrete, Muller, and
Shaeffer, 1981).

Impact on teachers

Classroom discipline problems also have a negative impact on teacher effectiveness
and career longevity. We believe that the overwhelming majority of teachers choose
to enter the profession because they enjoy working with children and are intrinsically
motivated when they know that their efforts have contributed to the children’s aca-
demic growth (Zabel and Zabel, 1996). Their motivation is high because they see their
efforts such as lesson planning, classroom management, and building relationships
with students as being successful by influencing what teachers value, that is, students’
measurable academic growth and the display of appropriate behavior. High intrinsic
motivation leads to a teacher’s high self-esteem.

Chapter 2 • Nature of the Discipline Problem 37

Coopersmith (1967) conceptualized self-esteem as the sum of significance (feel-
ing good about yourself because people who are important to you like and respect
you), competence (a sense of mastery of a discipline or a skill set), virtue (the abil-
ity and desire to help others), and power (the ability to control and change aspects
of your environment). When a teacher has an appropriately behaving, academically
achieving class, the teacher feels he is liked and respected, confident in his teaching
abilities, and willing and able to help students and that his efforts are making a dif-
ference. In other words, he has high significance, competence, virtue, and power. The
teacher has high self-esteem.

When a teacher’s efforts are met with chronic disinterest and disruptive behavior,
his motivation is most likely low because he sees his efforts as being unsuccessful in
influencing what teachers value. Low motivation leads to low self-esteem. Teachers
feel insignificant, incompetent, virtueless, and powerless.

Therefore, a teacher’s motivation and self-esteem are quite vulnerable to stu-
dents’ academic growth and their classroom behaviors. No matter how careful teach-
ers are not to allow their personal feelings to play a role in their interactions with
students, it is inevitable that some will and when this occurs, their feelings will influ-
ence their behavior. Indeed, studies have shown that teachers interact differently with
disruptive students than they do with nondisruptive ones (e.g., Walker, 1979). Such
differential treatment is fueled by the negative beliefs and feelings many teachers
have toward disruptive students and the disparaging labels they assign to these stu-
dents (Brendtro et al., 1990). Unfortunately, differential treatment serves only to esca-
late inappropriate student behavior. Even the student who exhibits the most chronic
disruptive behavior spends some time engaged in appropriate behavior. However,
occasionally a teacher may become so angry with certain students that he tends to
overlook the appropriate behavior and focuses only on the disruptive behavior. When
this occurs, the teacher misses the few opportunities he has to begin to change dis-
ruptive behaviors to acceptable ones. At least two studies have concluded that teach-
ers are much more likely to reprimand inappropriate behavior than to approve of
appropriate behavior when interacting with disruptive students (Walker and Buckley,
1973, 1974). As a result, the student soon learns that when he behaves appropriately
nothing happens, but when he misbehaves, he is the center of both the teacher’s and
other students’ attention.

Any teacher can attest to the fact that students easily realize when rules and
expectations are not consistently enforced or obeyed by either the teacher or the
students. Even so, because teachers are so emotionally tied to the disruptive stu-
dents, they often set and enforce standards for these students that are different
from those for the rest of the class. These standards are often so inflexible and
unrealistic that they actually reduce the chance that the disruptive student will
behave appropriately.

Because students who exhibit disruptive behavior often have a history of
inappropriate behaviors, they must be given the opportunity to learn new behaviors.
The learning process is usually best accomplished in small, manageable steps that
enable the student to have a high probability of success. This process requires
behavioral standards to be realistic and the same as those for the rest of the class.
The teacher must recognize and encourage what at first may be infrequent and
short-lived appropriate behaviors. When behavioral standards are stricter for some

38 Section 1 • Foundations

students than for others, the teacher risks losing the confidence and support of even
the nondisruptive students, whereas the student exhibiting disruptive behavior gains
peer support.

As teachers begin to experience more discipline problems, their motiva-
tion to teach is often replaced by, at best, a “who cares?” attitude, which is actu-
ally a means to protect the teacher’s self-esteem. If conditions do not improve, this
attitude may develop into a “get even” one, which eventually overrides a teacher’s
motivation to assist students in learning, and the once supportive and effective teacher
behaviors are replaced by revenge. Once a teacher operates from a basis of revenge,
teaching effectiveness ceases and a teacher-student parallel process of shared neg-
ative affective experiences begins (Levin and Shanken-Kaye, 2002), with teacher-
student power struggles becoming commonplace. Such power struggles often further
fuel and escalate disruptive behavior and place the teacher in a no-win situation
(Dreikurs, 1964).

Children who display disruptive behaviors are constant reminders to teachers
that the classroom environment is not what they would like it to be. The time and
energy needed to cope with some disruptive behaviors can be both physically drain-
ing and emotionally exhausting, negatively impacting a teacher’s motivation to teach
and feelings of self-esteem. New teachers identify classroom discipline to be their
greatest challenge (APA, 2006; Zabel and Zabel, 1996). Stress related to classroom
management is one of the most influential factors in failure among novice teachers
(Levin, 1980; Vittetoe, 1977) and a major reason why they leave the profession (APA,
2006; Canter, 1989; Langdon, 1999).

Those teachers who do weather their first few years
of teaching report that students who continually misbe-
have are the primary cause of job-related stress (Feitler
and Tokar, 1992). According to the National Institute of
Education (1980), teachers who report that they would not
choose the teaching profession if they had to choose a pro-
fession again were much more likely to have experienced
discipline problems than teachers who would choose teach-
ing again (Curwin and Mendler, 1999; Haberman, 2004).

Discipline problems are also hypothesized as the
catalyst for teacher burnout (Curwin and Mendler, 1999).
Teachers who manage their classrooms effectively report
that they enjoy teaching and feel a certain confidence in
their ability to affect student achievement (Levin et al.,
1985). Such feelings of efficacy lead to improvements in the
teaching-learning process and job satisfaction, which ulti-
mately result in gains in student achievement (Black, 2001).

new concerns: technology


The Internet and new technologies including laptop
computers, iPads, and smart mobile phones have signifi-
cantly changed teaching and learning. As positive as these

Classroom management problems are a
major cause of job-related stress for teachers.

Chapter 2 • Nature of the Discipline Problem 39

Teachers who are effective managers have greater job satisfaction.

changes have been, the same technologies have been used by students in negative
ways. Cheating on tests and assignments is as old as schooling, but the ways students
cheat have drastically changed, often with serious unforeseen consequences. Writing a
spelling list on the palms of hands has evolved into storing the list on his cell phone.
Asking to be excused during a test to use the rest room where the students previously
wrote notes on the wall has been replaced with texting a friend to look up answers to
specific questions.

Cybercheating is the use of technology tools in inapproriate ways for academic
work (Conradson and Hernandez-Ramos 2004). Many educators believe that
cybercheating has reached epidemic proportions, and students continue to find
innovative ways to use technology for the purpose of cheating. What was once con-
sidered mainly a college plagiarism problem is now soundly entrenched in secondary
and even middle school and goes beyond plagiarism. In a 2002 Rutgers University
study, 72 percent of the 4500 high school students surveyed admitted to seri-
ously cheating (Schulte, 2002). In a 1998 survey of 21,000 middle and high school
students, 70 percent reported cheating in school; by 2002, the percentage increased to
74 percent and by 2010, 59 percent of a sample of 40,000 students admitted to cheat-
ing in school ( Josephson, 1998, 2002, 2010).

The technology most frequently used to cheat is the cell phone. Students store
information on their cell phones and look at it during the exam. They text questions
to friends who then text them back with answers. Some students take pictures of
test questions and send them to friends, and others use the phone to search the
web for answers. There are even websites that tutor students on how to cheat using
technology, sell class notes and term papers, and edit papers with deliberately inserted
misspellings and grammatical errors to avoid the suspicion of plagiarism (Conradson
and Hernandez-Ramos, 2004).

40 Section 1 • Foundations

Studies indicate that many students do not consider cybercheating to be a seri-
ous cheating offense, and some do not consider it to be cheating at all. A recent survey
indicated that a fairly high percentage of students did not consider the following to be
cheating: sending pictures of exams (23%), web surfing during an exam (19%), texting
a friend for answers (20%), and storing notes on cell phones (22%; Commonsense
Media, 2012). The reason given for cheating is to get better grades.

How should teachers address cybercheating in the classroom? In deciding
what to do, the definition of a discipline problem needs be considered as well as
the motivation that drives cybercheating. Earlier in this chapter, the definition of a
discipline problem was stated as any behavior that (1) interferes with the teaching
act, (2) interferes with the rights of others to learn, (3) is psychologically or physically
unsafe, or (4) destroys property. Thus, unless the student is blatantly displaying his
cheating, which is very unlikely, cybercheating is not considered a discipline prob-
lem, although it is a very serious problem. This means that the teacher does not have
to intervene immediately but instead individually and as privately as possible while
the other students are working on the assignment or exam. Next, the teacher needs to
analyze the motivation that drives students to cheat. As was stated earlier, a detailed
discussion of motivational theory is beyond the scope of this text, but such in-depth
knowledge is not needed to obtain a basic understanding of the student’s motiva-
tion to cheat. If motivation is a product of one’s expectation of success and value
(see Chapter 5), then the student expects to be successful in using cheating to obtain
a good grade, which the student values. Punishing a student other than lowering
grades or other academic actions, which are logical natural consequences will not
work for long-term change (see Chapter 6). What is needed is changing a student’s
expectation of success, from one of cheating to learning and using more appropri-
ate ways of being successful such as study skills and test-taking skills. Valuing good
grades is perfectly acceptable, but helping students to value mastery and compe-
tence, which actually result in good grades, is a much longer-term, more widely
applicable value.


Making fun of another student by calling him a nerd when passing in a hallway
has become insignificant when compared to the magnitude of potential harm a stu-
dent suffers when he is targeted as the subject of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a
relatively new and particularly virulent form of online bullying. Cyberbullying is the
willful and repeated harm to a person inflicted through electronic media. It enables
bullies to post put-downs, nasty rumors, and humiliating pictures on e-mail, blogs,
chat rooms, websites, instant messages, and cell phones. The latest statistics report
that during the 2008–2009 school year, 28 percent of students ages 12–18 years were
bullied at school and 6 percent reported they were victims of cyberbullying. The
impact on the victims of cyberbullying ranges from embarrassment to in rare cases
suicide. Chapter 3 presents in more detail the statistics and impact of bullying; cyber-
bullying; and a subset of cyberbullying, sexting.

Chapter 2 • Nature of the Discipline Problem 41

1. Is it important that all teachers have a consis-
tent definition of the types of student behav-
iors that constitute discipline problems? Why or
why not?

2. Do you agree with the definition of a discipline
problem stated in this chapter? If so, why? If
not, how would you modify it?

3. Give several examples of teacher behavior that
would constitute a discipline problem.

4. Using the definition of a discipline problem
stated in this chapter, categorize each of the
following behaviors as a discipline problem
or a non-discipline problem and explain your


This chapter has answered three questions that
are critical for an understanding of discipline
and classroom management: What is a disci-
pline problem? What is the extent of the prob-
lem in today’s schools? What is the effect of
discipline problems on teaching and learning?

After a discussion of past definitions of dis-
cipline and their shortcomings, an operational
definition was provided: a discipline problem is
any behavior that (1) interferes with the teach-
ing act, (2) interferes with the rights of others
to learn, (3) is psychologically or physically
unsafe, or (4) destroys property. According to
this definition, teachers as well as students are
responsible for appropriate behavior.

In response to the second question, we
explored the belief that today’s schools are
plagued by violence, crime, and disruptive
classroom behavior. Early studies were char-
acterized by incomplete and in some cases
unreliable data. Studies in the 1980s, which
differentiated between crime and classroom
misbehavior, characterized schools as having
less crime than in the 1970s. This downward

trend has continued into the present. Common
classroom misbehavior also seemed to have
lessened during this period, even though such
behaviors still pose serious and perplexing
problems for teachers. Recent studies indicate
that the schools of the early 2000s are expe-
riencing less disruptive classroom behavior,
student crime, and violence.

Next, it was shown that disruptive
behavior reduces the time spent on learning,
encourages misbehavior by onlooking students
because of a ripple effect, and may cause fear
in other students, with a resultant decrease
in school attendance and academic achieve-
ment. Teachers are also adversely affected by
disruptive behavior, suffering decreased effec-
tiveness, increased job-related stress, burnout,
and decreased career longevity.

Finally, the practices of cybercheat-
ing and cyberbullying were introduced as
new challenges that educators face. Both are
increasing in frequency, and both can have
significant present and future negative impacts
on students.


42 Section 1 • Foundations

5. At this point in your reading, how would you
handle each of the 17 behaviors listed? Why?

6. For each of the 17 behaviors, give at least one
type of teacher behavior that might escalate the
inappropriate student behavior.

7. According to the definition of a discipline prob-
lem, a student who refuses to do classwork is
not a discipline problem. However, suppose
other students start to say, “He is not work-
ing. Why do I have to work?” Does the stu-
dent’s refusal to work thus become a discipline

8. Think back to your days as a student what
extent would you say that discipline was a
problem in your school? What types of disci-
pline problems were most common?

9. Do you think that the discipline problem in
schools has increased or decreased since you
attended high school? On what evidence or
information do you base your opinion?

10. Considering what a teacher’s job entails and his
relationship with students, why would he be
prone to take discipline problems personally?





a. A student consistently tries to engage the teacher in
conversation just as class is about to begin.

b. A student continually comes to class one
minute late.

c. A teacher stands in the hallway talking to fellow
teachers during the first three minutes of class.

d. A student does math homework during social
studies class.

e. A student interrupts a lecture to ask permission
to go to the bathroom.

f. A student often laughs at answers given
by other students.

g. A student doesn’t wear safety goggles while
welding in industrial arts class.

h. A first grader continually volunteers to answer
questions but never has an answer when he is
called on.

i. A fourth grader refuses to wear a jacket during

j. A seventh grader constantly pulls the hair of the
girl who sits in front of him.

k. An eighth-grade boy spends half of the time
allotted for group work encouraging a girl to go
out with his friend.

l. A ninth-grade student consistently uses the last
two minutes of class for hair combing.

m. unkempt student can’t get involved in group
work because all students refuse to sit near him.

n. A student continually asks good questions,
diverting the teacher from the planned lesson.

o. A student eats a candy bar during class.
p. A student flirts with the teacher by asking

questions about her clothes and personal life
during class.

q. A student consistently makes wisecracks that
entertain the rest of the class.

Chapter 2 • Nature of the Discipline Problem 43

11. What are the dangers of personalizing stu-
dent behavior? How might doing so affect the
instructional effectiveness of a teacher?

12. How can teachers protect themselves from per-
sonalizing misbehavior?

13. Think back on your days as a student. Can you
recall instances in which classroom discipline
problems prevented you and others in the class
from learning? How did you feel about the situ-
ation at the time?

14. When a student disrupts class and takes away the
right of others to learn, does that student forfeit
his right to learn? If you believe he does, what
implication(s) does that have for teacher behav-
ior? If you believe he doesn’t, what implication(s)
does that have for teacher behavior?

15. If youth violence seems to be on the decrease,
why does the public perceive it as increasing?

16. What would you do as the teacher if a student
told you that another student in your class had
brought a gun to school?

17. Do you think that the national media over-
emphasize the actual amount of in-school
violence? What is the effect of the media’s
portrayal of school violence?

18. Cybercheating was described as not being a
discipline problem but instead a motivation
problem. Motivation was defined as a prod-
uct of a student’s expectation of success and
the student’s values. If students involved in
cybercheating expect to be successful because
of their competence in using technologies and
they value good grades, how might a teacher
change the student’s expectation of success
and value so that the student would not be
motivated to cheat?

19. Principles of Teacher Behavior After reading
Chapter 2 and doing the exercises, use what
you have learned to briefly describe your
understanding of the implications of the
principles listed at the beginning of the chapter
for a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:


Understanding Why
Children Misbehave


PrinciPles of Teacher Behavior ThaT influence
aPProPriaTe sTudenT Behavior

1. An awareness of the influences of misbehavior, which are often beyond
the schools’ control, enables teachers to use positive intervention
techniques rather than negative techniques, which stem from erroneously
viewing misbehavior as a personal affront.

2. Satisfaction of basic human needs such as food, safety, belonging, and
security is a prerequisite for appropriate classroom behavior.

3. The need for a sense of significance, competence, virtue, and power
influences student behavior.

4. Cognitive and moral developmental changes result in normal student
behavior that is often disruptive in learning environments.

5. Instructional competence can lessen the effects of negative outside
influences as well as prevent the misbehavior that occurs as a result
of poor instruction.

Understanding Why Children Misbehave

Understanding Societal Change and Its Influence on Children’s
Behaviors  •  Recognizing Student Needs  •  Understanding Children’s Pursuit 

of Social Recognition and Self-Esteem  •  Understanding Developmental 
Changes and Accompanying Behaviors  •  Recognizing the Importance 

of Instructional Competence  •  Understanding Resiliency

The Basics

Nature of the Discipline Problem

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 45

Prereading acTiviTy: undersTanding The PrinciPles
of Teacher Behavior

Before reading Chapter 3, briefly describe your understanding of the implications
of the principles for a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Principle 3:

Principle 4:

Principle 5:

Prereading QuesTions for reflecTion and Journaling

1. As you think about changes in society that you have seen in your life, how
have societal views of appropriate and inappropriate behavior changed?
Are these changes positive or negative? Why?

2. Many students exhibit disruptive behaviors in school at one time or another.
What are some factors that influence students to choose to behave in
inappropriate ways?

3. How might changes in students’ cognitive and moral development be
a contributing factor in influencing students’ behavior?

4. Why do many teachers and administrators ignore bullying in the schools?

5. Why does cyberbullying have such a negative impact on those being bullied?

6. What teaching strategies facilitate resilient student behavior?


“Kids aren’t the way they used to be. When I went to school, kids knew their place.
Teachers wanted to teach and students wanted to learn. The students respected their
teachers, and believe me, they sure didn’t fool around in school like they do today.”
Adults frequently make these statements as they remember the “way it used to be,” but
are they true? Not entirely!

There have always been some behavior problems in our schools if only because
of students’ normal developmental changes. There also have always been some schools
and homes that have been unable to provide adequately for children’s needs. Even

46 Section 1 • Foundations

so, recent rapid societal changes—including the significant changes in society’s beliefs
about “the place” of all people in society, especially children—have been the catalyst
for new behavior problems and have compounded existing ones (Levin and Shanken-
Kaye, 2002). There have been significant shifts in the family structure, the distribution
of wealth and knowledge in the United States, the cultural and racial makeup of the
population, and world economies, as well as advances in technology that were only fan-
tasized about a few decades ago. In addition, media reports of violence have increased
disproportionately to actual violence in society. These changes have resulted in many
students at risk for future problems. These changes are evident in students’ thoughts,
attitudes, and behavior. Nonetheless, students are still intrinsically motivated toward
skill acquisition and competency (Stipek, 2001), and teachers still want to teach.

If, however, teachers want to maximize their teaching time, they must minimize the
effect of societal changes on student behavior. Teachers must (1) not expect students to
think and act the way they did years ago, (2) not demand respect from students solely
on the basis of a title or position, (3) understand the methods and behaviors young
people employ to find their place in today’s society, (4) understand the ongoing soci-
etal changes and the influence these changes have on students’ lives, and (5) be a cata-
lyst for encouraging resiliency for at-risk students. To assist teachers in reaching these
goals, this chapter describes some of the main factors that have influenced students to
change and provides an explanation of why today’s students behave as they do.

SocIetal changeS

For more than 100 years, it has been recognized that schools are microcosms of the
larger society (Dewey, 1916; Kindsvatter, 1978). Therefore, discipline problems in the
schools reflect the problems that face society. The social climate of the nation, city, or
town and the community that surrounds each school has profound effects on students’
perceptions of the value of education and their behavior in school (Menacker, Weldon,
and Hurwitz, 1989).

It is widely recognized that our society is plagued by the ills of drug and alcohol
use, crime and violence, unemployment, child abuse, adolescent suicide, and teenage
pregnancy. It is no coincidence that if these problems exist, particularly in close
proximity to the school, so do school discipline problems. This clear relationship
between social problems and school discipline problems simply highlights the fact
that many factors that contribute to discipline problems are beyond the schools’ con-
trol (Barton and Coley, 2007; Bayh, 1978).

Even if there were no societal problems, disruptive behavior could still be
expected in a school because it is an institution that brings together many of the
conditions that facilitate misbehavior. Large numbers of young people, many of whom
are still learning socially acceptable behaviors and would rather be elsewhere, are
concentrated in one place for long periods of time. These young people come from
a wide range of backgrounds, with different ethnic, racial, and parental attitudes and
expectations concerning education. A school exposes all students to norm-violating
behaviors and makes failure visible (Elliott and Voss, 1974; Feldhusen, 1978).

Children no longer grow up in a society that provides them with constant, consis-
tent sets of guidelines and expectations. The intense, rapid technological advancements
in mass communication of the past two decades have exposed young people to violence

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 47

and a multitude of varying viewpoints, ideas, and philosophies. With this exposure, the
direct influence of parents, community, and school has begun to wane. Role models have
changed. Schools are now faced with children who are exposed to more varied types of
information than ever before. As a result, these children think and act differently.

the Knowledge explosion and the erosion of respect for authority

Since the 1950s, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first satellite, there has
been an unabated explosion in scientific knowledge and technological advancements.
This explosion has resulted in products only dreamed of previously. Digital and satel-
lite phones, DVDs, satellite dishes, CD-ROMs, powerful personal computers, personal
digital assistants (PDAs), iPads, FAX machines, the Internet, e-mail, and other telecom-
munication devices that are used for instantaneous worldwide personal communica-
tions and access to an ever-expanding array of databases are common today.

To understand how great the explosion of knowledge has been, consider this. In
the early 1970s, less than 20 years after Sputnik’s launch, it was estimated that by the
time children born in 1980 reached the age of 50, the world’s knowledge would have
increased 32 times, and 97 percent of all knowledge would have been learned since
they were born (Toffler, 1970). With the advances that have been made in the past 35
years, these estimates are probably much too low. Nothing illustrates this better than
the emergence of the Internet.

Such a rapid expansion of knowledge has caused generation gaps character-
ized by discontinuities rather than mere differences. By the end of elementary school,
many children possess knowledge that their parents only vaguely comprehend. This
is poignantly clear in areas such as personal computing, information retrieval, ecol-
ogy, biotechnology, and astronomy. In addition, because of the almost instantaneous
telecommunication of national and world events, children are keenly aware of the
state of the present world. They see famine; terrorist attacks; war; political corruption;
drug busts; street violence; chemical spills; riots; accusations of sexual abuse against
religious, education and political leaders; and reports of infidelity on a daily basis.

Such knowledge has caused many young people to view adults as ineffective in
managing their own world. These young people perceive past solutions to life’s prob-
lems as irrelevant to the world in which they live. Therefore, respect, which was once
given to adults because of their worldliness and expertise, has eroded, and adults
exercise less influence on the young than they once did. When talking to adolescents,
it is common to hear such statements as, “My parents don’t understand,” “Why do we
have to do it by hand when there are calculators that can do it for you?” “Why do
I have to be honest when government officials are always lying and cheating?” and
“Didn’t you ever hear of spell check?”

As the world becomes a more complex and frightening place and as young
people perceive their parents and teachers to be less relevant sources for solutions,
the future for these young people becomes more remote, uncertain, and unpredict-
able, producing such feelings as “live for today.” As far back as 1964, Stinchcombe
demonstrated a direct relationship between adolescents’ images of the future and their
attitudes and behaviors. Those adolescents who saw little or nothing to be gained in
the future from school attendance were likely to exhibit rebellious, alienated behavior.
Unfortunately, even more young people today have this image of the future than

48 Section 1 • Foundations

there were in 1964. Clearly, then, a teacher’s ability to maximize student success and
demonstrate the present and future usefulness of the material to be learned plays an
important role in students’ perceived value of education.

the Knowledge explosion, teacher and Student Feelings
of Frustration, and the relevancy of Schooling

Students are not alone in their feelings of frustration. Teachers too perceive many
school curricula to be irrelevant to today’s world. They are frustrated because of the
almost impossible task of keeping up with the expansion of knowledge and the new
technologies. Changes in school curricula occur at a snail’s pace when compared to
the daily expansion of information and technological advances.

Many teachers have said that they find it impossible to keep abreast of devel-
opments in their content areas and the rapidly expanding array of new pedagogical
models, many of which support the use of new technologies. In addition, many have
found it difficult to integrate the new material into an already overloaded curriculum.
They truly desire to restructure their curricula in meaningful ways and to integrate
technologies into their instructional practices, but they often find that their schools
lack the necessary resources or commitment to invest in the latest technologies, train-
ing, or teacher release time for curriculum development. Their feelings of frustra-
tion lead to job dissatisfaction and poor morale, which can spill into the classroom
disguised as less-than-ideal teacher-student interactions. However, when schools are
able to invest in the new technologies and teachers are properly trained in their use,
powerful changes can occur for both teachers and students, as illustrated in Case 3.1.

At a national education conference, one of
the authors met Mr. Lee, a 20-year veteran
high school earth science teacher. Mr. Lee
said that he felt he was no longer reaching
his students who were disinterested and
turned off. In his opinion, every day was an
endless hassle. He was not sure he wanted to
return to the classroom the next year.

A few years later, surprisingly, Mr. Lee was
seen again at another national education con-
ference. He said that not only had he remained
in the classroom but that his enthusiasm for
teaching was as high as it had ever been. Mr.
Lee went on to say that shortly after meeting
us, he had challenged himself to restructure his
course to reflect contemporary earth science.

He had requested from his principal
a small allotment of money for summer
curriculum work to research the real-time
meteorology and oceanographic databases
accessible from the web. These databases
were the same as those used by professional
scientists. He said the integration of real-
time data accessible by students was the best
strategy he had ever used. For the first time
in many years, visitation night was crowded
with parents who had come to see what was
going on in their sons’ and daughters’ science
class. Many of the parents commented that
their children were coming home talking
about the neat things they were doing in
science for the first time ever.

Case 3.1
“This Is the Greatest Thing That Has Happened to Me in 20 Years of Teaching”

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 49

Just as students are positively affected by contemporary and innovative
educational programs that meet their needs, they are negatively affected by those
that do not. Frustration is a natural outcome when instructional methodology does
not change, and students are expected to learn more in shorter periods of time.
Traditional instructional practices used to deliver outdated content become meaning-
less and boring to youth who are growing up in a world significantly different from
that of their parents. What teachers often label as only a lack of motivation (which
is defined as the product of expectation of success and the value of what is being
learned) may actually involve the students’ inability to find any value or feel any affili-
ation with what is going on in the classroom (Gabay, 1991). Lack of affiliation leads to
boredom and off-task, disruptive classroom behaviors.

Teaching only facts is not sufficient. To prepare students for their future rather
than our past, they must be instructed in ways that facilitate their “learning how to
learn” (see Chapter 5). However, such pedagogical outcomes are being significantly
hampered by an educational climate that emphasizes accountability measured by high-
stakes assessments. Thus, many teachers find themselves “teaching toward the test.”
Case 3.2 illustrates how students respond to different types of educational experiences,
depending on their perceived relevancy. Obviously, Mary has a much better attitude
about capitals than her sister. Although neither sister knew the requested capital, Mary
knew one way to find it and was willing to follow through. Could it be that the differ-
ent attitudes are related to the different instructional strategies that had been used in
the girls’ classrooms? Unlike Amy, Mary had an opportunity to use appropriate instruc-
tional technology and was taught a skill that facilitates her ability to be a self-learner.
In other words, Mary was “learning how to learn.”

television and Violence

Unlike any stimulus available earlier in human history, including radio, television
transmits incredible amounts of information and gives the viewer a “window on the
world.” Ninety-nine percent of 8- to 18-year-olds live in homes that have at least one
television set (Rideout, Roberts, and Foehr, 2005). The average American child spends
as much or more time watching television and using other media—approximately
28 to 40 hours per week (American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry et al.,
2000; Rideout et al., 2005)—than she does in a classroom. Clearly, then, television has
become a major source of information for and major influence on children. The inhab-
itants of the TV world, however, often act and think in ways that contrast sharply with
the attitudes and behaviors of parents and teachers.

Most studies on the impact of television on children have concentrated on the
amount of violence portrayed and its effects. In 1993, the American Psychological
Association stated, “Nearly four decades of research on television viewing and other
media have documented the almost universal exposure of American children to high
levels of media violence” (p. 33).

Content analysis of television shows in the early 1950s indicated that, on average,
there were 11 threats or acts of violence per hour (Congressional Quarterly, 1993).
However, TV programs for children in the early 2000s were 50 to 60 times more vio-
lent than prime-time TV for adults. On average, there are 26 acts of violence per hour
on weekend children’s programming, with some cartoons having more than 80 acts

50 Section 1 • Foundations

of violence per hour (American Psychiatric Association, 2002). Given the format for
most TV programs in the United States—brief sequences of fast-paced action with
frequent interruptions for unrelated commercial messages—the American Psychiatric
Association (2002) predicted that the average child would witness 16,000 televised
murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the age of 18.

Violence is not solely a characteristic of fictional TV programming. The
“eyewitness” local news format frequently features violent stories. Content analysis in
the 1980s indicated that stories about murder, rape, and assault are disproportionately
covered by local news, whereas stories of international violence and crime predomi-
nate in national newscasts (Atkin, 1983). Television news collects and concentrates
violence by practicing “bodycount journalism” (Simmons, 1994), which follows the
axiom “if it bleeds it leads” (Kerbel, 2000). Although actual homicides have steadily
declined over the past two decades, there has been an inversely proportional increase
of 450 percent more homicide stories on the major networks (Grand Rapids Institute
for Information Democracy, 2000), which accounts for 40 percent to 50 percent of all
the airtime devoted to news (Klite, 1999).

The immediate emotional reaction that children have after watching a violent
news story is the fear that what they just watched will happen to them. (Cantor, 1999;
Rees, 2003). Children are particularly susceptible to this fear when the violence is real
as on TV news. Longer-term effects include emotional, physical, and behavioral prob-
lems (Cantor, 2002; Kaiser Family Foundation, 2003a).

Although some psychologists in the 1950s suggested that TV violence had a
cathartic effect and reduced a child’s aggressive behaviors, by the 1980s, laboratory
and field studies had cast serious doubt on the cathartic hypothesis (Pearl, Bouthilet,
and Lazar, 1982). By 1993, the American Psychological Association stated, “There is
absolutely no doubt that higher levels of viewing violence on television are correlated
with increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and increased aggressive behavior”
(p. 33). Psychologists also suggest that the effects of TV violence may extend beyond

The question that would win the game
seemed simple: What is the capital of Kansas?
Even so, none of the adults who were play-
ing could remember. Don said, “How do
they expect you to remember such ridicu-
lous facts? This is exactly what bothers me
about these games.” He then called his two
daughters over and said, “Hey, you learned
the state capitals in fifth grade, didn’t you?
So what’s the capital of Kansas?” Amy, who
was in seventh grade, replied, “I hated that

stuff. We had to memorize all 50 state capi-
tals, take a stupid test, and we never used it
again. Who really cares what the capital is!”
Mary, who was finishing fifth grade, replied,
“I don’t remember, but it’s not hard to find
out. I can look it up right now on the web.
I can ‘Google’ it. It’s incredible. I don’t know
how it works but we also have a CD that
has everything about geography on it. If you
want, I can even view a map of the capital
on ‘Google Earth.’”

Case 3.2
Who Really Cares?

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 51

viewers’ increased aggressive behaviors to the “bystander effect,” or the increased
desensitization or callousness toward violence directed at others (Congressional
Quarterly, 1993). In addition, the American Psychiatric Association stated, “The
debate is over. Over the last three decades, the one overriding finding in research on
the mass media is that exposure to media portrayals of violence increases aggressive
behavior in children (2002, p. 1). The National Institute of Mental Health reported,
“In magnitude, exposure to television violence is as strongly correlated with aggressive
behavior as any other behavioral variable that has been measured” (cited in American
Psychiatric Association, 2002, p. 1).

Some researchers have proposed that violence on TV produces stress in children.
Too much exposure to too much violence over too long a time, they say, creates
emotional upset and insecurity, leading to resultant disturbed behavior (Rice, 1981).
A 1984 study has indicated that heavy TV viewing is associated with elementary school
children’s belief in a “mean and scary world” and that poor school behavior (restless-
ness, disruptiveness, inattentiveness, aggressiveness) is significantly correlated with
the home TV environment (number of sets, hours of viewing, and type of programs;
Murray, 1995; Singer, Singer, and Rapaczynski, 1984).

Of course, there have been many theories about the relationship between TV
viewing and children’s behavior (Pearl, 1984). The observational modeling theory,
which is now more than 40 years old, is the most widely accepted. This theory
proposes that aggression is learned from the models and real-life simulations
portrayed on TV and is practiced through imitation (Bandura, 1973; Cantor, 2002).
In trying to explain the effects of TV on school behavior, Rice, Huston, and Wright
(1982) hypothesized that the stimuli of sound effects, exciting music, and fast-action
images generate an arousal reaction, with an accompanying inability to tolerate the
sometimes long conversations, explanations, and delays characteristic of the real
world of school.

Eight- to 18-years-olds spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes per day or
more than 53 hours per week using all types of media. This is an increase of 1 hour
and 17 minutes per day over a period of five years (2004–2009). Although direct TV
viewing has decreased by 25 minutes per day, total TV consumption has increased by
38 minutes when considering TV viewing on laptops, smart phones, iPods, and other
MP3 players. When considering multitasking or the use of different media at the same
time, a total of 10 hours 45 minutes of media content is consumed. This includes (with
hours in parentheses) direct TV viewing (4:29), music (2:31), computers (1:29), video
games (1:13), and print and movies (1:03; Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010).

In addition to viewing violence on TV shows, teenagers also spend considerable
time day listening to music and watching music videos. (Children’s Defense Fund,
2010). Music videos average more than one violent scene per minute, which is more
than twice the rate on TV (Center for Media and Public Affairs, 1999).

Of more recent concern is that children can participate vicariously in violence by
playing today’s video games. Eighty-three percent of homes have video-game-capable
technologies (Rideout et al., 2005), and 50 percent of young people report having a
gaming console in their bedrooms (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010). Content analyses
of video games show that as many as 89 percent of games contain some violent con-
tent, and about 50 percent of the games include serious violent actions (Carnagey and
Anderson, 2004).

52 Section 1 • Foundations

Twenty years have passed since the American Psychological Association issued its
statement on the definitive relationship between watching TV violence and aggressive
behavior. Thus, it would be expected that the debate over the impact of TV violence on
children would be over. Such is not the case; instead, the debate has been reinvigorated
with the introduction of violent video games in the early 1990s. The level of violence in
these games significantly surpasses that shown on TV. One of the most popular games
rewards players for killing police, innocent bystanders and prostitutes.

Recent meta-analysis research indicates that exposure to violent video games
is associated with increases in aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect and antiso-
cial behavior (Anderson, 2004a, 2004b). It has been hypothesized that this increase
in aggressive behavior may be more than that associated with other violent media
that are more passive than the hands-on active engagement necessary when playing
violent video games.

Researchers in the 1980s and 1990s began to discover that in addition to short-
term effects on children’s behavior, media violence has long-term negative effects.
One of the earliest longitudinal studies found a relationship between early TV view-
ing at age 8 and aggressive behavior at age 18. These same individuals were followed
up at age 30 and again there was a relationship between TV viewing as a child and
arrests and convictions for violent crime (Eron, 1982; Eron and Slaby, 1994). A more
recent study found that even when the variables of prior aggressive behavior, fam-
ily background, community environment, and psychiatric diagnosis were controlled
for, there was a relationship between the number of hours of TV watched as a child
and aggressive behavior at age 22 (Johnson et al., 2002). There is also empirical evi-
dence that repeated exposure to violent media has a cumulative effect and is predic-
tive of a person becoming habitually aggressive and occasionally a violent offender
(Huesmann et al., 2003).

Repeated exposure to media violence increases aggressive behavior across the
life span because it influences more positive attitudes toward aggressive solutions to
conflict while decreasing negative emotional responses to violence; it makes violent
behavioral scripts more cognitively available while decreasing the availability of non-
violent scripts (Anderson, 2003).

television and alternative role Models

Television also influences children’s behaviors by presenting a wide range of alterna-
tive models and lifestyles. For instance, Music Television (MTV) broadcasts 24 hours
a day the audio and video imagery of the latest rock music. What once were mostly
inaudible lyrics are now visual depictions of songs, many of which concern drug and
alcohol use, sexual promiscuity, hopelessness, and distrust of school and teachers.

Young people often look to professional athletes as role models. Yet in an
alarming number of incidents, professional athletes model violence that goes beyond
what is acceptable on the playing field and occurs both on and off the field. The
violence is not only between players but also sometimes spills into the stands. Some
recent noteworthy examples are the NBA Indiana Pacers’ Ron Artest, who was pre-
viously suspended for throwing punches as he charged into the stands, celebrating
a dunk with an elbow to the head of an opponent; the penalties imposed on the
players, coaches, and management of the New Orleans Saints for placing bounties

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 53

on opposing players; Texas Rangers’ pitcher Frank Francisco throwing a chair into
the stands; Todd Bertuzzi of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks assaulting from behind
a player from the Colorado Avalanche; Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes, who
launched himself to deliver a late, direct hit to the head of Chicago’s Marian Hossa
during the Stanley Cup Playoffs in April 2012; and heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson
biting off the ear of Evander Holyfield. Each year, many professional athletes face
charges of domestic violence and felonies, as well as allegations related to the use
of steroids and other drugs. All of these acts of violence are highly publicized and
replayed on national media outlets.

The recent proliferation of talk shows, especially during late afternoon hours,
presents children with a glamorized view of oftentimes dysfunctional family life at a
time when they are attempting to determine who they are, what they can do, and how
far they can go in testing the limits of their parents’ and teachers’ authority. Television
communicates to children pluralistic standards, changing customs, and shifting beliefs
and values.

Although behavioral experimentation is both a prerequisite and a necessary
component of the cognitive and moral developmental growth of young people, today’s
world is not as simple as it once was, and parents and teachers need to be aware of
alternative models with which they compete.

Television’s messages possibly have the most detrimental effects on children
who live in poverty. These children usually are aware that they do not possess the
things most other Americans have. They also know they lack the opportunities to
obtain them in the near future. Thus, television’s depiction of the “good life” may com-
pound their feelings of hopelessness, discontent, and anger. Such feelings, coupled
with the fact that many of these children believe they hold no stake in the values
and norms of the more affluent society, lay the foundation for rage, which is often
released in violent or aggressive behaviors directed at others (American Psychological
Association, 1993). It is imperative for teachers to be aware of these outside influences
on student behaviors in order to work constructively with and be supportive of today’s
youth. Teachers are in an ideal position to help youth understand how popular media
attempt to manipulate feelings and behavior.

changes in ethnicity

Public schools today are being asked to educate students who are more racially
and ethnically diverse than at any other time in our history. Approximately 49.4
million students attended school during the 2009–2010 school year (National Center
for Education Statistics, 2011). In 2008, 44 percent of school-age students were
from minority ethnic groups (Aud, Fox, and KewalRamani, 2010). This percent-
age is predicted to increase to more than 50 percent by 2040 when the majority of
school-age students will be members of minority groups (Olson, 2000a). Minority
students were in the majority in seven states (National Center for Education Statistics,
2003a). Demographers predict that there will be an increase in minority students in all
but two states by 2015 (Olson, 2000a).

Whereas these significant changes in the population of students can offer
unparalleled opportunities to enhance the learning environment and opportuni-
ties of all students, they can also raise major challenges for schools and teachers.

54 Section 1 • Foundations

For example, in the nation’s fifth largest school district, Broward County, Florida,
students come from at least 52 countries and speak 52 languages (Olson, 2000b). Even
more astonishing are the 80 languages spoken by students in the Houston school
district, the nation’s seventh largest public school system (Weaver, 2006).

While the percentage of students from minority groups increases, the percentage
of teachers from minority groups remains at an all-time low of 17 percent (Strizek
et al., 2006). Nearly half of all schools had no minority teachers (U.S. Department of
Education, 1996; Weaver, 2005). In fact, Lisa Delpit (2012) argues that one of the most
negative unintended consequences of the famous 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education
the U.S. Supreme Court case that mandated school desegregation is a very signifi-
cant decrease in the number of African American teachers. More than 38,000 African
American teachers lost their jobs in southern and border states in the first decade fol-
lowing mandated desegregation.

Communication theory discusses the concept of homophily—the more
two people are alike in background, attitudes, perceptions, and values, the more
effectively they will communicate with each other (Abi-Nader, 1993). It is theorized
that the disproportionate number of minority teachers leads to a lack of homophily
or, in other words, a lack of cultural synchronization between minority students and
their teachers. This can lead to misunderstandings, conflict, distrust, and hostility
between students and the teacher as well as negative teacher expectations. This is
especially problematic when a school’s or classroom’s philosophies and practices are
characterized by a lack of understanding of minority students’ cultural values, norms,
styles, and language (Irvine, 1990). Typically, schools that are based on a white
middle-class culture often deliver a curriculum that characterizes minority language
as a corruption of English, minority familial structures as pathological, and historical
contributions from minorities as absent or minimal (Ladson-Billings, 1994). Such
learning environments create a negative learning climate in which the productive
engagement of minority students in learning is greatly reduced, with a concomitant
increase in disruptive behavior.

understanding Behavior by analyzing Motivation and Self-esteem

Case 3.3 illustrates a lack of cultural synchronization and what commonly occurs
when minority children are placed into learning environments for which they are
psychologically and cognitively unprepared.

Marcus’s behavior is very similar to that of other minority students in predominately
white schools and can be understood if we consider Marcus’s motivation and self-
esteem. The construct of motivation was looked at earlier and will be covered again
in more detail in Chapter 5. According to the social cognitive theory of motivation,
motivation is the product of one’s expectation of success multiplied by one’s value
of the outcome that success will bring. Using the equation M = E × V, let’s analyze
Marcus’s motivation. Does Marcus think that he will be successful in his new school?
Probably not. So Marcus’s expectation of success is low. Does Marcus perceive any
value to what he is being taught? Probably not. So Marcus’s value is also low. Using
the equation for Marcus, M = low E × low V. Therefore, Marcus’s motivation is low;
instead of doing class work, he sits by himself, does no work, and doesn’t interact
with others in the class.

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 55

Self-esteem will be covered in more depth later in this chapter and in
Chapter 10, but for now, let’s consider Marcus’s self-esteem. Self-esteem, or feeling
good about yourself, is made up of four components:

Significance: a learner’s belief that she is liked, accepted, and important to
others who are important to her.

Competence: a learner’s sense of mastery of age-appropriate tasks that have
value to her.

Power: a learner’s ability to control important parts of her environment.

Virtue: closely akin to significance, a learner’s sense of importance to another
person’s well-being because of the care and help she provides to the other

Considering Marcus’s situation, what are his feelings of significance, competence,
virtue, and power? Probably all four are low. So Marcus is not feeling very good about
himself. How might he improve his self-esteem and begin to feel better about himself?
There is an old saying “If I can’t be your best student, I can be your worst nightmare.”
In other words, if families, teachers, or communities fail to provide pro-social
opportunities that allow students to experience a sense of significance, competence,
power, and virtue, students are likely to express their significance, competence,
power, and virtue in negative, distorted ways (Levin and Shanken-Kaye, 2002). Marcus
does this by rejecting and being disrespectful to his teachers and classmates, and by
behaving in a manner that communicates, “I’m not interested in what you have to
teach me; it doesn’t relate to my life.”

When students exhibit signs of a lack of motivation, the teacher needs to
look at students’ expectations of success, and the value to the students of what is
being taught, both of which the teacher influences. If a student begins to exhibit
disruptive behavior, the teacher should consider how she could influence the
student’s significance, competence, virtue, and power. Chapter 5 explains the
components of motivation and how the teacher can influence motivation.

Marcus, a tenth-grade boy from a poor black
family, coming from an intercity school is
bussed to a predominately white middle-class
school with white middle-class teachers. Not
only does he look different, he talks differ-
ently and dresses differently than his white
classmates. Furthermore, he is in a highly
competitive academic learning situation in

which he has not yet developed the skills
and knowledge that are rewarded. In other
words, he is in an environment for which he
is neither psychologically nor cognitively pre-
pared. He sits by himself, doesn’t participate,
and when the opportunity arises, he rejects
his white teachers and classmates by being
disrespectful and aloof.

Case 3.3
Being Unprepared

56 Section 1 • Foundations

Student Mobility

Student mobility refers to students changing schools for reasons other than grade
progression (Hartman, 2002). The United States has high rates of student mobility.
The 2004 census found that 15 percent to 20 percent of school-age students moved
in the previous year (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004). The U.S. General Accounting Office
found that one out of six children attended three or more schools by the end of third
grade (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1994).

Students move when their families move. Families move for a variety of reasons,
including military obligations of parents, job relocation of parents, separation and
divorce, foreclosures, and poverty. Not all moves are for negative reasons. Positive
moves include those for parents’ job promotions or better paying jobs or moving to
another neighborhood for better schooling choices. The reasons for the moves relate
to student outcomes in their new schools. When the reasons for the move are positive,
students seem not to experience any negative school consequences (Boon, 2010).

However, when the moves are for negative reasons, students are at risk of expe-
riencing a number of serious consequences. School mobility has been linked to poor
academics, behavior problems, difficulty with peer relationships, and an increased
probability of dropping out of the new school (Hartman, 2002). Mobile students are
more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, single-parent homes, and
homes with less educated parents. Therefore, it is uncertain if the outcomes are a
result of the academic and social stresses of a new school environment or the preexist-
ing risk factors (Rumberger, 2002).

Some school districts have adapted targeted strategies to increase the likelihood
of a smoother transition from school to school. These include providing outreach
programs for families, creating a buddy system by pairing new students with cur-
rent students, sending a welcoming note and an invitation to chat with the guidance
or counseling staff, and each teacher being friendly and offering to help the student
acclimate to her new school.

FaIlure to Meet chIldren’S BaSIc needS

the home environment

Educators have long recognized the significant influence of home life on a child’s
behavior and on academic progress. As case 3.4 illustrates it is crucial that the basic
needs of the student be met by the home environment.

When considering Teresa’s home environment, is it surprising that she has aca-
demic and behavior problems in school? Abraham Maslow’s theory of basic human
needs predicts Teresa’s behavior. According to Maslow (1968), basic human needs
align themselves into the following hierarchy:

1. Physiological needs: hunger, thirst, breathing
2. Safety and security needs: protection from injury, pain, extremes of heat and cold
3. Belonging and affection needs: giving and receiving love, warmth, and affection
4. Esteem and self-respect needs: feeling adequate, competent, worthy; being

appreciated and respected by others
5. Self-actualization needs: self-fulfillment by using one’s talents and potential

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 57

If lower-level needs are not met, an individual may experience difficulty, frustra-
tion, and a lack of motivation in attempting to meet the higher-order needs.

Maslow’s hierarchy also represents a series of developmental levels. Although
the meeting of these needs is important throughout an individual’s life, a young child
spends considerably more time and effort meeting the lower-level needs than does
an older child. From preadolescence on, assuming the lower-level needs are met,
emphasis shifts to the higher-order needs of esteem and self-actualization. (Further
discussion of self-esteem is found in a later section of this chapter and in Chapter 10.)

Academic achievement and appropriate behavior are most likely to occur when
a student’s home environment has met her physiological, safety, and belonging needs.
This enables her to begin to work on meeting the needs of esteem and self-actualiza-
tion both at home and at school.

Let’s now examine Teresa’s home environment in light of Maslow’s hierarchy of
basic needs. Her breakfast of potato chips and soda, her clothing (a light jacket and
sneakers) on cold days, the lack of a father at home, and a mother who is rarely pres-
ent are indications that her physiological, safety, and belonging needs are not being
met. Because of her inadequate home environment, she has attempted to meet her
need for belonging and esteem by bragging about hanging out with teenagers and by
using loud, vulgar statements in class and disturbing other students. Given her situ-
ation, it is surprising that Teresa still attends school on a regular basis. If her home
environment remains the same, if she continues to achieve below grade academically,
and if she continues to exhibit behavior problems, she probably will quit school at an
early age, still unable to control her own actions.

Teresa, a fifth-grade student, is on the school
playground at 7:45 every morning, even
though school doesn’t start until 9:00. Often
she is eating a bag of potato chips and drink-
ing a can of soda. On cold, snowy mornings,
she huddles in the doorway wearing a spring
jacket and sneakers, waiting for the door to
be unlocked. She brags to the other students
that she hangs out on the corner with the
teenagers in her neighborhood until 12:00 or
1:00 a.m. The home and school coordinator
who has investigated her home environment
has confirmed this.

Teresa is the youngest of four children.
Her father left the family before she started
school. Her mother works for a janitorial ser-
vice and leaves for work by 7:00 a.m. When

she returns home in the evening, she either
goes out with her boyfriend or goes to sleep
early, entrusting Teresa’s care to her 16-year-
old brother, who has recently quit school.

Teresa is two years below grade in
both reading and mathematics. She is never
prepared for class with the necessary books
and materials, never completes homework
assignments, and usually chooses not to par-
ticipate in learning activities. Her classroom
behavior is excessively off-task, characterized
by noisy movements both in and out of her
seat, calling out, and disruption of other stu-
dents by talking to them or physically touch-
ing them. She occasionally becomes abusive
to her fellow students and her teacher, using
a loud, challenging voice and vulgarities.

Case 3.4
Hanging on the Corner

58 Section 1 • Foundations

The results of a longitudinal study of third-, sixth-, and ninth-grade students
(Feldhusen, Thurston, and Benning, 1973) provided clear evidence of the impact of
the home environment on school behavior. Persistently disruptive students differed
substantially from persistently pro-social students in a number of home and family

1. Parental supervision and discipline were inadequate—too lax, too strict, or

2. The parents were indifferent or hostile to the child. They disapproved of many
things about the child and handed out angry, physical punishment.

3. The family operated only partially if at all, as a unit, and the marital relationship
lacked closeness and equality of partnership.

4. The parents found it difficult to discuss concerns regarding the child and believed
that they had little influence on the child. They believed that other children
exerted bad influences on their child.

In its 1993 publication, Violence and Youth, the American Psychological
Association offered examples of the family characteristics of children with antiso-
cial behaviors that were quite similar to the Feldhusen et al. findings. The exam-
ples included parental rejection, inconsistent and physically abusive discipline, and
parental support of their children’s use of aversive and aggressive problem-solving
approaches. The study found lack of parental supervision was one of the strongest
predictors of children’s later conduct disorders.

Case 3.4, Feldhusen’s longitudinal study, and the American Psychological
Association summary describe homes that could be considered abusive or at least
neglectful. Statistics from 2010 indicate that more than 3.3 million referrals were
made to authorities regarding possible child abuse or neglect. Approximately 460,000
children were found to be victims of abuse or neglect (U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, 2011). Abuse and neglect have a negative impact on children’s ability
to learn and increase the vulnerability of children to future violent behavior and sub-
stance abuse (Children’s Defense Fund, 2002d). Additionally, domestic violence poses
a serious risk factor for child abuse (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control,
1999). Estimates indicate that from 1 million to 4 million women experience domes-
tic violence each year (American Psychological Association, 1996; Bureau of Justice
Statistics, 1995). Children who come from homes in which domestic violence occurs
are 1500 times more likely to be victims of abuse than children who do not come
from such homes (Department of Justice, 1993). The Children’s Defense Fund (2002e)
estimates that between 3.3 million and 10 million children witness domestic violence
each year. These children are at risk for future behavioral, emotional, and academic
difficulties and are much more likely to display violent and other delinquent behavior
(Peled, Jaffe, and Edleson, 1995). However, many non-abusive or non-neglectful home
environments also create situations that are quite stressful to children. This stress may
be symptomatically displayed as behavior problems. Consider, for example, Case 3.5.
Whereas Seth’s home environment is significantly different from Teresa’s, it too has
a detrimental effect on behavior in school. Seth’s situation is one that an increasing
number of children face. As former U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell said in
an address given in 1984 to educational leaders, “The problems of American educa-
tion today are at least partly attributed to changes that have taken place over the past

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 59

decade in the lifestyle, stability, and commitment of parents.” Bell’s assertion that
students’ education can be negatively affected by home factors has been empirically
demonstrated. Much of the failure that students experience in school can be predicted
and explained by home factors, poverty, and the government’s inadequate support of
education. Specifically, four variables, all beyond the schools’ control, were analyzed:
being raised by a single parent, absentee rate, being read to by a parent, and the
amount of time spent watching television. Regardless of what was going on in the
school, using these four variables, researchers were able to account for two-thirds of
the variance found in standardized academic tests (Barton and Coley, 2007).

What changes have occurred in the home environment of American children?
During the past half century, the divorce rate increased more than 100 percent. In
1996, the divorce rate was approximately 50 percent of new marriages (Kreider and
Fields, 2001). The total number of divorces in 2000 was approximately 1.1 million,
up from approximately 950,000 in 1998 (National Center for Health Statistics,
2006). Although most divorced people eventually remarry (Kreider and Fields, 2001),
remarriage often creates additional problems for children (Visher and Visher, 1978).
Any form of marital conflict increases the likelihood that children will develop some
type of behavioral problem (Rutter, 1978), but children of divorced or never-married
parents are 2 times as likely to drop out of school, 3 times as likely to get pregnant
as teenagers, 12 times as likely to be incarcerated if they are children of divorce, and
22 times as likely to be incarcerated if they are children of never-married parents
(Public Broadcasting System, 2002).

Single-parent households are also increasing. The number of single mothers
increased from 3 million in 1970 to 10 million in 2000, and the number of single
fathers increased from approximately 400,000 to 2 million over the same time period
(U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001). The percentage of children younger than age 18
living with one parent has increased from 12 percent in 1970 to 32 percent in 2007
(Barton and Coley, 2007). Divorce not only changes the family structure but also

Seth was a typical eleventh-grade student
from a middle-class home who attended a
suburban high school. For the most part,
he was motivated and attentive. He had to
be reminded occasionally to stop talking
or to take his seat when class started. His
grades were Bs with a few Cs. He planned
to attend a state college and major in liberal
arts. Teachers enjoyed having Seth in their

Now, at the end of eleventh grade, Seth
has changed. He doesn’t turn in homework

and is often off-task, and his motivation is re-
duced. His future plans are to get a job after
high school rather than attend college.

Conferences with his teachers and coun-
selors reveal that Seth’s parents have begun
to discuss divorce. Because Seth is the old-
est of three children, he often is involved in
discussions with his parents concerning how
the family will manage in the future. Both his
mother and father now ask him for assistance
in meeting family responsibilities rather than
asking each other.

Case 3.5
Marital Conflict

60 Section 1 • Foundations

frequently results in a decrease in the family’s standard of living, with an increasing
number of children and their single mothers moving into poverty status (Kreider
and Fields, 2001; Levine, 1984). In 2000, approximately 15.3 million children lived in
female-headed households, 40 percent of which were at or below the poverty level
(Children’s Defense Fund, 2002b). In 2010, 22 percent (16.4 million) of all children
younger than age 18 lived below the poverty level (Children’s Defense Fund, 2010).
These children are at a greater risk than others of developing academic and/or behav-
ioral problems (American Psychological Association, 1993; Children’s Defense Fund,
1997; Gelfand, Jenson, and Drew, 1982; Parke, 1978).

If, as Levine (1984) suggested, out-of-school experiences are stronger predictors
of school behavior than in-school experiences, today’s children need competent teach-
ers more than ever before. Still, as the president of the Elementary School Principals
Association noted, there never will be any lasting educational reform until there is
parental reform (Whitmire, 1991).

the School environment

PhySIologIcal needS Students are in school to learn. They are continually asked
to demonstrate their new understanding and skills. In asking them to do so, schools
are attempting to aid students in a process that Maslow calls self-actualization. When
students successfully demonstrate new learning, they usually are intrinsically and
extrinsically positively reinforced, which leads to the development of self-esteem and
self-respect. Positive self-esteem further motivates students to learn, which results
in the further development of self-actualization. The self-esteem, learning, self-
actualization cycle can be maximized only if the home and school create environ-
ments in which the lower-level needs—physiological, safety and security, belonging
and affection—are met.

Case 3.6 illustrates how a young child attempts to meet the physiological need of
movement and activity. For some young children, no school activity takes more energy
than sitting still. When the teacher demanded that Sarah sit and eventually removed
her from recess, Sarah’s physiological need was no longer being met. This resulted
in Sarah’s excessive movement around the room. When Sarah’s needs were met, the
disruptive behaviors stopped.

The importance of meeting students’ physiological needs as a prerequisite to
learning should be evident to everyone. Ask any teacher how much learning occurs on
the first cold day of fall before the heating system is functional or on the first hot day
of early spring before the heating system has been turned off. Unfortunately, many of
our nation’s schools are not new, and it is only recently that public attention has turned
to correcting the dilapidated conditions that exist in many of the nation’s schools. In
1995, it was estimated that 14 million children attended the 25,000 public schools
in the most serious disrepair and that 22 percent of public schools— approximately
17,000 facilities—were overcrowded (National Center for Education Statistics, 2000).
At a minimum, every classroom in every school should have adequate space and
proper lighting and ventilation.

Somewhat less evident, but no less important than a school’s environmental
conditions, are concerns about hunger, overcrowding, noise, and frequent interrup-
tions. Teachers have long known that students are less attentive in classes held just

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 61

before lunch. When schools are overcrowded and/or lunch facilities are inadequate,
lunch can span a three-hour period. Some students may eat lunch before 11:00 a.m.,
whereas others may not eat until after 1:00 p.m. This can produce a group of students
whose long wait for lunch leaves them inattentive to learning tasks. In addition, some
studies suggest that the typical school day, particularly when school begins early, does
not match the circadian rhythms of students’ “peak hours.” This may negatively affect
students’ attentiveness and academic performance (Callan, 1998; Dahl, 1999).

Interruptions, noise, overcrowding, and fatigue produce in students, regardless of
age, emotional uneasiness that may result in nervousness, anxiety, a need to withdraw,
or overactivity. Emotional uneasiness interferes with on-task behavior and reduces the
effectiveness of the teaching/learning environment. Schools must pay particular atten-
tion to minimizing distractions if they want to reduce student off-task behavior.

SaFety and SecurIty needS For the most part, schools create environments in
which students feel safe from physical harm. Despite increased media coverage,
incidents of school violence have decreased by half between 1992 and 2002. In 1992,
there were 48 acts of violence per 1000 students; in 2002, this rate decreased to
24 acts of violence per 1000 students, and the latest figure is less than 1 violent act per
1000 students (DeVoe et al., 2004; Robers et al., 2010). In 2000, students were more
than twice as likely to be a victim of violent crime and 70 times more likely to be a
victim of homicide away from school than at school. Thus, schools continue to be one
of the safest places for children (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003b). There
are, however, occasions when students, such as Keith in Case 3.9, fear for their physi-
cal safety. Any incident of crime, violence, bullying, or coercion that is the catalyst for

Sarah, a second-grade student, is a bright,
happy, active child. She is always the first
one ready for recess and the last one to stop
playing. When going to or from school, she
is often seen skipping, jumping, or doing

Sarah’s desk is second from the front.
When given seatwork, she either stands at
her desk or half stands with one knee on the
chair. Her teacher always reminds her to sit,
but no sooner has she sat down, then she is
back up on her feet.

After a good number of reminders, Sarah
is kept in from recess. When this occurs, she
begins to walk around the room when class is

in progress. This leads to further reprimands
by her teacher. Finally her parents are notified.

Sarah’s parents inform her teacher that
at home, Sarah is always jumping rope, play-
ing catch, dancing, and even standing rather
than sitting for piano lessons and practice.
She even stands at the table at mealtimes.
It is decided that Sarah’s seat will be moved
to the back of the room so that her stand-
ing doesn’t interfere with the other students.
After this is explained to Sarah, she agrees to
the move. The reprimands stop. Sarah con-
tinues to do excellent work, and by the end
of second grade, she is able to sit in her seat
while working.

Case 3.6
Forgetting to Sit Down

62 Section 1 • Foundations

fear of one’s safety compromises the learning environment. In 2008, approximately
629,900 violent crimes and 619,900 thefts occurred in our nation’s schools (Robers
et al., 2010).

Between 1995 and 2007, the percentage of students ages 12–18 who reported
being victims of crime at school decreased from 10 percent to 4 percent. In 2009, the
percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported being threatened or injured with
a weapon on school property was 8 percent. In 2007, 10 percent of students ages
12–18 reported that hate-related words were directed at them at school. Between
1993 and 2007, there was an increase from 5 percent to 32 percent of students
who reported being bullied at school (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005;
Robers et al., 2010).

Between 1993 and 2009, there was a decrease from 12 percent to 6 percent
of students in grades 9–12 who reported carrying a weapon to school. In 2003,

One university requires its secondary stu-
dent teachers to follow a student’s schedule
of classes for an entire day. Student teachers
are required to record their reactions to this
experience. What follows are some common

No sooner were we in our seats in
the first-period class than the V.P. was
on the intercom system. She spent at
least five minutes with announcements,
mostly directed for the teachers’ atten-
tion. The speaker was loud and very
annoying. After the announcements,
most of the students were talking
among themselves. By the time we got
down to work, 15 minutes had passed.
Halfway through the period, a student
messenger interrupted the class when
he brought the morning office notices
to the teacher. And believe it or not,
five minutes before the end of class,
the V.P. was back on the intercom with
additional announcements. It was quite
evident to me that these interruptions
were a direct cause of inattentiveness
and reduction in effective instruction.

Much time was wasted during the
announcements and in obtaining stu-
dent on-task behavior after the inter-
ruptions. There must be a better way.

Probably the most eye-opening
experience I had was remembering
how crowded and noisy schools can be.
This was most evident to me when we
changed classes. We had three minutes
between classes. The halls were very
crowded, with frequent pushing, shov-
ing, and just bumping into one another.
The noise level was so loud that it really
bothered me. On arriving at the next
class, all I really wanted to do was to sit
quietly for a few minutes before starting
to work. The changes from hallways to
classrooms are dramatic. I can see why
it is difficult for some students to settle
down and get on task at the beginning
of class. As bad as the hallways were, it
didn’t prepare me for lunch. The lunch-
room was even noisier. By the time
I waited in line, I had only 15 minutes
to eat and then back to the hallways
to class. By the end of the day, I was

Case 3.7
There Must Be a Better Way

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 63

21 percent of students reported that street gangs were present in their school. This
was a decline from 29 percent in 1995 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005;
Robers et al., 2010).

Students in all schools experience anxiety and sometimes fear about walking to
and from school, going to the restroom, dressing in locker rooms, or changing classes.
However, this fear and anxiety among students has also decreased. In 1995, 12 percent
of students ages 12–18 reported that sometimes or most of the time they were fearful
at school, compared to 6 percent of students in 2003, and 5 percent in 2007. Similarly,
there was a decrease in students who reported avoiding certain places in school for
safety concerns from 9 percent in 1995 to 4 percent in 2003, but the percentage
increased to 7 percent in 2007 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005; Robers
et al., 2010). The more students feel insecure about their physical safety, the less likely
they will exhibit the on-task behaviors necessary for learning.

Karen is a third-grade student who is well
behaved and does well academically. One day,
all of the third-grade classes are taken to the
all-purpose room to observe a film. The classes
are dismissed simultaneously, and the children
in the hallway are excited and very noisy as
a result. Karen is seen walking in the hallway
with her hands over her ears. When she enters
the room, she goes directly to the back corner

and sits against the wall. The teacher asks her
what is the matter. She says the noise hurts her
ears; she feels like crying and she doesn’t want
to be there if it is going to be so noisy.

After the teachers quiet the students,
Karen rejoins her class. Referral to an ear spe-
cialist discloses that Karen has no problems
with her hearing that would have caused
such a reaction.

Case 3.8
Too Much Noise

Keith, an eighth-grade student, achieves at
an average level in his social studies class,
which meets during the last period of the
day. Approximately midway through the year,
Keith’s behavior in this class begins to change.
He goes from a student who is attentive and
participates freely to one who rarely partici-
pates and has to be called back to attention
by the teacher. He is often seen nervously
looking out the window and is the first out of
his seat and room at the end of class.

After a few days of such behavior, the
teacher asks Keith to stay for a few minutes
after class to discuss his behavior. At this
point, Keith tells his teacher that he has to
be the first to leave school because Greg will
beat him up if he sees him. Keith is fearful of
Greg because Greg has threatened him for
telling the gym teacher that he was throwing
Keith’s clothing around the locker room after
gym class.

Case 3.9
Afraid of Going to School

64 Section 1 • Foundations

BelongIng and aFFectIon needS Although belonging and affection needs are most
often met by family at home or by the students’ peers in and out of school, elements
of caring, trust, and respect are necessary in the interpersonal relationships between
teachers and students. In other words, the classroom climate should be caring and
supportive. Such a climate is more likely to be created by teachers who subscribe to
a referent power base in the classroom. The development of various teacher power
bases will be studied in Chapter 4.

Withall (1969) stressed that the most important variable in determining the climate
of a classroom is the teacher’s verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Appropriate student
behavior can be enhanced when teachers communicate the following to the learners:

Trust: “I believe you are able to learn and want to learn.”

Respect: “Insofar as I try to help you learn, you are, by the same token, helping
me to learn.”

Caring: “I perceive you as a unique and worthwhile person whom I want to
help to learn and grow” (Withall, 1979)

For students to learn effectively, they must participate fully in the learning
process. This means they must be encouraged to ask and answer questions, attempt
new approaches, make mistakes, and ask for assistance. However, learners engage in
these behaviors only in settings in which they feel safe from being ridiculed or made
to feel inadequate.

Case 3.10 illustrates what occurs in a class if the teacher is unable to estab-
lish a learning environment characterized by trust, respect, and care. As the year

Ms. Washington, a high school science teacher,
is quite concerned over what she perceives
to be a significant decrease in student par-
ticipation throughout the year. She views the
problem as follows: “I ask a lot of questions.
Early in the year, many students volunteer but
within a few weeks, I find that volunteering
has almost ceased and the only way I can get
students to participate is to call on them.”

Arrangements are made to observe the
class to determine the causes of the problem.
Teacher questions, student responses, and
teacher feedback are recorded. An example
of one such interaction follows:

Teacher QuesTion: “We know that man is
in the family of Hominidae. What is man’s
taxonomic order?”

sTudenT response: “Mammals.”

Teacher Feedback: “No, it’s not mam-
mals. We had this material last week;
you should know it. The answer is

Further observation reveals that about
70 percent of Ms. Washington’s feedback is
totally or partially negative. Students note
that they don’t feel like being put down
because their answer isn’t exactly what Ms.
Washington wants. One student states, “I only
answer when I know I’m correct. If I don’t
understand something I often just let it go
rather than be drilled.”

Case 3.10
Turning Off Students

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 65

One afternoon last May, I overheard a group
of fifth-grade students say, “I’m going to be
sorry when fifth grade is over.” I stopped
and asked them if they would be willing to
tell me why they felt this way. The following
were their comments:

“She lets us give our opinions.”

“If we say something stupid, she doesn’t
say anything.”

“She lets us decide how we are going to
do things.”

“She gives us suggestions and helps us
when we get stuck.”

“You can say how you feel.”

“She gives us choices.”

“She tells us what she thinks but
doesn’t want us to think like her. Some
teachers tell us their opinions, but you
know that they really want you to think
the same way.”

“We learn a lot.”

Case 3.11
“I’m Going to Be Sorry When Fifth Grade Is Over”

progressed, Ms. Washington failed to demonstrate her trust, respect, and caring for
her students. Thus, her students were discouraged from fully participating in the
learning process.

Comments such as, “Why do you ask so many questions?” “You should know
this; we studied it last week,” or “Everyone should understand this; there should
be no questions” serve no useful purpose. Indeed, they hinder learner participa-
tion, confidence, and motivation and lead to off-task behavior. Glasser (1978) saw
failure as the root of misbehavior, noting that when students don’t learn at the
expected rate, they get less “care” and recognition from the teacher. As the situa-
tion continues, students see themselves as trapped. Acceptance and recognition, it
seems to them, can be gained only through misbehavior. In sharp contrast to the
feelings of Ms. Washington’s students are the feelings of the fifth-grade students
in Case 3.11.

chIldren’S PurSuIt oF SocIal recognItIon and SelF-eSteeM

Social recognition

Alfred Adler, the renowned psychiatrist, and Rudolph Dreikurs, Adler’s student
and colleague, believed that behavior can be best understood using three key

1. People are social beings who have a need to belong, to be recognized, and to be

2. Behavior is goal directed and has the purpose of gaining the recognition and
acceptance that people want.

3. People can choose how they behave; they can behave or misbehave. Their
behavior is not outside their control.

66 Section 1 • Foundations

Putting these key ideas together, Adler and Dreikurs theorized that people
choose to try a wide variety of behaviors to see which behaviors gain them the
recognition and acceptance they want. When socially accepted behaviors do not
produce the needed recognition and acceptance, people choose to misbehave in
the mistaken belief that socially unacceptable behaviors will produce the recogni-
tion they seek.

Applying these premises to children’s conduct, Dreikurs, Grunwald, and Pepper
(1982) identified four goals of disruptive behaviors: attention getting, power seeking,
revenge seeking, and the display of inadequacy. According to this theory, these goals,
which are usually sequential, are strongest in elementary-age children but are also
present in adolescents.

Attention-seeking students make up a large part of the misbehaving population
in the schools. These students may ask question after question, use excessive charm,
continually need help or assistance, continually ask for the teacher’s approval, call
out, or show off. In time, the teacher usually becomes annoyed. When the teacher
reprimands or gives these children attention, they temporarily stop their attention-
seeking behavior. In Case 3.12, Bob was a child who felt that he was not getting the
recognition he desired. He saw no chance of gaining this recognition through socially
accepted or constructive contributions. He first channeled his energies into gaining
attention. Like all attention-seeking students, he had the notion that he was important
only when others took notice of him and acknowledged his presence. When attention-
getting behavior no longer gives the students the recognition they want, many of them
seek recognition through the next goal, power, which is exactly what Bob did when
he began to confront the teacher openly.

Students who seek power through misbehavior believe that they can do what
they want and that nobody can make them do anything they don’t want to do. By chal-
lenging teachers, they often gain social acceptance from their peers. Power-seeking
students argue, lie, ignore, become stubborn, have temper tantrums, and become dis-
obedient in general to show that they are in command of the situation. Teachers feel
threatened or challenged by these children and often feel compelled to force them
into compliance. Once teachers enter into power struggles with power-seeking stu-
dents, the students usually “win.” Even if they do not succeed in getting what they
want, they succeed in getting the teacher to fight, thereby giving them undue attention
and time as well as control of the situation. If the teacher “wins” the power struggle,
the winning reinforces the students’ idea that power is what really counts.

With a power-seeking student, reprimands from the teacher result in intensified
challenges or temporary withdrawal before new power-seeking behaviors reappear.
As power struggles develop between a teacher and a student, both teacher controlling
and student power-seeking behaviors usually become more severe and the student-
teacher relationship deteriorates further (Levin and Shanken-Kaye, 2002). If the stu-
dent sees herself as losing the power struggle, she often moves to the next goal—
seeking revenge.

When students perceive that they have no control over their environment, they
experience an increased sense of inferiority and futility. They feel that they have been
treated unfairly and are deeply hurt by what they consider to be others’ disregard for
their feelings. They seek revenge by hurting others, often not just those that they think
have hurt them. For instance, Bob sought his revenge on random individuals who

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 67

Bob is a sixth-grade student of average aca-
demic ability. On the first day of class, when
students are asked to choose seats, Bob
chooses the one next to the window in the
back of the room. Between classes, he rarely
interacts with classmates. Instead, he either
bolts out of the class first or slowly swaggers
out last.

During instructional times, he either
nonchalantly leans back in his seat or jumps
up and calls out answers. During seatwork,
he often has to be reminded to begin, and
once finished, he taps his pencil, wanders
around the back of the room, or noisily
moves his chair and desk.

Bob’s behavior often improves for short
periods of time after excessive teacher atten-
tion, ranging from positive reinforcement to
reprimands. These periods of improvement
are followed by a return to disruptive behav-
iors. Bob’s attention-seeking behavior contin-
ues throughout the first half of the school year.

As time goes on, the teacher usually
yells at Bob, sends him to the principal, or
makes comments in front of the class that
reflect her extreme frustration.

Eventually, the teacher’s behavior is
characterized by threats, such as, “You will
stay after school longer every day until you
begin to behave,” or “Every day that you
don’t turn in your homework, you will have
20 more problems to do.” Bob sees immedi-
ately the impossibility of some of the threats
and boldly says, “If I have to stay after school
longer each day, in two weeks I’ll have to

sleep here.” Tremendous amounts of laughter
come from his classmates at such comments.
However, after a week or two, Bob says, “I’m
not coming for your detention,” and “You
can’t make me do homework if I don’t want
to.” The teacher no longer feels annoyed but
now feels threatened and challenged.

Whenever problems arise in the class-
room, the teacher and students are quick to
blame Bob. He is occasionally accused of
things that he has not done, and he is quick
to shout, “I didn’t do it I’m always the one
who gets blamed for everything around here.”
His classmates now show extreme annoyance
with his behaviors, and Bob resorts to acts
directed against individuals. He kicks stu-
dents’ chairs and intentionally knocks over
others’ books as he walks down the aisles.

One day one of the boys in the class
accuses Bob of taking his book. Without
warning, Bob flips the student’s desk. The
student falls backward, lands on his arm, and
breaks it. As a result, Bob is suspended.

When Bob returns from his suspension,
he is told that he will be sent to the office
for any violation of a classroom rule. He is
completely ignored by his classmates.

For the rest of the year, Bob comes in,
goes to the back of the room, does no work,
and bothers no one. At first, the teacher
tries to get Bob involved, but all efforts are
refused. The teacher thinks to herself that
she has tried everything that she knows. “If
he wants to just sit there, let him. At least he
isn’t bothering anyone anymore,” she says.

Case 3.12
Seeking Faulty Goals

happened to be sitting along his aisle. Revenge-seeking children destroy property,
threaten other students and sometimes the teacher, engage in extremely rough play,
and use obscenities.

When working with these students, teachers feel defeated and hurt and have a
difficult time being concerned with what is best for the student. Teacher reprimands

68 Section 1 • Foundations

usually result in an explosive display of anger and abusiveness from the student. Over
time, the teacher feels a strong desire to get even.

Unfortunately, revenge-seeking behaviors elicit dislike and more hurt from others.
Revenge-seeking students continually feel a deep sense of despair and worthlessness.
Their interactions with other people often result in negative feelings about themselves,
which eventually move them to the last goal—the display of inadequacy. They cannot
be motivated and refuse to participate in class activities. Their message is clear: “Don’t
expect anything from me because I have nothing worthwhile to give.” They are often
heard saying, “Why don’t you just leave me alone I’m not bothering anyone”; “Mind
your own business”; “Why try, I’ll just get it wrong”; or “I can’t do it.”

Teachers often believe that they have tried everything with these students.
Further attempts usually result in very little, if any, change in the students’ refusal
to show interest, to participate, or to interact with others. Bob’s teacher actually felt
somewhat relieved that he no longer was a disturbing influence in class. However, if
the teacher had been able to stop his progression toward the display of inadequacy,
Bob would have had a much more meaningful and valuable sixth-grade learning expe-
rience, and the teacher would have felt much more professionally competent.

Most of the goals of misbehavior are pursued one at a time, but some students
switch back and forth between them. Goal-seeking misbehaviors can also be situ-
ational. The decision-making hierarchical approach to classroom management pre-
sented in this book offers many strategies for working with children seeking these
four mistaken goals. In addition, specific intervention techniques for each goal are
discussed in detail in Charles and Senter (2004), Dreikurs et al. (1982), Dubelle and
Hoffman (1984), and Sweeney (1981).


Self-esteem, or a feeling of self-worth, is a basic need that individuals continually
strive to meet. Without a positive sense of self-esteem, a child is vulnerable to a variety
of social, psychological, and learning problems (Gilliland, 1986).

Introduced earlier in this chapter, Stanley Coopersmith (1967) wrote that self-
esteem is made up of four components:

Significance: a learner’s belief that she is liked, accepted, and important to oth-
ers who are important to her.

Competence: a learner’s sense of mastery of age-appropriate tasks that have
value to her.

Power: a learner’s ability to control important parts of her environment.

Virtue: closely akin to significance, a learner’s sense of importance to another
person’s well-being because of the care and help she provides to the other

The feeling of self-worth or self-esteem is such a strong human drive that if
families, teachers, or communities fail to provide pro-social (socially acceptable)
opportunities that allow students to experience a sense of significance, competence,
power, and virtue, students are likely to express their significance, competence,
power, and virtue in negative, distorted (socially unacceptable) ways (Levin and
Shanken-Kaye, 2002).

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 69

It is possible to express the concept of self-esteem mathematically. Notice that
it is a summation of the four components. Being a sum, any decrease in one or more
components can be compensated for by a corresponding increase in one or more of
the remaining components.

Self-Esteem = Significance + Competence + Power + Virtue

Students who exhibit chronically disruptive behavior have low levels of
pro-social significance because typically they are not liked or accepted by their teach-
ers, peers, and sometimes even their parents. Their levels of pro-social competence
are depressed because they rarely achieve academically or are socially competent
or involved in extracurricular activities. In addition, because these students rarely
choose or are rarely selected by the teacher to interact responsibly with others, their
sense of pro-social virtue is low. Therefore, as the self-esteem equation indicates, the
only component left to build the self-esteem of a student who exhibits chronic mis-
behavior is power. This is illustrated by noting which components of self-esteem are
lowered and which are increased:

Self-Esteem = Significance (down) + Competence (down)
+ Power (up) + Virtue (down)

It is exactly this striving for power, or control of the environment, that is operating
when students choose to behave disruptively. In fact, such a student can be viewed as
the most powerful individual in the classroom. How she behaves often determines the
amount of time spent on learning in the classroom and whether the teacher leaves the
classroom with a headache or, in some cases, leaves the profession. It is, however, impor-
tant to note that this is not pro-social power but distorted power. The display of distorted
power (socially unacceptable) provides the student with a distorted sense of significance
and competence that is evident in a comment such as, “The other kids know that they
can count on me to get Mr. Beal to go ballistic and liven this class up a bit.”

a Parallel ProceSS Students are not the only ones to use distorted power, so do
teachers. Unless a teacher is very careful, she can become significantly influenced by a
student’s self-esteem and vice versa. Two people sharing the same affective experiences
engage in a parallel process. With regard to self-esteem, the process begins when the
teacher in this case treats a student harshly and disrespectfully. “Tara let me see you
pass a note again and I’ll see that your butt gets passed down to the principal’s office.
This isn’t junior high.” Tara replies, “No kidding when my butt is in the principal’s office,
I’ll be sure to tell her what a good teacher you are, ha!” The students began to laugh and
the teacher says, “You’re out of here.” The teacher’s public humiliation of the student
may have been because of the teacher’s frustration brought on by the student’s continu-
ing inappropriate behavior or a myriad of other reasons. The important point is not why
the teacher acted that way, but how her comments influenced the student. Naturally, the
student is upset with the teacher and the teacher is upset with the student.

Using the equation for self-esteem, it becomes clear what is happening:

Self-Esteem (T) = Significance (down) + Competence (down)
+ Power (up) + Virtue (down)

70 Section 1 • Foundations

The teacher’s self-esteem is characterized by a lowered significance (teacher
probably does not feel trusted or respected by the student), a lowered competence
(teacher probably does not feel she has the skills it takes to deal with the student),
and a lowered sense of virtue (teacher probably does not feel she has helped the
student). The only path the teacher has left to raise her self-esteem is power, and she
displays her power in a distorted manner, by her public scolding of the student.

Now let’s look at the student’s self-esteem:

Self-Esteem (S) = Significance (down) + Competence (down)
+ Power (up) + Virtue (down)

The student’s self-esteem looks the same as the teacher’s self-esteem. The stu-
dent has a lowered significance (student probably does not feel trusted or respected
by the teacher), a lowered competence (student probably does not feel successful in
this teacher’s class), and a lowered sense of virtue (student probably does not feel she
is a valued member of this teacher’s class). The only path left for the student to raise
her self-esteem is power, which she displays in a distorted manner by her public dis-
respect of the teacher.

The understanding of self-esteem and the parallel process has important implica-
tions. These include the misconception that students who exhibit chronic discipline
problems have low self-esteem. In fact, they have high self-esteem, at least in some
dimensions, but it is distorted and not pro-social. In other words, they feel good about
being bad. Also, the parallel process indicates that quite often teachers and students
feel the same way about each other; it is not a one-way street. Finally, if the teacher
wants to decrease the likelihood of disruptive behavior, which is distorted power, she
needs to find ways to influence the student to obtain a sense of pro-social signifi-
cance, competence, and virtue.

Some readers might be wondering how a teacher ends this negative cycle. The
answer is that the teacher needs to end the cycle because the teacher is the profes-
sional, understands what is occurring, and has a higher level of cognitive and moral
development than most of her students. Being at a formal stage of cognitive process-
ing, the teacher can think abstractly and plan for the future by asking the question,
“How can I teach this student to be respectful?” Using the definition of teaching devel-
oped in Chapter 1, the answer is changing your behavior to influence a change in the
student’s behavior. Throwing the student out of the class and public humiliation are
not congruent with our definition. Because the student is likely in the concrete stage
of cognitive processing, what is real now, is what is real; she cannot necessarily grasp
what may happen in the future.

Needless to say, a parallel process involving self-esteem can operate in a posi-
tive manner whereby both the teacher and students have pro-social components of
self-esteem. Chapter 10 provides more information on breaking this cycle of mutual
negative influence.


Bullying in the school environment is a widespread serious problem that has a long-
term negative impact on the victims and bullies. As a result of the fear of bullying,

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 71

some students in school are in a constant state of emotional arousal that makes it
virtually impossible physiologically and psychologically for them to expend any
cognitive energy focused on learning. For example, “If heading to the playground
conjures up thoughts of survival for students, their ability to find math engaging is
probably going to be compromised” (Glick 2011, p. 25). Bullying is an example of a
student attempting to obtain social recognition through the faulty goals of power and
revenge seeking and self-esteem through distorted significance and distorted power.

Bullying does not have a universally accepted definition, but there is consen-
sus that three components are present in bullying behavior. These are (1) intentional
“harm-doing” behavior by a person or a group (2) carried out repeatedly and over
time and (3) targeted toward someone less powerful (Nansel et al., 2001).

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s 1998
nationally represented survey of more than 15,600 students in grades 6 through
10 indicated that 30 percent of the students were involved in bullying either
as perpetrators, victims, or both. Expanding this to a nationwide population,
3.7 million students were bullies, 3.2 million were victims, and 1.2 million were
both. Results indicate that bullying is present in all schools and rates are not sig-
nificantly different among rural, urban, and suburban schools. Boys were more
likely to be victims (21 %) and bullies (26 %) than girls (14 % and 14 %, respectively;
Nansel et al., 2001). The great majority of bullying occurs in schools, with middle and
junior high schools experiencing more bullying than elementary and high schools
(Nolin, Davies, and Chandler, 1995; Sampson, 2002).

In school, several types of bullying behavior involve direct or physical action and/
or indirect action such as verbal harassment (Quiroz, 2002). These are (1) direct and
physical behavior (hitting, spitting, shoving), (2) verbal behavior (name calling, ver-
bal threats, put-downs), (3) emotional behavior (making indecent gestures, rejecting,
starting rumors, blackmailing); (4) sexual behavior (propositioning, physical touching,
commenting about physical traits); and (5) hate-motivated behavior (taunting about

Rob, Tom, Jason, Tanya, Margo, and Beth
are talking in the hallway outside their
seventh-period classroom door. Ms. Wertz
comes out of her room and screams across
the hall, “Jason, get to class immediately.
A student like you should never be stand-
ing around wasting time. You need all the
time in class you can get.” Jason says, “Ms.
Wertz, my class is right here and we have
another two minutes…” Before he can
finish, Ms. Wertz interrupts, “Don’t give me

any excuses always have excuses.” Again,
Jason says, “Ms. Wertz, this isn’t an excuse;
this is my class.” Ms. Wertz goes on, “Jason,
you are nothing but trouble and someday
you’ll find out that you aren’t such a big
shot.” Jason turns to Ms. Wertz and says,
“I don’t even have you for a teacher this
year so why don’t you get out of my face
and leave me alone?” Ms. Wertz refers Jason
to the office, and later that day he is given
three days of detention.

Case 3.13
“Get Out of My Face”

72 Section 1 • Foundations

sexual orientation, race, religion, culture). Boys tend to engage more in direct bully-
ing, whereas girls bully using more indirect behavior (Nansel et al., 2001).

The negative impact on victims and bullies is both immediate and long-term.
Students who are victims of bullying become fearful of going to school. Coy (2001)
estimated that 160,000 students miss school each day because of fear of being bul-
lied Other student behavior associated with being bullied includes avoiding certain
places or people in school; exhibiting sudden changes in behavior, such as becoming
withdrawn, fearful, or anxious; complaining about unexplained physical symptoms,
such as headaches, stomach pains, or tiredness; and unexpected changes in academic
performance resulting in lower grades (Pace, 2001). Students who were bullied were
found to have lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression at age 23 when com-
pared to adults who were not bullied in school (Nansel et al., 2001). After the shoot-
ings in Columbine High School in 1999, the U.S. Secret Service attempted to profile a
school shooter. It found that of the 37 school shootings studied, almost three-quarters
of the perpetrators were bullied prior to choosing to attack others in the school. Upon
being interviewed, some of the shooters described bullying that in the workplace
would meet the legal definition of harassment and/or assault (Vossekuil et al., 2002).

Approximately 60 percent of boys who were classified as bullies in grades 6
through 9 were convicted of at least one crime by age 24, and 40 percent had three or
more convictions compared to 23 percent and 10 percent, respectively, of boys who
were not bullies (Olweus, 1993).

Research focuses on three areas in trying to understand and predict which
students will likely become bullies. These are the characteristics of the child, parental/
home influences, and the out-of-home environment (Batsche and Knoff, 1994). To
date, there are no definitive characteristics of children that predict future bullying
behavior. At home, parents who fail to set behavioral limits for their children’s
behavior; who use controlling, aggressive, and coercive means to discipline; and who
encourage their children to assert themselves in socially unacceptable ways increase
the likelihood that their children may become bullies. In the larger environment, the
media often glamorize bullies, and their actions frequently go without consequences
and may actually be rewarded. One study showed a positive relationship between
exposure to media violence and bullying behavior (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2003b).
Society’s attitude that bullying is transient and part of growing up and that “kids will
be kids” leads adults and particularly teachers to pay little if any attention to the bul-
lies or their victims. Finally, crowded school conditions and poorly supervised school
locations such as locker rooms, cafeterias, playgrounds, and hallways increase the
likelihood of bullying.

Because most bullies victimize “weaker” students, lack empathy for their victims,
and seem to derive pleasure from the torment they inflict on others, it is only natural
that the traditional school intervention is intended to “teach the bully a lesson” through
some form of punishment. For all the reasons discussed in Chapter 6, punishments
are limited in their effectiveness to prevent inappropriate behavior and encourage
appropriate behavior. If punishments are aggressively delivered, there is an additional
disadvantage because this models the bullying process. This time it’s a bigger, stronger
adult picking on the smaller, weaker bully.

Bullying should not be considered a stage in the normal development of young
people. Bullying is a precursor of more serious future behavior, including violence and

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 73

weapons and assault offences (Nansel et al., 2003). Given the fact that bullying occurs
in a social context of schools where teachers and parents are unaware or believe
that kids will be kids, observing students are afraid or reluctant to get involved; vic-
tims are usually scared and defenseless; and bullies are motivated by revenge, con-
trol, and power, effective intervention necessary to prevent bullying must involve
the entire school community. A well-researched school-wide prevention program,
Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, has consistently reduced bullying by 50 percent
(Olweus, 2001; Olweus and Limber, 1999). Other comprehensive bullying prevention
programs are described by Smith, Pepler, and Rigby (2004). Detailed coverage of bul-
lying prevention is beyond the scope of this text. However, the text does offer many
appropriate interventions to influence students to behave appropriately. The short-
term strategies (Chapters 8 and 9) and particularly the longer-term strategies (Chapter
10) are quite relevant for influencing appropriate behavior when bullying is overt and
visible to the teacher. Teaching appropriate behavior (Chapter 6), facilitating pro-social
self-esteem (Chapter 3), and building positive relations with students (Chapters 7 and
10) are strategies that are critical in eradicating and preventing bullying in schools.
These strategies are effective not because students fear punishments but because they
understand the lifelong negative outcomes for both the bullies and those who are bul-
lied and have learned new more appropriate behaviors.


A relatively new and particularly virulent form of bullying is online or cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is the willful and repeated harm to a person inflicted through electronic
media. It enables bullies to post put-downs, nasty rumors, and humiliating pictures
on e-mail, blogs, chat rooms, websites, instant messages, and cell phones. As noted
previously, bullying behavior has three components: (1) intentional harm (2) carried
out repeatedly over time and power differential. Power is usually physical or social
with traditional bullying. With cyberbullying, power stems from the online proficiency
of the bully (Patchin and Hinduja, 2006). Unlike traditional bullying that occurs in
school, cyberbullying follows a student home where she can be victimized at any time.

The most recent comprehensive data indicate that 7 percent of students were
victims of cyberbullying, and 15 percent were bullied online during the previous year.
Boys and girls are equally likely to be targeted as well as to be bullies. Teens 14
years old and older are more likely to be victims than younger students (Ybarra and
Mitchell, 2004).

Victims of cyberbullying exhibit the same effects as those who are victimized
in person. These effects include lower grades, lower self-esteem, a loss of interests,
depression, and—in extreme cases—suicide. In one study, more than 30 percent of
cyberbullied victims reported being very or extremely upset and 19 percent very or
extremely afraid (Finkelhor, Mitchell, and Wolak, 2000).


A subset of cyberbullying is sexting. Sexting is the term used to describe the cre-
ation and transmission of sexual images using any digital media. The term is inclusive
and refers to the transmission of sexual images of oneself as well as others. It has
been commonly reported that 20 percent of teens, ages 13 to 19, have posted on the

74 Section 1 • Foundations

web or sent nude or seminude pictures of themselves via cell phone. More females,
22 percent, than males, 18 percent, were involved, with the majority sent to boyfriend
or girlfriends. However, studies vary in definition, sample size and population, and
the reliability of the estimate of its prevalence is uncertain (Lounsbury, Mitchell, and
Finkelhor, 2011).

The outcomes of sexting include all the negative academic and psychological
consequences discussed with bullying. Additionally, criminal charges related to child
pornography may result, even when the student takes her own picture. Such charges
can be problematic well into adulthood. Suicides related to sexting have been reported
(Bowker and Sullivan, 2010).

StageS oF cognItIVe and Moral deVeloPMent

Not too long ago, it was believed that children thought exactly the same way as adults
do. Jean Piaget’s work in the area of cognitive development, however, has shown that
children move through distinct stages of cognitive and moral development. At each
stage, children think and interpret their environment differently from children at other
stages. For this reason, a child’s behavior varies as the child moves from one stage to
another. An understanding of the stages of development enables a teacher to better
understand student behavior patterns.

cognitive development

Throughout his life, Piaget studied how children interacted with their environment
and how their intellect developed. To him, knowledge was the transformation of an
individual’s experience with the environment, not the accumulation of facts and pieces
of information. His research resulted in the formulation of a four-stage age-related
cognitive development theory (Piaget, 1970), which has significantly influenced the
manner in which children are educated.

Piaget called the four stages of development the sensorimotor, the preoperational,
the concrete operational, and the formal operational stages. The sensorimotor stage oc-
curs from birth to approximately 2 years of age. It is characterized by the refinement of
motor skills and the use of the five senses to explore the environment. This stage obvi-
ously has little importance for teachers working with school-age children.

The preoperational stage occurs from approximately ages 2 to 7 and is the stage
most children have reached when they begin their school experience. Children at this
stage are egocentric. They are unable to conceive that others may see things differ-
ently from the way they do. Although their ability to give some thought to decisions
is developing, the great majority of the time they act only on perceptive impulses.
Their short attention span interacts with their static thinking, resulting in an inability
to think of a sequence of steps or operations. Their sense of time and space is limited
to short duration and close proximity.

The concrete operational stage occurs from approximately ages 7 to 12. Children
are able to order and classify objects and to consider several variables simultaneously
as long as they have experiences with “concrete” content. These children need step-
by-step instructions if they are expected to work through lengthy procedures. What
can be frustrating to teachers who do not understand the characteristics of this stage

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 75

is that these children do not attempt to check their conclusions, have difficulty think-
ing about thinking (how they arrived at certain conclusions), and seem unaware of
and unconcerned with inconsistencies in their own reasoning.

At about age 12, at the earliest, children begin to move into the formal op-
erational stage. They begin to develop independent critical thinking skills, to plan
lengthy procedures, and to consider a number of possible answers to problems. They
no longer are tied to concrete examples but instead are able to use symbols and verbal
examples. These children, who are adolescents, begin to think about their own and
others’ thinking, which leads them to consider motives; the past, present, and future;
the abstract; the remote; and the ideal. The methodological implications for teaching
students at each stage are somewhat obvious and have been researched and written
about extensively (Adler, 1966; Gorman, 1972; Karplus, 1977).

Moral development

Piaget related his theory of a child’s cognitive development directly to the child’s
moral development. Through his work, Piaget demonstrated that a child is close to
or at the formal operational stage of cognitive development before she possesses the
intellectual ability to evaluate, consider, and act on abstract moral dilemmas. Thus,
what an elementary school child thinks is bad or wrong is vastly different from what
an adolescent thinks is wrong (Piaget, 1965).

Using Piaget’s work as his basis, Laurence Kohlberg proposed that moral de-
velopment progresses through six levels of moral reasoning: punishment-obedience,
exchange of favors, good boy–nice girl, law and order, social contract, and universal
ethical principles (Kohlberg, 1969, 1975).

Between ages 4 and 6, children have a “punishment-obedience” orientation to
moral reasoning. Their decisions are based on the physical consequences of an act;
will they be punished or rewarded? Outcomes are paramount, and there is very little
comprehension of a person’s motive or intention. Children’s egocentrism at this stage
limits their ability to see other points of view or alternatives.

Between ages 6 and 9, children move into the “exchange of favors” orientation.
At this level, judgments are made on the basis of reciprocal favors; you do this for
me and I will do this for you. Fulfilling one’s own needs comes first. Children are just
beginning to understand the motives behind behaviors and outcomes.

Between ages 10 and 15, children move into the “good boy–nice girl” orientation.
Conformity dictates behavior and reasoning ability. Peer review is strong, and judg-
ments about how to behave are made on the basis of avoiding criticism and pleasing
others. The drive to conform with peers is so strong that it is quite common to follow
peers unquestioningly but, at the same time, continually to ask “why” when requests
are made by adults.

The “law and order” orientation dominates moral reasoning between ages 15
and 18. Individuals at this stage of development are quite rigid. Judgments are made
on the basis of obeying the law. Motives are understood but not wholeheartedly con-
sidered if the behavior has broken a law. At this stage, teenagers are quick to recog-
nize and point out inconsistencies in expected behavior. It is quite common to hear
them say to adults, “Why do I have to do this? You don’t.” At this stage, adolescents
begin to recognize the consequences of their actions.

76 Section 1 • Foundations

According to Kohlberg, few people reach the last two levels of moral reasoning.
The “social contract” orientation is reached by some between ages 18 and 20. At this
level, moral judgments are made on the basis of upholding individual rights and demo-
cratic principles. Those who reach this level recognize that individuals differ in their val-
ues and do not accept “because I said so” or “that’s the way it is” as rationales for rules.

The highest level of moral reasoning is the “universal ethical” orientation.
Judgments are based on respect for the dignity of human beings and on what is good
for humanity, not on selfish interests or standards upheld by authority.

As in cognitive development, the ages of any moral development stage are ap-
proximations. Individuals continually move back and forth between stages, depending
on the moral situation at hand, especially at transitional points between stages.

Behavior: the Interaction of cognitive and Moral development

To understand how children perceive what is right and wrong, what cognitive skills they
are able to use, and what motivates their social and academic behavior, teachers must
understand the stages of moral and cognitive growth. Teachers must also recognize
common developmental behaviors that are a result of the interaction of the cognitive
and moral stages through which the children pass. Although this interaction does not
and cannot explain all disruptive classroom behaviors, it does provide a basis on which
we can begin to understand many disruptive behaviors. Table 3.1 summarizes the cog-
nitive and moral stages of development, their characteristics, and associated behaviors.

At the beginning of elementary school, students are in
the preoperational stage cognitively and the punishment-
obedience stage morally. Their behavior is a result of the
interplay of factors such as their egocentricity, limited sense
of time and space, little comprehension of others’ motives,
and short attention span. At this stage, children become
frustrated easily, have difficulty sharing, argue frequently,
believe that they are right and their classmates wrong, and
tattle a lot.

By middle to upper elementary school and beginning
junior high or middle school, children are in the concrete
operational stage cognitively and the exchange of favors
to the good boy–nice girl stages morally. Early in this
period, students form and re-form cliques, act on opin-
ions based on a single or very few concrete characteristics,
and tell secrets. They employ many annoying attention-
seeking behaviors to please the teacher. Later in the period,
the effects of peer conformity appear. Students are often
off-task because they are constantly in conversation with
their friends. Those who do not fit into the peer group are
excluded and ridiculed, which may explain why cyberbul-
lying begins to increase in junior and middle school (Ybarra
and Mitchell, 2004).

Students still have little patience with long dis-
cussions and lengthy explanations. They are unaware

Some misbehavior can result when
instruction is not matched with students’
cognitive development stages.


taBle 3.1 Cognitive and Moral Development with Common Associated Behaviors

Cognitive Stage Cognitive Abilities Moral Stage Moral Reasoning Common Behaviors

Sensorimotor (0–2) Use of senses to “know”

Preoperational (2–7) Difficulty with conceiving
others’ points of view
Sense of time and space
limited to short duration/
close proximity
Difficulty thinking through
steps or decisions
Acts impulsively

obedience (4–6)

Actions based on physical
Little comprehension
of motives

Easily frustrated
Difficulty sharing
Arguments during play

operational (7–12)

Limited ability to think
about thinking
Often will not check
Unaware of and
unconcerned with their
own inconsistencies

of favors (6–9)

Actions based on
reciprocal favors
Fulfilling one’s own
needs comes first
Beginning to
understand motives

Attention-getting behavior
Exclusion of certain classmates
Inattentiveness during periods of
“Know-it-all” attitude

Good boy–nice
girl (10–15)

Actions based on
peer conformity

operational (12– )

Able to think about
Can use independent
critical thinking skills
Can consider motives; the
past, present, and future;
the abstract; and the ideal

Law and order

Rigid judgments
based on following
the law
Motives and

Point out inconsistencies between
behaviors and rules
Challenge rules and policies
Demand rationale behind rules
Will not unquestioningly accept

Social contract

Universal ethical
(few people reach
this level)

Actions based on
upholding individual rights
and democratic principles
Actions based on respect
for human dignity

Refuse to change even in face of

78 Section 1 • Foundations

of, or unconcerned about, their inconsistencies. They are closed minded, often
employing such phrases as, “I know!” “Do we have to discuss this?” or
“I don’t care!” with a tone that communicates a nonchalant lack of interest.

By the time students are leaving junior high school and entering high school,
most of them are in the formal operational stage cognitively and moving from the
good boy–nice girl to the law and order stage morally. By the end of high school, a
few of them have reached the social contract level.

At this stage, students can deal with abstractness and conceive of many possi-
bilities and ideals as well as the reality of their environment. Although peer pressure
is still strong, they begin to see the need and rationale for rules and policies. They
eventually see the need to protect rights and principles. They are now attempting to
discover who they are, what they believe in, and what they are competent in.

Because students at this stage are searching for self-identity and are able to think
abstractly, they often challenge the traditional values taught in school and home. They
need to have a valid reason for why everything is the way it is. They will not accept
“because I said so” as a legitimate reason to conform to a rule. Some hold to a particu-
lar behavior, explanation, or judgment, even in the face of punishment, if they feel that
their individual rights have been challenged or violated. Unfortunately, many of these
behaviors are carried out in an argumentative format.

A number of studies support the idea that normal developmental changes can
lead to disruptive behavior. Jessor and Jessor (1977) found that the correlates of
misbehavior in school are (1) growth in independence, (2) decline in traditional
ideology, (3) increase in relativistic morality, (4) increase in peer orientation, and (5)
increase in modeling problem behaviors. They concluded that the normal course of
developmental change is in the direction of greater possibility of problems. However,

Age-specific behavior often is the result of the interaction of cognitive and moral development.

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 79

Clarizio and McCoy (1983) found that normal problem behaviors that occur as a de-
velopmental phenomenon have a high probability of being resolved with increasing
age. A study of 400 famous twentieth-century men and women, which concluded
that four out of five had experienced difficulties and problems related to school and
schooling (Goertzel and Goertzel, 1962), appears to support the Clarizio and McCoy

neuroScIence reSearch Teenagers have been labeled moody, impulsive, indiffer-
ent, inconsistent, risk taking, and many other more colorful labels. In 1904, what was
known about adolescents was detailed by G. Stanley Hall, a pioneer of psychology
and education, in the text Adolescents. The teen years were summarized as a time rep-
licating the early less civilized stages of human development. Similarly, Eric Erikson
thought adolescence was always problematic, and Freud viewed it as a time of con-
flict. Thus, adolescence was considered to be a difficult if not downright impossible
time that both teachers and parents dreaded. Such thinking prevailed into the late
twentieth century when brain-imaging technology emerged. However, even today, in
workshops led by the authors, we have heard comments such as “how do you do it”
or “bless you” from elementary and high school teachers when participants introduce
themselves as middle school teachers.

Images of hundreds of teenage brains studied in the late 1990s indicated that a
human brain develops much more slowly than scientists had thought. By age 6, the
brain has reached 90 percent of its size; however, what the research discovered was
that human brains go through an extensive reorganization between ages 12 to 25. The
brain’s axon and neurons become more insulated with myelin, boosting transmission
speed by 100 times. The dendrites become more branchlike and synapses that see lots
of activity grow more efficient and those that see little activity begin to wither. This
maturation period does not end in middle school as once thought, but instead lasts
through late adolescence.

This progressing development of the brain eventually allows students to
be able to balance impulses vs. long-term goals, self-interest vs. altruism, instant
gratification vs. more intrinsic motivations, and risky behavior vs. consideration of
the possible consequences. However, the development process is slow and uneven,
which helps explain the inconsistent nature of adolescents. Simultaneous changes
in the chemistry of the brain, particularly dopamine and oxytocin, help explain
increased risk taking particularly in the presence of peers and the importance of
fitting in and giving in to peer pressure. As we learn more about brain maturation,
teachers can only imagine the impact this knowledge will have on instruction as
well as how it will enlighten teachers in terms of influencing students to display
appropriate behavior.

InStructIonal coMPetence

At first glance, it would seem that the teacher has little or no control over the influ-
ences of misbehavior that have been discussed thus far. Although it is true that a
teacher cannot significantly alter the course of most of these societal, familial, and
developmental events, she can control her instructional competence. Excellent instruc-
tional competence can minimize the effects of these ongoing events, maximize the

80 Section 1 • Foundations

learning potential in the classroom, and prevent misbehavior caused by poor instruc-
tional methodology.

Why does Ms. Cook in Case 3.14, who is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about
her subject matter and enjoys working with young people, have such discipline prob-
lems? Why do otherwise well-behaved students misbehave to such an extent in one
particular class? The students’ responses indicate a reasonable answer: the teacher’s
lack of skill in basic instructional methodology.

Because of Ms. Cook’s instructional skill deficiencies, her students did not
accord her expert power, the social authority and respect a teacher receives because
she possesses special knowledge and expertise (French and Raven, 1960). (This and
other authority bases are discussed in depth in Chapter 4.) Her inability to communi-
cate content clearly, evaluate and remediate student misunderstandings, and explain
the relevancy of the content to her students’ lives caused her students to fail to recog-
nize her expertise in the field of mathematics.

Ms. Cook loves mathematics and enjoys
working with young people, which she often
does in camp and youth organizations. After
graduating with a B.S. degree in mathemat-
ics, she goes on to earn a master’s degree in
mathematics and becomes certified to teach
at the secondary level. She obtains a teach-
ing position at a progressive suburban junior
high school.

Ms. Cook conscientiously plans for all
of her algebra and geometry classes and
knows the material thoroughly. Within a
few months, however, her classes are char-
acterized by significant discipline problems.
Most of her students are out of their seats,
talking, throwing paper, and calling out
jokes. They come in unprepared and, in a
few instances, openly confront Ms. Cook’s
procedures and competence. Even though
she is given assistance, supervision, and
support from the administration, Ms. Cook
decides not to return for her second year of

In an attempt to understand the class’s
behavior, the students are interviewed at

the end of the school year. The following
are the most common responses concerning
Ms. Cook’s methods:

1. Gave unclear explanations
2. Discussed topics having nothing or little

to do with the subject at hand
3. Kept repeating understood material
4. Wrote things on the board but never

explained them and her board work
was sloppy

5. Would say, “We already did this” when
asked for help

6. Did not involve the class and called on
only the same people

7. Had difficulty giving clear answers to

8. Didn’t explain how to use the material
9. Always used her note cards
10. Could not determine why the class was

having difficulty understanding the

11. Either gave the answers to the home-
work or didn’t go over it, so no one had
to do it

Case 3.14
Not Being Able to Teach

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 81

A teacher’s ability to explain and clarify is foremost in developing author-
ity. Kounin (1970) found that teachers who are liked are described by students as
those who can explain the content well, whereas those who are disliked leave stu-
dents in some state of confusion. Kounin also noted that when students like their
teachers, they are more likely to behave appropriately and are more motivated
to learn. As Tanner (1978) stated, “Teacher effectiveness, as perceived by pupils,
invests the teacher with classroom authority” (p. 67). To students, teacher effective-
ness translates to “explaining the material so that we can understand it.” When this
occurs, students regard the teacher as competent, and the teacher is invested with


This chapter summarizes many of the ills of society and how such environments nega-
tively affect students’ behavior. These negative influences are often called risk signs.
Research in identifying factors that put students at risk for developing problems later
in life began in the 1970s. Most of these risks are beyond the control of teachers and
schools and include exposure to social and economic disadvantages, dysfunctional
child-rearing practices, family and marital discord, parental mental health problems,
antisocial peer group, and trauma. These factors are cumulative; the risk for poor life
outcome rises sharply as the number of risk factors increases (Resiliency Resource
Centre, 2008). However, much qualitative and empirical evidence supports what most
teachers already know: many children rise above the multiple and severe risks in their
lives to become competent adolescents and adults. When this occurs it is said that the
student possesses resiliency, or the student is resilient. In other words, resiliency is
the capacity for children to adapt successfully and overcome severe stressors and risks
(Werner and Smith, 1992).

Longitudinal studies consistently document that at least half to as many as two-
thirds of children growing up in dysfunctional families, poverty, and drug- and vio-
lence-infested environments overcome these adversities and turn their life from one
characterized by extreme risk to one of resilience or successful adaptation (Benard,
1995). What are the characteristics that differentiate those children who possess resil-
iency from those who succumb to the adversities they face?

Researchers have considered a wide range of individual, family, social, and
environmental factors as discriminators. These factors seem to cluster into three
broad categories: (1) cognitive and behavioral, (2) social and contextual, and
(3) genetic. Cognitive and behavioral factors that enable a child to cope effectively
with stress include social and emotional problem-solving abilities, a sense of opti-
mism and autonomy, and self-esteem (Rutter, 1985). Social and contextual factors
include quality relationships with parents, teachers, and other significant adults;
access to community services; and regular attendance at schools where teach-
ers have high behavioral and academic standards (Werner, 1993). Genetic factors
include gender, temperament, intelligence, and physical health. Girls, individuals
with an easygoing personality with above-average intelligence, and individuals in
good health are more resilient.

82 Section 1 • Foundations

Resiliency is not a finite characteristic of a student, with some students possessing
it and some students not. Instead, resiliency is a complex dynamic process reflecting
the interactions among cognitive, social, and genetic factors. Thus, it is probably more
accurate to think in terms of children manifesting resilient behaviors and those who are
not rather than describing a student as resilient or not resilient. Resiliency is dynamic
and depends on context, age of the student, and the teacher. What may be considered
resilient behavior in elementary school is likely not the same behavior in high school.

Researchers have analyzed the experiences of teachers and families working
and living with at-risk youth. An outcome of this research is an understanding that
there are characteristics of the family, school, and community that can aid students
in circumventing risks and increase the likelihood of students’ displaying resilient
behaviors. The family, school, and community can serve as protective factors, which
can be grouped into three major categories: (1) caring and supportive relationships,
(2) positive and high expectations, and (3) opportunities for meaningful participation.
Many of the protective factors are the reverse of risk factors. Thus, it is often helpful
to consider risk factors and protective factors to be the opposite ends of a continuum.
For example, a risk factor might be a pessimistic outlook toward the future, whereas a
protective factor might be an optimistic orientation.

Caring, supportive teachers are the most frequently encountered positive role
models outside the immediate family (Benard, 1995; Noddings, 1988). A meaningful
student-teacher relationship built on a foundation of care, respect, and trust gives
young people the motivation to try (Levin and Shanken-Kaye, 2002).

Teachers and schools that establish high academic and behavioral standards
and provide students with the support needed to reach expectations have high rates
of appropriate behavior and academic performance. The expectations and support

A teacher has total control over the use of effective teaching strategies.

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 83

Although there are innumerable influences on
students’ behavior in schools, this chapter has
focused on some of the major ones.

Societal changes, most notably the effects
of the knowledge explosion and the media
revolution, have created an environment that
is vastly different from that in which children
of previous generations grew up. More chil-
dren now than ever before live in single-parent
homes. Also, more children today are living at
or below the poverty level than in previous gen-
erations. Additionally, schools are more diverse
now than ever before, and the number of stu-
dents changing schools for reasons other than
grade promotion is increasing. Because of these
and other factors, some children’s basic needs,
including the need for self-esteem, are not met
the home. In-school bullying and cyberbullying
are often overlooked and dismissed by teachers
and administrators, even though it is wide-
spread and has a significant negative physical
and emotional impact on both the bully and the

bullied. Out-of-school experiences are much
more significant predictors of school behavior
than children’s in-school experiences. When a
child’s basic need for self-esteem is not met at
home and/or is not met at school, discipline
problems frequently result.

Throughout the school years, children’s
cognitive and moral development, as well as
their continual need for social recognition, is
reflected in their behavior. The implications of
emerging neuroscience research concerning
the maturation of the brain during adolescence
have yet to be realized. A teacher has little or
no control over many of these developments.
What she can control is her own instructional
competence. Excellent instruction can amelio-
rate the effects of outside influences and can be
a catalyst for encouraging resiliency. Effective
teaching can also prevent the misbehavior that
occurs as a direct result of poor instruction.
Effective teaching techniques are covered in
more detail in Chapter 5.


are characterized by pedagogy and evaluations informed by what is known about
how students learn and are not driven by high-risk standardized tests (Cotton, 2001).
Providing young people with opportunities for meaningful involvement and respon-
sibilities within the school and community, particularly in ways that provide students’
with a sense of virtue, fosters resiliency (Benard, 1991).

To summarize, caring teachers who communicate high expectations, provide
students with support, and encourage meaningful student involvement are positively
addressing young people’s basic needs and their self-esteem. When basic needs are
met and young people feel good about themselves, they are likely to be more pro-
tected from their adverse environment and to display resilient behavior.

For teachers to be a catalyst for facilitating resilient behavior in their students,
they must examine their beliefs. Teachers must genuinely believe their students are
capable of succeeding; otherwise, teachers may experience the negative effects of
a self-fulfilling prophecy (Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968), that is, negative beliefs
about students lead to negative feelings about students that lead to negative behaviors
toward students (Levin and Shanken-Kaye, 2002). Thus, teachers need not master new
strategies or specialized skills to encourage resilient student behavior. Instead, they
must remain positive and encouraging and serve as a role model to their students
(Howard and Johnson, 1998). The best outcomes for students are more likely when
interventions are continuous and are implemented at an early age, before problematic
behaviors become evident (Nastasi and Bernstein, 1998).

84 Section 1 • Foundations

1. Look back on your own school experiences.
What are some instructional techniques your
teachers used that had the potential to discour-
age disruptive student behaviors?

2. What, if anything, can schools and classroom
teachers do to help students meet the following
basic human needs: (a) physiological, (b) safety
and security, and (c) belonging and affection?

3. Self-esteem can be conceptualized mathemati-
cally as follows:

Self-Esteem = Significance + Competence
+ Power + Virtue

How does the self-esteem formula help explain
why students behave disruptively inside and
outside the classroom?

4. How does the self-esteem formula provide
insight into the types of interventions that
can lead to decreasing a student’s disruptive

5. Research indicates that bullying prevention
programs should be school wide to include
parents, teachers, students, bullies, and victims.
If you were designing a comprehensive preven-
tion program, what would be some important
objectives for each of the constituents?

6. Because cyberbullying usually occurs outside
school, should schools intervene?

7. Even though they are beyond the school’s con-
trol, changes in society can influence student

behavior in school. What changes in society
during the past 10 years do you believe have
had negative influences on classroom behavior?

8. In your opinion, can media influence students
to misbehave in the classroom? If so, list some
specific examples to support your opinion. If
not, explain why.

9. How might a lack of cultural synchronization
between a teacher and students influence stu-
dents’ behavior?

10. What can a teacher do to improve cultural syn-
chronization in a classroom?

11. Explain why some educational researchers
believe that cognitive development is a prereq-
uisite for moral development.

12. Considering students’ cognitive development,
how might a teacher teach the following
concepts in the third, seventh, and eleventh
(a) Volume of a rectangular solid = L × W × H
(b) Civil rights and equality
(c) Subject-predicate agreement
(d) Gravity

13. How might inappropriate teaching of these
concepts for the cognitive level of the students
contribute to classroom discipline problems?

14. Considering students’ moral development,
what can we expect as typical reactions to
the following events at each of the following
grade levels?


Event First Fourth Seventh Twelfth

a. A student from a poor family steals
the lunch ticket of a student from
a fairly wealthy family.

b. A teacher keeps the entire class on a
detention because of the disruptive
behavior of a few.

c. A student destroys school property
and allows another student to be
falsely accused and punished for
the vandalism.

d. A student has points subtracted
from her test score for talking after
her test paper was already turned in.

Chapter 3 • Understanding Why Children Misbehave 85

15. What are some normal behaviors (considering
their developmental level) for elementary stu-
dents, junior high or middle school students,
and senior high students that can be disruptive
in a classroom?

16. What might a teacher do to allow the normal
behaviors (listed in the answer to question 15)
to be expressed while preventing them from
disrupting learning?

17. Disruptive students often rationalize their inap-
propriate behavior by blaming it on the teacher:
“I’ll treat Mr. Lee with respect when he treats me
with respect.” Unfortunately, teachers often ratio-
nalize their negative behavior toward a student
by blaming it on the student: “I’ll respect Nicole
when she respects me.” Using the levels of moral
cognitive development, explain why the stu-
dent’s rationalization is understandable but the
teacher’s is not.

18. Many resiliency researchers conceptualize risk
signs and protective factors as opposite end
points on a continuum. Provide a few examples
that illustrate this.

19. What behaviors have you employed to success-
fully overcome stressors and adversities that
you have experienced?

20. Principles of Teacher Behavior After reading
Chapter 3 and doing the exercises, use what
you have learned to briefly describe your
understanding of the implications of the prin-
ciples listed at the beginning of the chapter for
a classroom teacher.







Approaches to
Influencing Students


PrinciPles of Teacher Behavior ThaT influence
aPProPriaTe sTudenT Behavior

1. Theoretical approaches to influencing students are useful to teachers
because they offer a basis for analyzing, understanding, and influencing
student and teacher behavior.

2. As social agents, teachers have access to a variety of authority bases that
can be used to influence student behavior.

3. The techniques a teacher employs to influence student behavior should
be consistent with the teacher’s beliefs about how students learn and

The Basics

Nature of the Discipline Problem

Understanding Why Children Misbehave

Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students
Understanding and Employing Different Authority Bases

Referent • Expert • Legitimate • Reward/Coercive
Understanding Theories About Teacher Influence on Students

Student Directed • Collaborative • Teacher Directed

Chapter 4 • Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 87

Prereading acTiviTy: undersTanding The PrinciPles
of Teacher Behavior

Before reading Chapter 4, briefly describe your understanding of the implications of
the principles for a classroom teacher:

PrInCIPle 1:

PrInCIPle 2:

PrInCIPle 3:

Prereading QuesTions for reflecTion and Journaling

1. As you see it, is there a particular model or philosophy of teacher influence that is
appropriate for all teachers and students? How would you justify your answer?

2. What tools do teachers have in their possession to influence students to choose
appropriate behavior?

3. What are four or five of your key beliefs about influencing student behavior?


Teaching can be a threatening and frustrating experience, and all of us at some time
entertain doubts about our ability to maintain effective classroom learning environ-
ments. For many teachers, however, these normal self-doubts, which are especially
common early in a teaching career, lead to a frantic search for gimmicks, techniques,
or tricks that they hope will allow them to survive in the real classroom world. This
is indeed unfortunate, as Case 4.1 illustrates. When classroom behavior problems
are approached with a frenetically sought-after bag of tricks instead of a carefully
developed systematic plan for decision making, teachers are likely to find themselves
behaving in ways they regret later. The teachers who are most successful at creating a
positive classroom atmosphere that enhances student learning are those who employ a
carefully developed plan for influencing student behavior. Clearly, any such plan must
be congruent with their basic beliefs about the nature of the teaching and learning
process. When teachers use this type of plan, they avoid the dilemma that Ms. Knepp

There are multiple models or approaches and hundreds of techniques for
promoting positive student behavior within these models. Most of these techniques
are effective in some situations but not others, for some students but not others, and
for some teachers but not others. What most of the experts fail to mention is that the
efficacy of a technique is contextually dependent. Who the teacher teaches and who
the teacher is dictate what technique will have the greatest potential for addressing

88 Section 1 • Foundations

the complex management problems evidenced in classrooms (lasley, 1989). Because
every technique is based implicitly or explicitly on some belief system concerning
how human beings behave and why, the classroom teacher must find prototypes of
teacher influence that are consistent with his beliefs and employ them under appro-
priate circumstances.

How can teachers ensure that their behavior in dealing with classroom discipline
problems will be effective and will match their beliefs about students, teachers, and
learning? First, they can understand their own basic beliefs about influencing student
behavior. Second, they can develop, based on their beliefs, a systematic plan for pro-
moting positive student behavior and dealing with inappropriate behavior. Chapters 8
through 11, which provide multiple options for dealing with any single classroom
behavior problem, are designed to help teachers develop a systematic plan. numerous
options are provided to allow every teacher to develop a personal plan for encour-
aging appropriate student behavior and for dealing with unacceptable behavior in a
manner congruent with his own basic beliefs. Because there are numerous options,
the teacher can prioritize his options in a hierarchical format.

To help teachers and future teachers lay the philosophical foundation for their
own classroom instructional plan, this chapter offers an overview of a variety of philo-
sophical approaches to influencing student behavior. So that they may be consid-
ered in a more systematic and orderly fashion, the approaches are grouped under
two major headings: teacher authority bases and theories of teacher influence. The
first section discusses the various types of authority or influence that are available to
teachers to promote appropriate student behavior. The second section explains three
theories of teacher influence and their underlying beliefs and includes models and
techniques for each of the theoretical approaches.

It is important to be aware of the inherent connection among the three theories
and the four authority bases. each of the three theories relies on the dominant use of
one or two authority bases. Teachers can examine the foundations on which their own
instructional plans rest by comparing their beliefs with those inherent in each of the
various teacher authority bases and theories of teacher influence.

Ms. Judy Knepp is a first-year teacher at
Armstrong Middle School. Although most of
her classes are going well, she is having a
great deal of difficulty with her sixth-grade
developmental reading class. Many of the
students seem disinterested, lazy, imma-
ture, and rebellious. They perform poorly
on state assessment tests. As a result of the
class’s continuous widespread chattering,
Ms. Knepp spends the vast majority of her

time yelling and reprimanding individual stu-
dents. She has considered using detention
to control students, but there are so many
disruptive students that she doesn’t know
whom to give detention to first. The class has
become such a battlefield that she finds her-
self hating to go to school in the morning.

After struggling on her own for a cou-
ple of long weeks, Ms. Knepp decides that
she had better ask somebody for help. She

Case 4.1
The Tricks-of-the-Trade Approach

Chapter 4 • Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 89

is reluctant to go to any of the administra-
tors because she thinks that revealing the
problem will result in a low official evalu-
ation for her first semester’s work. Finally,
she decides to go to Ms. Hoffman, a vet-
eran teacher of 14 years with a reputation
for striking fear into the hearts of her sixth-
grade students.

After she tells Ms. Hoffman all about her
horrendous class, Ms. Knepp waits anxiously
for some words of wisdom that will help her
get the class under control. Ms. Hoffman’s
advice is short and to the point: “I’d just keep
the whole class in for detention. Keep them
until about 4:30 just one day, and I guarantee
you won’t have any more trouble with them.
These kids think they’re tough, but when
they see that you’re just as mean and tough
as they are, they’ll melt pretty quickly.”

Ms. Knepp is dismayed. She imme-
diately thinks, “That’s just not fair. What
about those four or five kids who don’t mis-
behave? Why should they have to stay in
too?” She does not voice her objections to
Ms. Hoffman, fearing Ms. Hoffman will see
her as rude and ungrateful. She does ask,
“What about parents who object to such
punishment?” However, Ms. Hoffman assures
her that she has never had any trouble from
parents and that the principal, Dr. Kropa,
will support the disciplinary action even if
any parents do object.

Ms. Knepp feels trapped. She knows
that Ms. Hoffman expects her to follow
through, and she fears that Ms. Hoffman will
tell the other veteran teachers if she doesn’t
take the advice. like most newcomers,
Ms. Knepp longs to be accepted.

Despite her misgivings, Ms. Knepp
decides to follow the advice and to do so
quickly before she loses her nerve. The
next day, she announces that one more
disruption—no matter who is the culprit—
will bring detention for the entire class.
For five minutes silence reigns, and the

class actually accomplishes some work.
Ms. Knepp has begun to breathe a long sigh
of relief when suddenly she hears a loud
“You pig” from the back right-hand corner of
the room. She is positive that all the students
have heard the epithet and knows that she
cannot ignore it. She also fears that an unen-
forced threat will mean disaster.

“That does it. everyone in this class
has detention tomorrow after school.”
Immediately, the air is filled with “That ain’t
fair,” “I didn’t do nothing,” “You wish,” and
“Don’t hold your breath.” naturally, most
of these complaints come from the biggest
troublemakers. However, several students
who never cause trouble also complain bit-
terly that the punishment is unfair. Deep
down, Ms. Knepp agrees with them, but she
feels compelled to dismiss their complaints
with a fainthearted, “Well, life just isn’t
always fair, and you might as well learn that
now.” She stonewalls it through the rest of
the class and is deeply relieved when the
class is over.

When Ms. Knepp arrives at school the
next morning, there is a note from Dr. Kropa
in her box stating that Mr. and Mrs. Pennsi
are coming in during her free period to talk
about the detention of their son, Fred. Fred
is one of the few students who rarely cause
trouble. Ms. Knepp feels unable to defend
her action. It contradicts her beliefs about
fairness and how students should be treated.
The conference is a disaster. Ms. Knepp
begins by trying to convince the Pennsies
that she is right but ends by admitting that
she too feels that she has been unfair to Fred.
After the conference, she discusses the pun-
ishment with Dr. Kropa, who suggests that
it is best to call it off. Ms. Knepp drags her-
self, half in tears, to her class. She is going
to back down and rescind the punishment.
She believes that the kids will see this as a
sign of weakness, and she is afraid of the

90 Section 1 • Foundations

teacher authorIty Bases

French and raven (1960) identified four types of authority that teachers as social
agents can use to influence student behavior. The effective teacher is aware of the
type of authority he wants to use to influence student behavior and is also aware of
the type of authority that is implicit in each of the techniques available. It cannot be
emphasized enough that when teachers’ beliefs and behaviors are consistent, they
are more likely to be successful than when their beliefs and behaviors are not consis-
tent. When beliefs and behaviors are congruent, the teacher usually follows through
and is consistent in dealing with student behavior because he (unlike Ms. Knepp)
believes that it is the right thing to do, and students usually perceive the teacher as
a genuine person who practices what he preaches. When the teacher’s beliefs and
behaviors are not congruent, the mismatch between the two can actually influence
students to behave inappropriately. For example, a teacher who really does not care
about students and attempts to use referent authority to influence student behavior
will be spotted by students as a phony. Students, especially adolescents, will view the
teacher as manipulative and disingenuous. The result is likely to be increased dis-
ruptive behavior. As you read, ask yourself which type or types of authority fit your
beliefs and which types you could use comfortably. Although every teacher probably
uses each of the four types of authority at some time, each teacher has a dominant
authority base or two that he uses most often.

The four teacher authority bases are presented in a hierarchical format, begin-
ning with those more likely to engender student control over their own behavior and
proceeding to those that foster increasing teacher control. If a teacher believes, as we
do, that one of the important long-range goals of schooling is to foster student self-
direction, using those authority bases at the top of the hierarchy as often as possible
will be consistent with this belief. If a teacher does not share this belief, the hierarchi-
cal arrangement of authority bases is not as important for him. Whatever one’s beliefs
about the long-range goals of education, it is still necessary to understand the four
teacher authority bases because no single one is effective for all students, all class-
rooms, or all teachers. Thus, effective teaching requires the use of a variety of authority

referent authority

Consider Case 4.2. The type of authority Mr. emig uses to influence student behavior
has been termed referent authority by French and raven (1960). When a teacher has
referent authority, students behave as the teacher wishes because they enjoy a posi-
tive relationship with the teacher and like the teacher as a person. Students view the
teacher as a good person who is concerned about them, cares about their learning,
and demands a certain type of behavior because it is in their best interest. One of
the benefits of the use of referent authority is the positive relationship that develops
between the students and the teacher. Teachers who engage in more positive interac-
tions with students are generally more effective teachers and create emotionally posi-
tive classroom climates in which students show more respect to the teacher and to
peers (Glick, 2011).

There are two requirements for the effective use of referent authority: (1) the
teacher must perceive that the students have a good relationship with him, and (2) the

Chapter 4 • Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 91

teacher must communicate that he cares about and likes the students. He does this
through positive nonverbal gestures; positive oral and written comments; extra time
and attention; and displays of sincere interest in students’ ideas, activities, and espe-
cially, learning. Teachers with referent authority are able to appeal directly to students
to act a certain way. examples of such direct appeals are “I’m really not feeling well
today. Please keep the noise level at a minimum,” and “It really makes me angry when
you hand assignments in late. Please have your assignments ready on time.” These
teachers might handle Ms. Knepp’s problem with a statement such as, “You disappoint
me and make me very angry when you misbehave and disrupt class time. I spend
a great deal of time planning activities that you will enjoy and that will help you to
learn, but I must spend so much time on discipline that we don’t get to them. I would
really appreciate it if you would stop the misbehavior.”

referent authority must not be confused with the situation in which the teacher
attempts to be the students’ friend. A teacher who wants to be friends with students
usually is dependent on students to fulfill his personal needs. This dependency creates
an environment in which students are able to manipulate the teacher. Over time, the
teacher and students become equals, and the teacher loses the ability to influence stu-
dents to behave appropriately. In contrast, the teacher who uses referent authority is
in an adult role and does make demands on students. Students carry out the teacher’s
wishes because they like the teacher as a teacher, not as a friend.

Although the use of referent authority is effective with all students, lisa Delpit’s
(2012) powerful insights on successful teachers of African American students suggest
that referent authority may be a particularly effective authority base for influencing
the behavior and academic learning of students of color. Delpit suggests that teachers
who are “warm demanders” are most effective in teaching students of color (we return

Administrators and teachers alike at Spring
Grove Junior High envied Mr. emig. even
though he taught eighth-grade english to all
types of students, he never sent students to
the office, rarely gave detentions, and never
needed parent conferences to discuss stu-
dent behavior. In fact, it seemed as if students
never exhibited discipline problems in his

Mr. Karr, the principal, decided that
other teachers might be able to learn some
techniques from Mr. emig and so asked
some of Mr. emig’s students why his classes
were so well behaved. Students said that
they liked Mr. emig because he was always

involved in activities with them. He spon-
sored the school newspaper, went on ski club
trips, went to athletic events, coached track,
chaperoned dances, and advised the student
council. Because of his heavy involvement
with them, students got a chance to see him
as a person, not just as a teacher, and they
felt that he was a really good person who
cared a lot about kids. As a result, nobody
hassled him in class. In addition, Mr. emig
got to know the students very well. He knew
about their activities and hobbies, their fami-
lies, and their backgrounds and was able to
connect classroom instruction to their indi-
vidual interests.

Case 4.2
The Involved Teacher

92 Section 1 • Foundations

to this concept in Chapter 5). Delpit suggests that it is the underlying positive relation-
ship that allows these warm demanders to relentlessly push students to achieve more:
“It is the quality of the relationship that allows a teacher’s push for excellence. As
I have previously written, many of our children of color do not learn from a teacher as
much as for a teacher. They don’t want to disappoint a teacher who believes in them”
(Delpit, 2012, p. 86). Ms. Brubeck, the novice teacher in Case 4.3 undertands the
“demand” component of these ideas but missses the boat on the notion of “warmth.”

Delpit also suggests that in order to use referent authority effectively, the teacher
must get to know students’ lives and cultures outside of the school context and that
a lack of understanding of students’ cultures and family lives interferes with the abil-
ity of many white, middle-class teachers to see students of color as just as capable
and brilliant as white students. Thus, referent authority, grounded in deep knowledge
about the students, may well be a powerful tool for learning to teach students whose
cultures and family lives differ from those of the teacher.

It is neither possible nor wise to use referent authority all the time with all
students. Indeed, using referent authority with students who genuinely dislike the
teacher may result in disaster. To understand this caution, one need only consider the
possible and probable response to direct appeals by students who see their primary

linda Brubeck is a first-year middle school
english teacher in an urban schol with stu-
dents from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
Many of the students come from poor fami-
lies. Although she is from a white, middle-
class background, linda was quite confident
as the year began that she would be able
to teach her students effectively. She loves
her subject, really enjoys middle school
students, and discovered, in her 12-week
student teaching experience in a high-
powered suburban middle school, that she
had the instructional competence to make
reading and writing interesting and enjoy-
able for her students.

From her course on culturally relevant
pedagogy, she understands clearly that effec-
tive teachers of students from poor families
must hold high expectations for students and
believe that all students are capable of learn-
ing. Ms. Brubeck expects all of her students
to achieve. Unfortunately, the first six weeks

of the school year have been anything but
enjoyable for linda. Despite her high expec-
tations and love for her subject, her students
will simply not make any significant effort to
complete the work that she asks them to do.
A few students complete the work but don’t
seem to make much of an effort at it. Most
students pretend that they will do the assign-
ments but never seem to produce, whereas
a few other students blantantly and publicly
refuse to even try. Frustrated and in tears,
she approaches Carrie Johnson, a veteran,
African American colleague who is recog-
nized as an amazing teacher by everyone in
the school community. linda pours out her
heart to Carrie, who listens to her sympa-
thetically and then asks a question that leaves
linda speechless. Ms. Johnson asks, “linda,
can you talk to me about some of the things
that you have done to learn about your stu-
dents’ lives outside of school and about them
as individuals?”

Case 4.3
Demand without the Warmth

Chapter 4 • Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 93

goal as making the teacher’s life miserable. However, when students make it clear
that they have a positive relationship with the teacher through their general reactions
to him before, during, and after class, and when the teacher has communicated his
caring and concern to students, the use of referent authority can make influencing
student behavior much easier.

expert authority

Ms. Sanchez in Case 4.4 is a teacher who uses expert authority to influence student
behavior. When a teacher enjoys expert authority, students behave as the teacher
wishes because they view him as a good, knowledgeable teacher who can help them
learn. This is the power of professional competence. To use expert authority effec-
tively, two important conditions must be fulfilled: (1) the students must believe the
teacher has both special knowledge and the teaching skills to help them acquire that
knowledge, and (2) the students must value learning what the teacher is teaching.
Students may value what they are learning for any number of reasons: the subject
matter is inherently interesting, they can use it in the real world, they want good
grades, or they want to reach some personal goal such as college or a job. The more
that a teacher knows about the lives of his students, the more likely it is that the
students will recognize the teacher’s expertise in being able to connect the subject
matter to their world. Knowledge of students’ lives is always important, but it is
particularly important when the teacher is teaching students who are culturally dif-
ferent from the teacher.

The teacher who uses expert authority successfully communicates his
competence through mastery of content material, the use of motivating teaching
techniques, clear explanations, and thorough class preparation. In other words,
the teacher uses his professional knowledge to help students learn. When expert
authority is employed successfully, students make comments similar to these:
“I behave because he is a really good teacher,” “She makes biology interesting,” and
“He makes you really want to learn.” A teacher with an expert authority base might
say to Ms. Knepp’s disruptive class: “I’m sure you realize how important reading is.
If you can’t read, you will have a rough time being successful in our society. You
know that I can help you learn to read and to read well, but I can’t do that if you
won’t behave as I’ve asked you to behave.”

Ms. Sanchez is a chemistry teacher at
lakefront High School. each year, Ms. Sanchez
teaches an advanced placement (AP) chemis-
try course to college-bound seniors. For the
past five years, none of her AP students has
received less than a three on the AP exam.
As a result, each student has received college

credit for AP chemistry. Students in Ms.
Sanchez’s class recognize that she is knowl-
edgeable about chemistry and knows how to
teach. If an observer walks into Ms. Sanchez’s
AP class, even during April and May, he will
find the students heavily involved in class
activities, with little off-task behavior.

Case 4.4
Her Reputation Precedes Her

94 Section 1 • Foundations

As is the case with referent authority, a teacher may be able to use expert
authority with some classes and some students but not with others. A math teacher
may be able to use expert authority with an advanced calculus group but not with a
remedial general math group; an auto mechanics teacher may be able to use expert
authority with the vocational-technical students but not with students who take auto
mechanics to fill up their schedules.

One final caveat concerning this type of authority: whereas most primary school
teachers are perceived as experts by their students, expert authority does not seem
to be effective in motivating these students to behave appropriately. Thus, unlike the
other three authority bases, which can be employed at all levels, the appropriate use
of expert authority seems to be confined to students above the primary grades.

Legitimate authority

The third type of authority identified by French and raven and utilized by Mr. Davis in
Case 4.5 is legitimate authority. The teacher who seeks to influence students through
legitimate authority expects students to behave appropriately because the teacher has
the legal and formal authority for maintaining appropriate behavior in the classroom.
In other words, students behave because the teacher is the teacher, and inherent in
that role are a certain legitimacy and authority.

Teachers who wish to use a legitimate authority base must demonstrate through
their behavior that they accept the responsibilities, as well as the role status, inher-
ent in the role of teacher. Students must view them as fitting the stereotypical image
of teacher (e.g., in dress, speech, and mannerisms). Students must also believe that
teachers and school administrators are working together. School administrators help
teachers gain legitimate authority by making clear through words and actions that
students are expected to treat teachers as legitimate authority figures. Teachers help
themselves gain legitimate authority by following and enforcing school rules and by
supporting school policies and administrators.

Students who behave because of legitimate authority make statements such as,
“I behave because the teacher asked us to. You’re supposed to do what the teacher

Mr. Davis looked at the fourth graders in front
of him, many of whom were talking or star-
ing into space instead of doing the seat work
assignment. He said, “You are really disap-
pointing me. You’re sitting there wasting pre-
cious time. School is not a place for wasting
time. School is your job, just like your parents
have jobs, and it is my job to see that you
work hard and learn during school. Your par-
ents pay taxes so that you’ll have the chance

to come to school and learn. You and I both
have the responsibility to do what we’re sup-
posed to do. now, let’s cut out the talking
and the daydreaming, and do your math.

I will not put up with disrespectful
behavior. I am responsible for making sure
that you learn, and I’m going to do that. If
that means using the principal and other
school authorities to help me do my job, I’ll
do just that.”

Case 4.5
“School Is Your Job”

Chapter 4 • Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 95

says.” A teacher who employs legitimate authority might use a statement in Ms. Knepp’s
class such as, “I do not like the way you people are treating me. I am your teacher.”

Because of the societal changes discussed in Chapter 3, most teachers rightly
believe that today’s students are less likely to be influenced by legitimate authority
than students of 30 or 40 years ago were. However, it is still possible to use legitimate
authority with some classes and some students. Groups of students who generally
accept teacher-set rules and assignments without question or challenge are appropri-
ate groups with whom to use legitimate authority.

reward/coercive authority

notice how the teacher in Case 4.6 is using reward and coercive authority to influence
student behavior. Although they may be considered two separate types of teacher
authority, reward and coercive authority are really two sides of the same coin. They
are both based on behavioral notions of learning, foster teacher control over student
behavior, and are governed by the same principles of application.

There are several requirements for the effective use of this authority base: (1) the
teacher must be consistent in assigning and withholding rewards and punishments,
(2) the teacher must ensure that students see the connection between their behavior
and the reward or punishment, and (3) the rewards or punishments actually must be
perceived as rewards or punishments by the student (many students view a three-day
out-of-school suspension as a vacation, not a punishment).

Teachers employing this base use a variety of rewards, such as oral or written
praise, gold stars, free time, “good news” notes to parents, and release from required
assignments, as well as a variety of punishments, including verbal reprimands, loss
of recess or free time, detention, in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, and
corporal punishment.

Students who behave appropriately because of reward/coercive authority are
apt to say, “I behave because if I don’t, I have to write out a stupid saying 50 times
and get it signed by my parents.” A teacher using reward/coercive authority to solve
Ms. Knepp’s problem might say, “I’ve decided that for every five minutes without
a disruption, this class will earn one point. At the end of each week, for every ten
points it has accumulated, the class may buy one night without homework during the

“O.K., second graders, it’s time to put your
spelling books away and get ready for recess.
now, we all remember that we get ready by
putting all books and supplies neatly and qui-
etly in our desks and then folding our hands
on top of the desk and looking at me quietly.
let’s see which row can get ready first. I see

that Tammy’s row is ready. O.K., Tammy’s row,
you can walk quietly out to the playground.
Oh, no, wait a minute. Where are you going,
Joe? You’re not allowed to go out to recess this
week because of your misbehavior on the bus.
You can go to Mr. li’s room and do your math
assignment. I’ll check it when I get back.”

Case 4.6
Going to Recess

96 Section 1 • Foundations

following week. remember, if there are any disturbances at all, you will not receive a
point for the five-minute period.” This point system is an example of a behavior modi-
fication technique. More information on the use of behavior modification in the class-
room may be obtained in Chapter 10 as well as from Alberto and Troutman (2012) or
Martella et al. (2011).

As is true for the other three authority bases, reward/coercive authority cannot
be used all the time. As students become older, they often resent obvious attempts to
manipulate their behavior through rewards and punishments. In addition, older stu-
dents are very sensitive to the setting in which praise is delivered. Students in middle
and high school typically prefer to receive praise outside of the range of hearing of
others (Dean et al., 2012). It is also difficult with older students to find rewards and
punishments under the classroom teacher’s control that are powerful enough to moti-
vate them. (Still, some teachers have found their control of student time during school
has allowed them to use reward/coercive authority successfully with some students
and some classes at all levels of schooling.) It should be noted that there are some
inherent dangers in the use of reward/coercive authority.

A great deal of controversy surrounds the effects of rewards on students’ intrin-
sic motivation. lepper and Green (1978) first noted that rewarding children for engag-
ing in activities that had been initially intrinsically motivating resulted in decreased
intrinsic motivation for those activities. After many years of research on the issue,
four caveats seem particularly important in considering the use of extrinsic rewards.
First, tangible external rewards (e.g., stickers, candy, free time) seem to undermine
students’ intrinsic motivation for engaging in the activities for which they received
the rewards. The younger the child, the greater the negative impact seems to be
(Deci, Koestner, and ryan, 2001). Second, verbal rewards (e.g., praise) that are linked
to success on a task or to obtaining or exceeding a performance standard do not
seem to negatively affect intrinsic motivation (Cameron, 2001). Third, verbal rewards
that are perceived as primarily conveying information about how well students have
performed on a task are less likely to affect intrinsic motivation negatively. Verbal
rewards, on the other hand, that are seen as tools for controlling students’ behavior
or for manipulating them to engage in a task that they would otherwise perceive as
boring are likely to undermine intrinsic motivation for that activity. Fourth, in any
situation in which one explanation for a person’s behavior seems most powerful and
salient, all other explanations are likely to be ignored or disregarded, both by the
individual himself and by others. Stipek (2002) referred to this phenomenon as the
discounting principle. This principle suggests that if powerful extrinsic rewards are
provided to induce students to engage in a particular task, students will explain their
engagement as being driven by the extrinsic reward and ignore or downplay any
intrinsic value in the activity.

In making sense of this somewhat contested research, we suggest the fol-
lowing guidelines. Whenever possible, use intrinsic motivation and encouragement
(see Chapter 5) rather than extrinsic tangible or verbal rewards. If you see extrinsic
rewards as important in implementing your beliefs about teacher influence, use
the most modest extrinsic rewards possible, that is, verbal rewards rather than
tangible ones. Make the rewards contingent on the quality of task performance or
on some prespecified standard as opposed to a reward for simply engaging in a

Chapter 4 • Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 97

task. For example, in praising students, it is important to provide praise that is spe-
cific and aligned with expected performance behaviors (Dean et al., 2012). Finally,
remove the extrinsic rewards as quickly as possible and help the student recognize
the intrinsic value of the activity through the use of encouragement.

It is important for a teacher to recognize what authority base he uses to influ-
ence students in a given situation and to recognize why that base is appropriate or
inappropriate for the given students and situation. It is also important for the teacher
to recognize the authority base he uses most frequently as well as the authority base
he is comfortable with and would like to use. For some teachers, the two may be
quite different. examining your beliefs about teacher authority bases is one important
step toward ensuring that your beliefs about teacher influence and your actions are
compatible. Table 4.1 offers a brief comparison of the four authority bases on several
significant dimensions.

Of course, most teachers use a combination of authority bases. They use one
for one type of class and students and another for another type of class and students.
They may even use a variety of authority bases with the same students. This may,
indeed, be the most practical and effective approach, although combining certain
authority bases—for example, coercive and referent—may be difficult to do.

taBLe 4.1 Teacher Authority Bases

Referent Expert Legitimate Reward/Coercive

Motivation to

Student likes
teacher as a

Teacher has

Teacher has legal

Teacher can
reward and

Need for teacher
management of
student behavior

Very low Very low Moderate High

for use

Students must
like the teacher
as a person

Teacher expertise
must be perceived
and valued

Students must
respect legal

Rewards and
must be effective

Key teacher

Building positive

mastery of content
and teaching skills

Acts as a teacher
is expected to act

Has and uses
knowledge of
student likes
and dislikes

Age limitations Useful for all

Less useful at
primary level

Useful at all levels Useful at all
levels but less
useful at senior
high level

Caveats Teacher is not
the student’s

Heavily dependent
on student

Societal changes
have lessened the
usefulness of this
authority base

extrinsic over

98 Section 1 • Foundations

theorIes of teacher InfLuence

In this section, we describe three theories about how teachers can influence student
behavior through the teaching decisions that they make. In order to make the dif-
ferences among the three theories clear, we describe each theory as if it were com-
pletely independent of the others. In reality, however, the three theories are more like
three points on a continuum moving from student-directed toward teacher-directed
practices. On such a continuum, collaborative models represent a combination of the
two end points. Of course, the classroom behavior of most teachers represents some
blending of the three theories. As Bob Strachota (1966) noted, “Theories about how
to best help children learn and change have to be broad enough to encompass the
vitality and ambiguity that come with life in a classroom. If relied on too exclusively,
behaviorism or constructivism end[s] up living awkwardly in school” (p. 133). Still, if a
teacher’s behavior is examined over time, it is usually possible to classify the teacher’s
general approach to working with students and influencing students into one of the
theories on a fairly consistent basis.

Before reading the specific theories, determine your answers to the following
nine basic questions about influencing student behavior. Inherent in each theory are
answers, either implicit or explicit, to these questions. If you are aware of your own
beliefs before you begin, you will be able to identify the theory that is aligned most
closely with them.

1. Who has primary responsibility for influencing student behavior?
2. What are your primary goals in establishing your classroom’s learning

3. How do you view time spent on behavioral issues and problems?
4. How would you like students to relate to each other within your classroom?
5. How much choice will you give students within your classroom?
6. What is your primary goal in influencing students who are misbehaving?
7. What interventions will you use to influence students who choose to misbehave?
8. How important to you are individual differences among students?
9. What teacher authority bases are most compatible with your beliefs?

Because the student-directed approach is used less frequently in schools than the
other two approaches and may be unfamiliar, more specific details are provided for it
than for the other two. Additional information concerning these management theories
can be found in Charles and Senter (2010) and Wolfgang (2008).

student-directed theories

Advocates of student-directed teacher influence theories believe that the primary goal
of schooling is to prepare students for life in a democracy, which requires citizens
who are able to control their behavior, care for others, and make wise decisions. When
the first two editions of this text were written, student-directed theories of “classroom
management” (we used the term classroom management instead of teacher influence
at that point in time) were drawn primarily from counseling models. Gordon’s (1989)
teacher effectiveness training, Berne’s (1964) and Harris’s (1969) transactional analysis,
and Ginott’s (1972) communication model relied almost exclusively on one-to-one
conferencing between teacher and student to deal with behavior issues. Such models

Chapter 4 • Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 99

were difficult to implement in the reality of a classroom
filled with 25 to 30 students, each with a variety of tal-
ents, needs, interests, and problems. As a result, teacher-
directed influence models dominated most classrooms.
Since the early 1990s, however, there has been consid-
erable progress in developing student-directed theories
that can be employed effectively within classrooms.
Alfie Kohn (2006), Bob Strachota (1996), ruth Charney
(2002), Putnam and Burke (1992), and writers from
the Developmental Studies Center and the northeast
Foundation for Children have provided a variety of prac-
tical strategies that classroom teachers can use effectively.

The student-directed theory of influence, which
Ms. Koskowski in Case 4.7 uses to handle David’s
behavior, rests on two key beliefs: (1) students must
have the primary responsibility for controlling their
behavior, and (2) students are capable of control-
ling their behavior if given the opportunity to do so.
Given these beliefs, student-directed theories advocate
the establishment of classroom learning communi-
ties that are designed to help students become more
self-directed, more responsible for their own behavior,
more independent in making appropriate choices, and
more caring toward fellow students and their teachers.
The successful classroom learning environment is one
in which students care for and collaborate successfully
with each other, make good choices, and continuously
strive to do high-quality work that is interesting and
important to them.

Teachers often use punishment and rewards;
however, they may not be the most effective
means for influencing student behavior.

Ms. Koskowski, Ms. Sweely, and Mr. Green
teach fourth grade at longmeadow School.
Although they work well together and
like each other, they have very different
approaches to classroom discipline. To illus-
trate their differing approaches, let’s exam-
ine their behavior as each one deals with the
same situation.

Three students are at the reading center
in the far right-hand corner and two students

are working quietly on insects at the science
interest center near the chalkboard located
in the front of the room. Five students are
correcting math problems individually, and
ten students are working with the teacher in
a reading group. David, one of the students
working alone, begins to mutter out loud,
“I hate this math. It’s too hard to do. I never
get them right. Why do we have to learn
about fractions anyway?” As his monologue

Case 4.7
Handling Disruptive David


100 Section 1 • Foundations

When viewed from a student-directed perspective, time spent on behavior is
seen as time well spent on equipping students with skills that will be important
to them as adult citizens in a democracy. The responsive classroom approach to
student-directed classroom environments points out five social skills that are excep-
tionally important for all healthy human beings to develop. The skills can be summed
up in the acronym, CAreS: C–cooperation, A–assertiveness, r–responsibility,
e–empathy, and S–self-control (Denton and Kriete, 2000). In attempting to develop
a student-directed learning environment in which students develop self-regulation
skills, collaborative social skills, and decision-making skills, the teacher relies heavily
on several major concepts: student ownership, student choice, community, and con-
flict resolution and problem solving.

Student ownership is established in several ways. Although the teacher takes
responsibility for the arrangement of the classroom and for the safety of the environ-
ment, students are often responsible for deciding how the room should be decorated;
for creating the posters, pictures, and other works that decorate the walls; and for
maintaining the room. Throughout the year, students rotate through committees (the

continues, David’s voice begins to get louder
and clearly becomes a disruption for the
other students.

Ms. Koskowski

Ms. Koskowski recognizes that David, who is
not strong in math, is really frustrated by the
problems on fractions. She walks over to him
and quietly says, “You know, David, the other
night I was trying to learn to play tennis, and
I was getting really frustrated. It helped me to
take a break and get away from it for a min-
ute, just to clear my head. How about if you do
that now? Go get a drink of water, and when
you come back, you can get a fresh start.”
When David returns to his seat and begins to
work, Ms. Koskowski helps him think through
the first problem and then watches and listens
as he does the second one on his own.

Ms. Sweely

As soon as she sees that David is beginning
to interrupt the other students, Ms. Sweely
gives the reading group a question to think

about and walks toward David’s desk. She
puts her hand gently on his shoulder, but the
muttering continues. She says, “David, you
are disrupting others; please stop talking and
get back to math.” David stops for about five
seconds but then begins complaining loudly
again. “David, since you can’t work without
disrupting other people, you will have to go
back to the castle [a desk and rocking chair
partitioned off from the rest of the class] and
finish your math there. Tomorrow, if you
believe that you can handle it, you may rejoin
your math group.”

Mr. Green

As soon as David’s muttering becomes
audible, Mr. Green says, “David, that behav-
ior is against our class rules. Stop talking and
concentrate on your math.” David stops talk-
ing momentarily but begins again. Mr. Green
walks calmly to David’s desk and removes a
small, round, blue chip. As he does, he says,
“Well, David, you’ve lost them all now. That
means no more recess today and no good-
news note to your mom and dad.”


Chapter 4 • Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 101

art supplies committee, the plants and animals committee, the cleanup committee,
etc.) that are responsible for various aspects of the class’s work. These committees are
often structured so that students gain experience in planning, delegating, and evaluat-
ing their own work in a fair and equitable manner.

Students are also given a great deal of responsibility for determining classroom
rules. Typically, a class meeting is held during which the teacher and students discuss
how they want their classroom to be. Students are asked to think about the ways they
are treated by others that make them feel good or bad. These experiences are then
used as a springboard for a discussion about how the students want to treat each other
in the classroom. The students’ words become the guidelines for classroom behavior.

Choice plays a key role in student-directed learning environments because it is
believed that a student can learn to make good choices only if he has the opportunity
to make choices. In addition to making choices about the physical environment of the
room and the expectations for behavior, students are given choices about classroom
routines and procedures, topics and questions to be studied in curriculum units, learn-
ing activities, and the assessment of their learning including assessment options and
criteria. Classroom meetings, which are viewed as important vehicles for establish-
ing and maintaining a caring classroom community, provide more opportunities for
choices. Agendas for the meetings, which may be planning and decision-making meet-
ings, check-in meetings, or problem-solving and issues-oriented meetings, are often
suggested by the students (Developmental Studies Center, 1996).

Through the physical arrangement of the room, class meetings, and planned
learning activities, the teacher attempts to build a community of learners who know
and care for each other and work together productively. A great deal of time is spent

Cooperative learning activities can help students realize that they have responsibilities
to both themselves and the class.

102 Section 1 • Foundations

at the beginning of the year helping students get to know each other through get-
acquainted activities, meetings, and small-group activities. Throughout the year, coop-
erative learning activities stressing individual accountability, positive interdependence,
face-to-face interaction, social skill development, and group processing are utilized
(see Chapter 5). These types of activities are emphasized because student-directed
theorists believe that students learn more in collaborative activities and that when
they know and care for those in their classroom community, they are more likely to
choose to behave in ways that are in everyone’s best interest.

Interpersonal conflict is seen as a teachable moment (Crowe, 2009). Student-
directed teachers realize that conflict is inevitable when individuals are asked to
work closely together. In fact, the absence of conflict is probably a good indication
that individuals are not working together very closely. Thus, these teachers believe
that helping students deal with interpersonal conflict productively is an important
goal of classroom management. Conflict resolution, peer mediation, and interper-
sonal problem-solving skills are taught just as academic content is taught. Students
are encouraged to use the skills when conflicts arise. Issues that concern the class
as a whole—conflicts concerning the sharing of equipment, class cliques, and rela-
tionship problems—become occasions for using group problem-solving skills during
class meetings. Some teachers even use class meetings to involve the entire class
in helping improve the behavior of a particular student. It is important to note that
encouraging caring relationships and teaching ways to deal with conflict produc-
tively go hand-in-hand and demand ongoing effort and consistency on the part of the
teacher. If students do not know or care about each other, conflict is hard to resolve.
Conversely, if students do not acquire the ability to resolve conflict productively, they
are unlikely to build caring relationships with each other.

Student misbehavior is seen not as an affront to the teacher’s authority but rather
as the student’s attempt to meet needs that are not being met. In response to misbe-
havior, the teacher tries to determine what motivates the child and to find ways to
meet the unmet needs. A student-directed teacher would view the behavior problems
in Ms. Knepp’s class, Case 4.1, as a clear indication that student needs were not being
met by the learning activities and curriculum. He probably would hold a class meeting
to address the problem behaviors in the classroom. He would articulate his feelings
and reactions to the class and would elicit student feelings about the class as well.
Through a discussion of their mutual needs and interests, the teacher and the class
would develop a solution to the problem that would probably include some redesign
of the tasks that students were asked to perform.

Kohn (2006) suggested that the two questions the teacher should ask when a
child is off-task are (1) “What is the task?” and (2) “Is it really a task worth doing?”
Many teachers try to identify with the child. Strachota (1996) called this “getting on
their side.” This strategy seems especially appropriate when coping with students who
seem out of control and unable to behave appropriately. If a teacher can identify expe-
riences in which he has felt out of control, he is usually more empathetic and helpful
(see Chapter 10). In Case 4.7, Ms. Koskowski employs this strategy with David.

Student-directed teachers also believe in allowing students to experience the
consequences of their behavior. natural consequences (consequences that do not
require teacher intervention) are the most helpful because they allow the student to
experience the results of his behavior directly. However, sometimes the teacher must

Chapter 4 • Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 103

use logical consequences. The teacher’s role in using consequences is neither to aug-
ment nor to alleviate the consequences but rather to support the child or the class
as the consequences are experienced. This can be a difficult role for teachers and
parents to play. even when a teacher can predict that a given choice is going to lead
to negative consequences, student-directed theorists argue, the student should experi-
ence the consequence unless that will bring great harm to the child. Students learn to
make wise choices, according to student-directed theorists, by recognizing that their
behavior inevitably has consequences for themselves and others.

Some student-directed theorists also believe that restitution is an important part
of dealing with misbehavior when a behavior has hurt other students. In order to
emphasize that the classroom is a caring community and that individual behavior
has consequences for others, a student whose behavior has hurt others is required
to make amends to those harmed. One strategy used by some teachers is called “an
apology of action” (Forton, 1998). The student who has been hurt is allowed to decide
what the offending student must do to make restitution. The strategy not only helps
students recognize that inappropriate behavior hurts others but also can be a power-
ful way to mend broken relationships.

referent and expert teacher authority bases seem most compatible with stu-
dent-directed influence theories. each authority base emphasizes students’ control
over their own behavior. At the same time, the student-directed perspective adds a
new dimension to the notion of expert authority. Students must recognize the teach-
er’s specialized knowledge and his ability to build a caring classroom community
in which students are given the opportunity to make choices and take responsibil-
ity for directing their own behavior. Putting this philosophy into practice demands
highly competent and committed teachers who truly believe that enabling students
to become better decision makers who are able to control their own behavior is
an important goal of schooling. These teachers must be committed to establishing
more democratic classrooms that are true caring communities. A teacher who is not
committed to these beliefs will be unwilling to invest the time and effort needed to
establish a student-directed learning environment. long-term commitment is one
key to success.

It is important to note that student-directed classrooms are not laissez-faire situ-
ations or classrooms without standards. In fact, the standards for student behavior
in most of these classrooms are exceptionally high. When student efforts fall short
of meeting agreed-upon standards for behavior and work, the teacher plays the role
of encourager, helping students identify ways to improve. The teacher’s role is not to
punish the student with behavior or academic problems but rather to find ways to
help the student overcome the problems.

Although potentially applicable at all grade levels, student-directed strategies
seem most well suited for self-contained early childhood and elementary settings for
several reasons. First, students and teachers in these settings typically spend a large
portion of the day together, which gives them the opportunity to build close rela-
tionships. Second, because the classes are self-contained, it is possible to build a
community in which students really know and care about each other. Finally, teach-
ers in these settings have greater control over the allocation of time during the day
than do most secondary teachers. Because they are not “bell bound,” they are free
to spend more time dealing with classroom behavior issues with individual students

104 Section 1 • Foundations

or the class as a whole. The current practice of teacher looping in which teachers
stay with one group of students for two or three years (e.g., from first through sec-
ond or third grade) provides an outstanding opportunity to create a student-directed
environment because teachers and students work together for an extended period of
time. Secondary schools would seem to be well served by adopting similar structures
to personalize the environment and make it more student directed, for example, by
instituting block scheduling. At present, in many secondary schools, students and
teachers spend only 45 minutes together per day, and an individual teacher may teach
150 students or more per day. In such environments, it is difficult, if not impossible,
for students and teachers to get to know each other personally, to understand each
other’s needs, and to establish a caring community. Teachers who can do so are truly

collaborative theories

Collaborative theories of teacher influence are based on the belief that influencing
student behavior is the joint responsibility of the student and the teacher. Although
those who adopt the collaborative approaches often believe in many of the tenets of
student-directed theories, they also believe that the number of students in a class and
the size of most schools make it impractical to put a student-directed philosophy into
practice. Many secondary teachers, in particular, believe that the size of their classes
and the limited time they have with students make it imperative for them to place
the needs of the group above the needs of any individual student. Following the col-
laborative theories, then, students must be given some opportunity to control their
own behavior because a long-range goal of schooling is to enable students to become
mature adults who can control their own behavior, but the teacher, as a professional,
retains primary responsibility for influencing student behavior because the classroom
is a group learning situation.

In Case 4.7, Ms. Sweely represents collaborative theory in action. note that she
tries to protect the reading group activity and, at the same time, deal with David.
While the group is occupied, she uses touch interference (see Chapter 8) to signal
David that he should control his behavior. When he cannot, she emphasizes the
effect of his behavior on others and separates him from the rest of the group to help
him recognize the logical consequences of being disruptive in a group situation.
Thus, the teacher oriented toward collaborative theories promotes individual con-
trol over behavior but sometimes subordinates this goal to the right of all students
to learn.

When viewed from the collaborative perspective, the goal of establishing a
learning environment is to develop a well-organized classroom in which students are
(1) engaged in learning activities, (2) usually successful, (3) respectful of the teacher
and fellow students, and (4) cooperative in following classroom guidelines because
they understand the rationale for the guidelines and see them as appropriate for the
learning situation. From the collaborative point of view, students become capable of
controlling their own behavior not by simply following rules but rather by under-
standing why rules exist and then choosing to follow them because they make sense.
neither blind obedience to rules nor complete freedom in deciding what rules should
exist is seen as the best route toward self-regulated behavior.

Chapter 4 • Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 105

In collaborative classrooms, the teacher and students develop rules and pro-
cedures jointly. Some teachers begin with a minimum list of rules—those that are
most essential—and allow students to develop additional ones. Other teachers give
students the opportunity to suggest rules but retain the right to add rules or veto
suggested rules. Both of these techniques are intended to help the teacher maintain
the ability to use his professional judgment to protect the rights of the group as a

Teachers who adopt a collaborative approach to teacher influence often give
students choices in other matters as well. Typically, the choices are not as open
ended as those provided by student-directed advocates. For example, instead of
allowing students to develop the criteria for judging the quality of their work, a col-
laborative teacher might present a list of ten potential criteria and allow students
to choose the five criteria that will be used. Thus, the students are provided with
choices, but the choices are confined to some degree by the teacher’s professional
judgment. This same system of providing choice within a given set of options may be
followed in arranging and decorating the classroom or selecting topics to be pursued
during academic units.

Advocates of a collaborative approach see time spent on behavior issues as
potentially productive for the individual but not for the class as a whole unless there
is a major problem interfering with the learning of a large number of students. Thus,
collaborative teachers, whenever possible, do not take time away from group learning
to focus on the behavior of an individual or a few students. Interpersonal conflicts are
treated in a similar way. They are not dismissed, but collaborative teachers usually do
not use classroom time to deal with them unless they involve many students. When
an interpersonal conflict arises, the teacher deals with the individuals involved when
there is a window of time to do so. Class meetings are used to deal with issues or
conflicts involving large numbers of students. Collaborative teachers tend to view a
class meeting as a means for solving problems rather than as an integral process for
maintaining the classroom community.

While collaborative influence advocates believe that outward behavior must be
managed to protect the rights of the group, they also believe the individual’s thoughts
and feelings must be explored to get at the heart of the behavior. Therefore, collabora-
tive teachers often use deliberate interventions (see Chapter 8) to influence student
behavior in a group situation and then follow up with a conference with the student.
Because collaborative theorists believe that relating behavior to its natural or logical
consequences helps students learn to anticipate the consequences of their behavior
and thus become more self-regulating (see Chapters 6 and 9 for discussions of conse-
quences), they advocate consequences linked as closely as possible to the misbehavior
itself. A student who comes to school five minutes late, for example, might be required
to remain five minutes after school to make up work.

The teacher authority bases most compatible with collaborative theories are the
expert and legitimate bases. each of these authority bases rests on the belief that the
primary purpose of schools is to help students learn important information and pro-
cesses. Therefore, the teacher must protect the rights of the group while still nurturing
the learning of individual students. A collaborative teacher in Ms. Knepp’s class might
decide to hold a class meeting to review the classroom expectations and the rationale
for them, to answer any questions or concerns regarding those expectations, and to

106 Section 1 • Foundations

remind students that the expectations will be enforced through the use of logical con-
sequences. The teacher might also allow the class to make some choices concerning
upcoming activities and events from a list of options that he has presented. Four well-
known collaborative models come from the work of Dreikurs (2004), Glasser (1992),
Curwin and Mendler (1999; 2008), and nelson (2006).

teacher-directed theories

Advocates of teacher-directed theories believe that students become good decision
makers by internalizing the rules and guidelines for behavior that are given to them
by responsible and caring adults. The teacher’s task, then, is to develop a set of guide-
lines and rules that will create a productive learning environment, to be sure that the
students understand the rules, and to develop a consistent system of rewards and
punishments that make it likely that students will follow the guidelines and rules. The
goal of teacher-directed theories is to create a learning environment in which behavior
issues and concerns play a minimal role, to discourage misbehavior, and to deal with
it as swiftly as possible when it does occur. Using these theories, the teacher assumes
primary responsibility for influencing student behavior. Time spent on behavior issues
is not seen as productive time because it reduces time for teaching and learning. The
well-managed classroom is seen as one in which the learning environment operates
efficiently and students are cooperative and consistently engaged in learning activi-
ties. The primary emphasis in teacher-directed classrooms is on academic content and

In teacher-directed environments, the teacher makes almost all of the major
decisions, including room arrangement, seating assignments, classroom decorations,
academic content, assessment devices and criteria, and decisions concerning the day-
to-day operation of the classroom. Students may be given a role to play in implement-
ing teacher decisions—for example, they may be asked to create a poster—but they
are usually restricted to implementing the teacher’s decisions. Advocates of teacher-
directed theories view the teacher as a trained professional who understands students,
teaching, and the learning process and therefore is in the best position to make such

Usually the teacher presents his rules and a system of consequences or punish-
ments for breaking them to students on the first or second day of school. Students are
often asked to sign a commitment to obeying the rules, and frequently their parents
or guardians are asked to sign a statement declaring that they are aware of the rules.
Consequences for misbehavior are not always directly related to the misbehavior itself
but rather are universal consequences that can be applied to a variety of transgres-
sions. For example, the student’s name may be written on the board, a check mark
may be made in the grade book, or a call may be made to the student’s family. Many
teachers also establish a set of rewards that are provided to the class as a whole if
everyone follows the rules consistently. Punishments and rewards are applied consis-
tently to ensure that the procedures and rules are internalized by all.

Although teachers who follow teacher-directed approaches do use cooperative
learning strategies, their influence strategies are not usually focused on the creation
of a caring classroom community in which caring is a primary motivator for choosing

Chapter 4 • Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 107

to behave appropriately. In a teacher-directed classroom, the primary relationship is
usually that between the teacher and individual students. Students tend to be seen as
a collection of individuals who should not interfere with each other’s right to learn
or with the teacher’s right to teach. Self-control is often viewed as a matter of will. If
students want to control their own behavior, they can.

Given this, conflict is seen as threatening, nonproductive, and disruptive of the
learning process. The teacher deals swiftly with any outward manifestations of a con-
flict but usually not with the thoughts and feelings that have resulted in conflict.
Students have a right to feel upset, it is argued, but not to act in inappropriate ways.
Using the predetermined list of punishments or consequences, the teacher influences
the misbehaving student toward more appropriate behavior by applying the appro-
priate consequence. For the most part, punishments are sequenced so that second or
third offenses bring more stringent consequences than first offenses. Although indi-
vidual differences may play an important part in the academic aspects of classroom
work, they do not play a major role in the behavior intervention process. Consider
the actions of Mr. Green in Case 4.7. As an advocate of teacher-directed influence, he
moves quickly to stop the misbehavior, emphasizes classroom rules, employs blue
chips as rewards, and uses punishments in the form of loss of recess privileges and
good-news notes.

Clearly reward and coercive authority are most compatible with the teacher-
directed theories. Advocates use clear, direct, explicit communication; behavior con-
tracting; behavior modification; token economy systems; consistent reinforcement of
appropriate behavior; and group rewards and punishments. A teacher following this
approach might handle Ms. Knepp’s dilemma by setting up a group intervention plan
in which the group earned points for appropriate behavior. The points could then be
exchanged for meaningful rewards. At the same time, the teacher uses a predeter-
mined set of punishments for any students who misbehaved.

The teacher who wants to use a teacher-directed approach should be aware
of some important considerations. A thorough understanding of the principles of
behavioral psychology is necessary in order to apply behavior modification appro-
priately. Individual student differences do play a role in the intervention system
because they must be considered in developing rewards and punishments. After all,
what is a reward to some individuals may be a punishment to others. Thus, most
teacher-directed theorists are concerned with students’ thoughts and emotions; how-
ever, the primary goal in dealing with misbehavior is redirection of the students’
outward behavior, not inner feelings. Therefore, individual differences do not play
a role in determining what behaviors are acceptable. Finally, the effective use of
behavior modification with secondary students tends to be much more difficult for
several reasons: (1) the reactions of other students are more powerful than those of
the teacher, (2) students have reached a higher stage of moral reasoning, and (3)
in-school rewards are not as powerful as out-of-school rewards. Some well-known
authors of teacher-directed systems derived from the teacher-directed perspective
are Alberto and Troutman (2012), Canter and Canter (2007), Cangelosi (2008), and
nelson, Marchand-Martella, and O’reilly (2011).

Table 4.2 provides a summary of the three theories of influence in terms of their
answers to the nine basic questions introduced at the beginning of this section.

108 Section 1 • Foundations

taBLe 4.2 Theories of Teacher Influence

Question Student Directed Collaborative Teacher Directed

Primary responsibility
for influence

Student Joint Teacher

Goal of environment Caring community
focus and

academic focus

Well-organized, efficient,
academic focus

Time spent
on behavior

Valuable and

Valuable for individual
but not for group

Wasted time

Relationships within

Caring, personal

Respect for each

Noninterference with
each other’s rights

Provision of student

Wide latitude and

Choices within

Very limited

Primary goal in
handling misbehavior

Unmet needs to
be explored

Minimize in group;
pursue individually

Minimize disruption,

Interventions used Individual conference,
group problem
solving, restitution,
natural consequences

Coping skills,
natural and logical
con sequences, anecdotal
record keeping

Clear communication,
rewards and
behavior contracting



Somewhat important Minor importance

Teacher authority

Referent, expert Expert, legitimate Reward/coercive,

Theorists Charney, Crowe,
Faber and Mazlish,
Gordon, Kohn,

Curwin, Mendler and
Mendler, Dreikurs, Erwin,
Glasser, Fay and Funk,

Alberto and Troutman,
Cangelosi, Canter
and Canter, Martella
et al., Kerr and Nelson

The first section of the chapter provided an
explanation of the four teacher authority
bases: referent, expert, legitimate, and reward/
coercive. each base was presented in terms of
the underlying assumptions about student moti-
vation to behave, the assumed need for teacher
control over student behavior, the requirements
for employing the base effectively, the key
teacher behaviors in using the base, and limita-
tions and caveats concerning its use.

The second section discussed nine basic
questions that are useful for articulating beliefs
about teacher influence:

1. Who has primary responsibility for man-
aging student behavior?

2. What is your primary goal in establishing
a classroom learning environment?

3. How do you view time spent on behavior
issues and problems?


Chapter 4 • Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 109

4. How would you like students to relate to
each other within your classroom?

5. How much choice will you give students
within your classroom?

6. What is your primary goal in handling

7. What interventions will you use to deal
with misbehavior?

8. How important to you are individual dif-
ferences among students?

9. What teacher authority bases are most
compatible with your beliefs?

Articulating one’s beliefs is the initial
step toward developing a systematic plan for
influencing student behavior. These nine basic
questions were used to analyze three theories
of teacher influence: student directed, collab-
orative, and teacher directed.

The information and questions provided
in this chapter may be used by teachers to
develop a plan for preventing behavior prob-
lems and for dealing with disruptive student
behavior that is congruent with their basic
beliefs about teaching and learning.

You can visit the websites listed here to get more
information about the various models of classroom
management that were discussed in the chapter.

student-Directed Theories—northeast
Foundation for Children—Thomas Gordon’s
model—Haim Ginott’s ideas—Alfie Kohn’s model

Collaborative Theories—William Glasser’s ideas—Curwin and Mendler’s model

Teacher-Directed Theories—Canter’s model

Teacher authority Bases on the Web

Influence Theories on the Web

1. If one of the long-term goals of teaching is for
students to gain control over their own behav-
ior, what are some advantages and disadvan-
tages of using each of the four teacher authority
bases to help students achieve that goal?

2. Do you think there is any relationship between
teacher job satisfaction and the authority base
the teacher uses most frequently to influence
student behavior? Why or why not?

3. What specific teacher behaviors would indicate
to you that a teacher was trying to use (a) refer-
ent authority and (b) expert authority?

4. Using referent authority successfully requires
the teacher to communicate caring to students.

(a) How can a teacher communicate caring
without initiating personal friendships? (b) As
you see it, is there a danger in initiating per-
sonal friendships with students?

5. What are some strategies that you would use
as a teacher to gain a better understanding
of your students’ family lives and cultural

6. If one of the long-range goals of teaching is
to help students gain control over their own
behavior, what are the advantages and dis-
advantages of each of the three theories of
teacher influence in helping students meet that


110 Section 1 • Foundations

7. Think of the best teacher that you have ever
had. What authority base and influence model
was this teacher using the majority of the time?

8. Think of the worst teacher you have ever had.
What authority base and influence model was
this teacher using the majority of the time?

9. Beliefs About Teacher Influence—Forced
Choice Activity

directions: You will see several groups of
three statements about teacher influence. read
each statement and think about how much you
agree or disagree with each. Place the numbers
of the statements in one of three boxes corre-
sponding to the degree that you agree with each
statement. Place the statement you agree with
most in the top choice box, the one you agree
with second most in the middle choice box,
and the one you agree with least in the lowest
choice box. For a given group of statements,
you might agree or disagree strongly with all
three, but you must still place each statement
in one box.

Group 1: Responsibility for Controlling Behavior

a. As an adult, the teacher has primary respon-
sibility for controlling student behavior.

b. responsibility for controlling student
behavior is a shared responsibility of stu-
dent and teacher.

c. The student alone has primary responsibil-
ity for controlling his or her behavior.

Place the letter of each statement in one of
these three boxes:

Top Choice Middle Choice Lowest Choice

Group 2: Goal of Classroom Learning

d. The goal is the development of a caring
community of self-directed learners.

e. The goal is an efficiently run classroom in
which academic learning is maximized.

f. The goal is the development of an environ-
ment in which students feel respected and
academic learning is the focus.

Place the letter of each statement in one of
these three boxes:

Top Choice Middle Choice Lowest Choice

Group 3: Goal in Dealing with Misbehavior

g. The goal in dealing with misbehavior is to
minimize the loss of learning time.

h. The goal in dealing with misbehavior is to
find a way to help the misbehaving student
while minimizing the loss of learning time
for others.

i. The goal in dealing with misbehavior is to
identify the unmet need that led the student
to misbehave and to find a productive way
to get that need met.

Place the letter of each statement in one of
these three boxes:

Top Choice Middle Choice Lowest Choice

Group 4: Students’ Relationships with Each Other

j. Above all, students must learn to really care
about each other as people.

k. Above all, students must learn not to inter-
fere with each other’s right to learn.

l. Above all, students should learn to respect
each other as well as the teacher.

Place the letter of each statement in one of
these three boxes:

Top Choice Middle Choice Lowest Choice

Group 5: Choices and Freedom

m. Students should be given freedom and
choices about classroom activities within
options defined by the teacher.

n. Students should be given lots of freedom
and choices about classroom activities.

o. Given their limited experience, students
should not be given much freedom and
choice. The teacher must make the decisions.

Chapter 4 • Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students 111

Place the letter of each statement in one of
these three boxes:

Top Choice Middle Choice Lowest Choice

Group 6: Consistency and Individual Needs

p. Because students are different in terms of
their needs, it is okay for teachers to handle
discipline problems in different ways for
different individuals.

q. Consistency is crucial. Misbehavior must
be dealt with in the same way for all

r. In dealing with individual differences, the
teacher must find a way to balance the
need for consistency with the need to meet
individual needs.

Place the letter of each statement in one of
these three boxes:

Top Choice Middle Choice Lowest Choice

10. Beliefs about Teacher influence—forced
choice activity: connections to Management
Philosophies and Theories

directions: Give each top choice 3 points, each
middle choice 2 points, and each lowest choice
1 point in the blank in the chart that follows
that corresponds to that item’s number and

letter. Then add up the total points in each col-
umn to see how your choices match the three

Teacher Directed Collaborative Student Directed

1a 1b 1c
2e 2f 2d
3g 3h 3i
4k 4l 4j
5o 5m 5n
6q 6r 6p
Total Total Total

11. Principles of Teacher Behavior After read-
ing Chapter 4 and doing the exercises, use
what you have learned to briefly describe your
understanding of the implications of the prin-
ciples listed at the beginning of the chapter for
classroom teachers.

PrInCIPle 1:

PrInCIPle 2:

PrInCIPle 3:


Iterative Case Study Analyses

second analysis

Considering the concepts discussed in the Foundation section, Chapters 1
through 4, reanalyze your first analysis. What has changed and what has stayed
the same since your first analysis? Once again, consider why the students may
be choosing to behave inappropriately and how you might intervene to influence
them to stop the disruptive behavior and resume appropriate on-task behavior.

Elementary School Case Studies

“I don’t remember” During silent reading time in my fourth-grade class,
I have built in opportunities to work individually with students. During this
time, the students read to me and practice word work with flash cards.
One student has refused to read to me but, instead, only wants to work
with the flash cards. After a few times, I suggested we work with flash cards
this time and begin reading next time. He agreed. The next time we met,
I reminded him of our plan, and he screamed, “I don’t remember. I want to do
word cards.” At this point, I tried to find out why he didn’t like reading, and he
said, “There’s a reason, I just can’t tell you,” and he threw the word cards across
the room, some of them hitting other students. What should I do?

“Let’s do it again” Cathy is in my third-grade class. Whenever I ask the class
to line up for recess, lunch, or to change classes, Cathy is always the last to get
in line. When she does, she pushes, shoves, and touches the other students.
When this happens, I usually demand that all the children return to their seats,
and we repeatedly line up again and again until Cathy lines up properly. I thought
that peer pressure would cause Cathy to change her behavior, but, instead, it has
resulted in my students being late to “specials” and having less time for recess
and lunch.

Middle School Case Studies

“It makes me look cool” I can’t stop thinking about a problem I’m having in
class with a group of 12-year-old boys. They consistently use vulgar language to
one another and some of the shy kids in the class, especially the girls. In addi-
tion, they are always pushing and shoving one another. I’ve tried talking to them
about why they keep using bad language when they know it’s inappropriate.


The response I get is that “it makes me look cool and funny in front of my friends.”
I have asked them to please use more appropriate language in the classroom, but
that has not worked. I haven’t even started to deal with the pushing and shoving.
What should I do?

“My parents will be gone all weekend” One of my seventh-grade girls was
passing notes to a boy two rows over. After the second note, I made eye contact
with her and it stopped for about half an hour. When I saw her getting ready to
pass another note, I went over to her desk and asked her to give me the note and
told her that that the note passing had to stop. She looked very upset, but she did
give me the note. I folded it and put it in my desk drawer. When class ended, she
ran out of the room crying. My personal policy is not to read students’ notes but,
instead, give it back to the student at the end of class or throw it away. However,
this time, maybe because of her reaction, something told me to read the note.
It said “Mike, my parents will be away Saturday night. Why don’t you and John
sleep over? It will be fun. I promise I’ll do whatever you want me to do and that
you and John can do anything you want to me.” What should I as the teacher do?

High School Case Studies

“Homo” This past week I had a student approach me about a problem he was
experiencing in our class. This eleventh-grade student had recently “come out”
as a homosexual. He said he was tired and upset with the three boys who sit near
him. These boys frequently call him a “homo” and a “fag” every time they see
him, both in and out of class.

“Why don’t you get out of my face?” A twelfth-grade student came up to
me the first day of class and said, “My name is Ted. I don’t want to be here,
so just leave me alone and we’ll get along just fine.” I did not react to his com-
ment but, instead, said “After you see what we will be learning, I think you will
find the class interesting.” Ted walked away and took a seat in the back of
the room. Later that week, I noticed Ted was reading a magazine while every-
one else was working on an in-class assignment. Without making it obvious,
I walked by Ted’s desk and quietly asked him to put away the magazine and to
begin working on the assignment. Ted turned to me and said, “Maybe you don’t
understand; I asked you not to bother me. I’m not bothering you, so why don’t
you get out of my face?”


The Professional


PrinciPles of Teacher Behavior ThaT influence
aPProPriaTe sTudenT Behavior

1. Developing positive relationships with students will enhance the teacher’s
instructional effectiveness and exert a great influence on student learning.

2. Student learning and on-task behavior are maximized when teaching
strategies are based on what educators know about student development,
how people learn, and what constitutes effective teaching.

The Basics

Nature of the Discipline Problem

Understanding Why Children Misbehave

Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students

The Professional Teacher
Positive Student-Teacher Relationships and Effective Teaching •

The Basics of Effective Teaching
Lesson Design • Student Motivation (Teacher Variables) • Teacher Expectations

• Classroom Questioning • Time-on-Task

Beyond the Basics
• Teaching for Understanding • Creating Learning Communities
• Teaching for Multiple Intelligences • Differentiated Instruction

• Student Motivation (Student Variables)

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 115

Prereading acTiviTy: undersTanding The PrinciPles
of Teacher Behavior

Before reading Chapter 5, briefly describe your understanding of the implications
of the principles for a classroom teacher:

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Prereading QuesTions for reflecTion and Journaling

1. What role does relationship building with students and learning about them as
individuals play in effective teaching?

2. As you think about what good teaching looks like, make a list of key instructional
behaviors that teachers can use to maximize their instructional effectiveness.

3. What can teachers do to motivate students to choose to be actively engaged in
learning activities?

4. How do cultural differences between the teacher and students impact effective


Classroom management is frequently conceptualized as a matter of control
rather than as a dimension of curriculum, instruction, and overall school climate
(Duke, 1982). In reality, classroom management is closely intertwined with effec-
tive instruction: “Research findings converge on the conclusion that teachers who
approach classroom management as a process of establishing and maintaining
effective learning environments tend to be more successful than teachers who place
more emphasis on their roles as authority figures or disciplinarians” (Brophy, 1988a,
p. 1). An integral aspect of creating an appropriate learning environment is making
ongoing efforts to get to know students well and build supportive relationships
with them. In the hierarchical decision-making model of classroom management
presented in this text, the teacher must ensure that she has done all she can to pre-
vent problems from occurring before using intervention techniques. This means that
the teacher’s classroom instructional behavior must match the behaviors defined as
best professional practice—that is, those behaviors most likely to maximize student
learning and influence appropriate student behavior. If they do not, employing tech-
niques to remediate misbehavior is likely to prove fruitless because the misbehavior
will inevitably recur.

Unfortunately, one of the problems that has long plagued classroom teachers
has been identifying the yardstick that should be used to measure their teaching
behavior against best professional practice. Fortunately, there is a growing knowl-
edge base, which when used as input for professional decision making as opposed

116 Section 2 • Prevention

to a checklist of behaviors, can help teachers ensure that their practice will enhance
student learning and appropriate behavior.

This chapter presents a synopsis of that knowledge base. The chapter is divided
into three parts. The first section, Positive Student-Teacher Relationships and Effective
Teaching, focuses on the key role that the teacher-student relationship plays in how stu-
dents perceive both the classroom learning environment and the teacher’s instructional
competence. Section two, The Basics of Effective Teaching, explains research that
emphasizes teacher behaviors that promote student achievement as measured by most
standardized, paper-and-pencil tests. The third section of the chapter, Beyond the
Basics, examines conceptualizations of teaching that focus primarily on student cogni-
tion and student performance on higher-level cognitive tasks.

One of the major differences between sections two and three of this chapter
concerns the emphasis placed on teacher versus student behavior. Early research on
effective teaching was based primarily on the premise that the teacher is the most
important factor in the classroom. Thus, this research focused on the overt behavior
of the teacher during instruction. In the mid-1980s, however, researchers began to
see the student as the most important variable and the student’s thought processes
as the key elements during instruction. As a result, the focus of the research switched
from the overt behavior of the teacher to the covert behavior of the learner during
instruction. This change in focus is most obvious in the research on student motiva-
tion. Indeed, it has led to the two sections on student motivation in this chapter. In the
second section of the chapter, the explanation focuses on student motivation as influ-
enced by teacher behavior. In the final section, the explanation focuses on student
motivation as influenced by student cognition.

PosItIve student-teacher relatIonshIPs
and effectIve teachIng

The reader will note that the concept of positive student-teacher relationships is
discussed in almost every chapter of this text. Although it is true that many chapters
discuss relationship building, the framing of the discussion varies from chapter
to chapter. For example, in Chapter 4, we focused on the connection to referent
authority. In Chapter 7, the focus is on professional knowledge that teachers can use
to control their behavior so that it maximizes positive relationships with students
and families. In Chapters 10 and 11, the focus is on the importance of relation-
ship building in influencing students who exhibit chronic behavior problems. In this
chapter, the concept of positive relationships is framed in terms of its importance in
enhancing teacher instructional competence and effectiveness. The repeated atten-
tion to the importance of relationship building attests to the central role that positive
relationships play in enabling the teacher to influence student behavior more posi-
tively and consistently.

More than 40 years ago, Aspy and Roebuck (1977) published a popular text
entitled Students Do Not Learn from Teachers They Don’t Like. Although we might not
agree completely with the premise of that text, many researchers and theorists, as well
as practicing teachers, would argue that teachers who work hard at getting to know
their students as individuals and who work at building positive relationships with

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 117

them are more likely to positively influence student academic success and appropriate
behavior and be perceived as effective teachers. Recently, one of the authors attended
the retirement party for a beloved elementary principal who had been a teacher, a
curriculum coach, and then a very successful building principal. In her remarks that
evening, the principal, Linda Colangelo said, “I spent literally hundreds of hours dur-
ing my career interviewing teachers. I made it a habit of asking them challenging aca-
demic questions, but as I asked those challenging questions, what I was really trying
to figure out was how they would make my children feel.”

Relationship building is not only an important component of developing the use
of referent authority as noted in Chapter 4, it is also an important aspect of general
teaching effectiveness. Learning about students and building supportive relationships
with them appear to be important for all students, but recent research (Delpit, 2012)
suggests that these teacher behaviors may be even more critical when teachers are
teaching students who are culturally different from the teacher and in working with
students who underachieve.

Relationship building is not apart from skilled teaching; rather it is a part of
skilled teaching. Relationship-building strategies permeate every aspect of effective
teaching practice. Effective teachers build positive relationships as they engage in the
process of establishing rules and routines, as they explain content, when they ask
questions, when they allow students to experience the consequences of their choices,
and as they work with students to solve long-term learning and behavior problems.
As noted in Chapter 3, a sense of significance or belonging is a critical component
of self-esteem. Research suggests that developing a sense of significance has both
short-term and long-term positive impacts on the academic and behavioral outcomes
of schooling and that the failure to establish a sense of significance is connected with
severe long-term negative effects, including poor academic performance, dropping out
of school, and engagement in antisocial behavior (Osterman, 2000). When students
feel a sense of belonging and comfort in a positive classroom climate, they are able to
focus their energies on learning. When students feel that they are in an environment
that is hostile or negative, they are so preoccupied emotionally with dealing with the
negative climate, that little energy is left for cognition (Glick, 2011).

In addressing the question of why so many boys seem to be lagging behind in
school achievement, Kathleen Palmer Cleveland identified the failure to develop a
sense of significance as a possible explanation for poor performance among boys:

It was evident that what was alternately valued or reviled by many boys had
much to do with the experience of school. The types and qualities of their
interactions with peers and teachers seemed to affect boys’ perspectives about
school in general. . . . I wondered how much a sense of belonging had to do
with an underachieving boy’s ability to engage in academic learning and if an
absence of this feeling might negatively affect his behavior, his attitudes about
school in general, and his perceptions about himself as a capable learner.
(2010, p.12)

Cleveland goes on to suggest that belonging is a primary motivator for the in-school
behavior of most boys. Belonging is, in fact, so important that some boys will do

118 Section 2 • Prevention

almost anything, endure almost anything, and inflict on one another almost anything
in order to be part of the group.

Typically, most teachers conceptualize a sense of belonging or significance as
referring to a student’s relationship with peers. Although it is true that a sense of
belonging is intimately connected to peer relationships (especially as students grow
into adolescence), Osterman’s (2000) research synthesis suggests that the teacher’s
feelings about and behavior toward individual students exert tremendous influence on
student-student relationships. This is particularly true in elementary school.

The importance of developing positive teacher-student relationships is also
affirmed by the research that focuses on effective teachers of African American
students. One of the concepts that has been derived from that research to describe
effective teachers is the notion of “warm demanders” (Delpit, 2012). The “demand”
component refers to teachers who make it clear that they have high expectations for
student learning, hold students accountable for meeting those high expectations, and
also are willing to provide students whatever assistance they need to achieve those
goals. The “warm” element refers to teachers who establish strong relationships with
students that communicate a sense of trust and confidence in them and create an
atmosphere of psychological safety that allows students to take risks and make mis-
takes: “Warm demanders expect a great deal from students, convince them of their
own brilliance, and help them to reach their potential in a disciplined and structured
environment” (Delpit, 2012, p. 71).

All students, but especially those students who struggle academically or behav-
iorally, need to believe that the teacher has confidence in their ability to be successful
and is willing to provide the support the student needs (Cleveland, 2010). Teachers
can consciously employ some specific strategies and behaviors over time to create
the trusting relationships with students that will help all students feel believed in
and supported. We briefly discuss some of those strategies here, but they will make
more sense and be more useful when they are placed into the context of profes-
sional knowledge about relationship building that is addressed in Chapter 7. Among
the important teacher behaviors that help build such relationhsips are (1) gaining an
understanding of students’ interests and backgrounds (e.g., through informal conver-
sations as well as observing what students talk about and do); (2) paying attention to
how students learn and tailoring instruction to meet student learning styles; (3) seek-
ing to understand the student’s cultural background and family life and incorporating
that knowledge into curriculum and instruction; (4) using teaching behaviors that indi-
cate affection for students such as humor, smiles, compliments, gratitude, respect, and
so on; (5) making affirming statements that acknowledge effort and affirm growth; (6)
noticing improvements in knowledge, skills, and behavior; (7) taking an interest in
students’ activities outside of school; (8) not taking inappropriate behavior personally;
(9) not holding grudges; (10) giving students second chances when they are not suc-
cessful or make inappropriate behavior choices; and (11) not disparaging or criticizing
students in front of others (Cleveland, 2010; Marzano, Frontier, and Livingston, 2011;
Rothstein-Fisch and Trumbull, 2008). As you read Case 5.1, try to identify what Carol
Rose, the student teacher, who was supervised by one of the authors of this text, did
to create a positive reationship that eventually influenced the academic performance
of Jennifer Fowler.

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 119

Carol Rose was a student teacher in a high
school chemistry class during the spring
semester of the school year. Carol was not
slated to take over this section of chemistry
until the sixth week of the semester, so she
had plenty of opportunities to observe the stu-
dents in the class. One of the most perplexing
students was Jennifer Fowler. Jennifer was an
obese and withdrawn young lady who did not
appear to have any friends in her third period
class. Each day Carol watched as Jennifer
came into class early, sat in the back by her
herself, and stared out the window. When
class started, Jennifer sometimes opened her
notebook and sometimes did not. In either
case, she typically continued to stare out the
window. Carol’s cooperating teacher did not
seem to care whether or not Jennifer opened
her notebook. She told Carol that whether or
not her book was open really didn’t matter
because Jennifer’s mind was clearly some-
where else. She explained that Jennifer had
failed every quiz and test for the entire year
and, as a result, had failed chemistry for the
first two marking periods before Carol came
to student teach. The cooperating teacher’s
advice was to not worry about Jennifer too
much because she probably shouldn’t have
been placed in chemistry anyway.

Carol Rose decided that influencing
Jennifer’s behavior in a positive way would
become her goal. She began by walking back
to Jennifer every day before class started,
greeting her, and trying to begin a conver-
sation to get to know Jennifer better. For
10 days straight, Jennifer responded with a

cursory, “Hi,” answered all questions with
one-word answers, and initiated no interac-
tion on her own. Carol, though discouraged,
was determined not to give up. Then one
day, she noticed Jennifer reading the school
newspaper before class. She asked Jennifer
if she worked on the paper. Jennifer replied
that she did not but that she would like to
become a journalist some day.

Seizing on that opening, Carol explained
to Jennifer that she drove to the school from
campus every day and would be happy to
pick up a copy of the collegiate newspaper
and bring it to Jennifer if she would like
that. Jennifer actually smiled! For two weeks,
Carol faithfully produced the college newspa-
per for Jennifer. Each day, she would also ask
Jennifer what she had read in the paper that
she found interesting. Jennifer always had
something to share. At the end of that second
week of newspaper delivery, Jennifer was
coming home from school one afternoon and
spotted Carol coming out of a local grocery
store. She literally ran across the street and
offered to help Carol carry the heavy grocery

Carol used that chance meeting to ask
Jennifer what she did typically after school.
Usually Jennifer just walked home and
watched TV. Carol offered to stay after school
with Jennifer three days a week and tutor her
in chemistry. From the time that Carol Rose
took over the teaching of her chemistry class,
Jennifer Fowler passed every quiz and every
test and eventually passed chemistry for the
year by a very slim margin.

Case 5.1
Relating to Jennifer

the BasIcs of effectIve teachIng

Most of the research findings discussed here were derived from studies of teacher
behaviors that were effective in promoting student achievement as defined by
lower-level cognitive objectives, which are efficiently measured by paper-and-pencil

120 Section 2 • Prevention

tests (Brophy, 1988b). It appears that general principles for teaching behavior
derived from these studies apply to “instruction in any body of knowledge or set of
skills that has been sufficiently well organized and analyzed so that: (1) it can be
presented systematically, and then (2) practiced or applied during activities that
call for student performance that (3) can be evaluated for quality and (4) can be
given corrective feedback (where incorrect or imperfect)” (Rosenshine and Stevens,
1986, p. 49).

The research findings from which general principles have been drawn are the
result of various long-term research projects that usually followed a three-step pro-
cess, called process-product research. In step one of the process, teams of researchers
observed classroom teachers who were considered to be either very effective or very
ineffective. Effectiveness was most often defined as enhanced student achievement
on paper-and-pencil tests. From the observations, it was possible to develop a list of
teaching behaviors that were used frequently by the effective teachers but not by the
ineffective ones. Researchers hypothesized that at least some of these teaching behav-
iors were responsible for the success of the effective teachers.

In step two, correlational studies were conducted to find positive relationships
between the use of these effective teaching behaviors and student behavior or student
learning as measured by paper-and-pencil achievement test scores. The correlational
studies indicated that some of the effective teaching behaviors were positively related
to student behavior and achievement, whereas others were not. Thus, the result of
step two was to narrow the list of effective teaching behaviors to those that were used
by effective teachers and had a positive relationship with student behavior or student
achievement test scores.

In step three, experimental studies were conducted. The researchers trained an
experimental group of teachers to use the narrowed-down list of effective teaching
behaviors consistently in their teaching. The achievement scores and classroom behav-
ior of their students were then compared with the achievement scores and behavior
of students taught by a control group of teachers, who had not been trained to use
the effective teaching behaviors. The results of these experimental comparison studies
showed that students of the experimental teachers had significantly higher achieve-
ment scores or significantly better classroom behavior. The renewed emphasis on
performance-based measures of student attainment of standards makes this body of
research especially timely now.

lesson design

During the 1970s and 1980s, Madeline Hunter (1982), Barak Rosenshine (Rosenshine
and Stevens, 1986), and other researchers spent a great deal of time trying to iden-
tify the type of lesson structure that was most effective for student learning. Robert
Marzano (2007) has continued that tradition by providing excellent summaries of that
research. Marzano’s own work has been further refined and reframed in recent years as
well (Dean et al., 2012, Marzano, Frontier, and Livingston, 2011;). Although the various
researchers tend to use their own specialized vocabulary, they agree that lessons that
include the following components are the most effective in helping students learn new
material: a lesson introduction, clear explanations of the content, checks for student
understanding, a period of coached practice, a lesson summary or closure, a period of

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 121

solitary practice, and periodic reviews. As you read the discussion of these components
that follows, remember that a lesson does not equal a class period. A lesson is defined
as the amount of instructional time required for students to achieve a specific learning
objective. Because a lesson may extend over several class periods, it is not essential
to have all of these components in each class period. On the other hand, if one class
period contains two lessons, one would expect the components to be repeated twice.

1. Lesson introduction. A good introduction makes students aware of what
they are supposed to learn, activates their prior knowledge of the topic, focuses their
attention on the main elements of the lesson to come, motivates them to be interested
in the lesson, and actively involves them in introductory activities. Establishing and
communicating learning goals are the starting place. Making sure that students are
clear about the learning objectives is a critical component of creating an appropriate
learning environment (Dean et al., 2012). After all, for learning to be effective, clear
targets in terms of information and skill must be established (Marzano, 2007, p. 9).

2. Clarity. Clear explanations of the content of the lesson proceed in step-
by-step fashion, illustrate the content by using concrete examples familiar to the
students, and are interspersed with questions that monitor student understanding:
“Lessons in which learners perceive links among the main ideas are more likely to
contribute to content learning than are lessons in which links among the main ideas
are less easily perceived by learners” (Anderson, 1989, p. 102). Well-organized pre-
sentations help learners process linking ideas by telling them what prior knowledge
should be activated and by pointing out what pieces of information are important
in using activated prior knowledge (Anderson, 1989). Techniques for ensuring that
presentations are well organized include (a) using structured overviews, advance
organizers, and statements of objectives near the beginning of the presentation; (b)
outlining the content, signaling transitions between ideas, calling attention to main
ideas, and summarizing subsections of the lesson during the presentation; and (c)
summarizing main ideas near the end of the presentation. Using nonlinguistic rep-
resentations of content in the form of pictures, diagrams, concept webs, and other
graphic organizers also increases content clarity (Marzano et al., 2011). The use of
metaphors, similes, and analogies also helps make content more understandable by
linking it with students’ prior knowledge (Dean et al., 2012). Marzano (2007) sug-
gests a variety of instructional tactics that a teacher can use to enhance clarity of
instruction, including previewing content, presenting information in small chunks,
and organizing students in groups to enhance information processing. Marzano also
suggests a variety of macro strategies that can be used to enhance active student
processing of information. These strategies include involving students in summariz-
ing and note taking, developing nonlinguistic representations of the content, asking
inferential questions to force elaboration of content, asking students to reflect on
their learning and identify any areas of confusion, and using cooperative learning as
an information-processing strategy.

3. Checking for understanding and adjusting. Effective teachers do not
take for granted that students understand the content of the lesson. They periodi-
cally ask specific questions or engage students in focused activities (e.g., a writing
task) to assess comprehension. In designing such activities or in asking questions,
effective teachers attempt to have as many students as possible overtly engaged in

122 Section 2 • Prevention

demonstrating their understanding so that the teacher can observe their degree of
comprehension directly. Instead of asking questions and obtaining only one student’s
response, effective teachers ask several students for responses before commenting
on the accuracy of any response. They ask students to comment on other students’
responses. They employ choral responses to engage multiple students overtly. In
addition, many teachers use small whiteboards or chalkboards to have all students
respond quickly in writing and show their responses to the teacher so that the teacher
can quickly scan the level of understanding of the class as a whole. Electronic clickers
and cell phones are now being used in many classrooms to ask students to respond
electronically to multiple choice or true/false questions that can be used to assess
whole group understanding. If a large number of students appear to be having dif-
ficulty, effective teachers reteach the material in a different way. If only a few students
are having problems, they do not reteach the entire class; instead, they work with
those students individually.

4. Coached practice. Effective lessons include a period of coached or guided
practice during which students practice using the skill or knowledge, through written
exercises, oral questions and answers, or some type of group work. The teacher closely
monitors this initial practice so that students receive frequent feedback and correction.
Feedback and correction can occur as frequently as after every two or three problems.
Students should experience high amounts of success (more than 75 percent) with the
coached practice exercises before moving on to solitary practice. Otherwise, they may
spend a large portion of the solitary practice period practicing and learning the wrong
information or skill.

Wang and Palinscar (1989) cited “scaffolding” as an additional important aspect
of the coached practice portion of lessons designed to help students acquire cogni-
tive strategies (e.g., study skills, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking skills).
They cited scaffolding as a process that underlies all the elements of lesson design:
“Scaffolding occurs when the teacher supports students’ attempts to use a cognitive
strategy; adjusts that support according to learner characteristics, the nature of the
material, and the nature of the task; and treats the support as temporary, removing
it as students show increased competence in using the cognitive strategy” (p. 79). In
other words, the teacher plans instruction to move from modeling and instruction to
feedback and coaching and increasingly transfers control to students.

5. Closure. A good lesson summary or closure asks students to become
actively involved in summarizing the key ideas that have been learned in the lesson
and gives students some ideas about where future lessons will take them. Teaching
students how to summarize written material to enhance understanding and retention
is a critical metacognitive skill that teachers can help students acquire. Dean et al.
(2012) suggest the following rules for summarizing material: (a) take out material that
is not important, (b) take out any words that repeat information, (c) replace lists with
a category name (e.g., replace Washington, Lincoln, Obama with “presidents”), and
(d) find or create a topic sentence if one is missing. One very useful strategy for bring-
ing closure to a lesson with upper elementary, middle, or high school students is the
use of an exit slip. In using this strategy, each student is asked to supply specific infor-
mation in writing (e.g., explain what an isosceles triangle is or identify two problems
with the Treaty of Versailles) on a half sheet of paper. This paper then becomes the

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 123

ticket or exit slip that allows the student to exit the class. The exit slip strategy can
serve as a synthesizing activity as well as an additional check for understanding.

6. Solitary practice. Effective lessons also include a period of solitary or inde-
pendent practice during which students practice the skill on their own and experience
significant amounts of success (more than 75 percent). This practice often takes the
form of independent seat work or homework. The effectiveness of homework as a
tool for promoting learning is enhanced when the purpose of the assignment is clear,
the homework is checked, and feedback is provided to students (Dean et al., 2012).

7. Review. Finally, periodic reviews conducted on a weekly and monthly basis
help students consolidate their learning, distribute practice over time, and provide
additional reinforcement.

These seven research-based components, which are especially effective in les-
sons designed to impart basic information or specific skills and procedures, should
not be viewed as constraints on the teacher’s creativity and individuality. Each com-
ponent may be embellished and tailored to fit the unique teaching situations that
confront every teacher. Together, however, the components provide a basic framework
that lessens student confusion about what is to be learned and ensures that learning
proceeds in an orderly sequence of steps. When students try to learn more difficult
content before they have mastered prerequisites and when they are not given suffi-
cient practice to master skills, they become confused, disinterested, and much more
likely to exhibit disruptive behavior in the classroom.

student Motivation: teacher variables

Motivation refers to an inner drive that focuses behavior on a particular goal or task
and causes the individual to be persistent in trying to achieve the goal or complete
the task successfully. Fostering motivation in students is undoubtedly one of the most
powerful tools the teacher has in preventing classroom discipline problems. When stu-
dents are motivated to learn, they usually pay attention to the lesson, become actively
involved in learning, and direct their energies to the task. When students are not
motivated to learn, they lose interest in lessons quickly, look for sources of entertain-
ment, and may direct their energies at amusing themselves and disrupting the learning
process of others. A professional teacher can manipulate many variables to increase
student motivation to learn. According to a review of research on student motivation
(Brophy, 1987), some of the most powerful variables are the following:

1. Student interest. Teachers can increase student motivation by relating sub-
ject content to life outside school. For example, an English teacher can relate poetry to
the lyrics of popular music, and a chemistry teacher can allow students to analyze the
chemical composition of products they use. Although there is no subject in which every
topic can be related to the real world, games, simulations, videos, group work, and
allowing students to plan or select activities can increase interest. Although these strat-
egies can’t be used effectively every day, all teachers can employ them at some time.

2. Student needs. Motivation to learn is increased when students perceive that
learning activities provide an opportunity to meet some of their basic human needs
as identified by Maslow (see Chapter 3). For example, simply providing elementary

124 Section 2 • Prevention

students with the opportunity to talk while the whole group listens can be an easy
way to help meet students’ needs for belonging. At the secondary level, allowing stu-
dents to work together with peers on learning activities helps meet their needs for
a sense of belonging and acceptance by others. At the most basic level, providing a
pleasant, task-oriented climate in which expectations are clear helps meet students’
needs for psychological safety and security.

3. Novelty and variety. When the teacher has designed learning activities that
include novel events, situations, and materials, students are likely to be motivated to
learn. The popcorn lesson in Case 5.2 is an excellent example of the use of novelty to
gain students’ attention. Once students’ attention has been captured, a variety of short
learning activities will help keep it focused on the lesson.

Human attention spans can be remarkably long when people are involved in an
activity that they find fascinating. Most students, however, do not find typical school
activities fascinating. Therefore, their attention spans tend to be rather short. For this
reason, the professional teacher plans activities that last no longer than 15 to 20 min-
utes. A teacher who gives a lecture in two 15-minute halves with a 5-minute oral exer-
cise interspersed is much more likely to maintain student interest than a teacher who
gives a 30-minute lecture followed by the 5-minute oral exercise. Reality TV shows are
an excellent example of how changing the focus of activity every 5 to 10 minutes can
hold an audience’s attention.

4. Success. When students are successful at tasks they perceive to be some-
what challenging because they have made a strong effort, their motivation for future
learning is greatly enhanced. It is unreasonable to expect students who fail constantly
to have any motivation to participate positively in future learning activities. Thus, it is
especially important for teachers to create success for students who are not normally
successful. Teachers help ensure that all students experience some success by making
goals and objectives clear, by teaching content clearly in small steps, and by check-
ing to see that students understand each step. Teachers can also encourage success
by helping students acquire the study skills they need when they must work on their
own—outlining, note taking, and using textbooks correctly. Still, the most powerful
technique for helping students succeed is to ensure that the material is at the appro-
priate level of difficulty, given the students’ prior learning in that subject.

As Mr. Smith’s students walk into tenth-
grade creative writing class, they hear
an unusual noise. On the teacher’s desk,
a microwave filled with popcorn is run-
ning. Soon the room is filled with the
aroma of fresh popcorn. When the pop-
ping is finished, the teacher passes a bowl

of popcorn around for everyone to eat.
After the students finish eating, Mr. Smith
asks them to describe out loud the sights,
sounds, smells, taste, and feel of the pop-
corn. Mr. Smith then uses their accounts as
an introduction to a writing exercise on the
five senses.

Case 5.2
The Popcorn Popper

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 125

5. Tension. In teaching, tension refers to a feeling of concern or anxiety on
the part of the student because she knows that she will be required to demonstrate
her learning. A moderate amount of tension increases student learning. When there
is no tension in the learning situation, students may be so relaxed that no learning
occurs. On the other hand, if the amount of tension is overwhelming, students may
expend more energy in dealing with the tension than they do in learning. Creating a
moderate amount of tension results in motivation without tension overload.

When a learning task is inherently interesting and challenging for students, there
is little need for the teacher to add tension to the situation. When the learning task is
routine and uninteresting for students, a moderate amount of tension created by the
teacher enhances motivation and learning. Teacher behaviors that raise the level of
tension include moving around the room, calling on volunteers and non-volunteers
to answer questions in a random pattern, giving quizzes on class material, checking
homework and seat work, and reminding students that they will be assessed on the
material they are learning.

6. Feeling tone. Feeling tone refers to the emotional atmosphere or climate in
the classroom. According to Madeline Hunter (1982), classroom feeling tone can be
extremely positive, moderately positive, neutral, moderately negative, and extremely
negative. An extremely positive feeling tone can be so sweet that it actually directs stu-
dent attention away from learning, a neutral feeling tone is bland and non-stimulating,
and an extremely negative feeling tone is threatening and may produce a tension
overload. The most effective feeling tone is a moderately positive one in which the
atmosphere is pleasant and friendly but clearly focused on the learning task at hand.
The teacher can help create such a feeling tone by creating a room that is comfortable
and pleasantly decorated, by treating students in a courteous and friendly manner,
by expressing sincere interest in students as individuals, and by communicating posi-
tively with students both verbally and nonverbally. See how one teacher expresses his
interest in students in Case 5.3.

Although a moderately positive feeling tone is the most motivating one, it is
sometimes necessary to create, temporarily, a moderately negative feeling tone. If
students are not doing their work and not living up to their responsibilities, it is neces-
sary to shake them out of their complacency with some well-chosen, corrective com-
ments. The wise teacher understands that undesirable consequences may result from

Mr. Dailey, the eighth-grade social studies
teacher, does not spend the time between
classes standing out in the hallway or vis-
iting with friends. Instead, he uses the
three minutes to chat with individual stu-
dents. During these chats, he talks about
their out-of-school activities, their hobbies,

their feelings about school and his class
in particular, their plans and aspirations,
and everyday school events. He believes
that these three-minute chats promote a
more positive feeling tone in his classroom
and allow him to relate to his students as

Case 5.3
Talking Between Classes

126 Section 2 • Prevention

a classroom feeling tone that is continuously negative and, therefore, works to create
a moderately positive classroom climate most of the time.

7. Assessment and feedback. Assessment of student learning is a primary
responsibility of every teacher and, when implemented effectively, can have a dramatic
impact on student learning, motivation, and behavior: “Major reviews of the research
on the effects of formative assessment indicate that it might be one of the more pow-
erful tools in a teacher’s arsenal” (Marzano, 2007, p. 13). Formative assessment, effec-
tively implemented, can do as much or more to improve student achievement than any
of the most powerful instructional innovations, intensive reading instruction, one-on-
one tutoring, or the like (Shepard et al., 2005, p. 277). The potentially powerful impact
of formative assessment on students is dramatically illustrated in a story taken from
Shepard et al. (2005).

Akeem, a third-grade student in New York City, was placed in the classroom of
Susan Gordon after he was expelled from another school for throwing a desk. Initially,
he had frequent outbursts, disrupted classroom meetings, and was aggressive and
surly. Susan made a concerted effort to assess both his strengths and his weaknesses.
She documented his progress in literacy and math. She noted the conditions that
seemed to trigger outbursts as well as moments when he seemed at ease and com-
fortable. She designed learning activities that focused on his strengths and allowed
him to feel comfortable emotionally. Akeem began to experience greater success and
eventually learned to read and write. Based on his success, he began a track record of
achievement that led to admission to a high school for the arts.

Well-designed formative assessment begins with preinstructional diagnostic assess-
ment designed to identify both what students know and what misconceptions they bring
with them. It continues throughout the learning process. Formative assessment tools
may take a variety of forms, including but not limited to KWL (Know, Want to Know,
Learned) charts, paper-and-pencil diagnostic tests, homework assignments and other
projects, science talks or other small- and large-group discussions, individual confer-
ences with students, and daily checking for understanding by listening to what students
say and watching what they do. Teachers can maximize the potential of formative assess-
ment as a motivational tool by helping students understand that, through assessment,
the teacher is trying to help each student understand three things: (a) where the teacher
wants the student to go, (b) where the student is now, and (c) how the student might
get from where she is now to where the teacher wants her to be (Shepard et al., 2005).

Making the assessment process and the criteria by which the student’s learning
will be judged as transparent as possible facilitates the student’s understand of where
the teacher wants her to go. Marzano (2007) suggests making a rubric for each impor-
tant learning goal. Well-designed rubrics, exemplars of work from former students,
and allowing students to help develop criteria for assessing work are all useful strat-
egies for making goals and assessment criteria clear. Another powerful strategy for
helping students understand the goals toward which they are progressing is the use
of student self-assessment or self-evaluation as discussed in Chapter 6. Self-assessment
serves cognitive and motivational purposes, leads to self-monitoring of performance,
and helps students understand and make sense of what the criteria mean and develop
metacognitive abilities (Shepard et al., 2005).

Once the student has a clear understanding of the learning goals and assessment
criteria, the teacher must turn her attention to helping the learner understand where

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 127

she is right now in relation to those goals. Clearly, teacher feedback to the student is
the most important mechanism for accomplishing this task. Feedback is most effective
when it focuses on particular qualities of a student’s work in relation to established cri-
teria, identifies strengths as well as weaknesses, and provides guidance about what to
do to improve. Feedback should focus on what the students is doing correctly as well
as elaborating on what the student needs to do next (Dean et al., 2012). In addition,
teachers must establish a classroom climate of trust and norms that enable construc-
tive criticism. This means that feedback must occur throughout the learning process
(not at the end, when teaching on the topic is finished); teacher and students must
have a shared understanding that the purpose of feedback is to facilitate learning; it
may mean that grading should be suspended during the formative stage (Shepard et
al., 2005, p. 288). Clear, constructive feedback in a classroom context marked by this
type of shared understanding is a powerful strategy for enhancing student motivation.
One of the more powerful strategies for developing shared understanding of both
assessment and feedback is engaging students in assessing their own work and the
work of peers under the guidance of the teacher (Dean et al., 2012). The final aspect
of assessment and feedback focuses on helping the student get from where she is now
to where she wants to be. This process involves both (a) designing specific learning
tasks that will fill in the gaps between the current and desired level of performance
and (b) providing the emotional support and encouragement that the student needs to
persist in achieving the desired outcomes.

8. Encouragement. Encouragement is a great motivator. It emphasizes the
positive aspects of behavior; recognizes and validates real effort; communicates
positive expectations for future behavior; and communicates that the teacher trusts,
respects, and believes in the child. All too frequently, teachers and parents point
out how children have failed to meet expectations. Pointing out shortcomings and
focusing on past transgressions erode children’s self-esteem, whereas encouraging
communication, as defined by Sweeney (1981), enhances self-esteem. It emphasizes
present and future behavior rather than past transgressions and what is being learned
and done correctly rather than what has not been learned.

Ms. Johnson in Case 5.4 would have had a far more positive impact on Heidi’s
motivation if she had pointed out the positive aspects of Heidi’s work as well as the

Ms. Johnson was handing back the seventh
graders’ reports on their library books. Heidi
waited anxiously to get her report back. She
had read a book on archaeology and had
really gotten into it. She spent quite a bit
of time explaining in her report how neat
it must be to be able to relive the past by
examining the artifacts people left behind.

When she received her book report, Heidi
was dejected. The word artifact—Heidi had
spelled it artafact—was circled twice on her
paper with sp written above it. At the bottom
of the paper, Ms. Johnson had written, “spell-
ing errors are careless and are not accept-
able.” The only other mark Ms. Johnson had
made on the paper was a grade of C.

Case 5.4
Nonconstructive Feedback

128 Section 2 • Prevention

error in spelling. Have you ever thought about the fact that a child who gets a 68 on
an exam has learned twice as much as she has failed to learn? Does the feedback pro-
vided to a student who earns a 68 usually convey that message? For more on encour-
agement, see Dreikurs (2004).

How can you use these research findings to improve student motivation in your
own classroom? Ask yourself the following questions as you plan classroom activities
for your students:

1. How can I make use of natural student interests in this learning activity?
2. How can I help students meet their basic human needs in this activity?
3. How can I use novel events and/or materials in this activity?
4. How can I provide for variety in these learning activities?
5. How can I ensure that my students will be successful?
6. How can I create an appropriate level of tension for this learning task?
7. How can I create a moderately pleasant feeling tone for this activity?
8. How can I provide feedback to students and help them recognize their progress

in learning?
9. How can I encourage my students?

This list of nine questions is also an important resource when discipline prob-
lems occur. By answering the questions, the teacher may find ways to increase the
motivation to learn and decrease the motivation to misbehave.

teacher expectations

Teacher expectations influence both student learning and student motivation. The ini-
tial line of inquiry into expectations began with Robert Rosenthal’s doctoral disserta-
tion in 1956 that asserted that an experimenter could have an effect on the outcome
of an experiment (Weinstein, 2002). Marzano (2007) discusses this idea’s entry into
the educational scene when an elementary school principal named Lenore Jacobson
contacted Rosenthal and encouraged him to examine the application of his theory to
the effect that teachers’ perceptions might have on student achievement. In a famous
study entitled Pygmalion in the Classroom (1968), Rosenthal and Jacobson began a
line of inquiry that still continues and has yielded powerful insights concerning the
effects of teacher behavior on student achievement. For their study, Rosenthal and
Jacobson told teachers in an inner-city elementary school that they had developed
an intelligence test designed to identify “intellectual bloomers,” that is, students who
were on the verge of taking a tremendous leap in their ability to learn. They also told
these teachers that certain students in their classes had been so identified. This was
a total fabrication. There was no such test. However, when Rosenthal and Jacobson
checked student achievement test scores at the end of the year, the students identified
as intellectual bloomers had actually bloomed. Compared to a matched group of their
peers, the researcher-identified bloomers had made much greater gains in achieve-
ment. As a result, Rosenthal and Jacobson assumed that the teachers must have treated
the bloomers differently in some way in the classroom, but they had no observational
data to support this assumption. Although still considered controversial (Wineburg,
1987), the study provided the impetus for further research (Good, 1987).

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 129

Beginning in the 1970s, researchers such as Thomas Good and Jere Brophy con-
ducted observational studies of teacher behavior toward students whom the teach-
ers perceived as high achievers and those they perceived as low achievers. Multiple
research studies (e.g., Good and Brophy, 2008) found that teachers often uninten-
tionally communicate low expectations toward students whom they perceive as low
achievers. These lower expectations are communicated by behaviors such as the

1. Calling on low achievers less often to answer questions.
2. Giving low achievers less think time when they are called on.
3. Providing fewer clues and hints to low achievers when they have initial difficulty

in answering questions.
4. Praising correct answers from low achievers less often.
5. Criticizing wrong answers from low achievers more often.
6. Praising marginal answers from low achievers but demanding more precise

answers from high achievers.
7. Staying farther away physically and psychologically from low achievers.
8. Rarely expressing personal interest in low achievers.
9. Smiling less frequently at low achievers.
10. Making eye contact less frequently with low achievers.
11. Complimenting low achievers less often.

Some of these behaviors may be motivated by good intentions on the part of the
teacher, who, for example, may give low achievers less think time to avoid embarrass-
ing them if they don’t know an answer. However, the cumulative effect is the com-
munication of a powerful message: “I don’t expect you to be able to do much.” This
message triggers a vicious cycle. Students begin to expect less of themselves, produce
less, and confirm the teacher’s original perception of them. In many cases, the teacher
may have a legitimate reason to expect less from some students; however, communi-
cating low expectations produces only negative effects.

Good and Brophy (2008) have identified two types of lowered expectations that
teachers sometimes hold for their students:

The first is the self-fulfilling prophecy effect, in which an originally unfounded
expectation nevertheless leads to behavior that causes the expectation to become
true.… The second type of expectation effect is the sustaining expectation effect.
Here, the expectations are better founded, in that teachers expect students to
sustain previously demonstrated patterns. However, the teachers take these pat-
terns for granted to the point that they fail to see and capitalize on changes
in students’ potential.… Self-fulfilling prophecies are more powerful than sus-
taining expectation effects because they introduce significant change in student
behavior instead of merely minimizing such change by sustaining established
patterns. However, subtle sustaining expectation effects occur more frequently
than powerful self-fulfilling prophecy effects. (pp. 49–50)

The debilitating effects of low teacher expectations have also been noted as a
critical issue in relation to cultural differences within the classroom. Lisa Delpit (2012)

130 Section 2 • Prevention

argues that Americans have been unconsciously influenced by our society’s deeply
ingrained practice of equating blackness with inferiority. Delpit uses a powerful anal-
ogy to make her point. She suggests that people who live in Los Angeles continually
breathe smog without being aware of it. They have become unconscious smog breath-
ers. She asserts that racism in America is akin to the smog in LA. We all breathe racism
unconsciously: “We don’t try to be. We are not conscious of the racism we breathe. We
just go about our everyday lives” (2012, p. 38). All teachers must be deliberate in com-
municating high expectations to all learners, but Delpit argues that the conscious use
of behaviors that communicate high expectations coupled with bringing to conscious-
ness and changing our previously unconscious attitudes toward culturally different
learners can help us exert powerful influences on the motivation of all children to be

When we educators look at a classroom of black faces, we must understand
that we are looking at children as least as brilliant as those from any well-to-do
white community. If we do not recognize the brilliance before us, we cannot
help but carry on the stereotypic societal views that these children are some-
how damaged goods and that they cannot be expected to succeed. (Delpit,
2012, p. 5)

Researchers have demonstrated that when teachers equalize response
opportunities, feedback, and personal involvement, student learning can improve.
The message is clear: communicating high expectations to all learners appears to
influence low achievers to learn more, whereas communicating low expectations, no
matter how justified, has a debilitating effect.

Good and Brophy (2008) provide an excellent and comprehensive overview of
the research on teacher expectation effects and suggest that teachers take three spe-
cific steps to ensure that they are communicating high levels of expectations for all
students: (1) in developing expectations for students, consider the full range of the
students’ abilities, including all of the multiple intelligences discussed later in this
chapter; (2) keep expectations flexible and current, basing your decisions about stu-
dents on what each one can do today, not what she was unable to do yesterday; and
(3) emphasize the positive while still being realistic.

Although empirical research in this area has been limited to the effects of teacher
expectations on achievement, we believe that the generalizations hold true for student
behavior as well. Communicating high expectations for student behavior is likely to
bring about increased positive behaviors; communicating low expectations for student
behavior is likely to bring about increased negative behavior. A teacher who says,
“I am sure that all of you will complete all of your homework assignments carefully
because you realize that doing homework is an important way of practicing what you
are learning” is more likely to have students complete homework assignments than
a teacher who says, “I know you probably don’t like to do homework, but if you fail
to complete homework assignments, it will definitely lower your grades.” As Brophy
(1988a) noted:

Consistent projection of positive expectations, attributions, and social labels to
the students is important in fostering positive self-concepts and related motives

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 131

that orient them toward pro-social behavior. In short, students who are consis-
tently treated as if they are well-intentioned individuals who respect themselves
and others and desire to act responsibly, morally, and pro-socially are more likely
to live up to those expectations and acquire those qualities than students who
are treated as if they had the opposite qualities. (p. 11)

Given the powerful research results in this area, all teachers should step back
and reflect on the expectations they communicate to students through their verbal and
nonverbal classroom behavior.

classroom Questioning

Of all the instructional tools and techniques classroom teachers possess, questioning
is perhaps the most versatile. Ester Fusco (2012) suggests that questions can pro-
voke student curiosity, engage students more actively in learning, improve critical
thinking skills, and help students become better listeners. According to Good and
Brophy (2008), effective questions are clear, purposeful, brief, naturally sequenced,
and thought provoking. When a teacher’s questions have these characteristics, they
may be used to assess readiness for new learning, create interest and motivation in
learning, make concepts more precise, check student understanding of the material,
redirect off-task students to more positive behavior, and create the moderate amount
of tension that enhances learning. The use of good questioning techniques is a potent
means of keeping students actively involved in lessons and thereby minimizing dis-
ruptive behavior. Wilen (1986) compiled a good summary of the research done on
teacher questioning. Findings on classroom questioning indicate that the following
behaviors help promote student learning:

1. Ask questions at a variety of cognitive levels. Asking questions in a hierar-
chy that proceeds from knowledge and comprehension to application, analysis, syn-
thesis, and evaluation promotes both critical thinking and better retention of basic
information (Good and Brophy, 2008). Marzano (2007) suggests using a question-
ing strategy called “elaborative interrogation.” The teacher begins with an inferential
question such as, “What led the Germans to accept an evil individual such as Adolf
Hitler as their leader?” When a student provides an answer, the teacher responds by
asking why the student believes this to be true or asking the student to explain how
she arrived at this conclusion: “This strategy requires some skillful interaction with
students, in that the teacher tries to make explicit the thinking the student is using to
generate her answer” (p. 49).

2. Call on volunteers and non-volunteers to answer questions in a random
rather than predictable order. (Note: In working with first and second graders,
research [e.g., Brophy and Good, 1986] indicates that the use of a predictable order
in selecting students to answer questions is more effective than the use of a random

3. After asking a question, allow students three to five seconds of “wait time
1” before calling on someone to answer. This time is especially important when ask-
ing higher-level questions that require students to make inferences, connections, and

132 Section 2 • Prevention

4. Have many students respond to a question before giving feedback. This may
be done through a variety of strategies as noted in the previous section such as asking
questions and requiring overt student participation.

5. After a student answers a question, wait three to five seconds before you
respond. This planned silence, or “wait time 2,” tends to increase the number of stu-
dents who respond, increase the length of student answers, increase the amount of
student-student interaction, and increase the diversity of student responses.

6. Vary the type of positive reinforcement you give and make it clear why stu-
dent answers are worthy of positive reinforcement.

7. Ask follow-up or probing questions to extend student thinking after correct
and incorrect responses. Some sample types of follow-up questions are (a) asking for
clarification, (b) asking students to re-create the thought process they used to arrive
at an answer, (c) asking for specific examples to support a statement, (d) asking for
elaboration or expansion of an answer, and (e) asking students to relate their answers
to previous answers or questions.

Teachers who employ these techniques, which may be adapted to fit their own class-
room context, are likely to improve student learning and to increase student involve-
ment in the learning activities, thereby minimizing disruptive student behavior. Fusco
(2012) suggests the use of a questioning cycle that includes planning questions to
match the lesson objectives, asking the questions, using wait time 1 before calling on
responders, listening carefully to student responses, assessing the response privately,
using wait time 2 before responding, then using a follow-up question to probe student

Effective questioning techniques increase student participation.

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 133

Maximizing learning time

One of the variables that affects how much students learn is the amount of time
they spend learning. As Lieberman and Denham (1980) found, there is a statistically
positive relationship between time devoted to learning and scores on achievement
tests. This is not, however, a simple relationship. Other factors, such as the quality
of instruction and the kinds of learning tasks, must be considered in assessing the
potential impact of increased time spent on learning. In other words, spending more
instructional time with a poor teacher or on poorly devised learning tasks will not
increase student learning.

Assuming that the teacher is competent and the learning tasks are appropriate,
students who spend more time learning will probably learn more and create fewer
management problems because they are occupied by the learning activities. Two areas
that teachers can control or influence in order to increase the amount of time students
spend learning are the time allocated to instruction and the rate of student engage-
ment in the learning tasks.

allocated tIMe Allocated time refers to the amount of time that the teacher makes
available for students to learn a subject. Studies have found that the amount of time
allocated to various subjects in elementary schools differs widely even among teach-
ers in the same district at the same grade level (e.g., Karweit, 1984). For example,
some teachers at the fourth-grade level allocate 12 hours per week to reading and
language arts, whereas other fourth-grade teachers allocate 5 hours per week. Some
fourth-grade teachers allocate 10 hours per week to math, and others allocate 4.
Other factors being equal, the student who spends 12 hours per week in learning
reading and language arts is going to learn a great deal more than the student who
spends 5 hours per week.

In secondary schools, the amount of time actually allocated to instruction also
varies widely among teachers. The need to deal with routine attendance and house-
keeping chores (e.g., “Who still owes lab reports?” “Who needs to make up Friday’s
test?”) as well as the need to deal with disruptions that can range from student behav-
ior problems to public address announcements can steal large chunks of time from
learning activities (see Chapter 2). Both elementary and secondary school teachers
need to examine how much time they make available for students to learn the various
subjects they teach. Elementary teachers should investigate how they allocate time to
their various subjects. Secondary school teachers should investigate how to handle
routine duties more efficiently and how to minimize disruptions.

tIMe-on-task (engaged tIMe) In addition to increasing allocated time, teachers
need to maximize student time-on-task:

Research on teaching has established that the key to successful management
(and to successful instruction as well) is the teacher’s ability to maximize the
time students spend actively engaged in worthwhile academic assignments and
to minimize the time they spend waiting for activities to get started, making tran-
sitions between activities, sitting with nothing to do, or engaging in misconduct.
(Brophy, 1988a, p. 3)

134 Section 2 • Prevention

Brophy’s statement refers to the percentage of the total time allocated for learning that
the student spends actually engaged in learning activities. Once again, research has
provided some guidelines to increase student time-on-task:

1. The use of substantive interaction—a teaching mode in which the teacher pres-
ents information, asks questions to assess comprehension, provides feedback,
and monitors student work—usually leads to higher student engagement than
independent or small-group work that is not led by the teacher.

2. Teacher monitoring of the entire class during the beginning and ending portions
of a seat work activity as well as at regular intervals during the activity leads to
higher engagement rates. Periodically scanning the room during any activity to
ascertain the level of engagement is also critical (Marzano et al., 2011).

3. Making sure that students understand what the activity directs them to do, that
they have the skills necessary to complete the task successfully, that each stu-
dent has access to all needed materials, and that each student is protected from
disruption by others leads to greater student time-on-task during seat work.

4. Giving students oral directions as well as written directions concerning how to
do a seat work activity and what to do when they have finished the activity also
leads to greater time-on-task during seat work.

5. Communicating teacher awareness of student behavior seems to lead to greater
student involvement during seat work activities.

6. “Providing a variety of seat work activities with concern for students’ attention
spans helps keep students on task and allows the teacher more uninterrupted
small-group instruction” (Evertson, 1989, p. 64).

7. Using physical movement appropriately can enhance student energy and engage-
ment: “Oxygen is essential for brain function, and enhanced blood flow increases
the amount of oxygen transported to the brain. Physical activity is a reliable way
to increase blood flow, and hence oxygen, to the brain” ( Jensen, 2005, p. 62).
Strategies such as asking students to stand up and stretch periodically, acting out
concepts when appropriate, and standing up and chatting with a partner for a
few seconds are suggested by Marzano (2007) as ways to incorporate physical

8. Using games that focus on academic content and that also involve low-stakes
competition will often lead to greater engagement (Marzano, 2007).

9. Teacher modeling of enthusiasm, high energy, and high intensity focused on
academic content, is also likely to increase student interest and engagement in
learning (Marzano, 2007).

When students are on task, they are engaged in learning and less apt to disrupt the
learning of others. The effective teacher uses these guidelines to increase student
learning and to minimize disruptive student behavior.

Beyond the BasIcs

By the late 1980s—in the educational period between the process-product research
and the current high-stakes testing movement—many educational researchers were
beginning to express great dissatisfaction with the research that had been done on
effective teaching. They were dissatisfied because it focused almost exclusively on

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 135

low-level outcomes and generic teaching and learning strategies, paying little atten-
tion to contextual variables and to the subject matter being taught. Lee Shulman (1987)
and his associates at Stanford began a line of research focused not on generic ques-
tions concerning good teaching but rather on good teaching of particular content in
particular contexts. Their work was one of the major forces to give rise to the notions
of teaching described in this section. As you will discover, these notions focus primar-
ily on student cognition.

A second major impetus for a change in the focus of the research on effec-
tive teaching came from conceptual change research in science (Pintrich, Marx, and
Boyle, 1993). This line of research focused on the difficulty science teachers face
in attempting to change the misconceptions that students bring to the classroom.
For example, most students come to the classroom believing that the explanation
for warmer weather in the summer is the fact that the sun is closer to the earth in
the summer. Obviously, this is not true. The sun is actually closer to the earth in the
winter. However, research indicates that even after they hear the correct explana-
tion, which they are able to reproduce for the test, most students leave the classroom
believing that the sun is closer to the earth in the summer. Researchers have studied
student learning of a number of scientific concepts including photosynthesis, electric-
ity, gravity, and density with similar results—that is, students enter the classroom with
misconceptions, learn the correct explanations for the test, and leave the classroom
with their basic misconceptions completely unchanged. It is clear from these studies
that we need to pay much closer attention than we have to date to the prior knowl-
edge that students bring with them to the classroom as well as to the actual thought
processes that take place during instruction.

The third major impetus for the current models of teaching and learning is the
rise in popularity of constructivism as a set of philosophical beliefs to explain learn-
ing. Until recently, educational thinking and research have been dominated by behav-
iorist and information-processing views of learning, which, although different in many
respects, share a conception of the learner as a rather passive processor of information
received from the external environment. In contrast, constructivism places its greatest
emphasis on active construction of knowledge by the learner. Thus, constructivism
places the learner squarely in the center of the learning paradigm and sees the role
of the teacher as one of coaching, guiding, and supporting the learner when neces-
sary. Indeed, among the tenets of constructivism are the following five: (1) knowledge
is actively constructed, (2) knowledge should be structured around a few powerful
ideas, (3) prior knowledge exerts a powerful influence on new learning, (4) restruc-
turing of prior knowledge and conceptual change are key elements of new learning,
and (5) knowledge is socially constructed (Good and Brophy, 2008). Given this view,
it is not surprising that constructivism emphasizes conceptual-change teaching and
the need to link new learning with prior knowledge. Using the constructivist para-
digm, teachers must provide opportunities for students to make knowledge their own
through question, discussion, debate, and other appropriate activities (Brophy, 1993).

The research on student cognition, constructivism, conceptual-change teaching,
and subject-specific teaching has led to several changes in our thinking about instruc-
tional practice. Indeed, it has led to a new paradigm for learning that rests on the fol-
lowing: (1) teaching for understanding as the major goal for teaching, (2) moving from
individual learning to the creation of learning communities, (3) teaching for multiple

136 Section 2 • Prevention

types of intelligence, (4) differentiating instruction to meet individual student needs,
and (5) emphasizing student cognitive variables rather than overt teacher behavior as
the key aspect of student motivation in the classroom. In this section of the chapter,
these concepts will be described individually even though they are interwoven and
closely related to one another.

teaching for understanding

For much of the history of education in the United States, the goals for classroom
learning have focused on the acquisition of factual information and routine skills
and procedures. Although still important to some degree, these goals have become
increasingly less sufficient for enabling students to function competently in today’s
technologically sophisticated, information-rich society. To function effectively in a
global, interactive society, students need to go beyond memorization and routine skills
to much deeper levels of understanding. Howard Gardner (Brandt, 1993) asserted
that our schools have never really taught for deep understanding. Instead, they have
settled for what Gardner called the “correct answer compromise”; that is, students
give agreed-upon answers that are counted as correct, but their real-world behavior
indicates that they have failed to really understand the material. Gardner believes that
we need to enable students to achieve a deep understanding of the material that they
encounter in school. Deep understanding means being able to do a variety of thought-
demanding tasks such as explaining a topic in one’s own words, making predictions,
finding exemplars in new contexts, and applying concepts to explain new situations
(Blythe, 1998; Wiggins and McTighe, 1998).

The first step in making deep understanding one of our goals for student learning
involves the teacher coming to grips with the “content coverage” dilemma. Teaching
for understanding involves time. Learners do not develop deep understandings of con-
tent overnight. They need opportunities to become engaged with the content in differ-
ent contexts. They need the opportunity to see many examples, to ask many questions,
to discuss ideas with peers and with the teacher, and to practice demonstrating their
understanding in a variety of situations. As a result, it is simply not possible to cover
the same amount of material that can be covered in a classroom in which student
memorization is the goal. The teacher who wants to teach for understanding must be
willing to take the time to allow students to become deeply involved with the material.

Teachers who struggle with the task of deciding what content to focus on in
teaching for in-depth understanding are advised by Wiggins and McTighe (1998) to
use the following guidelines: choose content that (1) has enduring value beyond the
classroom, (2) is important to the discipline being studied, (3) is a topic students are
likely to have preconceived misconceptions about, (4) has the potential to be enjoy-
able for students, and (5) will naturally reoccur at several points throughout the learn-
er’s study of the subject area. Wiggins and McTighe suggested that teachers develop
curriculum around essential questions that meet those five guidelines. Examples of
such enduring questions are, “What factors lead nations to choose war over peaceful
conflict resolution?” “What does it mean to divide fractions?” “What does it mean to say
that, in biology, structure follows function?”

For those teachers who are willing to cover less material at deeper levels of stu-
dent understanding, Wiske (1998) offered a four-part framework to focus classroom

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 137

learning on creating deep understanding. The first part of the framework calls for
the teacher to use “generative topics” as the focus for classroom learning. For a topic
to qualify as generative, it must meet three criteria: (1) it must be an important topic
in the discipline, (2) it must be able to be reasonably conveyed to learners at their
particular developmental level, and (3) it must be able to be related to learners’ lives
and interests outside school. The second part of the framework asks the teacher
to set learning goals that require students to demonstrate their understanding. For
example, students might identify examples of Newton’s laws of motion in everyday
sports events. The third part of the framework requires students to demonstrate their
understanding through classroom performances such as discussions, debates, experi-
ments, problem solving, and so forth. The final part of the framework calls for ongo-
ing assessment of student progress using publicly shared criteria for success, frequent
feedback by the teacher, and periodic opportunities for students to reflect on their
own progress toward demonstrating a deep understanding of the particular topic.

creating communities of learners

One of the most dramatic changes that has taken place in our thinking about teach-
ing since the early 1990s is the emphasis we now place on the importance of building
learning communities in the classroom. In the past, we emphasized individual student
learning and interaction between individual students and the teacher. Note that the
research on effective teaching described in the first section of this chapter focuses
almost exclusively on individual student-teacher interaction. Early research on effec-
tive teaching viewed peers as superfluous to the learning process. However, because
of the work on cooperative learning conducted by Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec
(1993), Robert Slavin (1989–90), Spencer Kagan (1994), and others, we now believe
that peers can play a tremendously important role in enhancing student learning and
in developing positive classroom environments. For this reason, we now believe that
the creation of a classroom learning community in which learners engage in dialogue
with each other and the teacher is a critical step toward making classrooms produc-
tive learning environments (Dean et al., 2012; Prawat, 1993). “Several studies have
found that cooperative learning typically results in achievement levels that are equal
to or greater than individualistic or competitive classroom teaching methods. Results
for other kinds of outcomes such as motivation, attitudes, and behavior often favor
cooperative group methods as well” (Emmer, Evertson, and Worsham, 2003, p. 112).

The creation of communities of learners often begins with lessons designed to
involve students in cooperative learning activities. Cooperative learning should not be
equated to simply putting students into groups. Cooperative learning activities share
a set of common characteristics. Although the number of specific elements in coop-
erative learning differs among theorists ( Johnson et al., 1993, favored five elements
whereas Slavin, 1989–90, favored three), at least three elements are critical to its suc-
cess (Slavin, 1989–90): face-to-face interaction, a feeling of positive interdependence,
and a feeling of individual accountability. Face-to-face interaction requires placing stu-
dents in close physical proximity and ensuring that they are required to talk to each
other in order to complete the assigned tasks. If students can complete the task with-
out interacting, they have been engaged in an individual learning activity rather than
a cooperative learning activity. Given the explosion in networking technologies, the

138 Section 2 • Prevention

concept of face-to-face interaction may be a bit outmoded in a literal sense. However,
its conceptual underpinning—that students must interact to complete the learning
task successfully—remains true no matter what technology is used.

Establishing a feeling of positive interdependence means that students believe
each individual can achieve the particular learning goal only if all the learners in
the group achieve the learning goal. Johnson et al. (1993), who referred to this as
sinking or swimming together, identified several types of interdependence that the
teacher can work to create. Positive reward interdependence occurs when everyone is
rewarded or no one is rewarded, and everyone gets the same reward. Positive resource
interdependence occurs when each member of the group has only a portion of the
information or materials needed to complete the task. A teacher is employing posi-
tive resource interdependence when each student has only one piece of the puzzle
or one section of the required reading. Positive task interdependence occurs when a
task is broken into a series of steps and is then completed in assembly-line fashion,
with each group member completing only one section of the total task. Positive role
interdependence is the practice of assigning roles to individual group members, for
example, consensus checker, writer, reader, time keeper, and so on. Obviously, each
role must be important to the completion of the task. Finally, positive identity interde-
pendence is established by allowing the group to form its own identity by creating a
group name, decorating a group folder or flag, or developing a group motto or some
other symbol that describes the group. The Johnsons and Holubec suggested that the
teacher build as many of these types of positive interdependence into cooperative
learning lessons as possible in order to increase the likelihood of creating feelings of
positive interdependence.

Individual accountability refers to each group member’s feeling that she is
responsible for completing the task and cannot rest on the laurels of the group or
allow other members to do the work for her. Feelings of individual accountability
can be established in a variety of ways, including assigning individual grades; giving
individual tests, worksheets, and quizzes; or structuring tasks so that they must be
completed by the group while making it clear that individual group members will be
called on at random to answer questions about the task.

In addition to face-to-face interaction, positive interdependence, and individual
accountability, the Johnsons believed two more elements—teaching social skills and
processing group functioning—are crucial for the creation of cooperative learning
activities. These two elements are described at length in Chapter 7 under the topic
of using group norms to structure the classroom environment. As Case 5.5 illustrates,
cooperative learning activities can have a positive impact on student motivation and
behavior at the secondary level.

teaching toward Multiple Intelligences

As a result of the work of Howard Gardner (2004) and his colleagues, many educators
have come to realize that success in school has been unnecessarily restricted to those
individuals who have talents in the areas of mathematical and verbal intelligence.
Many of the tasks and learning activities performed in schools require learners to use
verbal and mathematical reasoning while ignoring other avenues of expressing talent.
One need only look at standardized achievement tests, traditional IQ tests, and the

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 139

Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs) to recognize our overdependence on verbal and math-
ematical ability. Fortunately, Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and its appli-
cation have helped us recognize how other types of talent can be tapped. Callahan,
Clark, and Kellough (2006) suggest that Gardner’s (1996, 2004) theory asserts that
there are many types of human intelligence and it is possible to group the various
types into eight comprehensive categories: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial,
bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist. Every one of
us, according to Gardner (1996), possesses each of these types of intelligence to some
degree. He also asserted that intelligence is not fixed or static. It can be learned and
taught. Those who exhibit high degrees of linguistic intelligence are able to use oral
and written language effectively. They are often individuals who succeed in areas
such as politics, sales, advertising, and writing. Individuals with strengths in the area
of logical-mathematical ability use numbers effectively and tend to use reason and
logical arguments well. They are accountants, lawyers, scientists, and so on. Some

As I walked into Mr. Higgins’s seventh-period
biology class, which was filled primarily with
vocational-technical students, I was surprised
to see a variety of specimen samples lying
on the lab tables. Mr. Higgins began class
informing his students that they would be
having a lab quiz—which he referred to as
a “practical”—the next day that would con-
stitute a major grade for the marking period.
The students who were busily engaged in
their own private conversations met this
news with shrugs of indifference. Mr. Higgins
continued speaking:

The practical will also be a coopera-
tive learning team activity. Each of your
individual scores on the quiz will be
added together and averaged to form
a team score. Your team score will be
counted as part of the scores for our
team competition. Just to review team
standings so far, we have the Plumbers
in first place with 93 points, followed
by the Body Fixers with 88 points, the
Hair Choppers with 87, and the Live
Wires in last place with 86 points. Don’t

forget that we have all agreed that the
winning team will be treated to a pizza
party by the rest of the class. Now, you
may go ahead and get started studying
in teams for tomorrow’s practical.

For a brief moment, the room fell
completely silent. This was followed by the
scrape of chairs and scuffling of feet as stu-
dents moved into cooperative learning teams.
Within minutes, the students were busy look-
ing at the specimens and relating them to the
diagrams in their textbook. Students were
clearly engaged in helping one another mem-
orize the various specimen parts that they
would need to know for the quiz. Suddenly,
one of the students from the Plumbers sat
down and began to read a comic book.
Within a few minutes, however, the other
members of the team informed him that he
was not going to sit there and do nothing.
They assured him that they would help him
obtain a passing grade on the quiz whether
he liked it or not. The student got to his feet
with a look of resignation and resumed look-
ing at the specimens.

Case 5.5
Cooperative Learning in Biology

140 Section 2 • Prevention

individuals, for example, artists, architects, and interior designers, excel at tasks that
require them to perceive and transform graphic and visual representations of real-
ity. Athletes, dancers, and craftspeople such as mechanics fall into the category of
bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. They are able to use their bodies to express feelings
and ideas and are able to use their hands to produce things. Musicians, conductors,
music critics, and composers have a special capacity to perceive and express musical
form. Thus, they have a high degree of musical intelligence. Individuals who are very
sensitive to the feelings, moods, and intentions of others display interpersonal intel-
ligence. They are often quite successful in people-oriented occupations such as teach-
ing, counseling, and psychology. Certain individuals seem to possess a high degree of
self-knowledge and awareness. They understand themselves well and are able to act
on that knowledge. Although it is difficult to pinpoint specific careers that are con-
nected to intrapersonal intelligence, such individuals are drawn to and successful in
occupations that require self-direction and the ability to recognize one’s own strengths
and weaknesses. Finally, those who possess naturalist intelligence are able to draw on
materials and features of the natural environment to solve problems and fashion prod-
ucts. Farmers, national park rangers, environmentalists, and wilderness guides draw
heavily on this type of intelligence.

Although good teachers have always been aware of the variety of ways in which
students demonstrate high ability, standard classroom practices and assessment
devices have not allowed students to demonstrate their knowledge in ways compat-
ible with their strengths. Thomas Armstrong (1994) and others (e.g., Callahan et al.,
2006) have begun to help teachers figure out how to structure classroom activities and
assessments to take full advantage of the range of intelligences that learners possess.
According to Armstrong, learners who are linguistically talented benefit from activities
such as storytelling, listening to and giving lectures, journal writing, and participating
in classroom discussions. Students who have high aptitudes in mathematical-logical
ability usually enjoy activities such as problem solving, observing and classifying,
Socratic questioning, and experiments. Students who have strengths in spatial rea-
soning often profit from visual displays, color coding and color cues, and graphic
representations such as semantic maps and webs. Students who are talented in the
bodily-kinesthetic area profit from learning activities that include body movement,
such as acting out stories and concepts and using manipulatives. Learners who exhibit
high degrees of musical ability usually learn more effectively when learning activities
include songs, raps, chants, and the use of music as either a teaching tool or a back-
ground environment. Learners who are strong in interpersonal intelligence perform
best when they are engaged in collegial interactions such as peer tutoring, cooperative
learning, simulations, and board games. Finally, students who possess a high degree
of intrapersonal intelligence learn best when provided opportunities for personal goal
setting, for connecting school work to their personal lives, for making choices about
learning activities, and for individual reflection on their own learning. These students
often are exceptionally good at self-assessment.

Armstrong (1994) suggested that teachers ask themselves the following ques-
tions when planning a unit of instruction:

1. How will I use the spoken or written word in this unit?
2. How can I bring numbers, calculations, and logic into the unit?
3. How can I use visual aids, color, and symbolism in the unit?

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 141

4. How can I involve movement and create hands-on activities?
5. How can I use music or environmental sounds?
6. How can I involve students in peer tutoring, cooperative learning, and sharing?
7. How can I evoke personal feelings and connections and provide students with

the opportunity to make individual choices about the unit?
8. How can I use students’ interest in nature and the world around them?

differentiating Instruction

Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences represents only one dimension of difference
among the learners in any given classroom. Anyone who has spent any time in a first-
grade classroom understands that children are not the same when they begin com-
pulsory schooling, and anyone who has spent any time working with seniors in high
school recognizes that students are not all the same when they graduate from high
school. Even students who are grouped homogeneously for instruction differ in signif-
icant ways. Students differ on readiness to learn, prior subject matter understanding,
motivation, thinking ability, metacognitive understanding, interest in the subject, self-
regulation ability, cultural background, and learning style. We could certainly generate
a much longer list, but we hope the point is clear. There is no possibility of pretending
that we can effectively teach all learners in exactly the same way.

It would be wonderful if our schools were all structured so that each student had
access to a skilled individual tutor who could adjust instruction to meet her needs,
but this is simply not the case. The burden for differentiating instruction to meet the
needs of every student lies squarely on the shoulders of the classroom teacher. The
need for differentiation is especially obvious today with the demands of No Child Left
Behind (NCLB) that all students be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014.
Although there is talk about replacing this requirement with a focus on common core
standards, the legislation that requires 100 percent proficiency still stands as of this
writing. Some doubt that this goal can ever be reached. Everyone should realize that
even attempting to reach it will require highly skilled teachers who are adept at dif-
ferentiating instruction so that each student can be successful.

Research on effective differentiated instruction reveals the following key points:
(1) differentiation uses small, flexible instructional groups to meet learner needs; (2)
differentiation employs a wide variety of materials to address learner needs; (3) dif-
ferentiation allows learners to proceed at different paces; (4) differentiating instruc-
tion demands a knowledgeable teacher who understands what the essential learn-
ings of each unit of instruction are; and (5) differentiation is learner centered; that
is, the teacher studies individual learners to identify their needs (Tomlinson, 2005).
It is important to note that differentiation is not a dichotomous concept; that is, it is
not a question of whether a teacher differentiates or does not differentiate. Almost all
teachers differentiate instruction to some degree. Differentiation is most appropriately
conceived of as a continuum of instructional practices ranging from very little atten-
tion to individual differences at the low end to great attention to individual differ-
ences at the high end. The amount of differentiation can be assessed by the answers
to three key questions, (1) “To what degree do students have the opportunity to work
in small groups and individually both with classmates and with the teacher?” (2) “To
what degree do students have the opportunity to spend different amounts of time on
the same learning task in order to learn it well?” (3) “To what degree do students have

142 Section 2 • Prevention

the opportunity to work with different materials to learn the same content?” (Tomlinson
and Imbeau, 2010).

Tomlinson and Edison (2003) suggested that teachers pay attention to three
types of student characteristics in attempting to differentiate instruction: readiness,
interest level, and learning style. Readiness refers to the current understandings, prior
knowledge, attitudes, and skills that a student possesses in relation to particular con-
tent to be learned. Interest refers to what the student enjoys learning and thinking
about. Learning style refers to the way in which learners like to learn (e.g., visually,
aurally, kinesthetically) as well as the manner in which they process information (e.g.,
globally, analytically, concretely, abstractly).

Once the teacher has an understanding of the student’s readiness to learn, inter-
est in learning, and learning style, Tomlinson and Edison (2003) suggested that there
are five elements of instruction that teachers can modify to meet students’ needs. First,
teachers can modify the content of instruction. Most learners should be expected to
master the knowledge and skills that are most essential to a given unit of instruction,
especially in light of NCLB and high-stakes testing. However, some students may need
a great deal of time, scaffolding, and support to master these basic concepts, whereas
others may be able to master the basics fairly independently and be given the oppor-
tunity to expand and enrich their understandings through related activities. They may
be asked to go beyond the essential knowledge and skills and to acquire information
or abilities that might be of particular interest to them.

Second, teachers can differentiate process; that is, they can provide different
types of learning activities or different ways of acquiring information. Some students
may prefer learning individually, whereas others prefer learning in groups. Some enjoy
writing to learn, whereas others enjoy physical movement. Some need very concrete
experiences to understand material, whereas others are able to think abstractly and
hypothetically. This is not to say that students should experience only those types of
activities and thinking processes that they enjoy and are good at. The teacher’s role
is to expand the repertoire of learning capabilities that each student has. Therefore,
all students should have the opportunity to learn in a variety of ways. However, each
learner should also have multiple opportunities to learn in ways that are most com-
fortable and preferable to her.

Third, teachers may differentiate the products that result from learning activities
to provide evidence that the learner has gained the essential understandings. Some
students may demonstrate their understanding through speeches and oral presenta-
tions; others may create models, collages, and posters; still others may prefer creating
musical performances or written projects. As was the case with learning activities,
each student should have both the opportunity to demonstrate understandings in a
variety of ways as well as multiple opportunities to demonstrate understandings in
ways that are most comfortable.

Fourth, the teacher might also modify the learning environment to accommo-
date different student needs. The physical environment can be manipulated in many
ways to create individual work stations or desks, sets of desks where students work
in close proximity to one another, learning centers, and special spaces around the
room where different types of learning activities take place (e.g., the computer table
or the reading nook). The temporal environment can also be adjusted to meet stu-
dents’ needs. The teacher can structure the day or the class period so that students are

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 143

given choices about how time is used, how much time is spent on different activities,
and the sequence in which events occur. Obviously, elementary teachers have more
flexibility than secondary teachers in this regard because they spend most of the day
with their children. Secondary teachers, though limited by a strict schedule, can still
provide choices about length and sequence of activities.

Finally, the teacher can also modify the classroom climate to meet student needs.
Creating work situations that also allow students to meet their social needs, engaging
in morning meeting or other routines that make students feel welcomed each day,
and using class time for a class meeting when tensions and disagreements arise are
all good examples of teachers’ differentiating the affective climate to help students be
more successful.

Teachers who want to differentiate instruction to better meet their students’ needs
should be cognizant of several principles that underlie the differentiation process:

1. Good curriculum comes first. If the curriculum is poorly designed and unengag-
ing, differentiation will make little difference.

2. When in doubt, teach up. Ask students to stretch rather than teach at a lower level.
3. Ongoing assessment is crucial. Both informal and formal assessment tools

should be used to assess student learning as well as to adjust the differentiation

4. Flexible grouping is a critical factor. Students must have the opportunity to move
easily from one group to another to better meet their needs.

5. The emphasis should be on student strengths. Make sure that students have mul-
tiple opportunities to learn in preferred ways and to demonstrate their under-
standing in ways that are comfortable for them.

6. Make your expectations for student learning clear. Students should have a clear
picture of what they are supposed to learn as well as an understanding of the
criteria that will guide assessment of their understanding. (Lewis and Batts, 2005;
Tomlinson, 2005)

Case 5.6 illustrates the use of technology by a novice teacher to differentiate
instruction with her fifth-grade students.

Ms. Flanagan, a novice teacher in a fifth-
grade classroom had a dilemma. She needed
to teach the elements of story—plot, charac-
terization, point of view, and so on—to her
fifth-grade students. The curriculum called for
using two chapter books to teach these story
elements to all of the students. Ms. Flanagan,
however, knew that these two books would

interest a handful of her students but would
be of little interest to the majority of the
class. She was not sure how to differentiate
her instruction to meet the curriculum goals
and also to engage her students with a vari-
ety of books that would relate to individual
student interests. She decided to use technol-
ogy to help resolve the dilemma.

Case 5.6
Differentiation Through Technology


144 Section 2 • Prevention

student Motivation: student cognition

In the second section of this chapter, we discussed theories and models of motivation
that emphasized factors external to the student. Indeed, the focus of that section was
on overt teacher behaviors that affect student motivation. In this section, we will look
at motivation from a different perspective, that of student cognition and its impact
on motivation to learn. Social learning theory, self-efficacy, attribution theory, and
expectancy value theory provide important information concerning the relationship
between student cognition and motivation.

The primary developer of the social learning theory of student motivation was
Albert Bandura (1997). Bandura took issue with the behavioral notions of motivation
that emphasized external reinforcers. He asserted that the individual’s thoughts play
a central role not only in determining the individual’s motivational level but also how
the individual will perceive variables that are intended to be reinforcers. Bandura’s
research demonstrated that personal evaluation and self-satisfaction are potent rein-
forcers of behavior, in fact probably more potent than reinforcers provided by others.
Bandura’s research findings showed that involving students in personal goal setting
and providing frequent opportunities for them to monitor and reflect on their prog-
ress toward these goals could increase student learning efforts. In fact, according to
Bandura, external praise can diminish self-evaluation and create dependency on oth-
ers, thereby reducing an individual’s intrinsic motivation to succeed.

Bandura’s work on personal evaluation and self-satisfaction led to a related
concept that he called self-efficacy, which refers to an individual’s expectation of
success at a particular task. When feelings of self-efficacy are high, individuals are

Ms. Flanagan used Google Docs to cre-
ate story element documents for each of the
three reading groups in her classroom. Each
student was able to read a story of her choice
and then use a laptop from the shared lap-
top cart to work on the group Google Docs
to fill in the setting, the key elements of plot,
the character traits for the main characters
in the story, and also a descriptions of the
point of view from which the story was told.
The use of Google Docs allowed each stu-
dent to be working on a similar goal using
different materials while seated in differ-
ent parts of the room. This strategy allowed
each student to learn about story elements
as they were exemplified in multiple stories
and also introduced each student to other
stories that she might like to read.

The technology offered one other advan-
tage that Ms. Flanagan had not expected. As
the students were working on the Google
Docs, one student found the chat function
on the document and began chatting with
another student by typing questions about her
work. Ms. Flanagan noted the use of chatting
and asked the students if they wanted to “talk”
with each other that way. When they replied
enthusiastically that they did, Ms. Flanagan
said she would allow them to do so if they
promised not to use verbal talk as well. The
students kept their promise. This tool allowed
the students to “talk” with each other with-
out disturbing anyone else, and at the end of
the activity, Ms. Flanagan had a typed tran-
script of the student conversations that had
taken place.


Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 145

much more likely to set higher goals and exert effort toward task completion because
they believe they have the potential to be successful. When feelings of self-efficacy
are low, efforts are diminished. Feelings of self-efficacy develop from judgments
about past performance as well as from vicarious observations of others in similar
situations (Stipek, 2002). The greater the perceived similarity between the person we
are observing (the model) and ourselves, the greater the impact their fate will have on
our own feelings of self-efficacy.

Teachers can use social learning theory in the classroom by focusing stu-
dents’ attention on the improvement of individual effort and achievement over time.
Teachers who wish to use this theory should begin by engaging students in setting
personal goals that are concrete, specific, and realistic. Teachers then involve stu-
dents in monitoring their own performance toward the achievement of these goals.
When students are successful, teachers encourage them to engage in self-reinforce-
ment so that they will build positive feelings of self-efficacy toward the accomplish-
ment of future tasks.

Attribution theory deals with student-perceived causes of success and failure in
school tasks. Clearly, student perceptions of why they succeed or fail at school tasks
have a direct impact on their motivation to perform (Stipek, 2002). Research has iden-
tified five factors to which students are likely to attribute success or failure: ability,
effort, task difficulty, luck, and other people such as the teacher. The only factor that
can be controlled directly by the student is effort. When students attribute success to
effort and failure to lack of effort or inappropriate types of effort, they are likely to
exert additional effort in the future. Students who believe that their personal efforts
influence their learning are more likely to learn than those who believe that learn-
ing depends on teachers or other factors such as task difficulty or luck (Wang and
Palinscar, 1989).

When students attribute failure to lack of ability, the impact on future perfor-
mance is devastating. Negative feelings of self-efficacy develop, and students see
little value in making any effort because they believe that they are not likely to
be successful. As negative judgments of ability become more internalized and self-
worth more damaged, students stop making any effort as a defense mechanism. Not
making the effort allows them to protect their self-concept from further damage.
They can simply shrug their shoulders and claim, “I could have done it if I wanted
to, but I really didn’t think it was worth it.” This face-saving device prevents the fur-
ther ego damage that would result from additional negative ability attributions. To
avoid setting up the vicious cycle of failure and lack of future effort, teachers need
to recognize the danger of placing students in competitive situations in which they
do not have the ability to compete, or of asking students to complete tasks that are
too difficult for them.

The implications of attribution theory for classroom teaching are clear. Students
need to be assigned tasks that are moderately challenging but within their capabil-
ity. This may mean that the teacher has to break complex tasks into subtasks that the
student can handle and provide a great deal of scaffolding for the student, especially
early in the learning process. The teacher should encourage students to make the right
kind of effort in completing classroom tasks, and this may require teaching students
explicitly what it means to expend effort to be successful (Dean et al., 2012). When
students are successful, the teacher can help them attribute their success to this effort.

146 Section 2 • Prevention

When students are not successful, the teacher may want to focus their attention on
the lack of effort or on using inappropriate strategies. Research has demonstrated
that teacher statements concerning attributions for success or failure are the key vari-
able in influencing students to attribute success or failure to one variable rather than
another. Another strategy that seems to have real merit is asking students to document
over time both the effort they make at learning particular concepts and the progress
that they make in learning the concepts as demonstrated by assessments and teacher
feedback (Dean et al., 2012). Case 5.7 illustrates the impact of changing attributions in
influencing student effort.

The expectancy value theory of motivation proposes that the effort that an
individual is willing to put forth in any task is directly related to the product of two
factors: the belief that she will be successful and the value of the outcomes that
will be gained through successful completion of the task (Feathers, 1982). A multi-
plication sign is used to indicate the interaction between the two factors. Note that

Mark was a senior who had failed tenth-
grade history and eleventh-grade history
and was now taking tenth-grade history,
eleventh-grade history, and twelfth-grade
history in order to graduate on time. The
school counselor, who was working with him
to improve his study skills, began by help-
ing Mark prepare for a test on the Egyptians.
When the counselor asked what material
seemed important for the test, Mark replied,
“Well, I know that one thing he is going to
ask is what the Egyptians used for cleaning
instead of soap—sand.” With this response it
became clear to the counselor that Mark was
not good at distinguishing important from
unimportant material. Over the next couple
of weeks, they spent a great deal of time
looking at Mark’s notes and his textbook,
practicing how to separate important from
unimportant material.

Two days before the test, Mark had a
list of important material to study and did a
reasonably good job learning that material.
Immediately after taking the test, Mark went
to the counselor’s office and announced,

“You know what? I noticed something on
the test.” “What did you notice?” asked the
counselor. “I noticed that the stuff I stud-
ied for, I knew, and the stuff I didn’t study,
I didn’t know.”

At first, the counselor thought that Mark
was putting him on. However, as the conver-
sation continued, it became clear that Mark
was serious. Until this point in his life, Mark
had felt that success on tests was simply a
matter of luck. If you happened to be paying
attention to the right things in class, you did
well on tests. If you were unfortunate enough
to be daydreaming during key information,
you did poorly. It was all a matter of luck in
terms of when you were paying attention.

Armed with this information, the coun-
selor now had a two-pronged approach to
working with Mark. Not only did they work
on identifying important information but
also on attributing both success and failure
to personal effort rather than to chance. As
a result of this work, Mark managed to pass
(albeit barely) all three histories and gradu-
ate on time.

Case 5.7
Three Years of History Rolled into One

Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 147

The first section of this chapter presented an
argument for the importance of building posi-
tive student-teacher relationships to enhance
the instructional effectiveness of the teacher;
the second section provided an overview of the
research on teaching that, as we see it, consti-
tutes the basics of effective teaching. The final
section of the chapter presented descriptions
of several conceptualizations of teaching that
have influenced our current understanding of
best teaching practice. These conceptualizations
focus on student cognition, community building,
and higher-order thinking and understanding.
Taken together, these two sections of the chap-
ter provide the reader with a comprehensive
understanding of current thinking concerning
best teaching practice. All teachers have a pro-
fessional obligation to examine their teaching
behavior to ensure that it reflects best practice.
This is a critical step toward making sure that the
teacher has done all that can be done to prevent
classroom management problems from occur-
ring. Among the questions teachers should ask

in assessing the congruence between their own
teaching and best practice are the following:

Do I work at getting to know my students
individually and building positive rela-
tionships with them?

Do the lessons I design include an intro-
duction, clear presentation of content,
checks for student understanding, guided
practice, independent practice, closure or
summary, and periodic reviews?

Have I used each of the following fac-
tors in trying to increase my students’
motivation to learn: student interests,
student needs, novelty and variety, suc-
cess, student attributions, tension, feel-
ing tone, assessment and feedback, and

Have I communicated high expectations
for learning and behavior to all students
by equalizing response opportunities, pro-
viding prompt and constructive feedback


if either of the two factors is zero, no effort will be put forth. Thus, if a student
believes that she has the potential to be successful in academic work and values
good grades and the other outcomes that accompany academic success, she will
be highly motivated to put forth a strong effort. On the other hand, if the student
doubts her ability to perform the academic tasks successfully or does not value
good grades and the other outcomes attached to academic success, she is likely to
put forth a limited effort. Teachers can increase a student’s effort at success either
by encouraging the learner to believe that she can be successful or by increasing the
value of the outcomes.

Good and Brophy (2008) suggested that teachers should take the following
steps to take advantage of the expectancy × value theory in the classroom: (1) estab-
lish a supportive classroom climate, (2) structure activities so that they are at the
appropriate level of difficulty, (3) develop learning objectives that have personal
meaning and relevance for the students, and (4) engage students in personal goal
setting and self-appraisal. Finally, for the expectancy × value theory to succeed, the
teacher needs to help students recognize the link between effort and outcome sug-
gested by attribution theory. We will return to these concepts of expectancy, value,
and attribution in Chapter 7 and demonstrate how they apply to positive relationship

148 Section 2 • Prevention

on performance, and treating all students
with personal regard?

Have I used classroom questioning to
involve students actively in the learning
process by asking questions at a vari-
ety of cognitive levels, using questions
to increase student participation and to
probe for and extend student thinking?

Have I maximized student learning by
allocating as much time as possible for
student learning and by increasing the
percentage of student engagement in
learning activities?

Am I teaching to enable students to
develop a deep understanding of content
rather than a surface-level knowledge?

Am I building communities of learners
through cooperative learning and other

Am I teaching so that students can dem-
onstrate their learning by using a variety
of intelligences?

Am I differentiating instruction to meet
student needs?

Am I using student cognition to increase
student motivation to learn?

The teacher who can answer yes honestly to
each of these questions has made giant strides
toward ensuring that the classroom will be a
learning place for students in which discipline
problems are kept to a minimum.

1. Think of the five most effective teachers in
terms of instructional competence whom you
have experienced as a learner. What role did
your relationship with the teacher have in your
perception of that teacher’s effectiveness?

2. Select a concept from any discipline with which
you are familiar.

a. Write a series of questions on the concept
at each of the following levels: knowledge,
comprehension, application, analysis, syn-
thesis, and evaluation.

b. Would there be any difference in the use of
wait time in asking the six questions you
wrote? Why?

c. Why is a hierarchical ordering of questions
important in classroom management?

3. Why is it better to ask the question first and
then call on someone to answer it? Would there
be any justification for doing it the other way

4. What specifically can teachers do to communi-
cate high expectations for learning and behav-
ior to students?

5. What are some things teachers can do to ensure
that their explanation of content is clear?

6. If you were observing a teacher, what specific
behaviors would you look for to indicate that
the teacher was attempting to maximize stu-
dent time-on-task during a (a) lecture, (b) dis-
cussion, and (c) seat work activity?

7. How might secondary teachers handle routine
chores such as taking attendance and receiv-
ing slips for excuses or early dismissals to
maximize the time allocated for learning? What
might elementary teachers do to ensure that all
subjects receive the appropriate amount of allo-
cated time?

8. Make a list of the topics taught in a given unit
of instruction and identify those topics that can
be considered generative topics to be taught at
a deeper level of understanding.

9. Take a lesson you have taught using an
individual lesson structure and redesign it as a
cooperative learning lesson with all three criti-
cal elements of cooperative learning. Include as
many types of positive interdependence as pos-
sible in the lesson.

10. Choose an assignment that you or a colleague
has used in the past to assess student learning
of a concept or topic. Identify how many types


Chapter 5 • The Professional Teacher 149

of intelligence were tapped by this assessment.
Now, redesign the assignment to include all
seven types of intelligence.

11. Carefully review the two bodies of knowledge
on teaching presented in the final two sec-
tions of this chapter (The Basics of Effective
Teaching and Beyond the Basics) and answer
the following questions:

a. In what ways are the two similar?
b. In what ways are the two different?
c. Can the two be used compatibly in the

same classroom?

12. Principles of Teacher Behavior After reading
Chapter 5, briefly describe your understanding
of the implications of the principles listed at
the beginning of the chapter for a classroom

Principle 1:

Principle 2:


Structuring the


The Basics

Nature of the Discipline Problem

Understanding Why Children Misbehave

Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students

Structuring the Environment
Designing the Physical Environment • Establishing Classroom Guidelines

• Classroom Procedures • Classroom Rules
Determining Necessary Procedures and Rules

Developing Consequences
•  natural  •  logical  •  contrived

Communicating Rules  •  Obtaining Commitments  •  Teaching Rules

The Professional Teacher

Chapter 6 • Structuring the Environment 151

PrinciPles of Teacher Behavior ThaT influence
aPProPriaTe sTudenT Behavior

1. When environmental conditions are appropriate for learning, the likelihood of
disruptive behavior is minimized.

2. Students are more likely to follow classroom guidelines if the teacher models
appropriate behavior; explains the relationship of the guidelines to learning,
mutual student-teacher respect, and protection and safety of property and
individuals; and obtains student commitment to follow them.

3. Teaching students appropriate behavior increases the likelihood that disruptive
behavior will be prevented.

4. Enforcing teacher expectations by using natural and logical consequences helps
students learn that they are responsible for the consequences of their behavior
and thus are responsible for controlling their own behavior.

Prereading acTiviTy: undersTanding The PrinciPles
of Teacher Behavior

Before reading Chapter 6, briefly describe your understanding of the implications of
the principles for a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Principle 3:

Principle 4:

Prereading QuesTions for reflecTion and Journaling

1. If you were asked to go to a school and judge the appropriateness of a
classroom’s physical environment, what criteria would you use in making your

2. What classroom rules do you or will you establish in your classroom?

3. Do you think that rules should be jointly decided upon by the teacher and
students or just by the teacher? Why?

152 Section 2 • Prevention


Misbehavior does not occur in a vacuum. Psychologists have long believed that behav-
ior is influenced by the events and conditions (antecedents) that precede it as well as
by the events and conditions (consequences) that follow it.

Antecedents may increase the likelihood that appropriate behavior will take
place, or they may set the stage for the occurrence of misbehavior. Therefore, when
teachers act to prevent or modify inappropriate behavior, they must examine ante-
cedents carefully before resorting to the delivery of consequences. The start of the
school year and the introduction of novel learning activities are two critical times
when antecedent variables must be carefully considered. Unfortunately, because their
workload is heavy and planning time is limited, teachers often give only cursory atten-
tion to antecedent variables at these times. Although it is understandable that many
teachers decide to spend this time on designing learning activities, it must be stressed
that learning activities are more successful when teachers have preplanned seating
arrangements, supplies, and rules and procedures (Brophy, 1988a).

Because of the impact of antecedent variables on student behavior, teachers
should take time to examine the two most crucial variables—the physical environ-
ment and classroom guidelines—if they do not take time to examine all of them. In
this chapter, the importance of classroom furniture arrangements and the design of
classroom procedures and rules are examined.

desIgnIng the PhysIcal classroom envIronment

environmental conditions

Inadequate heating and lighting, poor ventilation, peeling paint, crumbling plaster,
and inoperable toilets affect student learning, student behavior, teacher morale, and
student and teacher health (Hopkins, 1998; Lewis et al., 2000; Schneider, 2002). In
some schools, the air quality is so poor that students’ ability to concentrate is signifi-
cantly impacted.

This is particularly problematic for the estimated 14 million students who attend
schools in need of extensive repairs or replacement or the 46 million students who
attend schools that have unsatisfactory environmental conditions. It is estimated that 60
percent to 75 percent of public schools need at least one major building feature repaired
or replaced (Hansen, 1992; Hopkins, 1998). Although teachers cannot install new light-
ing or remodel inefficient heating systems, they can ensure that the physical environ-
ment of the classroom is the most appropriate one for learning, given what is available.
For instance, teachers can control lighting intensity. Dim lights, a flickering ceiling light,
or inadequate darkening of the room for media and technology use causes frustra-
tion, disinterest, and off-task behavior among students. Always checking on appropriate
lighting before the start of a lesson can avoid these problems. Because many schools are
on predetermined heating schedules, there are usually some days in every season when
rooms may be uncomfortably hot or cold. Whereas a teacher may not be able to adjust
the thermostat, he can open windows to let in fresh air, turn off unnecessary lights to
cool the room, and remind students to bring sweaters or dress in layers.

Depending on the school’s location, outside noise may be uncontrollable, but
inside noise is often manageable. As a group, teachers should insist that noisy repairs

Chapter 6 • Structuring the Environment 153

be completed either before or after school when possible. Teachers should also insist
on predetermined times for public address announcements. Finally, school policy
should dictate and enforce quiet hallway use by both teachers and students when
classes are in session.

The importance of doing as much as possible to create environmental conditions
conducive to learning cannot be stressed too much, as humans must be physically
comfortable before their attention is voluntarily given to learning.

use of space

Although teachers have no control over the size of their classrooms, they usually can
decide (except possibly in shops and labs) how best to utilize their space. Careful use
of physical space makes a considerable difference in classroom behavior (Clayton
and Forton, 2001; Evans and Lovell, 1979).

seatIng arrangements A teacher’s first concern should be the arrangement of
seating. No matter what basic seating arrangement is used, it should be flexible
enough to accommodate and facilitate the various learning activities that occur in the
classroom. If a teacher’s primary instructional strategy involves a lot of group work,
the teacher may put three or four desks together to facilitate these activities. On the
other hand, if a teacher emphasizes teacher-directed lecture and discussion followed
by individual seat work, the traditional rows of desks separated by aisles may be the
appropriate seating arrangement. It is quite acceptable and often warranted for the
teacher to change the primary seating arrangement to accommodate changing instruc-
tional activities. Seating arrangements in which higher- and lower-achieving students
are interspersed throughout the room can increase involvement and participation.
Also, when lower-ability students are seated closer to the front of the room, their
achievement may improve (Jones and Jones, 2012).

An effective seating arrangement allows the teacher to be in close proximity to all
students. This type of arrangement allows the teacher to reach any student in the class
with minimal disturbance to other students and enables all students to see instructional
presentations. An effort should be made to avoid having students face distractions, such
as windows or hallways. Finally, seating should not interfere with high-usage areas,
those areas with pencil sharpeners, sinks, closets, or wastepaper cans. Many interactive
web-based tools allow teachers to explore different seating arrangements for various
instructional models along with the advantages and limitations for both the teacher and
learners of each arrangement (e.g., Training Room Design, Seating Chart Maker, Super
Teacher Tools). Online tools for teachers whose classes include students with special
needs or students who are prone to inattentiveness such as those with attention deficit
disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are also available.
For these students, an appropriate seating arrangement is very important in meeting
their special needs as well as influencing appropriate behavior by reducing distractions.

Besides planning the location of seats and desks, which occupy most of the
classroom space, the teacher must decide where learning centers, computers, storage
cabinets, and large worktables are to be placed. Appropriate placement helps make
the classroom an exciting environment where a variety of different learning styles
are accommodated. Because many people find a cluttered area an uncomfortable

154 Section 2 • Prevention

environment in which to work and learn, classrooms should be neat and uncluttered.
A cluttered, sloppy, unorganized classroom suggests to students that disorganization
and sloppiness are acceptable, which may lead to behavior problems. In designing
the classroom environment, it is also important to make sure that the size of the class-
room furniture matches the physical developmental level of the students. When high
school students are asked to squeeze into desks that are too short or kindergarten
students are asked to put supplies away on shelves that are too high, the likelihood
of inappropriate student behavior increases significantly. Teachers should also think
carefully about how much equipment and furniture is really necessary to support
instructional activities and learning. It is important that storage space for equipment
and supplies be sufficient, but too much furniture can result in cluttered walkways
that impede student movement, obstruct student views of learning displays, crowd
seating, and become potential safety hazards (Clayton and Forton, 2001).

BulletIn Boards and dIsPlay areas The bulletin boards in Mr. Jaffee’s room in
Case 6.1 serve two purposes: they publicly recognize students’ efforts and they pro-
vide an opportunity for students to enrich their mathematics learning through their
own efforts and ideas. This is in striking contrast to bulletin boards that are packed
away unchanged at the end of each school year only to reappear again in September
or bulletin boards that have only a few yellowed notices dated a few months earlier
pinned to them.

The more bulletin boards are used to recognize students, as Ms. White does in
Case 6.2, or to provide students with opportunities for active participation, the more
likely they are to facilitate and enhance appropriate student behavior. Bulletin boards
and display areas may also be used to post local or school newspaper articles men-
tioning students’ names and to display students’ work. A part of a bulletin board or

Each of Mr. Jaffee’s five classes has a bulle-
tin board committee, which is responsible for
the design of one bulletin board during the
year. The only criterion is that the topic has
to be mathematically related or its design has
to use some mathematical skill.

The fifth-period bulletin board commit-
tee is ready to present three ideas to the class.
Before the presentation, Mr. Jaffee reminds
his students that they can vote for only one
idea. Dana presents the first idea: “We would
like to make a graph showing popular music
sales of 2012.” Tina presents the second idea:
“I propose that we make bar graphs that

compare the 2012 Olympic track and field
outcomes to the world records.” Jamie pres-
ents the third idea: “It would be interesting
to have a display showing the many careers
there are in mathematics.”

After the class asks the presenting stu-
dents questions about each idea, Mr. Jaffee
calls for a vote. The popular music graph
receives 14 votes; the Olympics 10; and not
surprisingly, mathematics careers only 4. The
committee immediately begins its research
on popular music sales so that the bulle-
tin board will be completed before parents’
back-to-school night.

Case 6.1
Fourteen to Ten, Music Wins

Chapter 6 • Structuring the Environment 155

other wall space may be set aside for a list of classroom guidelines. Remember that
decisions about the use of classroom space and decorations may be shared with stu-
dents to create a more student-directed learning environment, in which students feel
ownership, pride, and a sense of community.

estaBlIshIng classroom guIdelInes

There is at least one antecedent variable over which the teacher has major control
and that is the development of classroom guidelines. Classroom guidelines are nec-
essary for the efficient and effective running of a classroom. After all, a classroom is
a complex interaction of students, teachers, and materials. Guidelines help increase
the likelihood that these interactions are orderly and the environment is conducive
to learning. Properly designed guidelines should support teaching and learning and
provide students with clear expectations and well-defined norms, which in turn will
give them feelings of safety, security, and direction. A safe, secure atmosphere often
provides students with the motivation and rationale to compete with those peer pres-
sures that oppose behaviors conducive to learning (Jones and Jones, 2012).

classroom Procedures

There are two types of classroom guidelines: procedures and rules. Procedures are
routines that call for specified behaviors at particular times or during particular activi-
ties. Procedures are directed at accomplishing something, usually logistical, not at
discouraging disruptive behavior. In contrast to classroom rules that govern behavior
generally and are always in effect no matter what the activity, classroom procedures
are designed to have students accomplish specific tasks and are usually activity spe-
cific. Examples of procedures include standard ways of passing out and turning in
materials, entering and leaving the room, and taking attendance. Procedures reflect
behaviors necessary for the smooth operation of the classroom and soon become an
integral part of the running of the classroom.

Procedures are deliberately taught to students through examples and demon-
strations, typically the first time that the procedure will be used. Properly designed
and learned, procedures maximize on-task student behavior by minimizing the need
for students to ask for directions and the need for teachers to give instructions for

One by one the seventh-grade students enter
Ms. White’s room and cluster around the bul-
letin board. Today is the day after the test
and the new “Commendable Improvements”
list goes up. Cathy hollers, “Great, I made it!”
Jimmy says, “Me too!” The list notes those

students who have made improvements from
one test to another regardless of test grade.
Names appear on it in alphabetical order and
do not reflect a grade ranking. The enthusi-
asm with which students greet this bulletin
board surprises even Ms. White.

Case 6.2
Having Your Name Placed on the Board Isn’t Always Bad

156 Section 2 • Prevention

everyday classroom events. Certain important procedures, for example, steps to be
followed during fire drills and appropriate heading information for tests and assign-
ments, may be prominently displayed for students’ reference.

Because students often do not learn and use a teacher’s procedures immediately,
feedback and practice must be provided. However, the time spent on teaching the
procedures is well invested and eventually leads to a successful management system
(Brophy, 1988b). Often in art, science, and elementary classes, which are quite pro-
cedurally oriented, teachers have students practice the required procedures. In class-
rooms in which procedures are directly related to safety or skill development (such
as equipment handling in industrial arts, technology education, or science laboratory
techniques), instructional objectives involving the procedures are used in addition to
subject matter objectives. In these situations, the procedures become an integral part
of the classroom instruction. Note how Ms. Hersh uses an analogy to provide feedback
on procedures to her third-grade students in Case 6.3.

After teaching the procedures and making sure that students can carry them
out, many skilled teachers, especially at the elementary level, make sure to remind
students about the appropriate procedure every time the procedure is used during
the first few weeks of school. After a few weeks, these teachers will begin to have
students share with each other what the appropriate procedure should be for a few
weeks after that, just to ensure that the procedures have been internalized and have
become automatic for students.

The use of natural and logical consequences is quite appropriate for students
who fail to follow procedural guidelines. Natural consequences are outcomes of
behavior that occur without teacher intervention. Examples of natural consequences

Classroom procedures have to be taught to students.

Chapter 6 • Structuring the Environment 157

are the inability of a teacher to record a student’s grade if an assignment is handed in
without a name and the incorrect results that occur because of inappropriate labora-
tory procedures (if not a safety hazard).

The use of logical consequences is much more common and has wider appli-
cability in school settings than the use of natural ones. Logical consequences are
outcomes that are directly related to the behavior but require teacher intervention
to occur. Examples of logical consequences are students having less time for recess
because they did not line up correctly to leave the room and students having to pay
for the damage to their textbooks because of careless use.

Natural and logical consequences are powerful learning experiences because the
consequences that students experience are directly related to their behavior. Students
quickly learn that if they do not want to experience the same consequence in the future,
they need to change their behavior. Therefore, anything the teacher does that removes
students’ attention from himself decreases the learning effectiveness of natural and logi-
cal consequences and in effect turns the teacher into the punisher. This is illustrated in
Case 6.4. It is quite obvious to Tess why she fell and got angry with Ms. Blanco after the
teacher’s first response (a). When Ms. Blanco does not explain the cause-and-effect rela-
tionship, Tess continues to focus on herself (“it really hurts”) as in the second response
(b). In many situations, the best thing a teacher can do is to say is nothing.

classroom rules

In contrast to procedures, rules focus on appropriate behavior in general. They pro-
vide the guidelines for those behaviors that are required if teaching and learning are

Karen Hersh, a third-grade teacher, has a
drawing on one corner of the whiteboard in
her classroom that depicts a target consist-
ing of several concentric circles with a bull’s-
eye in the middle. The first time each year
that Karen uses writers’ workshop with her
students, she teaches them the procedure for
peer conferencing about each other’s writing.
For the procedure to work well, the noise
level in the classroom must be at an appro-
priately low level. Karen begins by teaching
what a “one-foot” voice sounds like, that is,
a voice level that can be heard at no farther
away than one foot. She tells her students
that a one-foot voice is the appropriate vol-
ume for peer conferencing. Immediately

after teaching the one-foot voice concept,
Ms. Hersh has her students pair up and
practice one-foot conversations. After a few
seconds, Karen goes to the target on her
board and uses a suction cup dart to show
her students visually how close the volume
level of the class came to the target level.
Typically, the initial practice volume dart is
placed somewhere in the concentric circle
that is most removed from the bull’s-eye.
Karen has her students practice one-foot
voices several times, each time depicting on
the target how well the volume matches the
target. Finally, when the class volume is at
the level that Karen wants, she puts the dart
right on the bull’s-eye.

Case 6.3
Hitting the Bull’s-eye

158 Section 2 • Prevention

to take place. Because they cover a wider spectrum of behavior than procedures, the
development of rules is usually a more complex and time-consuming task.

the need for rules Schools in general and classrooms in particular are dynamic
places. Within almost any given classroom, learning activities vary widely and may
range from individual seat work to large-group projects that necessitate cooperative
working arrangements among students. Although this dynamism helps motivate stu-
dent learning, human behavior is highly sensitive to differing conditions across situ-
ations as well as to changing conditions within situations (Walker, 1979). Evidence
indicates that children in general and children who exhibit disruptive behavior in par-
ticular are highly sensitive to changing situations and conditions (Johnson, Bolstad,
and Lobitz, 1976; Kazdin and Bootzin, 1972). Given this, the need for rules is apparent.

Rules should be directed at organizing the learning environment to ensure the
continuity and quality of teaching and learning and not at exerting control over stu-
dents (Brophy, 1988a). Appropriately designed rules increase on-task student behavior
and result in improved learning.

determInIng necessary rules A long list of do’s and don’ts is one sure way to
reduce the likelihood that rules will be effective. Teachers who attempt to cover every
conceivable classroom behavior with a rule place themselves in the untenable position
of having to observe and monitor the most minute and insignificant student behaviors.
This leaves little time for teaching. Students, especially in upper elementary and sec-
ondary grades, view a long list of do’s and don’ts as picky and impossible to follow.
They regard teachers who monitor and correct every behavior as nagging, unreason-
able, and controlling.

Teachers must develop individually or with students a list of rules that is fair and
realistic and can be rationalized as necessary for the development of an appropriate
classroom environment (Emmer and Evertson, 2008). Before meeting a class for the
first time, a teacher must seriously consider the question, “What are the necessary stu-
dent behaviors that I need in my classroom so that discipline problems will not occur?”

For more times than Ms. Blanco would like to
recall, Tess, her fourth-grade student, is run-
ning down the ramp that leads to the play-
ground for recess. On numerous occasions,
Ms. Blanco has called Tess back to have her
walk down the ramp, but it does not seem to
work. However, this time, Tess trips and falls.
Crying loudly, she is holding her knee, which
is bleeding. Ms. Blanco rushes over to see if
Tess is all right.

a: She says: “See, I told you that if you
kept running that someday you would fall
and get hurt well today it finally happened.”
Tess screamed at her “No kidding, just leave
me alone!”

b: Alternatively, Ms. Blanco rushes over
to see if Tess is all right. She says: “Tess,
please go to the restroom wash your knee
then come back I have some Band-Aids.” Tess
responds, “O.K., it really hurts.”

Case 6.4
Leave Me Alone

Chapter 6 • Structuring the Environment 159

To assist in answering this question, keep in mind the definition of a discipline prob-
lem from Chapter 2: A discipline problem is any behavior that interferes with the
teaching act, interferes with the rights of others to learn, is psychologically or physically
unsafe, or destroys property. Thus, any rule that is developed by the teacher or by the
teacher and students jointly must be able to be rationalized as necessary to ensure
that (1) the teacher’s right to teach is protected, (2) the students’ rights to learning
are protected, (3) the students’ psychological and physical safety are protected, and
(4) property is protected. Rules that are so developed and rationalized make sense to
students because they are not arbitrary. Such rules also lend themselves to the use of
natural and logical consequences when students do not follow them.

Teachers who develop a more student-directed approach to creating a classroom
learning environment (see Chapter 4) may prefer to provide students with the oppor-
tunity to develop rules with the guidance of the teacher. Brady et al. (2003, p. 22) sug-
gested a four-part process for carrying out this task: (1) begin by having the teacher
and students discuss their hopes, dreams, and goals for the year; (2) generate an initial
list of rules by discussing the types of classroom conditions and behaviors that will
be necessary to help both teacher and students achieve their goals and dreams; (3)
reframe the list of rules in positive terms, that is, what to do instead of what not to
do; and finally, (4) trim the list down to a small number (four or five) of global rules.

The reframing of rules in positive terms, in other words, what is allowed, rather
in negative terms, what is not allowed, increases the likelihood that students will
abide by the rules. Let’s look at a nonschool example. A park allows only dogs that
are leashed. This can be communicated by signs. One sign reads, “No dogs allowed
without leashes.” The other sign reads, “Dogs allowed with leashes.” Which sign is
friendlier? How do you feel when you read the two signs? Which sign are you more
likely to follow? Similarly in classrooms, if every rule is stated as what you cannot do,
students are more likely to view the classroom and the teacher as controlling. If rules
are worded as what you can do, the teacher is viewed as less controlling. Almost every
rule can be rephrased. For example, “Do not call out answers” can be rephrased as
“Please raise your hand when you want to answer.”

Of course, rules are dynamic and should be reviewed periodically during the
school year. Regardless of how the rules were initially developed, the review should
be a shared activity with students and the teacher. The teacher should pose questions
such as, “Are these the rules we still need?” “Do we have too many rules?” “Are there
rules that we need but we do not have?” In answering these questions, the teacher
should remind students often that the decision to remove, keep, or add rules must be
based on providing a safe environment in which the teacher’s right to teach and the
students’ right to learn are protected. When rules are removed, the class should be
recognized as moving toward achieving the ultimate goal of self-control.

develoPIng consequences When students choose not to follow classroom rules,
they should experience consequences (Canter, 1989). The type of consequences and
how they are applied may determine whether or not students follow rules and respect
the teacher. Therefore, the development of appropriate consequences is as important
as the development of the rules themselves.

Unfortunately, teachers usually give considerably more thought to the design
of rules than they do to the design of consequences. When a rule is not followed,

160 Section 2 • Prevention

teachers often simply determine the consequence on the spot. Such an approach may
lead to inconsistent, irrational consequences that are interpreted by students as unfair,
unreasonable, and unrelated to their behavior. This view of the teacher’s behavior
eventually undermines the teacher’s effectiveness as an influencer of appropriate
behavior and leads to more disruptive student behavior.

Although the teacher should plan consequences in advance, there is some debate
about whether or not students should know in advance what the consequences will
be. Some teachers believe that sharing potential consequences helps students live up
to teacher expectations and avoids later complaints about the fairness of the conse-
quences. Although this may be true, if consequences are known, some students may
do a risk analysis and determine that engaging in the disruptive behavior is worth
more than the consequences that follow (Kamii, 1991). Other teachers believe that
announcing consequences in advance gives students the impression that the teacher
expects students not to live up to expectations. They prefer to act as if they have no
need to think about consequences because they know that all the students will be suc-
cessful in meeting both behavioral and academic expectations. There is no empirical
answer to this debate. It is a matter of teacher beliefs and preference.

There is another reason that a teacher may not want to communicate the con-
sequences of not following each rule. The teacher may not know at the time of the
infraction what the consequence will be, if any at all. This has to do with the idea that
we teach appropriate behavior like we teach academics. If you tried once or twice to
teach a student ratios and proportions in math and he still has not mastered this con-
tent, do you give up or try something different? Of course you keep trying. In Chapter 8,
the hierarchy of teacher interventions will be introduced, and the hierarchy will
be expanded in Chapters 9 and 10. Basically, the hierarchy of interventions is an
ordered listing of nonverbal and verbal teacher interventions that follow a few con-
tinua such as starting with interventions that student control to interventions that
have minimum student control and from interventions that are least disruptive to
the learning environment to interventions that are most disruptive. The delivery of
consequences is listed 17th out if a list of approximately 20 interventions. So in most
cases of a student violating a rule, the consequence is that the teacher now inter-
venes to influence the student to choose appropriate behavior. Thus, there may be
no consequence at all.

As we have already noted in the discussion of procedures, the two types of con-
sequences are natural and logical. Natural consequences, which occur without any-
one’s intervention and are the result of a behavior, are powerful modifiers of behavior.
After all, have you ever

Had an accident because you ran a red light or a stop sign?

Injured your foot while walking barefoot?

Locked yourself out of your house because you forgot your key?

Lost or broken something because of carelessness?

Missed a bus or train because of lateness?

All of these events usually lead to a change in behavior, and they all have certain com-
mon characteristics. Each is an undesirable consequence all persons experience each
equally regardless of who they are, and it comes about without the intervention of

Chapter 6 • Structuring the Environment 161

anyone else. Dreikurs (2004) emphasized that children are provided with an honest
and real learning situation when they are allowed to experience the natural conse-
quences of their behavior.

Although students are more likely to experience natural consequences at home
or in the general society than in school, allowing them to experience the natural con-
sequences of their behavior, if at all possible, in classroom situations is a very effective
learning technique. It clearly communicates a cause-and-effect relationship between
a student’s chosen behavior and the experienced consequence, and it removes the
teacher from negative involvement with the students. Some examples of natural con-
sequences in schools follow:

Obtaining a low test grade because of failure to study.

Losing assignments or books because of carelessness.

Ruining a shop project as a result of the inappropriate use of tools.

Losing a ball on a roof or over a school fence because of playing with it inappropriately.

Of course, inherent ethical, moral, and legal restraints prohibit a teacher from
allowing some natural consequences to happen. For instance, the natural consequence
of failing to follow safety precautions in science laboratories or technology education
classes may be serious bodily injury or even death. Obviously, such a consequence
must be avoided. Other natural consequences take a long time to occur. For example,
the natural consequence of a student refusing to join a reading group may be a failure
to gain necessary reading skills, which may eventually result in the student failing to
get into college or to find meaningful employment. Consequences like these are not
evident to the student at the time of the behavior.

When natural consequences are not appropriate or do not closely follow a given
behavior, the teacher needs to intervene and apply a logical consequence. Have you ever

Been subjected to a finance charge because you were late paying a bill?

Received a ticket for a traffic violation?

Had a check returned for insufficient funds because you didn’t balance your

These are logical consequences. They are directly and rationally related to the behav-
ior, but they are usually the result of the purposeful intervention of another person.
In school, that person is usually the teacher, who optimally administers logical con-
sequences in a calm, matter-of-fact manner. If logical consequences are imposed in
anger, they cease to be consequences and tend to become punishments. Children are
likely to respond favorably or positively to logical consequences because they do not
consider them mean or unfair, whereas they often argue, fight back, or retaliate when
punished (Dreikurs, 1964). Logical consequences may be applied in two ways. In the
first way, the teacher prescribes the logical consequence without giving the student
a choice:

“Morrisa, if you keep pushing, I will have you hold my hand as we walk.”

“Heidi, if you keep bothering Joey, I will change your seat.”

“Mike, when you raise your hand, I will call on you.”

162 Section 2 • Prevention

In the second way, the teacher offers the student a choice of changing his behav-
ior or experiencing the logical consequence. The use of this technique places the
responsibility for appropriate behavior where it belongs, on the student. If the student
chooses to continue the disruptive behavior, the logical consequence is forthcoming. If
the student chooses to cease the disruptive behavior, there is no negative consequence:

“Morrisa, you have a choice to walk down the hall without pushing or hold
my hand.”

“Heidi, you have the choice to stop disturbing Joey or change your seat.”

“Mike, you have a choice to raise your hand or not be called on.”

Notice that the phrasing for all the choices clearly identifies the student being addressed
and the desired behavior as well as the logical consequence if the behavior does not
change. Using the words “you have a choice” communicates to the student that the
teacher is in a neutral position and thus serves to remove the teacher from arguments and
power struggles with the student. This is crucial, especially in highly explosive situations.
Natural or logical consequences are not often readily apparent to an extremely angry and
upset student who has spewed vulgarities at his teacher during class. If, in response to
this behavior, the teacher says, “Your behavior is unacceptable. If this occurs again, your
parents will be contacted immediately,” the student is made aware of exactly what will
happen if he chooses to continue his behavior. Furthermore, the teacher remains neutral
in the eyes of not only the student but also the rest of the class.

A third form of consequence is contrived consequence, more commonly known
as punishment. The strict definition of punishment is any adverse consequence of a
targeted behavior that suppresses the behavior. However, in day-to-day school prac-
tice, punishment takes on two forms: removal of privileges and painful—physical or
psychological—experiences. Either form may or may not suppress misbehavior.

If appropriately planned and logically related to the misbehavior, the removal of
privileges becomes a logical consequence. For example, taking away a student’s recess
time because he has to complete classwork that was missed while daydreaming is a
logical consequence. However, if the teacher cancels the student’s participation in a trip
to the zoo scheduled for the following week, it is a punishment and not a logical con-
sequence because it is not directly related to helping the student complete his work.
Additionally, a logical consequence can be perceived as a punishment if the teacher
delivers the consequence in an aggressive, hostile, or demeaning tone of voice. Rather
than the student focusing on his inappropriate behavior, he focuses on the teacher’s
behavior, attempting to avoid the verbal attack (Levin and Shanken-Kaye, 2002).

Painful punishments may be physical (shaking, hitting, or pulling) or psychologi-
cal (yelling, sarcasm, or threats) or take the form of extra assignments (extra home-
work or writing something 100 times). Such punishments are often designed only to
cause discomfort and get even. The use of painful punishment has been and remains
a highly controversial issue on the grounds of morality, ethics, law, and proven inef-
fectiveness (Hyman and Snook, 1999; Jones and Jones, 2012; Kohn, 1999).

Research has indicated consistently that painful punishment suppresses undesir-
able behavior for short periods of time without effecting lasting behavioral change
(Clarizio, 1980; Curwin and Mendler, 1999). Because avoidance or escape behavior
is often a side effect of painful experiences, frequent punishment may teach a child

Chapter 6 • Structuring the Environment 163

only how to be “better at misbehaving.” In other words, the child may continue to
misbehave but find ways to avoid detection and thus punishment. Because punish-
ment seldom is logically related to the behavior and does not point to alternative
acceptable behavior, punishment deprives the student of the opportunity to learn
prosocial, acceptable behavior. In addition, punishment reinforces a low level of moral
development because it models undesirable behaviors. Students come to believe that
it is appropriate to act in punishing ways toward others when one is in a position of
authority (Clarizio, 1980; Curwin and Mendler, 1999; Jones and Jones, 2012).

Because it focuses the child’s concern on the immediate effect, punishment does
not help the child examine the motivation behind the behavior and the consequences
of the behavior for himself and others, which is important for him to do as he learns
to control his disruptive behavior ( Jones and Jones, 2012). It also limits the teacher’s
ability to help the child in this examination process because the child frequently
does not associate the punishment with his actions but with the punisher. This often
leads to rage, resentment, hostility, and an urge to get even (Dreikurs, Grunwald, and
Pepper, 1982; Jones and Jones, 2012).

Although there has been an ever-increasing opposition to its use in schools, phys-
ical or corporal punishment is still used in many classrooms. More than three decades
ago, Epstein (1979) stated, “There is no pedagogical justification for inflicting pain.…
It does not merit any serious discussion of pros and cons” (pp. 229–230). Similarly,
Canter (1989) stated, “[C]onsequences should never be psychologically or physically
harmful to the students…corporal punishment should never be administered” (p. 58).
Clarizio (1980) stated, “[T]here is very little in the way of evidence to suggest the ben-
efit of physical punishment in the schools but there is a substantial body of research to
suggest that this method can have undesirable long-term side effects” (p. 141). Hyman
and Snook (1999) stated that “there is absolutely no legitimate pedagogical justifica-
tion for corporal punishment” (p. 51) and that “the major decision to use corporal
punishment…has nothing to do with its effectiveness to deter misbehavior” (p. 49).
Both Clarizio (1980) and Epstein (1979) noted that some of the side effects of physi-
cal punishment are dislike and distrust of the teacher and school. Kamii (1991) noted
that students may develop a feeling of powerlessness, with predictable negative effects
on their motivation to learn. To regain a sense of power (see Chapter 3), students are
likely to develop escape and avoidance behaviors that may take the form of lying,
skipping class, daydreaming, the calculation of risks, blind conformity, revolt, or addi-
tional disruptive behavior. Given the wealth of evidence opposing the use of corporal
punishment over such a long period of time, one may ask why its use is still an issue.

Those who advocate the use of physical punishment usually cite one of two
myths (Clarizio, 1980). The first myth is that it is a tried-and-true method that aids
students in developing a sense of personal responsibility, self-discipline, and moral
character. The reality, however, is that studies have consistently indicated that physi-
cal punishment correlates with delinquency and decreased conscience development.
The second myth is that it is the only form of discipline some children understand.
This has never been shown to be true. Perhaps it is a case of projection on the part of
the teacher. One study showed that teachers who relied heavily on physical punish-
ment did not know other means of solving classroom management problems (Dayton
Public Schools, 1973). Teachers must understand that if a technique has not worked in
the past, more of the same technique will not produce desirable results.

164 Section 2 • Prevention

Indeed, the unproven effectiveness of physical punishment and the risk of harm-
ful side effects have caused some of the largest school districts in the country to pro-
hibit corporal punishment (e.g., Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago), even
though many of these school districts are plagued with discipline problems. In addi-
tion, 27 states prohibit corporal punishment in their public schools. The National
Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association
of School Psychologists, and the American School Counselor Association have also
consistently supported the abolition of physical punishment.

For teachers who occasionally use mild forms of nonphysical punishment, guide-
lines for minimizing possible harmful side effects are discussed by Clarizio (1980) and
Heitzman (1983). Table 6.1 compares natural and logical consequences with punishment.

communIcatIng rules If the teacher decides to develop classroom rules by him-
self, he must communicate the rules clearly to the students (Canter and Canter, 1992;
Evertson and Emmer, 1982; Jones and Jones, 2012). Clear communication entails a
discussion of what the rules are and a rationale for each and every one (Good and
Brophy, 1997). When students understand the purpose of rules, they are likely to view
them as reasonable and fair, which increases the likelihood of appropriate behavior.

taBle 6.1 Comparison of Consequences versus Punishment

Natural/Logical Consequence Punishment

Expresses the reality of a situation Expresses the power of authority

Logically related to misbehavior Contrived and arbitrary connection with misbehavior

Illustrates cause and effect Does not illustrate cause and effect

Involves no moral judgment about person—
You are O.K.; your behavior isn’t

Often involves moral judgments

Concerned with the present Concerned with the past

Administered without anger Anger is often present

Helps develop self-discipline Depends on extrinsic control

Choices often given Alternatives are not given

Thoughtful, deliberate Often impulsive

Does not develop escape and avoidance behaviors Develops escape and avoidance behaviors

Does not produce resentment Produces resentment

Teacher is removed from negative involvement
with student

Teacher involvement is negative

Based on the concept of equality Based on superior-inferior relationship

Communicates the expectation that the student
is capable of controlling his own behavior

Facilitates growth in moral development

Communicates that the teacher must control the
student’s behavior

Maintains students in lower levels of moral development
(reward/punishment) stage

Source: Dreikurs et al., 1998; Sweeney, 1981.

Chapter 6 • Structuring the Environment 165

The manner in which rules are phrased is important. Certain rules need to be
stated so that it is clear that they apply to both the teacher and the students. This
is accomplished by using the phrase “We all need to” followed by the behavioral
expectation and the rationale. For example, the teacher might say, “We all need to
pay attention and not interrupt when someone is speaking because it is important
to respect each other’s right to participate and voice his or her views.” Such phras-
ing incorporates the principle that teachers must model the behaviors they expect
(Brophy, 1988a).

Although it is essential for the teacher to communicate behavioral expectations
and the rationales behind them, in many cases, this does not ensure student under-
standing and acceptance of the rules. A final critical strategy, then, is to obtain from
each student a strong indication that he understands the rules as well as a commit-
ment to attempt to abide by them (Jones and Jones, 2012).

oBtaInIng commItments When two or more people reach an agreement, they often
finalize it with a handshake or a signed contract to indicate that the individuals intend
to comply with the terms of the agreement. Although agreements are often violated,
a handshake, verbal promise, or written contract increases the probability that the
agreement will be kept. With this idea in mind, it is a wise teacher who has his stu-
dents express their understanding of the rules and their intent to abide by them. Both
Mr. Merit and Ms. Loy in Cases 6.5 and 6.6 are attempting to get their students to
understand and agree to follow the classroom rules. However, notice that they use dif-
ferent methods because the developmental level of their students is different. Unlike
Mr. Merit, Ms. Loy asks her students only to confirm that they understand the rules,
not that they will abide by them. This is an important distinction that should be made

At the beginning of the school year, Mr. Merit
has a discussion of class rules with his second-
grade class. He explains each rule and gives
examples. Members of the class are asked to
give the reason for each rule. The class as a
whole is encouraged to ask questions about
the rules, and Mr. Merit in turn asks questions
to assess their understanding of the rules.

After the discussion, Mr. Merit says,
“All those who understand the rules, please
raise your hand.” Next he says, “All those
who will attempt to follow the rules, please
raise your hands.” He notices that Helen and
Gary do not raise their hands and asks them
why. Helen says, “I’m not sure if I’ll always

remember the rules, and if I can’t remember,
I can’t promise to follow the rules.” Mr. Merit
replies, “Helen, I understand your concern,
but I have written these rules on a poster,
which I am going to place on the front bul-
letin board. Do you think that this will help
you?” Helen answers, “Yes,” and both Helen
and Gary then raise their hands.

Mr. Merit shows the class the poster of
rules, which is entitled “I Will Try to Follow
Our Classroom Rules.” One by one, each stu-
dent comes up and signs his or her name at
the bottom of the poster. When all the stu-
dents have signed it, Mr. Merit asks Helen to
staple the poster to the front bulletin board.

Case 6.5
“I Don’t Know If I Can Remember”

166 Section 2 • Prevention

when working with older students because it reduces the potential of a student con-
frontation during a time when the development of teacher-student rapport is critical.

Although many experts recommend having classroom rules on display or avail-
able for quick reference (Evertson and Emmer, 1982; Jones and Jones, 2012), it should
be noted that merely displaying them has little effect on maintaining appropriate
student behavior (Madsen, Becker, and Thomas, 1968). Teachers must refer to and
use the displayed rules to assist individual students in learning the rules and develop-
ing self-control. Mr. Martinez in Case 6.7 understands this. He not only displays and
teaches the rule to Lowyn but also reinforces the behavior when she finally does raise
her hand. He understands that noting appropriate behavior and positively encourag-
ing it enhances the likelihood of appropriate behavior in the future (Clarizio, 1980;
Evertson and Emmer, 1982; Madsen et al., 1968).

Teachers may also employ student self-analyses to remind students of appropri-
ate behavior and to help enhance their self-control. Indeed, any student can use self-
analysis of his own behavior, although the actual manner of employment of the tech-
nique varies. Whereas Mr. Hite’s smiley faces in Case 6.8 are appropriate for younger
elementary students (see Figure 6.1), older students evaluate their behavior better
by using rating continua. As with younger students, self-analysis is requested of all
students or individual students as the need arises. Figure 6.2 is an example of a con-
tinuum rating scale that was successfully used to influence appropriate behavior in a
seventh-grade art class.

teachIng and evaluatIng Teachers do not expect students to learn a mathematical
skill on its first presentation because they know students need practice and feedback.
Frequently, however, teachers forget this when it comes to rules. They expect students
to follow classroom rules immediately (Evertson and Emmer, 1982). But rules, like
academic skills, must be taught (Brophy, 1988a; Canter and Canter, 1992; Evertson and
Emmer, 1982; Jones and Jones, 2012). This entails practice and feedback. The amount
of practice and feedback depends on the grade level and the novelty of the procedures

On the first day of class, Ms. Loy explains the
classroom rules to her tenth-grade mathemat-
ics classes. She discusses with the class why
these rules are necessary for the teaching and
learning of mathematics.

Ms. Loy then says to the class, “I am
going to pass out two copies of the rules that
we just discussed. You’ll notice that at the
bottom is the statement, ‘I am aware of these
rules and understand them,’ followed by a
place for your signature. Please sign one copy

and pass it up front so I can collect them.
Place the other copy in your notebook.”

Alex raises his hand and says, “I can’t
make any promises about my future behavior
in this class. I’m not sure what the class is
even going to be like.” Ms. Loy replies, “Please
read what you are signing.” Alex reads, “I am
aware of these rules and understand them”
and says out loud “Oh, I see; I’m not promis-
ing anything.” Alex then signs the sheet and
passes it to the front.

Case 6.6
“I’m Not Promising Anything”

Chapter 6 • Structuring the Environment 167

Mr. Martinez, a fourth-grade teacher, posts his
classroom rules on the front bulletin board.
One by one, the students sign the poster,
thus agreeing to follow the rules.

Mr. Martinez soon notices that Lowyn
is having a difficult time remembering to
raise her hand before answering questions.
Instead, Lowyn just calls out the answers. At
first, Mr. Martinez ignores her answer. The
next time she calls out, he makes eye con-
tact with her and shakes his head in a disap-
proving fashion. Finally, he moves close to
Lowyn and quietly says, “Lowyn, you have
great answers, but you must raise your hand
so that everyone has an equal chance to

The next lesson begins, and Mr.
Martinez asks the class, “Who can summarize
what we learned about magnets yesterday?”
Enthusiastically, Lowyn calls out, “Every mag-
net has a north and south pole.”

Because Mr. Martinez has half expected
that Lowyn will continue to call out answers,
he is prepared for the situation and says,
“Class, please, put down your hands. Lowyn,
please look at the rules on the bulletin board
and find the one that you are not obeying.”
Lowyn answers, “Number four. It says we
need to raise our hands to answer a question.”
Mr. Martinez responds, “Yes it does, and why
do we need such a rule?” “So that everyone in
the class has a chance to answer questions,”
she replies. Mr. Martinez then asks, “Lowyn,
did you agree to follow these rules when you
signed the poster?” “Yes,” Lowyn says.

Mr. Martinez asks her to try harder in
the future and tells her that he will help her
by pointing to the rules if she calls out again.
The first time Lowyn raises her hand, Mr.
Martinez calls on her, and says, “Lowyn, that
was a great answer and thank you for raising
your hand.”

Case 6.7
Calling Out Correct Answers

Mr. Hite teaches first grade. After analyzing
the types of behaviors he believes are neces-
sary for the proper running of his class, he
shares the rules with the children and explains
what he calls the Smiley Face Procedure: “We
all know what smiley faces are, and we are
going to use smiley faces to help us learn and
obey the classroom rules.” Holding up a sheet
of paper (see Figure 6.1), he continues, “As
you can see, this sheet has faces next to each
rule for every day of the week. At the end of
class each day, you will receive one of these
sheets and you will circle the faces that are
most like your behavior for the day.”

Each day, Mr. Hite collects the sheets
and reviews them. When a pattern of frowns
is observed or when he disagrees with a stu-
dent’s rating, he is quick to work with the
student in a positive, supportive manner.

After a few weeks, Mr. Hite discontin-
ues the self-analysis sheets on a regular basis.
They are, however, brought back into use
whenever the class’s behavior warrants it.
Mr. Hite also uses the sheets for individual
students who need assistance in self-control.
When outdoor activities or new activities
such as field trips occur throughout the year,
Mr. Hite develops new sheets for the students.

Case 6.8
The Smiley Face Self-Analysis


Shared with

Listened to
the Teacher

Listened while
Others Talked

Was Friendly
to Others


Joined in

Stayed in
My Seat


Cleaned My

Helped Put

way Materials



fIgure 6.1 Smiley Face Self-Analysis.

Chapter 6 • Structuring the Environment 169

and rules. Rules that students have not encountered before, such as rules for a science
lab, take longer to learn than rules that are traditionally part of classroom settings.

New activities often require new procedures and rules. Because learning is not
instantaneous, students will learn, understand, and abide by classroom rules only over
time. It is not uncommon for teachers to spend entire lessons on how to conduct a
debate, cooperatively work on a group project, safely operate machinery, set up and care
for science apparatus, or behave on field trips or outdoor activities. In such cases, specific
objectives directed toward the procedures and rules are formulated and incorporated
into the lesson plans. In these situations, they become an integral part of the course
content; therefore, their evaluation and consideration in grading decisions are warranted.

fIgure 6.2 Behavior Self-Analysis for Art Class.

Name __________________________________________ Date ___________________

Class ____________________________________________________________________

Teacher-Student Evaluation
Class Behavior

1. Have you worked successfully with minimum supervision during the class
0% of the time 50% of the time All the time

1 2 3 4 5
2. Have you been respectful and considerate to other students and their

0% of the time 50% of the time All the time

1 2 3 4 5
3. Have you been cooperative with your teacher?

0% of the time 50% of the time All the time

1 2 3 4 5
4. Have you used art materials properly?

0% of the time 50% of the time All the time

1 2 3 4 5
5. Have you shown a high degree of maturity and responsibility through

proper class behavior?
0% of the time 50% of the time All the time

1 2 3 4 5
6. Have you been considerate of your classmates and teacher by talking

softly, remaining in your seat, and helping classmates if help is needed?
0% of the time 50% of the time All the time

1 2 3 4 5
7. Have you cleaned your area and put your materials away?

0% of the time 50% of the time All the time

1 2 3 4 5

170 Section 2 • Prevention

Some teachers, particularly those in the elementary grades, evaluate their stu-
dents’ understanding of rules through the use of written exams or student demon-
strations (Curwin and Mendler, 1999). Secondary science and industrial arts teach-
ers often insist that students pass safety exams and demonstrate the appropriate
use of equipment before being given permission to progress with the learning
activities. There are no limits to the number of ways teachers have taught and
assessed classroom guidelines. Jones and Jones (2012) provide an extensive list of
creative, fun ways for teachers to teach and assess students’ understanding of pro-
cedures and rules.

teaching appropriate Behavior

The previous section on teaching and evaluating mentioned that it takes time to learn
mathematics or any academic subject, so why should learning rules and appropriate
behavior be any different? In other words, if teachers expect to teach and reteach
academic objectives, why shouldn’t this also be expected for behavioral objectives?
Teachers who believe learning academics and learning behavior are similar processes
approach their working with students who exhibit disruptive behavior differently
from teachers who believe the two processes are different. For example, if a student
demonstrated that he did not know how to multiply a two-digit number by a two-digit
number, the teacher would go through a process that is congruent with the definition
of teaching (Chapter 1). The teacher would ask the question, “How can I change my
behavior to increase the likelihood that students will learn to multiply any two 2-digit
numbers?” Similarly, if students demonstrated they did not know what respect is, the
teacher would ask the question, “How can I change my behavior to increase the likeli-
hood that students will learn to demonstrate respect?”

Next, the teacher would design a lesson plan to reteach multiplication that might
involve (1) task analyzing the terminal objective (two-digit x two-digit multiplication)
into enabling objectives, what the student needs to know in order to meet the termi-
nal objective; (2) ordering of the enabling objectives, from the least complex to most
complex; (3) designing a teaching strategy for each objective; and (4) evaluating.

This same process can be used to teach appropriate behavior starting with a
lesson on designing classroom rules. The terminal objective might be “Students will
develop a set of classroom rules that are necessary for teaching and learning to occur
in a safe learning environment. Some of the enabling objectives might be

Why rules are necessary.

What is required for a safe environment.

How to determine which are the necessary rules.

Next, a teaching strategy would be designed for each objective, which may include
brainstorming, looking at samples of rules from other classes, cooperative teamwork,
and so on. Many of the creative ideas in Jones and Jones (2012) would be appropri-
ate. As with all instruction, the objectives and strategies must be developmentally

One of the most frequently mentioned concerns that teachers have is that stu-
dents are disrespectful or do not know what respect is. An appropriate terminal

Chapter 6 • Structuring the Environment 171

objective might be “Students will respect all members of the school community.” Some
enabling objectives could be

Students will define respect.

Students will define disrespect.

Students will explain why respect to important.

Students will define the school community.

Strategies might involve role-playing, analyzing media, debates, designing posters, or
designing PowerPoint® presentations.

Other terminal objectives, as the need arises, might be

Students will recognize bullying and know what to do when it is observed.

Students will resolve conflicts through peer mediation.

Students will behave appropriately in the lunchroom.

As with all instruction, lesson must be developmentally sound and culturally sensitive.
Some teachers believe that teaching respect and appropriate behavior is a par-

ent’s job and responsibility. It is also the parents’ job to encourage reading and provide
their children with breakfast, but parents often do not or cannot meet these responsi-
bilities. So the school steps in and provides intensive remedial reading and breakfast
for students meeting certain financial criteria. Others say it takes too much time to
teach behavior. Given that it is going to take time, when would it be best to spend
that time—up front at the beginning of classes or everyday throughout the semester?

To summarize, teachers must communicate to students the importance of the
rules for learning and teaching. This is best accomplished through a no-nonsense
approach that involves

1. Analyzing the classroom environment to determine the necessary rules and pro-
cedures needed to protect teaching, learning, safety, and property, preferably
cooperatively with the students.

2. Clearly communicating the rules and their rationales to students.
3. When appropriate, phrasing rules so as to indicate that they are for both the

teacher and the students.
4. Obtaining students’ commitments to abide by the rules.
5. Teaching and evaluating students’ understanding of the rules.
6. Enforcing each rule with natural or logical consequences.

This chapter first examined two of the critical
variables that influence behavior in the class-
room: the physical environment and classroom
guidelines. Although teachers have no control
over the size or the environmental condition of
their classrooms, they can control the seating

arrangements within their classrooms and the
use of bulletin boards and can ensure that the
available environmental conditions are optimal
for learning to occur. The seating arrangement
should accommodate the learning activity. It
must also permit all students to see instructional


172 Section 2 • Prevention

1. For each of the following activities, design a seat-
ing arrangement for 24 students that maximizes
on-task behavior and minimizes disruptions:

a. Teacher lecture
b. Small-group work (four students per group)
c. Open discussion
d. Individual seat work
e. Class project to design a bulletin board
f. Teacher-led group work and simultaneous

individual seatwork
g. Student group debate
h. Teacher demonstration
2. Give examples of how a teacher can use the

classroom environment (bulletin boards,
shelves, walls, chalkboard, etc.) to create a
pleasant atmosphere that increases the likeli-
hood of appropriate student behavior.

3. With your present or future classroom in mind,
determine the common activities that do or will
regularly occur. Design appropriate procedures
to accomplish those activities. How would you
teach these procedures to the class?

4. a. With your present or future classroom in
mind, determine which general student
behaviors are necessary to ensure that
learning and teaching take place and that
students and property are safe.

b. State a positive rule for each of the behav-
iors you previously listed.

c. For each behavior, give a rationale you can
explain to students that is consistent with
the definition of a discipline problem and
appropriate for the age of the students you
do or will teach.

d. For each behavior, determine a natural or
logical consequence that will occur when
the rule is broken.

e. How will you communicate these rules to

f. How will you obtain student commitment
to these rules?

5. Determine a natural, logical, and contrived
consequence for each of the following

a. Fourth-grade student who interrupts small-
group work

b. Eleventh-grade student who continually
gets out of his seat

c. Seventh-grade student who makes noises
during class

d. Tenth-grade student who makes noises dur-
ing class

e. Twelfth-grade student who refuses to
change his seat when requested to do so by
the teacher

f. First-grade student who interrupts read-
ing group to tattle on a student who is not
doing his seat work


presentations and allow the teacher to be close
to all students. Bulletin boards should reflect
and add to the learning excitement occurring in
the classroom. Properly used, they can provide
students with the opportunity to enrich and
actively participate in their learning and allow
the teacher to recognize and display students’
work and achievements.

Classroom guidelines are needed for rou-
tine activities (procedures) and for general
classroom behavior (rules). When they are well
designed, guidelines provide students with
clear expectations. The teacher can increase
the effectiveness of guidelines by (1) analyz-
ing the classroom environment to determine

what guidelines are needed to protect teach-
ing, learning, safety, and property; (2) commu-
nicating the guidelines and their rationales to
students; (3) obtaining student commitments
to abide by the rules; (4) teaching and evalu-
ating student understanding of the rules; and
(5) enforcing each guideline with natural or
logical consequences.

Teachers who believe that teaching aca-
demics and teaching appropriate behavior are
similar processes design lessons that involve stat-
ing terminal objectives, task analyzing them into
enabling objectives, ordering the enabling objec-
tive from least to most complex, and designing
teaching strategies congruent with the objectives.

Chapter 6 • Structuring the Environment 173

Rule Rationale Consequences

a. Don’t be late to class Because we have a lot of
material to cover and we
need the whole class period

a. Reminder by teacher
b. Student required to get a note
c. Student writes 100 times “I will not be late”

b. We all need to work
without disrupting others

Because everyone has a right
to learn and no one has a right
to interfere with the learning
of others

a. Reminder by teacher
b. Student moved where he cannot disrupt others
c. Student removed from class
d. Student fails

c. We all have to raise our
hands to answer questions or
contribute to a discussion

Because I do not like to be

a. Student ignored
b. Reminder by teacher
c. Parents notified

d. We must use lab equipment
properly and safely

Because it is expensive to

a. Pay for broken equipment
b. Pay for equipment and additional fine

g. A group of sixth-grade students who drop
their pencils in unison at a given time

h. Ninth-grade student who threatens to beat
up another student after class

i. Eighth-grade student who continually pus-
hes the chair of the student in front of him

j. Tenth-grade student who does not wear
goggles while operating power equipment

6. The following are examples of some rules
developed for an eighth-grade science class.
Identify and correct any problems in the rule,
rationale, or consequences.

8. Given the terminal objective “All students will
respect all members of the school commu-
nity,” task analyze the objective into enabling
objectives, order the enabling objectives from
least to most complex, and design teaching
strategies for each objective for grades 4, 7,
and 11.

9. Principles of Teacher Behavior After read-
ing Chapter 6 and doing the exercises, use
what you have learned to briefly describe your
understanding of the implications of the prin-
ciples listed at the beginning of the chapter for
a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Principle 3:

Principle 4:


Building Relationships


The Basics

Nature of the Discipline Problem

Understanding Why Children Misbehave

Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students

Building Relationships
The Cultural Embeddedness of Rules and Guidelines • Creating Group

Norms to Structure Appropriate Behavior • Relationships • Student-Teacher
Relationships • Family-Teacher Relationships

The Professional Teacher

Structuring the Environment

Chapter 7 • Building Relationships 175

PrinciPles Of Teacher BehaviOr ThaT influence
aPPrOPriaTe sTudenT BehaviOr

1. When classroom guidelines and rules match the culture of the students’ home
community, the likelihood that students will behave appropriately is increased.

2. When the teacher creates group norms that are supportive of engagement in
learning activities, the likelihood that students will behave appropriately is

3. When teachers use their professional knowledge base to build positive student-
teacher relationships, the likelihood that students will behave appropriately and
demonstrate higher academic achievement is increased.

4. When teachers proactively build relationships with parents that communicate that
home support for school endeavors is important, parents have the ability to help,
and the school welcomes and encourages their involvement, the likelihood that
students will behave appropriately and demonstrate higher academic achievement
is increased.

Prereading acTiviTy: undersTanding The PrinciPles
Of Teacher BehaviOr

Before reading Chapter 7, briefly describe your understanding of the implications of
the principles for a classroom teacher.

Principle 1

Principle 2

Principle 3

Principle 4

Prereading QuesTiOns fOr reflecTiOn and JOurnaling

1. Do you see any relationship between student culture, school culture, and student
behavior in the classroom?

2. What might a teacher do to increase her knowledge of different cultures?

3. What power bases are best for building positive student-teacher relationships?

4. What can teachers do so that parents are cooperative and supportive when
notified of an academic or behavior problem exhibited by their child?

176 Section 2 • Prevention


Although deliberately designing the physical environment, as noted in Chapter 6, is
important, the human environment, that is, the relationship that exists among the
teacher, the students, and the students’ families is probably an even more powerful
variable in influencing appropriate student behavior and academic learning. Students
achieve at higher academic levels and exhibit less disruptive behavior when they have
positive relationships with teachers, yet the building of student-teacher relationships
has been relatively absent from the literature on classroom management. This chapter
details the importance of student-teacher relationships and proposes a model that
uses a teacher’s professional knowledge base to build positive relationships with stu-
dents. Creating a supportive human environment is a complex undertaking. Students
and teachers are not one-dimensional. They are multifaceted. Each student is a unique
individual, a member of a particular classroom group with its own norms, and also a
member of distinct family and cultural groups that bring values, norms, beliefs, and
customs to the school setting. Thus, relating to individual students is only one aspect
of relationship building. In this chapter, teachers encounter ideas for examining the
congruence between the culture of the classroom and the culture of students for cre-
ating classroom group norms that are supportive of student engagement in learning
activities and for relating to students as individuals. The chapter concludes with a dis-
cussion of the benefits to students and teachers of good family-teacher relationships.
It discusses why some teachers are reluctant to interact with parents and suggests
ideas that can facilitate a team approach. It is stressed several times that building this
relationship is proactive.

the cultural embeddedness of rules and GuIdelInes

When teachers are establishing and teaching classroom rules and procedures, they
need to remember that their students come from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
Culture refers to the knowledge, customs, rituals, emotions, traditions, values,
and norms shared by members of a population and embodied in a set of behav-
iors designed for survival in a particular environment. Because students come to the
classroom from different cultural backgrounds, they bring with them different values,
norms, and behavioral expectations. Traditionally, teachers have acted as if everyone
shared the same cultural expectations and have ignored cultural differences. However,
this does not appear to be a wise strategy. Schools and classrooms are not culturally
neutral or culture free. Most schools follow the values, norms, and behavioral pat-
terns of middle-class, white, European cultures. As Irvine (1990) pointed out, however,
these values and norms differ in significant ways from the values, norms, and behav-
ioral expectations found in nondominant cultural groups such as African Americans,
Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans: “If the norms and values that pertain in a
student’s home or community diverge significantly from those that pertain in school,
the student experiences conflict, and the way this conflict is resolved by both the stu-
dent and the school has much to do with whether the student experiences success”
(Banks et al., 2005, p. 240).

Irvine (1990) has pointed out several specific differences in value orientation.
Middle-class European American culture, which is the typical school culture, tends to

Chapter 7 • Building Relationships 177

value mastery over nature rather than living in harmony with nature, impulse control
rather than expressive movement and demonstrative behavior, rugged individualism
and standing on your own two feet rather than interconnectedness and helping oth-
ers, the use of reason rather than emotion during discussions and argumentation,
print-based communication over oral communication, sedateness and passivity over
verve and panache, and personal conformity rather than demonstrations of personal
uniqueness. As a result of these differences in values and norms, the typical behavior
patterns displayed by youngsters who come from a nondominant culture, although
acceptable at home and in the community, are not acceptable in schools. Indeed,
cultural differences in what is regarded as appropriate occur in many areas, includ-
ing language patterns, nonverbal behavior, amount and freedom of movement, use of
personal space, expression of emotions, and dress.

Because of these cultural differences, many children from underrepresented
groups experience cultural dissonance or lack of cultural synchronization in school;
that is, teachers and students are out of step with each other when it comes to their
expectations for appropriate behavior. Cultural synchronization is an extremely
important factor in the establishment of positive relationships between teachers
and students. According to Jeanette Abi-Nader (1993), one of the most solidly sub-
stantiated principles in communication theory is that of homophily, which holds
that the more two people are alike in background, attitudes, perceptions, and val-
ues, the more effectively they will communicate with each other and the more simi-
lar they will become. A lack of cultural synchronization leads to misunderstandings

Surface behaviors are the most common type of disruptive behaviors that teachers must manage
on a day-to-day basis.

178 Section 2 • Prevention

between teachers and students that can and often do result in conflict, distrust,
hostility, and possibly school failure (Irvine, 1990). According to Ladson-Billings
(1994, p. 138),

The typical experience in the school is a denigration of African and African
American culture. Indeed there is a denial of its very existence. The language that
students bring with them to school is seen to be deficient—a corruption of English.
The familial organization is considered pathological. And the historical, cultural,
and scientific contributions of African Americans are ignored or trivialized.

Case 7.1 illustrates how stereotyping and a lack of cultural synchronization inter-
fere with a teacher’s ability to positively interact with a minority student as well as to
find anything positive about the student.

The lack of cultural synchronization or so-called cultural discontinuity has been
viewed as a major factor that contributes to the well-documented disproportional rate
of disciplinary actions taken against African American children (Townsend, 2000).
The differential administration of disciplinary actions is particularly evident with the
use of corporal punishment, suspensions, and expulsions of African American males.
The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (1993) reported that nation-
ally African American males received corporal punishment and suspension at a rate

Beth is a white, middle-class teacher who
is in her fifth year of teaching elementary
school at a predominantly white middle-class
school. As a result of redistricting, the school
now enrolls students from a nearby public
housing project. These children are mostly
poor and black. Beth is faced with teach-
ing students with whom she is completely

Nicole is a 7-year-old African American
student. The teacher has described Nicole as
a little girl with academic, behavioral, and
language deficiencies and problems. The
teacher requested that the school psycholo-
gist observe Nicole in Beth’s classroom so
that the problems can be documented and
eventually be the basis for obtaining special
services for Nicole. The following excerpts
are taken from a post-observation meeting
with the teacher (Delpit, 1995):

School PSychologiSt: Nicole told me that
she liked school and that her favorite thing in
class was group time.

teacher: That’s amazing because she can’t sit
still. She just says anything sometimes. In the
morning she’s O.K.; after nap she’s impossible.

School PSychologiSt: She’s really talking

teacher: She’s probably never allowed
to talk at home. She needs communicative
experience. I was thinking of referring her to
a speech therapist.

School PSychologiSt: She told me about
her cousin she plays with after school. It seems
she really does have things to talk about.

teacher: It’s unfortunate, but I don’t think
she even knows what family means. Some of
these kids don’t know who their cousins are
and who their brothers and sisters are.

Case 7.1
Believing What You Want To

Chapter 7 • Building Relationships 179

more than three times their percentage in the school population. One explanation
for the disproportional use of disciplinary actions against minority students is how
teachers explain the reasons for disruptive behavior of majority and minority chil-
dren. One study found that teachers tended to explain the disruptive behavior of
European American students as a function of situational or environmental factors,
such as the home or community environment. On the other hand, the explanation
given for African American and Hispanic American students was dispositional factors
or personal characteristics ( Jackson, 2001). In other words, for European American
students, inappropriate behavior was viewed as a result of the environment, which
is viewed as excusable, whereas for African American and Hispanic American stu-
dents, it was viewed as a result of the makeup of the individual, which is viewed as

To illustrate her discussion of the importance of cultural synchronization, Irvine
(1990) has pointed out several differences in cultural style between whites and African
Americans. We use these differences in the following discussion simply as an illustra-
tion of the influence of culture on values, norms, and expectations. We recognize, as
does Irvine, that these attributes are neither representative of all African Americans
nor all white Americans. It would, of course, be possible to use any other nondomi-
nant cultural group to illustrate such differences. With these caveats in mind, we now
turn to some of the differences in style identified by Irvine.

African Americans tend to be higher keyed, more animated, more intense, and
more confrontational than whites. African Americans tend to appreciate social con-
texts in which overlapping speech and participatory dialogue are used rather than
turn taking in which only one person is free to speak at any given time. African
Americans tend to favor passionate, emotional argumentation in defense of beliefs
as opposed to the nonemotional, uninvolved, logical argumentation preferred by
whites. African Americans tend to have a relational, field-dependent learning style
as opposed to the analytical, field-independent style of learning characteristic
of most whites. Whereas whites prefer confined or restricted movement, African
Americans tend to learn better through freedom of movement. Finally, African
Americans tend to have a much greater people focus than whites during learning
activities and tend to favor modes of learning in which they interact with others.
As a result of these differences in cultural style, African Americans often find their
expressive behavior style criticized in contexts in which white standards of behav-
ior prevail (Kochman, 1981).

Townsend (2000) suggested another aspect of behavior in which African
American students and teachers often interpret events differently:

African American students’ task orientations may conflict with mainstream school
culture. African American students have a propensity for “stage setting” behav-
iors before actually beginning tasks. Toward this end, they may execute ritual
behaviors to prepare for tasks (e.g., sharpening pencils, straightening out papers,
socializing with others, going to the bathroom) before beginning the task at
hand. Yet methods to prepare for tasks that differ from those of the teacher pro-
vide further opportunities for misinterpretation. Teachers may mistakenly inter-
pret those behaviors as signs of avoidance and assume that students are being
noncompliant. (p. 383)

180 Section 2 • Prevention

In situations in which white teachers find themselves teaching students from a
nondominant culture, the reactions of teachers and students to differences in cultural
style tend to be quite different and not understood by the other party. Teachers some-
times revert to what Irvine calls cultural aversion; that is, they pretend not to notice
that their students have a different racial and ethnic identity and act as if there were
no cultural differences. This behavior tends to increase conflict because the teachers
fail to attempt to understand reasons for the students’ behavior. Students also engage
in behavior that tends to exacerbate the problem. They decide that certain behaviors
are characteristic of white culture and therefore are not appropriate for blacks (Ogbu,
1988). They view cultural differences as symbols of cultural identity that must be
maintained rather than as obstacles to communication that can be overcome. Seen
from this perspective, failure to conform to teacher expectations and lack of effort
toward achieving teacher-valued goals can be regarded as a form of resistance against
cultural assimilation: “Somehow they have come to equate exemplary performance in
school with a loss of their African American identity; that is, doing well in school is
seen as ‘acting white.’ The only option, many believe, is to refuse to do well in school”
(Ladson-Billings, 1994, p. 11). Although some students’ desire to resist cultural assimi-
lation explains their rejection of the white, middle-class culture’s value of academic
achievement, other minority students may be attempting to protect their self-esteem.
Case 7.2 illustrates what can happen when minority students are placed in unfamiliar
and uncomfortable educational settings.

Differences in values, norms, and expectations resulting from cultural differences
have several implications for teachers. First, teachers must understand that schools
are culturally situated institutions. The values, norms, and behaviors promoted by
schools are never culturally neutral. They are always influenced by some particular
cultural mind-set. Therefore, school and classroom rules and guidelines must be seen
as culturally derived. Second, teachers should strive to learn more about the cultural

Maria is a black ninth-grade student whose
family just recently immigrated from the
Dominican Republic to the United States. Her
schooling in her country was barely adequate
and when compared to U.S. standards, she
is reading and doing math at the fifth-grade
level. She is now attending a predominately
white middle-class school in a blue-collar,
working-class community. In other words,
she is now expected to learn and achieve in
an environment that is significantly different

from any previous educational setting she
has experienced. At best, Maria is woefully
unprepared to compete for grades as well as
friends. Such an environment tends to dimin-
ish Maria’s self-esteem; she does not feel sig-
nificant, competent, or virtuous or that she
has much power. In an attempt to raise her
self-esteem, she seeks out and bonds with
other minority students, behaves aggressively
toward white classmates, rejects white values,
and refuses to learn from her white teachers.

Case 7.2
No One Looks Like Me

Chapter 7 • Building Relationships 181

backgrounds of the students they teach. This can be accomplished by observing how
students behave in other contexts, by talking to students about their behavior and
allowing them to teach about their behavior, by involving parents and community
members in the classroom, and by participating in community events and learning
more about the institutions in the students’ home community: “Students are less likely
to fail in school settings where they feel positive about both their own culture and
the majority culture and are not alienated from their own cultural values” (Cummins,
1986, quoted in Ladson-Billings, 1994, p. 11). Third, teachers should acknowledge
and intentionally incorporate students’ cultural backgrounds and expectations into
their classrooms. When teacher rules and expectations conflict with student cultural
expectations, it may be appropriate to reexamine and renegotiate rules and proce-
dures. In a variety of studies in different settings and contexts and with students from
different cultural groups (Native American, Hawaiian, Latino, African American), the
findings are remarkably similar. When teachers incorporate language and participa-
tion patterns from the home and community into the classroom, relationships and
academic learning improve significantly (Banks et al., 2005). At the very least, stu-
dents need a clear rationale for why the rules and procedures are important. It goes
without saying that the rationale for the rules should be in keeping with the four
guidelines articulated earlier in the chapter. Finally, when students behave inappro-
priately, teachers should step back and examine the behavior in terms of the students’
cultural background. Racial and cultural differences in the definition of good behavior,
along with miscommunication, lead to inequitable punishment of students of color by
school personnel who do not respect or understand the students’ style of participation
(Gathercoal, 1998). Using a different set of cultural lenses to view behavior may shed a
very different light on the teacher’s perceptions of individual students. Obviously, mis-
behavior that results from differences in cultural background and expectations should
be handled quite differently from misbehavior that signifies intentional disruption on
the part of the student.

creatInG Group norms to structure approprIate behavIor

Although students and teachers bring their own cultural backgrounds with them,
each classroom tends to develop its own culture; that is, certain norms develop
over time that exert a great influence on student behavior. During the early years
of schooling, it is the teacher’s wishes and behavior that create the norms for stu-
dent behavior. However, as students grow older, they become the dominant influ-
ence in establishing the cultural norms within the given classroom. According to
Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec (1993), the relationships that develop among peers
in the classroom exert a tremendous influence on social and cognitive development
and student socialization. In their interactions with peers, children and adolescents
learn attitudes, values, skills, and information that are unobtainable from adults.
Interaction with peers provides support, opportunities, and models for personal
behavior. Through peer relationships, a frame of reference for perceiving oneself
is developed. In both educational and work settings, peers influence productivity.
Finally, students’ educational aspirations are influenced more by peers than by any
other social influence ( Johnson et al., 1993).

182 Section 2 • Prevention

Traditionally, teachers have ignored the notion of peer culture and group norms
in the classroom. They have focused their attention on individual learners and have
viewed influencing students to behave appropriately as an issue between the teacher
and the individual student. As a result, the development of group norms among stu-
dents has been left almost completely up to chance. However, evidence is growing
that teachers can intervene to create group norms that will promote prosocial behav-
ior as well as lead to peer relationships that will enhance the four components of self-
esteem identified earlier: significance, power, competence, and virtue. Group norms
can be facilitated early in the year when the teacher involves students in designing
classroom guidelines. In addition, cooperative learning lessons (see Chapter 5) that
include face-to-face interaction, positive interdependence, and individual account-
ability can help establish positive group norms. When teachers make a concentrated
effort to help students develop the social skills necessary to function effectively as
group members during cooperative learning activities, they enhance the power of
these activities to create positive group norms.

Johnson et al. (1993) identified four sets of skills—forming skills, function-
ing skills, formulating skills, and fermenting skills—that students need to develop
over time in order to function most effectively as a group. When these skills are in
place and groups function successfully, group norms develop that lead students to
(1) be engaged in learning activities, (2) strive toward learning and achievement, and
(3) interact with each other in ways that will facilitate the development of positive

Forming skills are an initial set of management skills that are helpful in getting
groups up and running smoothly and effectively. These skills include moving into
groups quietly without bothering others, staying with the group rather than moving
around the room, using quiet voices that can be heard by members of the group but
not by others, and encouraging all group members to participate.

Functioning skills are group-management skills aimed at influencing the types of
interactions that occur among group members. These skills include staying focused on
the task, expressing support and acceptance of others, asking for help or clarification,
offering to explain or clarify, and paraphrasing or summarizing what others have said.

Formulating skills refer to a set of behaviors that help students process material
mentally. These skills include summarizing key points, connecting ideas to each other,
seeking elaboration of ideas, finding ways to remember information more effectively,
and checking explanations and ideas through articulation.

Finally, fermenting skills are needed to resolve cognitive conflicts that arise
within the group. These skills include criticizing ideas without criticizing people, syn-
thesizing diverse ideas, asking for justification, extending other people’s ideas, and
probing for more information.

Johnson et al. (1993) suggested that teachers teach these social skills just as
they teach academic content. Therefore, when teachers plan a cooperative learning
activity, they must plan social skill objectives as well as the academic objectives.
Making the social skills explicit as lesson objectives helps focus both student and
teacher attention on them. To do this, the teacher should explain the skill before the
activity begins and make sure students know what the skill looks like and sounds
like as it is expressed in behavior. Once the teacher is convinced that students
understand the meaning of the skill, students may practice the skill during the

Chapter 7 • Building Relationships 183

cooperative learning activity. While the students are practicing, the teacher moves
from group to group monitoring the use of the skill. When the activity has been
completed, the teacher engages each group in reflecting on how successfully the
skill was used and in setting goals for improving their use of the skill in the future.
Although teaching social skills in addition to academic content takes time, the time
is well spent for two reasons. First, many of these skills are exactly the kinds of
skills students will need to help them succeed as adults. Second, when students are
skilled at interacting with each other in positive ways, group norms develop in the
classroom that are supportive of prosocial behavior and of engagement in appropri-
ate learning activities.


student-teacher relationships

Student-teacher relationships are introduced now but will be covered in more detail
in Chapters 10 and 11, in which it will be framed in terms of working with students
who display chronic disruptive behavior. The good news is that if teachers can build
positive relationships with all students early in the school year, the need for interven-
tions for chronic discipline problems will be greatly reduced. The dictionary definition
of relationship is the connection between two or more people and their involvement
with one another, particularly in regard to how they feel about and behave toward one
another. Student-teacher relationships involve teachers building positive relationships
with students whereby students feel respected, supported, and cared about. Two ques-
tions arise: “How do teachers build such relationships?” and “Why are these relation-
ships important?”

There are two ways to address the first question. We can hypothesize a list of
teacher behaviors that produce positive student-teacher relationships (similar to the
behaviors identified in Chapter 5). Next, train teachers to use these behaviors and then
assess students’ feelings and record their interactions with the teacher. The alternative
approach is to identify situations in which students already have positive relationships
with teachers and then observe and record the behaviors of their teachers. We will use
a modification of the second method. Following are descriptions of four teachers and
what they believe about students’ abilities and motivation to control their behavior,
what they do to prevent discipline problems and how they intervene when discipline
problems arise.

Carefully read each teacher’s description, keeping in mind how you would
answer the following questions:

1. In which teacher’s room would you most want to be?
2. With which teacher would you learn the most?
3. With which teacher would you most willingly cooperate?
4. Which teacher would you most likely seek help from for an academic problem?
5. Which teacher would you most likely seek help from for a personal problem?
6. With which teacher would you most willingly be best behaved?
7. If the teacher gave you a consequence for inappropriate behavior, with which

teacher would you most likely blame yourself for the consequence rather than
blame the teacher?

184 Section 2 • Prevention

Teacher a believes that students have the ability and responsibility to
behave appropriately in the classroom. She believes that students will use
their ability and accept responsibility for self-control when they are in
environments in which the teacher shows sincere interest in students and
shows respect for students’ competence and opinions.

She displays the following behaviors in order to prevent discipline
problems. She demonstrates that she is sincerely interested in the indi-
vidual student as a unique and valuable person, shows respect for student
opinions, and trusts the student to make appropriate choices. She coopera-
tively plans classroom guidelines with the class and seeks understanding
of the guidelines and works on obtaining student consensus to follow the
guidelines. Differences among students are recognized and respected in all
student-teacher interactions.

When disruptive behavior occurs, she uses techniques, often nonver-
bal, that do not embarrass or draw undue attention to the student. She speaks
to the student privately, uses empathy to understand the student’s frame
of mind, and encourages the student to problem solve in order to reassert
self-control. She provides students many opportunities to correct their own
behavior and when consequences are warranted, they are logically related
to the inappropriate behavior, are intended to teach the student appropriate
behavior, and are delivered in a respectful tone by giving students choices.

Teacher B believes that students have the ability and responsibility to
behave appropriately in the classroom. Further, she believes that students
use their ability and accept responsibility for self-control when they are in
classrooms in which the teacher designs exciting and meaningful learning

She prevents discipline problems by using instructional techniques
and planning instructional activities that increase the likelihood of student
success and by making on-task behavior more interesting and meaningful
than disruptive behavior. Differences among students are considered and
respected because this is inherent in effective instruction. She most likely
cooperatively plans classroom guidelines with the class and seeks under-
standing of the guidelines and works on obtaining student consensus to
follow the guidelines.

When disruptive behavior occurs, as a result of her emphasis on
effective instruction, she most likely uses techniques that redirect student
interest to the lesson. When necessary, she uses a hierarchy of intervention
that gives students many opportunities for correcting their own behavior.
When consequences are warranted they are logically related to the inap-
propriate behavior, are intended to teach the student appropriate behavior,
and are delivered in a respectful tone by giving students choices.

Chapter 7 • Building Relationships 185

Teacher c believes that students have the ability and responsibility to
behave appropriately in the classroom. She believes students use their
ability and accept responsibility for self-control when they are in environ-
ments in which the guidelines have been clearly explained and in which
they clearly understand that the teacher is in charge.

She prevents discipline problems by clearly communicating to
the students what her roles are as the teacher and what their roles are
as students. In addition, she prepares a predetermined set of classroom
guidelines that students are to follow. She is less likely to take individual
student differences into account when formulating expectations for student
behavior because individual differences are not mitigating circumstances
when it comes to what is and what is not appropriate classroom behavior.

When disruptive behavior occurs, she likely uses techniques that
remind the student that she, the teacher, is in charge, indicates which class-
room guideline has been violated and shows the exact behavior that is
required in the classroom. If the behavior does not change in a reason-
able amount of time, punishments (usually removal of privileges, referral to
administrators, or calling parents) are administered.

Teacher d believes that students have the ability and responsibility to
behave appropriately in the classroom. She believes that students use their
ability and accept responsibility for self-control primarily when they are in
environments in which the teacher uses reward and punishment (behav-
ioral contingency plans) to influence student behavior.

She prevents disruptive behavior by designing a system of rewards and
incentives for appropriate behavior and a system of increasingly unpleasant
punishments for inappropriate behavior. She is not likely to take individual
student differences into account when attempting to understand student
behavior. In addition, she prepares a predetermined set of classroom guide-
lines that students are to follow along with predetermined consequences.

When disruptive behavior occurs, she may give a verbal reminder
and then communicate to the student that a punishment is imminent if the
behavior continues. If the student does not comply in a timely manner, the
teacher administers the punishment.

The authors have taught many classes and lead many workshops where this
activity was conducted for students, parents, teachers, and administrators. the results
are always the same:

1. In which teacher’s room would you most want to be? The great majority of respon-
dents select teacher A, followed by teacher B. Teachers C and D are never selected.

2. With which teacher would you learn the most? The majority select teacher B fol-
lowed closely by teacher A. Teachers C and D are never selected.

186 Section 2 • Prevention

3. With which teacher would you most willingly cooperate? The great majority of
respondents select teacher A, followed by teacher B. Teachers C and D are never

4. Which teacher would you most likely seek help from for an academic prob-
lem? The great majority of respondents select teacher B, followed by teacher A.
Teachers C and D are never selected.

5. Which teacher would you most likely seek help from for a personal problem? The
great majority of respondents select teacher A, followed by teacher B. Teachers C
and D are never selected.

6. With which teacher would you most willingly be best behaved? Teachers A and
B are usually equally divided. Teachers C and D are never selected.

7. If the teacher gave you a consequence for inappropriate behavior, with which
teacher would you most likely blame yourself for the consequence rather than
blame the teacher? The majority of respondents select teacher A, followed by
teacher B. Teacher C sometimes is selected, but teacher D has never been chosen.

To summarize, given this set of questions, teachers A and B are always selected.
Teachers C and D are never selected (except for question 7). Without much extrapola-
tion, it is fairly safe to say that teachers A and B would enjoy positive relationships
with their students. If you recall from Chapter 4 the four power or authority bases,
it is obvious that teacher A believes in and practices referent authority. Teacher A
attempts to influence students through building meaningful relationships based on
trust, respect, care, and support. Teacher B believes in and practices expert authority.
Teacher B attempts to influence students through her knowledge of her subject area

A teacher can redirect students to on-task behavior by the use of interest-boosting techniques.

Chapter 7 • Building Relationships 187

and the use of excellent pedagogy. Teacher C believes in and uses legitimate authority.
Teacher C attempts to influence her students by clearly delineating roles and rules that
students must follow. Teacher D illustrates, believes in, and uses coercive authority.
Teacher D attempts to influence students using behavioral contingency strategies. In
other words, students are rewarded for doing what they are told and are punished for
not obeying.

Probably the combination of referent and expert authority would maximize the
outcomes of positive student-teacher relationships. Stipek (2006) substantiates this
combination: “The key to raising achievement is connecting students with teachers
who support them not just as learners [expert authority] but also as people [referent
authority]” (p. 46).

Research indicates that effort is the key to learning, and one of the best predic-
tors of effort is the relationship the student has with the teacher (Osterman, 2000).
When students are asked “How do you know if a teacher cares about you”? younger
students reply, “She says hi to me and smiles when I come in the room.” “She saves
a snack for me if I miss snack time.” “When I get on the bus go home she says ‘see
you tomorrow.’” Older students perceive that the teacher cares when she expresses
an interest in their out-of-school personal lives, treats them as individuals, treats them
with respect, and is fair. Respect and trust are facilitated by teachers who give students
autonomy and choices in designing classroom rules and choosing assignments and
allow students to express their opinions in classroom discussions (Stipek, 2006).

Student-teacher relationships have also been examined as a factor related to stu-
dents dropping out of school (Davis and Dupper, 2004). When students are asked why
they left school, a common response is “no one cared.” However, when students decide
to stay in school, they often cite a meaningful relationship with a teacher, administra-
tor, or staff member “who cared about the student as an individual” (National Research
Council, 2004). Disruptive behavior has been mitigated by teachers who are perceived
by students as being trustworthy and caring (Gregory and Ripski, 2008). After all, it is
very difficult for a student to continue to disrupt classes and/or continue to be disre-
spectful toward teachers who in turn continually show students respect, care, and trust.

building student-teacher relationships

Most educators agree that positive student-teacher relations are important and result
in positive academic gains with a reduction of discipline problems. Some teachers
think that positive student-teacher relations refer to a teacher who treats students
well but does not have high expectations. Nothing is further from the truth. Teachers
who maintain good student-teacher relationships have high expectations and hold
students accountable for meeting them. As noted in Chapter 5, teachers who are
“warm demanders” demonstrate a sense of confidence and belief in student ability
by communicating high expectations. But along with student accountability comes
teacher accountability and the continual support of students’ efforts. This section out-
lines a process that can be used by teachers to begin to build and maintain positive
relationships with students. In Chapter 1, teaching was defined as a profession, which
infers that there is a specialized body of knowledge that informs the practice of the
profession. If teaching is a profession, which we believe it is, then teachers (profes-
sionals) use a specialized body of knowledge when making decisions about teaching

188 Section 2 • Prevention

and learning and designing instruction. Therefore, the often sought after list of “10
ways to get students to like and trust the teacher” is professionally inappropriate
and inadequate for building positive student-teacher relationships. It is inappropriate
because the teacher has not used any of her own professional knowledge to generate
the list or to connect it to her knowledge and experience. Furthermore, the teacher
is rarely afforded the opportunity to learn about the underlying bodies of knowledge
and philosophical orientations from which the strategies are derived. So if an admin-
istrator or a parent asks in-depth questions regarding the use of the strategies on the
list, the teacher is not prepared to reply.

A list of do’s and don’ts is also inadequate because the strategies are assumed
to be a one-size-fits-all model. The list does not consider the individual nature of
students in a given classroom context. Additionally, it does not take into account
the teacher’s experience, philosophical orientation, or the knowledge the teacher has
regarding each student. Lastly, what happens if the teacher reaches strategy 10 and
some students are still not experiencing a positive relationship with the teacher, must
the teacher search for the second list of “10 more ways to get students to like and trust
the teacher”? Teachers who use a list of 10 behaviors are like bakers who can bake a
cake only by following one specific recipe. If some ingredients on the list are missing,
it is not possible to bake the cake. In contrast, those bakers who have in-depth knowl-
edge about cake baking are able to use a variety of ingredients to bake many kinds of
delicious cakes. Our goal then is to provide a deeper rather than a superficial under-
standing of relationship building. The end result will not be a list of answers provided

Touch is an effective intervention skill but one that can also produce student reactions.

Chapter 7 • Building Relationships 189

for a one-size-fits-all application mentality, but rather a list of essential questions,
informed by concepts from the professional knowledge base, that the teacher can use
as a starting point to develop powerful strategies for building relationships. Unlike
techniques that are context specific, the questions are applicable across contexts.

Building that deeper knowledge base requires a review of some previously dis-
cussed concepts that are powerful tools in thinking about relationship building. The
body of knowledge that is relevant for building positive student-teacher relationships
includes the power bases, motivation, and self-esteem.

Authority or power bases (see Chapter 4) refer to the different ways that teachers
can influence students. To review, the four power bases are referent, expert, legiti-
mate, and coercive. Referent power is influencing students by the teacher demonstrat-
ing respect, care, trust, and support of students. Expert power is influencing students
by professional competency, meaning that the teacher knows her subject matter and
knows how to teach it. Legitimate power is influencing students by using titles (“I’m
your teacher”), and coercive power is influencing students through the use of rewards
and punishments. For the purpose of building positive relationships with students,
referent and expert power are emphasized because of the findings of the previous
activity describing four teachers and the unanimous selection of the teachers who
employed either the referent or expert power base.

Motivation (see Chapter 5) is conceptualized as student willingness to put forth
effort to achieve a certain goal. Motivation (M) can be conceptualized as the product
of expectation of success (E) times the value (V) of the desired outcome (M = E × V).
The expectation of success is highly influenced by the factors to which the students
attribute success. If students perceive that success is attributable to the effort they put
forth (e.g., studying well, time management) as opposed to other factors, students will
believe that they have great control over their own success. This is referred to as an
internal locus of control regarding expectations for success, and it increases student
effort and motivation. On the other hand, if students attribute success to factors they
cannot control such as the teacher is easy or it’s my lucky day, then the students have
an external locus of control regarding expectations for success that decreases effort
and motivation.

Value refers to the importance the student places on the outcomes of successful
efforts. Outcomes that are highly valued tend to increase motivation, but the full story
is a bit more complicated. If students value the outcome because it satisfies their own
goals (e.g., because they are interested in the activity or because they want to learn),
they possess an internal value structure. On the other hand, if the students value the
outcome primarily because it satisfies the goals of others (e.g., parents who want them
to get good grades), they possess an external value structure. For the task of building
positive relationships with students, fostering an expectation of success due to an inter-
nal locus of control and a high value due to an internal value structure is appropriate
because these outcomes are congruent with the goal of student self-control. Referent
and expert power bases are much more appropriate for developing an internal locus of
control and an internal value structure than the other power bases, which tend to focus
much more heavily on teacher control and rewards provided by the teacher.

Self-esteem refers to how one feels about oneself. It is the sum of significance,
competence, virtue, and power. Significance is feeling a sense of belonging because
of being liked, respected, and trusted by people who are important to the student.

190 Section 2 • Prevention

Competence is feeling good because of being successful at tasks that are important
to the student. Virtue is feeling good because the student is able and willing to help
others. Power is feeling good because of having some control over the outcomes
and goals of one’s life. Referent authority clearly contributes to the students’ sense
of significance because of the positive nature of the relationship, the sense of power
because of the focus on student self-control, and the sense of virtue by modeling
caring behavior toward others. Expert authority clearly contributes to the sense of
competence by emphasizing the role of teacher expertise in enhancing student aca-
demic success.

Having reviewed these key concepts, it is now time to begin developing and
answering the essential questions that can be used to generate professional knowl-
edge about building relationships. In keeping with our central theme of influencing
student behavior by deliberately controlling teacher behavior, the essential questions
and answers relate factors that are under the teacher’s control (i.e., choice of author-
ity bases) to achieve desired student outcomes. Tables 7.1 and 7.2 are used in that
process. Table 7.1 analyzes the relationship-building process and generates questions
about it, whereas the matching Table 7.2 generates teacher answers to the questions
in the form of strategies that the teacher can employ.

Table 7.1 is a matrix composed of rows that represent teacher authority bases
and columns that represent desired student outcomes in terms of both higher levels
of intrinsic motivation (i.e., internal locus of control and internal value structure) and
higher levels of the four components of self-esteem. The matrix can be used to analyze
the relationship-building process and to generate the key questions that a professional
teacher needs to answer in developing positive relationships with students. Using
the plain language definition for each component, any given cell can be written as
a question. Let’s focus on cell A1 to illustrate the process. Cell A1 is the interaction
between teacher use of referent authority and the development of expectations of
success through an internal locus of control on the part of the student. To frame the
question: (1) review the definition of referent authority, (2) review the definition of
expectation of success by an internal locus of control, and (3) write a question using
the two definitions.

1. Referent power = influencing students by the teacher demonstrating respect,
care, and trust.

2. Expectation of success by internal locus of control = being successful using fac-
tors that are within the students’ control.

3. Combining the two definitions the question is, “How can the teacher use respect,
care, and trust to emphasize that students control the factors that lead to success?”

As is the case with all of the questions that can be framed using the various cells
in the matrix, many answers to the question are possible. One specific answer in rela-
tion to cell A1 is that the teacher can teach a lesson on what expending effort to learn
really means, list various ways that effort can be applied to learning and then begin
to recognize students’ effort and improvement rather than just giving a final grade for
academic performance. This is referred to as redefining success. Rather than only the
final grade being the measure of success, effort and resulting improvement are now
seen as indicators of success. It’s not that the grade is no longer important, because it
is, but what the teacher is doing is tracing and recognizing the path to success; more

table 7.1 Analysis of Student-Teacher Relationships: Authority Base by Student Outcomes

Authority Bases Student Outcomes

Intrinsic motivation pro-social self-esteem

(1) Expectation of
success: internal
locus of control

Students control
the factors leading
to success

(2) Value: internal
value structure

Students put
forth effort to
satisfy interests
and enjoyment
of learning

(3) Significance:

Feeling good
because people
like, respect,
and support you

(4) Competence:

Feeling good
you are successful
at a task important
to you

(5) Virtue

Feeling good
because you are
able and willing
to help others

(6) Power:

Feeling good
you can control
important aspects
of your life

(A) Referent:
others by
respect, care,
support, etc.

How can the
teacher use respect,
care, and trust to
emphasize that
students control the
factors that lead to

(B) Expert:
others by using
best professional

How can the
teacher use
pedagogy to
increase students’
interests and
enjoyment of

How can a teacher use
pedagogy to enable
students to control
certain aspects of the
learning environment?



table 7.2 Strategies to Build Positive Student-Teacher Relationships: Authority Base by Student Outcomes

Authority Bases Student Outcomes

Intrinsic motivation pro-social self-esteem

(1) Expectation of
success: internal
locus of control

Students control
the factors leading
to success

(2) Value: internal
value structure

Students put forth
effort to satisfy
interests and
enjoyment of

(3) Significance:

Feeling good
because people
like, respect, and
support you

(4) Competence:

Feeling good
because you are
successful at a
task important
to you

(5) Virtue

Feeling good
because you
are able and
willing to help

(6) Power:

Feeling good
because you
can control
important aspects
of your life

(A) Referent:
others by
respect, care,
support, etc.

The teacher can
teach a lesson on
effort and then begin
to recognize effort
and improvement
rather than just the
final grade for academic
performance, which
is what is typically

(B) Expert:
others by
using best

The teacher can
design parallel
assignments that
different learning
styles and allow
students to choose
which assignment
they would like
to use.

Chapter 7 • Building Relationships 193

effort leads to improvement that is reflected in the grade. This strategy would be
placed in the appropriate cell in Table 7.2. For a second illustration, let’s turn to cell
B6, which represents the interaction between expert authority and increasing student
feelings of power. First, review the definition of expert authority. Second, review the
definition of power. Third, write a question using the two definitions.

1. Expert authority = influencing students by use of expertise of content and

2. Power = having control over the goals and outcomes of one’s life.
3. Combining the two definitions, the question is, “How can a teacher use peda-

gogy to enable students to control certain aspects of the learning environment?”

Again, there are many approaches. Because individualizing instruction requires
expert authority, the teacher can design parallel assignments that accommodate differ-
ent learning styles and allow students to choose which assignment they would like to
use. Table 7.2 is used to record this strategy. Placing the strategy within the concepts
in Table 7.2 clearly illustrates both the authority base and the desired student outcome
that the strategy is meant to address. It is extremely helpful in talking with parents,
teachers, or administrators or if you are looking to revise the strategies. Finally, it
keeps teachers from falling back into a legitimate/coercive approach.

Some readers maybe wondering why the legitimate and coercive power bases
have not been employed. There are two reasons. The first is that both bases employ
extrinsic means to influence students. Legitimate authority uses titles and organiza-
tional hierarchies, and coercive authority employs rewards and punishments, which
are antithetical to learning self-control and to the development of an internal locus of
control and an internal value structure. Second, try designing strategies using the pro-
cess outlined previously and illustrated with Tables 7.1 and 7.2. It becomes difficult at
best and in some cases absurd. How can you build supportive, respectful, and trust-
worthy relationships by being the boss or by rewarding and punishing? For example,
might one strategy be that the student will serve increasingly longer detentions until
she believes that the teacher respects and supports her? Basically, legitimate and coer-
cive power bases are not appropriate to obtain the outcomes of intrinsic motivation
and prosocial self-esteem.

To wrap up this section, let’s consider a relevant question that is commonly asked
by students and workshop participants. Why go to all this trouble when you can go
to the web and find many strategies that others have designed or follow the 10-item
cookbook approach? The answer is multifaceted and has to do with the appropriate-
ness and adequacy discussed earlier in this section. When designing complex strate-
gies and interactions, the professional has to thoroughly understand the conceptualiza-
tions from which the strategies were derived. This is needed so that it can be explained
to students, parents, and other professional educators. Strong student-teacher relation-
ships do not occur overnight; working at developing them requires patience and a
strong desire to succeed, which come only from ownership of the designed strategy.
Additionally, the use of the concepts represented in Tables 7.1 and 7.2 is generative,
that is, their use allows the professional teacher to generate new ideas and strategies
independently or in collaboration with others as opposed to being dependent on some
external authority to suggest the strategies. Like students, teachers also need an expec-
tation of success, value, and a feeling of prosocial self-esteem. These outcomes are

194 Section 2 • Prevention

brought about by not copying others but by improving upon the ideas of others and
also creating positive student-teacher relationships on your own.

Finally, some teachers may ask why they should put all this effort into building
positive student-teacher relationships. They have some students so hardened that no
one could get through to them. In education, no approach is 100 percent effective.
We look for methodologies that impact more students than before. Don’t make the
mistake of doing nothing because all you could do was a little. This brings to mind a
famous quote attributed to Helen Keller, “I am only one, but I am one! I can’t do every-
thing, but I can do something! Because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do
what I can do” ( ).

family-teacher relationships

benefIts Family-teacher relationships are introduced now and will be revisited in
more detail in Chapter 11, in which this relationship is examined in the context of
working with students who display chronic disruptive behavior. The good news is
that if teachers can be proactive and build positive relations with all families early
in the school year, the need for interventions for chronic discipline problems will be
greatly reduced.

A growing body of research indicates that when families are involved in their
children’s education, the children earn higher grades, have better attendance, have
higher rates of homework completion, are more motivated, and have more positive
attitudes about school. There is also a decrease in students exhibiting behavior
(e.g., substance abuse, violence) that is predictive of later serious antisocial behav-
ior as parent involvement increases (Darsch, Miao, and Shippen, 2004). The benefits
afforded students when parents and teachers have positive working relationships,
when parents are welcomed as a team member, and when parents get involved in
their child’s education crosses both racial and socioeconomic status lines. Indeed, the
most accurate predictor of a student’s achievement in school is the extent that parents
become involved in their children’s education, not racial background, marital status,
PARENTS education, and so on (Henderson and Berla, 1997).

Teachers also benefit from a positive relationship with parents. The benefits
include improved behavior in the classroom, greater job satisfaction, and higher rat-
ings from parents and administrators (American Federation of Teachers, 2007).

reluctance to contact parents

Given all the benefits and few if any downsides, teachers are still reluctant to contact
parents for a number of reasons, including the following:

1. Lack of training Very few, if any, teacher education programs cover in any
significant depth how to work effectively with families. Therefore, it is understandable
that the newer teacher would be anxious about making contact with parents.

2. Age difference It is not uncommon especially with newer teachers that the
parents are older than they are. Coming from a culture in which younger people typi-
cally defer to older people out of respect, the younger teacher may feel particularly
uncomfortable, especially if the teacher is called upon to suggest actions that the par-
ents should take at home.

Chapter 7 • Building Relationships 195

3. Time Teachers are busy planning before and after class and also during their
prep time. Interacting with parents can be time consuming, especially if the parents
are working and message after message goes unanswered.

4. Legacies Some families have attended the same schools for generations and
over that time developed a legacy, which could be positive or negative. Teachers are
disconcerted by those families with a negative legacy of disruptive behavior. A teacher
could hear the following in the teachers’ lounge:

I had Tom Sr. and was he ever a challenge, at least I though he was till Tom Jr.
showed up on my class list. You talk about seeds not falling far from the tree. Did
you know that Tom Jr. hooked up with Sally, who is a story in herself and now
we have little Billy about to run havoc in the middle school.

Billy’s mom and dad and grandfather all had problems in the same school. How coop-
erative do you think they will be when a teacher calls to discuss Billy’s poor grades and
unacceptable behavior? How motivated do you think teachers will be to make the contact?

5. Cultural differences The majority of teachers continue to be white, middle-
class women. Although this is changing, the change is not as rapid as the changes
occurring in our students. It is not uncommon that in a class of 25 students, more
than half are from different races or economic backgrounds. Rothstein–Fisch and
Trumbull (2008) suggest that reaching out to parents can be a culture-bridging activ-
ity. They report several strategies that have proven effective in encouraging parents
from diverse cultural backgrounds to become more involved in activities at school:
(a) reaching out to talk informally with parents at the school door, (b) having the chil-
dren write letters inviting their parents to school events, and (c) using back-to-school
nights as an opportunity to take family photos. Language barriers may also exist that
make communications with the parents more difficult. For example, in Case 7.3, both
the teacher and the counselor thought that the mother fully understood the situation
only to find out that there seemed to be a total lack of understanding.

A fifth-grade teacher had a student from
Cambodia. She requested a meeting with his
mother to discuss what the teacher and coun-
selor thought might be a learning disability
that interfered with his reading skills. After
explaining the problem, they agreed that the
reading specialist would be consulted, rec-
ommendations would be made, and another
meeting would be held with the mother before
any final decisions were made. The mother

left and thanked the teacher and counselor.
The teacher and counselor felt good about the
meeting, and they thought that the mother
fully understood the problem, the upcoming
consultation with the reading specialist, and
the follow-up meeting. What a surprise when
the mother called a few days later and left a
message that she took her son to the doctor
for a checkup, and he is not sick, so there is
no need for another meeting.

Case 7.3
The Doctor Said He Was OK

196 Section 2 • Prevention

building parent-teacher relationships

Because of the many benefits of having positive parent-teacher relationships and the
necessity of having positive proactive interactions with parents before any contacts
are made regarding disruptive behavior, it is in everyone’s best interest to overcome
the challenges noted earlier. The need to be proactive in regard to working effectively
with students who pose chronic problems cannot be stressed enough. Unfortunately,
when parents are contacted by the school or by a teacher, it is usually with bad news.
If it’s the nurse, your child is sick. If it’s the vice-principal, your child was removed
from class, usually because of disruptive behavior. If it’s the teacher, it is because of
discipline problems or poor grades. At one workshop’s break, the authors overheard
two attendees speaking, “I’m even a teacher and when I get a call from my child’s
school, I get so nervous, my mind starts racing—what did my kid do now?”

Needless to say that when the time arrives that we are requesting parents’ assis-
tance with a chronic problem, most parents would be unreceptive if all they have ever
heard from the school are negative complaints about their child. On the other hand, if
teachers are proactive and positive, then most parents would willingly help out or at
leas be supportive of the teacher’s efforts because they view the school in a positive
light and the teacher is perceived as trying to help their child.

A review of research on parental involvement in schools by Hoover-Dempsey and
Sandler (1997) suggested that three major factors influence parents’ decisions about
whether or not to become involved in their child’s education. The first factor is role
construction, that is, parents’ beliefs about their role as parents as it relates to providing
home support for school endeavors. A second key factor is parents’ sense of efficacy
concerning their ability to help their child be successful in school. The third key fac-
tor is the parents’ perceptions of the general invitation for parental involvement in the
school and classroom. Schools can influence parental choice of involvement by engag-
ing in activities that affect these three perceptions. Consistently advocating that paren-
tal involvement is a critical factor in school success can affect parental role perception.
Conducting workshops, classes, and courses on parental effectiveness can increase par-
ents’ sense of efficacy. Finally, making sure that both the general school climate and
individual classroom climate welcome parental involvement can influence parents to
become more actively involved in their child’s education. Even the most well-designed
program for parents will not reach its potential impact unless it clearly addresses these
three factors: role construction, sense of efficacy, and general invitation.

The foundation upon which a family-teacher relationship is built should be laid
even before classes start in the fall and should continue throughout the school year.
Following are a few of the hundreds of different efforts that can be made to build
positive family-teacher relationships. These are mostly teacher initiated, but a school can
also develop special programs that encompass the whole school (cyberbullying), subject
areas (a new mathematics curriculum), or grade levels (preparing for middle school).

Before school starts and once the teacher receives a class list, she can write a
letter of introduction to both students and parents. The letter should introduce the
teacher summarize the class and curriculum and express optimism about what a great
year it will be. Some teachers arrive at school a few days early to get their room ready
and set up bulletin boards. If your school allows it, invite parents and students to stop
by and introduce themselves.

Chapter 7 • Building Relationships 197

Once school starts, send “good news” notes home to recognize real effort,
achievement, and improvement. Another excellent strategy is to set up a website
where the teacher can list homework, rules, curriculum, study skills, and so on and
also how parents can initiate contact with the teacher. It is important to enthusiasti-
cally encourage families to attend back-to-school programs. In elementary school,
birthday greetings to your students are warmly received by both students and parents.
Unsolicited phone calls to parents recognizing a student accomplishment or good
deed or just communicating your enjoyment in working with their child takes only a
few minutes but means a lot to parents. Throughout the year, provide opportunities
for those parents who wish to volunteer to help in the classroom or to share their
special expertise. All correspondence with parents should be professionally written
with no spelling or grammatical errors. If the correspondence addresses a problem, it
should be positive, encouraging, and optimistic about the future. Finally, the problem
being addressed should not be of a trivial nature. The correspondence should engen-
der in parents a desire to help; however, all too often parents read it and are puzzled
as to why the teacher has sent this letter home. They believe that she should be able
to manage this behavior herself. Case 7.4 is a letter sent home by a sixth-grade teacher
who was starting to experience problems with homework completion and inattentive-
ness in the classroom.

If you were a parent and received the letter shown in Case 7.4, how would you
feel? Would you be motivated to support this teacher? Would you be glad that your
child was in this teacher’s classroom? How convinced are you the teacher’s statement
“I will do what is needed to help your child be successful academically”? Who does it
seem the teacher is blaming for incomplete homework? Is it clear to you what exactly
the teacher is concerned about?

Talking in the classroom and off-task behav-
ior have started to interfere with our making
progress with the curriculum. I am encour-
aging you to speak to your child about the
importance of being focused during the
school day and when completing home
assignments. Handing in quality work and
meeting requirements are a strong focus in
both homework and class work now that stu-
dents have gained and practiced study skills.
If your child chooses to interfere with learn-
ing, I will be calling you to meet with your
child and me. I will do what is needed to
help your child be successful academically.

There will be daily homework assign-
ments. The homework policy will be strictly
enforced. I will be taking time each day to
individually check assignments. If your child
has chosen not to complete the homework on
the due date, the student has chosen to reduce
the highest possible grade to be earned.

Homework at this time of the year is a
prerequisite activity for the next day’s con-
tent work in the classroom. Be assured that I
will give your child the needed materials and
background knowledge and model the think-
ing and working process to allow the student
to independently complete work.

Case 7.4
Not Doing Homework

198 Section 2 • Prevention

A cautionary note: be proactive in developing family-teacher relationships before
there are any problems. Having a proactive relationship will be beneficial if a student
becomes disruptive later in the school year. The model supports the notion of student
self-control. Therefore, unlike many of the models used today, we disagree with the
advice of that the teacher should contact parents at the first sign of a discipline prob-
lem. Instead, as we see it, building a proactive relationship comes first and contacting
parents about problems comes much later after a number of teacher interactions that
will be discussed in Chapters 8–11. Remember that we build these relationships to be
proactive. The authors find the sending of the letter in Case 7.4 and its content and
tone inappropriate; do you see why?

Classrooms and schools are never culturally
neutral or value free; they are always situated
within a particular cultural context. When the
culture of the school and the culture of the
students are synchronized, positive behavior
increases and positive relationships are estab-
lished between teachers and students. However,
when teachers and students hold differing val-
ues, norms, and behavioral expectations, the
potential for misunderstanding, conflict, and
mistrust are greatly enhanced.

Each classroom also develops its own cul-
ture with its own set of group norms and values.
Traditionally, teachers have ignored the commu-
nal aspects of classroom life, focusing instead
on individual relationships. Evidence now indi-
cates that the use of cooperative learning activi-
ties that contain all essential elements combined

with the teaching of pro-social skills will lead to
the establishment of group norms that are sup-
portive of appropriate student behavior.

The benefits to students when the teacher
builds positive relations with students and their
parents include better academic achievement
and better behavior. A model derived from
power bases, motivation, and self-esteem is
a valuable planning tool when designing stu-
dent-teacher relationships.

Having a positive working relationship
with parents that emphasizes home support for
school endeavors is important. When parents
have the ability to help and the school wel-
comes and encourages their involvement, the
likelihood increases that parents will be coop-
erative and supportive if discipline problems
arise in the future.


1. How do differences in cultural values, norms,
and behavioral expectations influence the
development of teacher expectations for stu-
dent achievement?

2. What are some traditional teacher behavioral
expectations that may conflict with the cultural
norms of some students?

3. For each of the following social skills, develop
an explanation of what the social skill means
for students at the third-grade level, at the
seventh-grade level, and at the eleventh-grade

a. Encouraging everyone to participate
b. Paraphrasing what others have said
c. Seeking elaboration
d. Asking for justification for ideas

4. Using the definitions of the authority bases,
motivation, and self-esteem, complete Table
7.1 by writing appropriate sentence for each
vacant cell.

5. Using the questions for each cell from the
completed Table 7.1, design an instructional
strategy for each vacant cell and complete
Table 7.2.


Chapter 7 • Building Relationships 199

Criteria Before School Begins During the School Year

Role Construction: home support
for school endeavors

Efficacy: parents are capable of
helping child be successful in school

General Invitation: schools welcome
parental involvement

6. Critically analyze the letter in Case 7.4 using
what you have learned about building positive
parent-teacher relationships.

7. Rewrite the letter in Case 7.4 using what you
have learned about building positive parent-
teacher relationships.

8. Using what you have learned about building
positive parent-teacher relationships, complete
the table that follows by listing possible efforts
that met the criteria and the timeline:

9. Principles of Teacher Behavior After read-
ing Chapter 7 and doing the exercises, use
what you have learned to briefly describe your
understanding of the implications of the prin-
ciples listed at the beginning of the chapter for
a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Principle 3:

Principle 4:

Using the concepts from Chapters 5–7, complete the third analysis of the iterative case studies
on the next page.


Iterative Case Study Analyses

Third analysis

Considering the concepts discussed in the Prevention section, Chapters 4–7,
review your second analysis. What has changed and what has stayed the same
since your last analysis? Once again, consider why the students may be choosing
to behave inappropriately and how you might intervene to influence the students to
stop the disruptive behavior and resume appropriate on-task behavior.

Elementary School Case Studies

“I don’t remember” During silent reading time in my fourth-grade class, I have
built in opportunities to work individually with students. During this time, the
students read to me and practice word work with flash cards. One student has
refused to read to me but instead only wants to work with the flash cards. After
a few times I suggested we work with flash cards this time and begin reading
next time. He agreed. The next time we met, I reminded him of our plan, and he
screamed, “I don’t remember. I want to do word cards.” At this point, I tried to
find out why he didn’t like reading and he said, “There’s a reason, I just can’t tell
you,” and he threw the word cards across the room, some of them hitting other
students. What should I do?

“Let’s do it again” Cathy is in my third-grade class. Whenever I ask the class
to line up for recess, lunch, or to change classes, Cathy is always the last to get in
line. When she does, she pushes, shoves and touches the other students. When
this happens, I usually demand that all the children return to their seats, and we
repeatedly line up again and again until Cathy lines up properly. I thought that
peer pressure would cause Cathy to change her behavior, but, instead, it has
resulted in my students being late to “specials” and having less time for recess
and lunch.

Middle School Case Studies

“It makes me look cool” I can’t stop thinking about a problem I’m having in
class with a group of 12-year-old boys. They consistently use vulgar language
toward one another and some of the shy kids in the class, especially the girls. In
addition, they are always pushing and shoving one another. I’ve tried talking to
them about why they keep using bad language when they know it’s inappropriate.


The response I get is that “it makes me look cool and funny in front of my friends.”
I have asked them to please use more appropriate language in the classroom, but
that has not worked. I haven’t even started to deal with the pushing and shoving.
What should I do?

“My parents will be gone all weekend” One of my seventh-grade girls was
passing notes to a boy two rows over. After the second note, I made eye contact
with her and it stopped for about half an hour. When I saw her getting ready to
pass another note, I went over to her desk and asked her to give me the note and
told her that that the note passing had to stop. She looked very upset, but she
did give me the note. I folded it and put it in my desk drawer. When class ended,
she ran out of the room crying. My personal policy is not to read students’ notes
but, instead, to give it back to the student at the end of class or throw it away.
However, this time, maybe because of her reaction, something told me to read
the note. It said, “Mike my parents will be away Saturday night don’t you and
John sleep over will be fun. I promise I’ll do whatever you want me to do and that
you and John can do anything you want to me.” What should I as the teacher do?

High School Case Studies

“Homo” This past week I had a student approach me about a problem he was
experiencing in our class. This eleventh-grade student had recently “come out”
as a homosexual. He said he was tired and upset with the three boys who sit near
him. These boys frequently call him a “homo” and a “fag” every time they see
him, both in and out of class.

“Why don’t you get out of my face?” A twelfth-grade student came up to
me the first day of class and said, “My name is Ted. I don’t want to be here,
so just leave me alone and we’ll get along just fine.” I did not react to his com-
ment but, instead, said, “After you see what we will be learning, I think you will
find the class interesting.” Ted walked away and took a seat in the back of the
room. Later that week, I noticed Ted was reading a magazine while everyone else
was working on an in-class assignment. Without making it obvious I walked by
Ted’s desk and quietly asked him to put away the magazine and to begin working
on the assignment. Ted turned to me and said, “Maybe you don’t understand;
I asked you not to bother me. I’m not bothering you so why don’t you get out of
my face.”


Using Nonverbal
Interventions to
Influence Students to
Behave Appropriately


The Basics

Nature of the Discipline Problem

Understanding Why Children Misbehave

Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students

Using Nonverbal Interventions to Influence Students to Behave Appropriately
Using Proactive Intervention Skills • Using Preplanned Remedial

Nonverbal Intervention
•  Planned Ignoring  •  Signal Interference  •  Proximity Interference  •  Touch Interference

The Professional Teacher

Structuring the Environment

Building Relationships

Chapter 8 • Using Nonverbal Interventions to Influence Students to Behave Appropriately 203

PrinciPles of Teacher Behavior ThaT influence
aPProPriaTe sTudenT Behavior

1. Classroom intervention techniques need to be consistent with the goal of helping
students become self-directing individuals.

2. Use of a preplanned hierarchy of remedial interventions skills improves the
teacher’s ability to influence students exhibiting common behavior problems to
behave appropriately.

3. The use of a hierarchy that starts with nonintrusive, nonverbal teacher behaviors
gives students the opportunity to exercise self-control, minimizes disruption to
the teaching/learning process, reduces the likelihood of student confrontation,
protects students’ safety, and maximizes the teacher’s alternative interventions.

Prereading acTiviTy: undersTanding The PrinciPles
of Teacher Behavior

Before reading Chapter 8, briefly describe your understanding of the implications of
the principles for a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Principle 3:

Prereading QuesTions for reflecTion and Journaling

1. In the middle of a lesson you are teaching, you notice student engagement
waning. What would you do?

2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using nonverbal interventions to
deal with disruptive behavior?

3. How would you judge whether a teacher has handled inappropriate student
behavior effectively?


In most classrooms, the majority of student misbehaviors are verbal interruptions,
off-task behavior, and disruptive physical movements. These behaviors, which are
sometimes called surface behaviors, are present in every classroom in every school
almost every day. With proper planning, instructional strategies, and human and phys-
ical environmental structuring, the frequency of surface behaviors is reduced greatly.
However, no matter how much time and energy the teacher directs toward prevention,
surface behaviors do not disappear and to some extent are an ever-present, continuing
fact of life for all teachers.

204 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

The successful teacher can use many intervention skills to deal with surface
behaviors in a manner that is effective, expedient, and least disruptive to the teaching/
learning process. These skills are organized in a decision-making hierarchy of three
tiers: (1) nonverbal behaviors, (2) verbal behaviors, and (3) consequences. Each tier
consists of individual skills, which are themselves hierarchically ordered. The dimen-
sions on which these sub-hierarchies are developed are the degree of intrusiveness
and the potential for disruption to the teaching/learning environment. When these
intervention skills are applied in a preplanned, systematic manner, they have been
shown to be quite effective (Shrigley, 1980, 1985).

This chapter discusses nonverbal skills, the first tier in the decision-making hier-
archy. This group of skills is the least intrusive and has the least potential for disrupt-
ing the teaching/learning process while leaving the teacher with the maximum num-
ber of intervention alternatives for future use.

PrerequIsItes to InterventIon

All too often, teachers are quick to place total responsibility for inappropriate behav-
ior on their students without carefully analyzing their own behavior. It is quite com-
mon to hear teachers say, “There’s nothing I can do; all they want to do is fool around”
or “These kids are impossible; why even try!” Such comments clearly indicate that
teachers have assigned all blame for student misbehavior to the students themselves.
However, effective teaching and maximum learning occur in classrooms when teach-
ers and students understand that teaching/learning is the responsibility of both the
student and the teacher.

The responsibilities of the students are obvious. Students must prepare for class,
study, ask questions to enhance their understanding, and remain on task. Many of
the preventive techniques discussed in previous chapters, as well as the intervention
techniques to be discussed in this chapter, assist students in accepting responsibility
for their learning. However, students more readily accept their responsibilities when
it is clear to them that the teacher is fulfilling his responsibilities. These professional
responsibilities, which have been discussed in previous chapters, are the basic mini-
mum competencies that all teachers must possess. They are the prerequisites to appro-
priate teacher interventions:

1. The teacher is well prepared to teach. Prior to class, he has designed specific
learning objectives and effective teaching strategies based on accepted princi-
ples of learning.

2. The teacher provides clear directions and explanations of the learning material.
3. The teacher clearly explains the importance of the material to be learned, ideally

as to how it relates to students’ lives.
4. The teacher ensures that students understand evaluation criteria.
5. The teacher clearly communicates, rationalizes, and consistently enforces behav-

ioral expectations.
6. The teacher demonstrates enthusiasm and encouragement and models the

behaviors expected from students.
7. The teacher builds positive, caring relationships with students.

Chapter 8 • Using Nonverbal Interventions to Influence Students to Behave Appropriately 205

Martin Haberman (1995) described competent and effective teachers as those who
accept “their responsibility to find ways of engaging their students in learning.…[and
their responsibility for]…the continuous generation and maintenance of student inter-
ests and involvement” (p. 22).

When teachers reinforce the concept of shared responsibility for teaching and
learning through their behavior, intervention techniques, if needed, are more likely to
be effective in encouraging appropriate student behavior.

surface BehavIors

The most common day-to-day disruptive behaviors are verbal interruptions (talking,
humming, laughing, calling out, whispering), off-task behaviors (daydreaming, sleep-
ing, combing hair, playing with something, doodling), physical movement intended to
disrupt (visiting, passing notes, sitting on the desk or on two legs of the chair, throw-
ing paper), and disrespect (arguing, teasing, vulgarity, talking back) (Huber, 1984;
Levin, 1980; Shrigley, 1980; Thomas et al., 1983; Weber and Sloan, 1986). These dis-
ruptive behaviors, which are usually readily observable to an experienced teacher,
are called surface behaviors because they usually are not a result of any deep-seated
personal problem but are normal developmental behaviors of children.

Some teachers are able to intervene appropriately, almost intuitively, with surface
behaviors. They have usually referred to it as multitasking in everyday language, which
is attending to two matters at the same time, and “with-it-ness,” a subtle nonverbal com-
munication to students that the teachers are aware of all activities within the classroom
(Kounin, 1970). Other teachers acquire these skills through hard work and experience.
Teachers who do not have or do not develop these skills have to deal with abnor-
mally high frequencies of surface behaviors, and in some instances, as in Case 8.1, the
absence of these skills actually causes disruptive behavior.

The students in Mr. Berk’s seventh-grade
English class have science before English.
Today, their science teacher illustrated the
concept of propulsion by folding a piece of
tin foil around the tip of a match. When he
heated the tin foil, the match was ignited and
accelerated forward.

During English class, Mickey, seated in
the back row, decides to try the propulsion
experiment. It is not long before many stu-
dents are aware of Mickey’s activity and are
sneaking glances at him. Mickey is enjoying

the attention and continues to propel matches
across his desk.

It does not take Mr. Berk long to become
aware that many of his students are not pay-
ing attention. Instead of attempting to deter-
mine what the distraction is, he reacts impul-
sively. He sees Terri turn around to look at
Mickey and says, “Terri, turn around and pay
attention!” Terri immediately fires back, “I’m
not doing anything.” The class begins to laugh
because only Mr. Berk is unaware of the pro-
pulsion activity in the back of the room.

Case 8.1
“… 3, 2, 1, Blast Off”

206 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

ProactIve InterventIon skIlls

Effective teachers are experts in the matter-of-fact use of not only multitasking and
with-it-ness skills but also other more specific and narrower proactive intervention
skills. Their expertise can be seen in the way they employ these skills with little, if
any, disruption in the teaching/learning process. Developing expertise in the use of
the following proactive skills should lessen the need for more intrusive intervention

1. Changing the pace of classroom activities. Rubbing eyes, yawning,
stretching, and staring out the window are clear signs that a change of pace is needed.
This is the time for the teacher to restructure the situation and involve students in
games, stories, or other favorite activities that require active student participation and
help refocus student interests. On the other hand, if students are getting too noisy or
too off-task during a particular interactive learning situation, the teacher might decide
to change the pace to a more individual seat work activity. To reduce the need for on-
the-spot, change-of-pace activities, lesson plans should provide for a variety of learn-
ing experiences that accommodate the attention spans and interests of the students
both in time and in type.

2. Removing seductive objects. This skill may be used with little, if any, pause
in the teaching act. However, there should be an agreement that the objects will be
returned after class. Teachers who find themselves competing with cell phones, maga-
zines, or combs may simply walk over to the student, collect the object, and quietly
inform the student that it will be available after class.

3. Interest boosting of a student who shows signs of off-task behavior.
Rather than using other, less-positive techniques, the teacher shows interest in the
student’s work, thereby bringing the student back on task. Interest boosting is often
called for when students are required to do individual or small-group class work.
During these times, the potential for chatter, daydreaming, or other off-task behaviors
is high. If the teacher observes a student engaging in activities other than the assigned
math problems, for example, he can boost the interest of the student by walking over
to the student and asking how the work is going or checking the answers of the com-
pleted problems. Asking the student to place correct problems on the board is also
effective. Whatever technique is decided on, it must be employed in a matter-of-fact
supportive manner to boost the student’s interest in the learning activity.

4. Redirecting the behavior of off-task students. This skill helps refocus
the student’s attention. Students who are passing notes, talking, or daydreaming may
be asked to read, do a problem, or answer a question. When this technique is used,
it is important to treat the student as if he were paying attention. For instance, if you
call on the off-task student to answer a question and the student answers correctly,
give positive feedback. If he doesn’t answer or answers incorrectly, reformulate the
question or call on someone else. A teacher who causes the student embarrassment
or ridicule by stating “You would know where we were if you were paying attention”
invites further misbehavior, and this is, in fact, a punishment with all the accompany-
ing negative effects. The “get back on task” message the teacher is sending is clearly
received by the off-task student whether or not he answers the question or finds the
proper reading place and does not require any negative comments.

Chapter 8 • Using Nonverbal Interventions to Influence Students to Behave Appropriately 207

5. Nonpunitive time-out. This skill should be used for students who show
signs of encountering a provoking, painful, frustrating, or fatiguing situation. The
teacher quietly asks the student if he would like to get a drink or invites him to run an
errand or do a chore. The change in activity gives the student time to regain his con-
trol before reentering the learning environment. Teachers must be alert to the signs of
frustration so they can act in a timely fashion to help students.

6. Encouraging the appropriate behavior of other students. A statement
such as “I’m glad to see that most of you have your books open” reminds off-task stu-
dents of the behavior that is expected of them.

7. Providing cues for expected behaviors. Cues can be quite effective in
obtaining the desired behavior, but the teacher must be sure that all students under-
stand the cue. For example, a teacher who expects students to be in their seats and
prepared for class when the bell rings must make sure that everyone understands that
the bell signals the start of class. In schools without bells or other indicators, clos-
ing the door is an appropriate cue. Some teachers flick the lights to cue a class that
the noise has reached unacceptable levels. Using the same cues consistently usually
results in quick student response.

remedIal InterventIon skIlls

The masterful use of proactive skills diffuses many surface behaviors and causes mini-
mal disruptions to the teaching act. However, there will always be classroom situations
that induce misbehavior or students who continue to display disruptive behaviors.

These behaviors may range from mildly off-task to very disruptive. Mastering the
delivery of the intervention skills discussed here and in Chapters 9 and 10 should help
produce an exceptional classroom in which misbehavior is minimized and teachers
are free to teach and children are free to learn.

Before any intervention may be used, the teacher must have a basis on which
to make decisions concerning common inappropriate behaviors in the classroom. To
avoid inconsistency and arbitrariness, teachers must also have a systematic interven-
tion plan of predetermined behaviors that clearly communicates disapproval to the
student who calls out, throws paper, walks around, passes notes, or in any way inter-
feres with the teaching or learning act (Canter, 1989; Lasley, 1989). This follows our
definition of teaching presented in Chapter 1: the conscious use of predetermined
behaviors that increase the likelihood of changing student behaviors.

The intervention decision-making approach is a sequence of hierarchically
ordered teacher behaviors. Because we believe that students must learn to control
their own behavior, the initial interventions are subtle, nonintrusive, and student cen-
tered. Although these behaviors communicate disapproval, they are designed to pro-
vide students with the opportunity to control their own behavior. If the misbehaviors
are not curbed, the interventions become increasingly more intrusive and teacher
centered; that is, the teacher takes more responsibility for managing the students’

Because we also believe that intervention techniques should not in themselves
disrupt the teaching and learning act (Brophy, 1988), early intervention behaviors are
almost a private communication between the teacher and the off-task student. It alerts

208 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

the student to his inappropriate behavior but causes little, if any, noticeable disruption
to either teaching or learning. If these nonverbal interventions, which make up the
first tier of the decision-making hierarchy, are not successful, the second and third
tiers follow: teacher verbal behaviors and consequences. These tiers are increasingly
more teacher centered and more intrusive and may cause some interruption to the
teaching/learning act. (These techniques are discussed in Chapters 9 and 10.)

The decision-making hierarchy described here and in the following two chap-
ters is intended to be a dynamic model, not one that binds a teacher into a lock-
step, sequential, cookbook intervention approach. Instead, the model requires the
teacher to make a decision as to which intervention in the hierarchy to employ first.
The decision should depend on the type and frequency of the disruptive behavior
and should be congruent with the five implementation guidelines that follow. These
guidelines should help ensure that any beginning intervention, as well as those that
may follow, meets the two foundational precepts of the hierarchy: increasing student
self-control and decreasing disruptions to the teaching and learning environment.

1. The intervention provides a student with opportunities for the self-control of
the disruptive behaviors. Self-control is not developed to its fullest in classrooms where
teachers immediately intervene with teacher-centered techniques to influence student
behavior. Because we believe individuals make conscious choices to behave in certain
ways and that individuals cannot be forced to learn or exhibit appropriate behavior,
early interventions should not force students but rather influence them to manage
themselves. Students must be given responsibility in order to learn responsibility.

2. The intervention does not cause more disruption to the teaching and learn-
ing environment than the student’s disruptive behavior itself. We have all witnessed
teacher interventions that were more disruptive to the class than the off-task student
behavior. This usually occurs when the teacher uses an intervention too far up the
decision-making hierarchy. For example, the teacher chooses to use a public verbal
technique when a private nonverbal intervention would be more effective and less
disruptive. When this happens, the teacher becomes more of a disruptive factor than
the student.

3. The intervention lessens the probability that the student will become more
disruptive or confrontational. Interventions should lessen and defuse confrontational
situations. When teachers choose to employ public, aggressive, or humiliating tech-
niques, they increase the likelihood of escalating confrontations and power struggles.
Again, deciding where in the decision-making hierarchy to begin has a significant
effect on whether or not a disruptive student will be brought back on task or will
become confrontational.

4. The intervention protects students from and does not cause physical and
psychological harm. When a teacher observes behaviors that could be harmful to any
student, intervention should be swift and teacher centered. In such situations, nonver-
bal techniques are usually bypassed for the assertive delivery of verbal interventions.
In all cases, we must be careful that the interventions are not in themselves a source
of harm to students or to the teacher.

5. The choice of the specific intervention maximizes the number of alterna-
tives left for the teacher to use if it becomes necessary. Every teacher knows that it

Chapter 8 • Using Nonverbal Interventions to Influence Students to Behave Appropriately 209

often takes more than one intervention to influence student behavior. It is rare that
disruptive behavior is noted, a teacher intervention occurs, and the student is back
on-task forever. It is the unwise teacher who sends a student out of the classroom for
the first occurrence of a disruptive behavior. Such an intervention leaves few options
available to the teacher if the student continues to misbehave when he returns. By
using the decision-making hierarchy of intervention skills, the teacher reserves many
alternative interventions.

It is important to remember that the teacher’s goal in employing any remedial
intervention skill is to redirect the student to appropriate behavior. Stopping the mis-
behavior may be the initial step in the process, but it is not sufficient. The teacher’s
goal is not reached until the student becomes reengaged in learning activities. Thus,
whenever the teacher is introduced to a new technique for dealing with disruptive
behavior, one of the questions he should ask in determining whether to employ the
technique is, “Is this technique likely to redirect the student to appropriate behavior?”

The first tier of the hierarchy of remedial intervention skills, nonverbal skills,
consists of four techniques: planned ignoring, signal interference, proximity interfer-
ence, and touch interference. Redl and Wineman (1952) first identified these body-
language interventions. When they are used randomly, effective redirection of minor
disruptions is not fully achieved. However, when they are consciously employed in a
predetermined logical sequence, they serve to curb milder forms of off-task behavior
(Shrigley, 1985).

Planned Ignoring

Planned ignoring is based on the reinforcement theory that if you ignore a behavior,
it will lessen and eventually disappear. Although this sounds simple, it is difficult to
ignore a behavior completely. That is why planned is stressed. When a student whistles,
interrupts the teacher, or calls out, the teacher instinctively looks in the direction of the
student, thereby giving the student attention and reinforcing the behavior. In contrast,
planned ignoring intentionally and completely ignores the behavior. This takes practice.

This intervention has limitations. First, according to reinforcement theory, when
a behavior has been reinforced previously, removal of the reinforcement causes a
short-term increase in the behavior in the hope of again receiving reinforcement.
Thus, when planned ignoring is first used, the off-task behavior will probably increase.
Therefore, this technique should be used to manage only the behaviors that cause
little interference to the teaching/learning act (Brophy, 1988). Second, other students
who attend to the misbehaving student are often reinforcing the disruptive behavior.
If this happens, planned ignoring by the teacher has little effect.

The behaviors that are usually influenced by planned ignoring are not having
materials ready for the start of class, calling out answers rather than raising a hand,
mild or infrequent whispering, interrupting the teacher, and daydreaming. Obviously,
the type of learning activity has much to do with the behaviors that can or cannot
be ignored. If, after a reasonable period of time of ignoring the off-task behavior, the
behavior does not decrease or the point is reached at which others are distracted by
it, the teacher has to move quickly and confidently to the next step in the hierarchy,
signal interference.

210 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

signal Interference

Signal interference is any type of nonverbal behavior that communicates to the stu-
dent that the behavior is not appropriate without disturbing others. Signal interfer-
ence must be clearly directed at the off-task student. There should be no doubt in
the student’s mind that the teacher is aware of what is going on and that the student
is responsible for the behavior. The teacher’s expression should be businesslike. It is
ineffective for the teacher to make eye contact with a student and smile. Smiling sends
a double message, which confuses students and may be interpreted as a lack of seri-
ousness by the teacher.

Examples of signal interference behaviors are making eye contact with the stu-
dent who is talking to a neighbor, pointing to a seat when a student is wandering
around, head shaking to indicate “no” to a student who is about to throw a paper
airplane, and holding up an open hand to stop a student’s calling out. Like all inter-
vention skills, signal interference behaviors may be hierarchically ordered, depending
on the type, duration, and frequency of off-task behavior. A simple hand motion may
serve to deal with calling out the first time, whereas direct eye contact with a disap-
proving look may be needed the next time the student calls out.

For disruptive behaviors that continue or for disturbances that more seriously
affect others’ learning, the teacher moves to the next intervention skill in the hierar-
chy, proximity interference.

Proximity Interference

Proximity interference is any movement toward the disruptive student. When signal
interference doesn’t work, or the teacher is unable to gain a student’s attention long
enough to send a signal because the student is so engrossed in the off-task behavior,
proximity interference is warranted.

Often just walking toward the student while conducting the lesson is enough to
bring the student back on task. If the student continues to be off-task, the teacher may
want to conduct the lesson in close proximity to the student’s desk, which is usually
quite effective. This technique works well during question-and-answer periods.

Proximity interference combined with signal interference results in an effective
nonverbal intervention technique. It’s the rare student who is not brought back on-
task by a teacher who makes eye contact and begins walking toward his desk. Like
signal interference, proximity interference techniques may be hierarchically ordered
from nonchalant movement in the direction of the student to an obvious standing
behind or next to the student during class. If proximity does not bring about the
desired behavioral change, the teacher is in a position to implement the next step in
the hierarchy, touch interference.

touch Interference

When a teacher takes a child’s hand and escorts the child back to his seat or when a
teacher places a hand on a student’s shoulder, he is using touch interference. Touch
interference is a light, nonaggressive physical contact with the student. Without any
verbal exchange, touch interference communicates to the student that the teacher dis-
approves of the disruptive behavior. When possible, the technique also ought to direct

Chapter 8 • Using Nonverbal Interventions to Influence Students to Behave Appropriately 211

the student to the appropriate behavior, such as when a student is escorted to a seat
or the student’s hand is moved from a neighbor’s desk and back to his own paper.

When using touch interference, it is important to be aware of its limitations and
possible negative outcomes. Certain students construe any touch by the teacher as an
aggressive act and react with aggressive behavior. On one occasion, we saw a teacher
calmly walk up to a student who was standing at her seat and place her hand on the
student’s shoulder. The student turned around and confronted the teacher, angrily
yelling, “Don’t you ever put your hands on me!” To lessen the chance of such an occur-
rence, teachers need to be sensitive to using touch interference when working with
visibly angry or upset students and older students, especially those of the opposite
sex. As with all techniques, the teacher must be cognizant of the situational variables
as well as the student characteristics.

effectIveness of nonverBal InterventIon skIlls

The use of these four remedial nonverbal intervention skills is considered successful
if any one or any combination in the hierarchy leads the student to resume appropri-
ate classroom behavior. Notice how Mr. Rotman in Case 8.2 skillfully uses the four
nonverbal remedial intervention techniques in combination with the proactive skills
of removing seductive objects, interest boosting, and redirecting the behavior to stop

Mr. Rotman asks each student to write one
math problem from the assignment on the
board. As two students write their problems,
he notices out of the corner of his eye that
Jerry is passing a note to Ben. Mr. Rotman
decides to ignore the behavior, waiting to see
if it is simply a single occurrence. When all
the problems are on the board, Mr. Rotman
asks questions about the solutions. During
this questioning period, he notices Ben
returning a note to Jerry. After a few attempts,
Mr. Rotman makes eye contact with Jerry
while questioning Ben about one of the prob-
lems. This technique stops the note passing
for the remainder of the questioning activity.

The next activity calls for the use of
calculators, and he asks Jerry to please pass
one calculator to each predetermined pair
of students. Jerry and Ben are partners, and

Mr. Rotman monitors their behavior from a
distance. As he circulates around the room
helping students with the class work, he
makes sure that he stops to look over Jerry and
Ben’s work, encouraging them on its accuracy.
Throughout the activity, both boys are on task.

Following the group work, the students
separate their desks, and Mr. Rotman begins
to review the answers to the problems. He
immediately notices that the two boys have
begun to pass notes again. He quickly takes
a position next to the boys, taps Jerry on the
shoulder, and holds out his hand for the note.
Jerry hands Mr. Rotman the note and he puts
it in his pocket. Mr. Rotman stands near the
boys for the rest of the period, asking ques-
tions of the class and reviewing the problems.
Both Ben and Jerry volunteer and participate
for the remainder of the class.

Case 8.2
Notes versus Math

212 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

the note passing between Jerry and Ben without noticeably disrupting the teaching/
learning act. He is able to do this because the intervention skills are not randomly and
haphazardly applied. Mr. Rotman has a mental flowchart of the hierarchical sequence
so that movement from one behavior to the next is accomplished quickly, calmly, and
confidently. This does not happen overnight. Teachers must preplan and practice pro-
active and remedial intervention techniques before having to implement them.

Shrigley (1985) studied the efficiency of nonverbal proactive and remedial inter-
vention skills when used in a hierarchical sequence. He found that after a few hours
of in-service training, 53 teachers were able to curb 40 percent of 523 off-task surface
behaviors without having to utter a word or cause any interruption to either teach-
ing or learning. Five percent of the behaviors were corrected by the use of planned
ignoring. Signal interference was the most effective technique, rectifying 14 percent
of the behaviors. Twelve percent and 9 percent were stopped by proximity and touch
interference, respectively. To manage the remaining 60 percent of unresolved behavior
problems, the teachers needed to implement verbal intervention, the group of inter-
vention skills covered in the next chapter.

Remember, however, the hierarchy is a decision-making model. Depending on
the type, frequency, and distracting potential of the behavior, the teacher may decide
to bypass the initial intervention skills in favor of a later technique. Certain behaviors
need immediate attention; they can neither be ignored nor allowed to continue. This
is demonstrated in Case 8.3, in which Ms. Niaz decides to bypass planned ignoring
and signal interference in favor of proximity interference to manage a disruption
during a test.

No matter which technique eventually brings the student back on task, efforts
need to be directed toward maintaining the appropriate behavior. The teacher who
encourages and attends to the student’s new behavior most easily accomplishes this

Humor can be a powerful tool in establishing relationships and defusing confrontations.

Chapter 8 • Using Nonverbal Interventions to Influence Students to Behave Appropriately 213

task. The student must realize that he can obtain the same or even more attention and
recognition for appropriate behavior than he did for disruptive behavior. The student
who is ignored when calling out answers should be called on immediately when he
raises his hand. The student who ceases walking around the room should be told at
the end of the period that it was a pleasure having him in the class. These simple
efforts of recognizing appropriate behavior are often overlooked by teachers, but they
are a necessary supplement for the teacher who wants to maximize the effectiveness
of proactive and remedial intervention skills.

Ms. Niaz explains the test-taking proce-
dures to her class and then passes out the
tests. She walks around the room, answer-
ing questions and keeping students aware
of her presence. As she does, she notices
that Danny is walking his fingers up Tonya’s

back. Tonya turns around and says, “Stop
it!” As soon as she turns back to her test,
Danny again bothers her. Ms. Niaz immedi-
ately walks toward Danny and spends the
next 10 minutes standing in close proximity
to him.

Case 8.3
Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

This chapter began by stressing the fact that
teaching/learning is the joint responsibility of
the teacher and the students. Students are more
willing to accept their responsibilities when it
is clear to them that the teacher is fulfilling his
responsibilities. These responsibilities include
being well prepared to teach by developing
learning objectives and using effective teaching
strategies, providing clear directions and expla-
nations, ensuring that students understand
evaluation criteria, communicating and consis-
tently enforcing behavioral expectations, dem-
onstrating enthusiasm and encouragement, and
modeling expected behavior. These behaviors
are minimum competencies that all teachers
must possess and are considered not only pre-
ventive in nature but also prerequisites to effec-
tively intervening with disruptive behaviors.

Teachers proficient in curbing disruptive
behavior are experts in the use of a variety of
proactive intervention skills. Techniques such as
changing the pace, removing seductive objects,

interest boosting, redirecting behavior, nonpuni-
tive time-out, encouraging appropriate behavior,
and providing cues are employed to bring stu-
dents back on task while causing little, if any,
disruption to the teaching/learning process.

A three-tiered, decision-making hierar-
chy of remedial intervention skills provides a
means to manage the inappropriate surface
behaviors that are not brought on task through
proactive intervention skills. The structure of
the hierarchy ranges from nonintrusive tech-
niques that cause little disruption and pro-
vide students with the opportunity to control
their own behavior to intrusive techniques that
potentially disrupt teaching and learning. The
first tier of nonverbal remedial intervention
consists of four nonverbal behaviors: planned
ignoring, signal interference, proximity inter-
ference, and touch interference. When system-
atically employed, these techniques have been
shown to be effective when working with stu-
dents who exhibit surface behaviors.


214 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

1. Seven teacher behaviors were listed as prereq-
uisites to appropriate student behavior. Should
these teacher behaviors be considered prereq-
uisite? Why or why not?

2. Predict what type of student behavior may
result if the teacher does not meet each of the
seven prerequisite teacher behaviors.

3. What, if any, deletions or additions would you
make to the seven prerequisite teacher behav-
iors? Explain any modification you suggest.

4. Suggest specific techniques a teacher can use
that demonstrate each of the following proac-
tive intervention skills:

a. Changing the pace
b. Interest boosting
c. Redirecting behavior
d. Encouraging appropriate behavior
e. Providing cues
5. The hierarchy of remedial intervention skills is

presented as a decision-making model, not as
an action model. Explain why.

6. Two effective remedial intervention skills are
signal interference and proximity interference.
Suggest specific techniques a teacher could use
that would demonstrate their use.

7. What types of student behaviors would cause
you to decide to bypass initial remedial nonver-
bal intervention skills and enter the hierarchy
at the proximity or touch-interference level?

8. Explain why you agree or disagree with the
premise that intervention techniques should be
employed in a manner that provides students
with the greatest opportunity to control their
own behavior.

9. Some teachers consider the hierarchical use
of remedial intervention skills a waste of time.
They say, “Why spend all this time and effort
when you can just tell the student to stop mess-
ing around and get back to work?” Explain why
you agree or disagree with this point of view.

10. Principles of Teacher Behavior After read-
ing Chapter 8 and doing the exercises, use
what you have learned to briefly describe your
understanding of the implications of the prin-
ciples listed at the beginning of the chapter for
a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Principle 3:



Using Verbal
Interventions and
Logical Consequences
to Influence Students
to Behave Appropriately

Chapter 9

The Basics

Nature of the Discipline Problem

Understanding Why Children Misbehave

Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students

The Professional Teacher

Structuring the Environment

216 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

PrinciPles of Teacher Behavior ThaT influence
aPProPriaTe sTudenT Behavior

1. An intervention hierarchy that consists of nonverbal intervention, followed
by verbal intervention, and application of logical consequences, when necessary,
seems most effective in intervening for common behavior problems.

2. Some forms of verbal intervention defuse confrontation and reduce misbehavior;
other forms of verbal intervention escalate misbehavior and confrontation.

Prereading acTiviTy: undersTanding The PrinciPles
of Teacher Behavior

Before reading Chapter 9, briefly describe your understanding of the implications
of the principles for a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Prereading QuesTions for reflecTion and Journaling

1. Under what circumstances should a teacher use verbal intervention to deal with
disruptive behavior?

2. What advice would you give to teachers about how to use verbal interventions
most effectively?

3. Is it ever acceptable or appropriate for a teacher to yell at a student or a group
of students? If so, under what circumstances? If not, why not?

Building Relationships

Using Nonverbal Interventions to Influence Students to Behave

Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences to Influence
Students to Behave Appropriately

Verbal Intervention • Adjacent (Peer) Reinforcement • Calling on
the Student/Name-Dropping • Humor • Questioning Awareness of Effect

• “I Message” • Direct Appeal • Positive Phrasing • “Are Not For’s”
• Reminder of Rules • Glasser’s Triplets • Explicit Redirection

• Canter’s “Broken Record” • Use of Logical Consequences

Chapter 9 • Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences 217


It is probably correct to assume that John in Case 9.1 has caused many problems for
Mr. Rodriguez and other students. By this point in the text, the diligent reader and
hopefully Mr. Rodriguez should be thinking about the dynamics of this interaction
with John, which has to do with authority bases, self-esteem, parallel processes,
and building positive student-teacher relationships. With experience, the veteran
professional would use this knowledge base to arrive at an understanding of the
dynamics of what was occurring and plan interactions that would de-escalate rather
than escalate the confrontation. Instead, Mr. Rodriguez decides to go public by
saying, “John, you are one of the most obnoxious students I have ever had the
misfortune to deal with.” What do you think Mr. Rodriguez’s goal was or what did he
hope to accomplish? Although he does get his long-suppressed feelings off his chest,
Mr. Rodriguez does more harm than good. He disrupts any learning that is taking
place, he forces the other students to concentrate on John’s behavior rather than
on the content of the lesson, and he extends the off-task time by prolonging the
reprimand. Thus, Mr. Rodriguez is now a discipline problem (Chapter 2). He is
continuing to use distorted power to protect his self-esteem, which strengthens an
existing negative parallel process (Chapter 3). This means that the student, John,
who already dislikes him, is probably now more determined than ever to “get
Rodriguez’s goat.” Finally, by overreacting to a minor incident, Mr. Rodriguez has
probably created some sympathy for John among the other students.

Although we know Mr. Rodriguez has overreacted, we also know that he is
not alone. Many teachers find themselves in Mr. Rodriguez’s position at one time or
another. They allow many incidents of relatively minor misbehavior to build up until
one day they just can’t take it anymore, and they explode. In letting loose their pent-up

“John, you are one of the most obnoxious
students I have ever had the misfortune to
deal with. How many times have I asked you
not to call out answers? If you want to answer
a question, raise your hand. It shouldn’t
tax your tiny brain too much to remember
that. I’m sick and tired of your mistaken
idea that the rules of this classroom apply
to everyone but you. It’s because of people
like you that we need rules in the first place.
They apply especially to you. I will not allow
you to deprive other students of the chance
to answer questions. Anyway, half of your
answers are totally off the wall. I’m in charge

here, not you. If you don’t like it, you can tell
your troubles to the principal. Now sit here
and be quiet.”

When Mr. Rodriguez finished his
lecture and turned to walk to the front of
the room, John discreetly flipped him the
“finger” and laughed with his friends. John
spent the rest of the period drawing pictures
on the corner of his desk. The other students
spent the remainder of the period in either
uncomfortable silence or invisible l aughter.
Mr. Rodriguez spent the rest of the class
trying to calm down and get his mind back
on the lesson.

case 9.1
Blowing His Stack

218 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

feelings, these teachers make the situation worse rather than better. Teachers can avoid
this by understanding the concepts discussed in this text such as authority bases, self-
esteem, and parallel processes, and using the remedial intervention skills hierarchy
first presented in Chapter 8 to contend with classroom behavior problems. This hier-
archy consists of three major tiers of intervention: (1) nonverbal intervention skills,
(2) verbal intervention, and (3) use of logical consequences. When teachers use this
hierarchy to guide their thinking about classroom discipline problems, they are able
to select interventions that influence the student to behave appropriately and stop the
misbehavior swiftly and effectively. This chapter presents the second and third tiers of
the hierarchy.

Verbal intervention is one of the most powerful and versatile tools the teacher
has for influencing student behavior. When used effectively, verbal intervention makes
classroom management relatively easy and less stressful. When used poorly and
thoughtlessly, it may create new behavior problems, make existing problems worse, or
turn temporary problems into chronic ones.

This chapter presents 12 verbal intervention techniques in a systematic,
hierarchical format. As did the nonverbal intervention skills sub-hierarchy presented
in Chapter 8, the verbal intervention sub-hierarchy begins with techniques designed
to foster students’ control over their own behavior and proceeds to those that foster
greater teacher influence over student behavior. Because, as we noted in Chapter 8,
this is a decision-making hierarchy, the teacher must decide which particular verbal
intervention technique to use with a student who is misbehaving after determining
that nonverbal intervention is not appropriate or has not worked.

The final section of the chapter discusses the third and last tier of the interven-
tion hierarchy, the use of logical consequences to influence student behavior.

classroom Verbal InterVentIon

As explained in Chapter 8, there are four advantages to using nonverbal interven-
tion whenever possible: (1) disruption to the learning process is less likely to occur,
(2) hostile confrontation with the student is less apt to happen, (3) the student is
provided the opportunity to correct her own behavior before more teacher-centered,
public interventions are employed, and (4) a maximum number of remaining alternative
interventions are preserved. However, nonverbal intervention is not always possible.
When misbehavior is potentially harmful to any student or potentially disruptive for a
large number of students, it should be stopped quickly, and often verbal intervention is
the quickest way to do so. Before discussing specific techniques, teachers should keep
in mind the following guidelines when using verbal intervention:

1. Whenever possible, use nonverbal interventions first.
2. Keep verbal intervention as private as possible. This minimizes the risk of having

the student become defensive and hostile to avoid losing face in front of peers.
Brophy (1988) suggested that this is one of the most important general principles
for disciplinary intervention.

3. Make the verbal intervention as brief as possible. Your goal is to stop the misbe-
havior and redirect the student to appropriate behavior. Prolonging the verbal
interaction extends the disruption of learning and enhances the likelihood of a
hostile confrontation.

Chapter 9 • Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences 219

4. As Haim Ginott (1972) suggested, speak to the situation, not the person. In other
words, label the behavior, not the person, as bad or inappropriate. If, for example,
a student interrupts a teacher, “Interrupting others is rude” is a more appropriate
response than “You interrupted me. You are rude.” Labeling the behavior helps
the student see the distinction between herself and her behavior, which in turn
helps her understand that it is possible for the teacher to like her but not her
behavior. If the student is labeled, she may feel compelled to defend herself and,
perhaps, even to seek revenge against the teacher. Furthermore, the student may
accept the label as part of her self-concept and match the label with inappropriate
behavior in the future. This is exactly what Marcus Green decides to do in Case 9.2.

5. As Ginott urged, set limits on behavior, not on feelings. For instance, tell the
student, “It is O.K. to be angry, but it’s not O.K. to show your anger by hitting.”
“It is O.K. to feel disappointed, but it’s not O.K. to show that disappointment by
ripping up your test paper in front of this class and throwing it in the basket.”
Students need to recognize, trust, and understand their feelings. When teachers
and parents tell students not to be angry or disappointed, they are telling them
to distrust and deny their genuine and often justified feelings. The appropriate
message for teachers and parents to communicate and understand is that there
are appropriate and inappropriate ways for expressing feelings.

6. Avoid sarcasm and other verbal behaviors that belittle or demean the student.
Using verbal reprimands to belittle a student lowers the student’s self-esteem.
A student may in turn raise her self-esteem by using distorted power often
displayed as continued disruptive behavior. Additionally, demeaning teacher
behavior toward a student often fosters sympathy and support for the student
by onlooking classmates.

7. Begin by using a technique that fits the student and the problem and is as close
as possible to the student-control end of the decision-making hierarchy.

Marcus Green is in the sixth grade at
Shortfellow School. His teacher, Mr. Gramble,
has had a long history of difficulty in deal-
ing with classroom discipline. Marcus is a
fine student who rarely misbehaves. One day,
as his back is partially turned to the class,
Mr. Gramble notices Marcus talking to a
neighbor. In a flash, Mr. Gramble turns and
pounces on Marcus, who was only asking
Craig Rutler for an eraser to correct a mistake
in his homework. “So, you’re the one who’s
been causing all the trouble,” Mr. Gramble
snaps. “You little sneak, and all the time
I thought you were one of the few people

who never caused trouble in here. Well,
Buster, you can bet from now on I’ll keep an
eagle eye on you. You won’t be getting away
with any more sneaky behavior in here.”

For a week or so, Marcus goes back
to his typical good behavior, but every time
something goes wrong or someone misbe-
haves, Mr. Gramble blames Marcus. After a
week or so of unjust blame, Marcus decides
that he may as well start causing some trou-
ble because he is going to get blamed for it
anyway. In a very short time, Marcus truly is
a great sneak who causes all sorts of havoc
and rarely gets caught in the act.

case 9.2
Marcus, the Little Sneak

220 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

8. If the first verbal intervention does not result in a return to appropriate behavior,
use a second technique that is closer to the teacher-influence end of the

9. If more than one verbal intervention technique has been used unsuccessfully, it
is time to move to the next step of the intervention hierarchy, the use of logical

Equally as important as these guidelines on how to use verbal interventions is
an awareness of commonly used ineffective verbal interventions. Many of these are
instantaneous teacher reactions to students who exhibit disruptive behavior rather
than systematic, preplanned, professional decisions enhanced by the use and under-
standing of the hierarchy of remedial intervention skills. Whereas there are many
ineffective verbal interventions, they all share the common characteristics of not
speaking directly to the disruptive behavior and not directing the student toward the
appropriate behavior (Valentine, 1987).

Some ineffective verbal interventions encourage inappropriate behavior. For
instance, “I dare you to do that again” actually increases the likelihood that a student
will accept the dare and engage in further disruptions. Other verbal interventions
focus on irrelevant behavior. “Aren’t you sorry for what you did?” and “Why don’t
you just admit you have a problem?” address issues that are tangential to the real
problem, the student’s inappropriate behavior. Still other inappropriate interventions
give abstract, meaningless directions or predictions, such as, “Grow up!” or “You’ll
never amount to anything.” These do not address the disruptive behavior and are
derogatory and humiliating. They increase the possibility of further confrontation
when the student attempts to “save face” and also increase the desire for revenge on
the part of the student or other displays of distorted power.

With the guidelines in mind and a cognizance of ineffective verbal reactions,
let’s turn our attention to the hierarchy of effective verbal intervention. Remember
that this is a hierarchy of decision making that begins with verbal interventions
that foster student control over student behavior and gradually progresses to
interventions that foster greater teacher influence over student behavior. The teacher
uses the hierarchy as a range of options to consider, not as a series of techniques to
be tried in rapid succession. The teacher should begin the intervention at the point
on the hierarchy that is likely to correct the misbehavior and still allow the student
as much control and responsibility as possible. It is entirely appropriate to begin
with a teacher-centered technique if the teacher believes that it is important to stop
the misbehavior quickly and that only a teacher-centered intervention will do so.
It is also important to remember that not all of these interventions are appropriate
for all types of misbehavior or for all students. Lasley (1989) suggested that teacher-
centered interventions are more appropriate for younger, developmentally immature
children, and student-centered interventions are more appropriate for older, devel-
opmentally mature learners. Therefore, the effective use of this verbal intervention
hierarchy requires the teacher to decide which particular intervention techniques
are appropriate for both her students and the particular types of misbehaviors that
are occurring.

As Figure 9.1 indicates, the verbal intervention hierarchy has been broken into
three major categories: hints, questions, and requests or demands. Hints are indirect

Chapter 9 • Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences 221

FIgure 9.1 Hierarchy of Classroom Verbal Intervention Techniques.

Hints Student Centered
Adjacent (Peer) Reinforcement (Less Confrontation)
Calling on Student/Name-Dropping (Less Disruption)

Questioning Awareness of Effect

“I Message”
Direct Appeal
Positive Phrasing
“Are Not For’s”
Reminder of Rules
Glasser’s Triplets (More Disruption)
Explicit Redirection (More Confrontation)
Canters’ “Broken Record” Teacher Centered

means of letting the student know that her behavior is inappropriate. They do not
directly address the behavior itself. Thus, of all the verbal interventions, they provide
the greatest student control over behavior and are the least likely to result in further
disruption or confrontation. Specific techniques that are classified as hints include
adjacent or peer reinforcement, calling on students or name-dropping, and humor.

In using questions as an intervention strategy, the teacher asks the student if
she is aware of how she is behaving and how that behavior is affecting other people.
Questions are more direct than hints but provide greater student control and less
likelihood of confrontation than demands. The only questioning technique that is
illustrated as such is questioning awareness of effect. However, almost any request or
demand can be utilized as a question. For example, “Pencils are not for drumming”
can be rephrased as “What are pencils for?” When using questions, the teacher must
make sure that the question is not said sarcastically.

The third level of verbal intervention is labeled as requests/demands. These
are teacher statements explicitly directed at a misbehavior that make clear that the
teacher wants the inappropriate behavior stopped. Such interventions must be deliv-
ered assertively, but not aggressively. The final section of the chapter distinguishes
assertive from aggressive responses. The major differences between the two are
depicted in Table 9.1, provided later in this chapter. Requests and demands exert
greater teacher influence over student behavior and have the potential to be dis-
ruptive and confrontational. Despite their disadvantages, it is sometimes necessary
for teachers to use these interventions when lower-level interventions have proved
unsuccessful. The potential for confrontation can be minimized if the demands are
delivered calmly and privately.

No matter which interventions a teacher employs, they must be used with full
awareness of their limitations and of the implicit message about influencing student
behavior that each one conveys.

222 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

adjacent (Peer) reinforcement

Adjacent (peer) reinforcement is based on the learning principle that behavior that
is reinforced is more likely to be repeated. Although reinforcement usually consists
of reinforcing a student for her own behavior, Albert Bandura (1997) demonstrated
through his work on social learning theory that other students are likely to imitate
an appropriate behavior when their peers have been reinforced for that behavior. The
use of peer reinforcement as a verbal intervention technique focuses class attention
on appropriate behavior rather than on inappropriate behavior. This intervention tech-
nique has been placed first in the hierarchy because it gives the student a chance to
control her own behavior without any intervention on the part of the teacher that calls
attention to the student or her behavior.

To use this technique effectively, a teacher who notes a disruptive behavior finds
another student who is behaving appropriately and commends that student publicly
for the appropriate behavior. Recall (from Case 9.1) Mr. Rodriguez’s anger at John.
Mr. Rodriguez could have handled the problem by saying, “Fred and Bob, I really
appreciate your raising your hands to answer questions,” or “I am really glad that
most of us remember the rule that we must raise our hands before speaking.”

This particular verbal intervention technique is more useful at the elementary
level than at the secondary level. Younger students are usually more interested in
pleasing the teacher than older students and often vie for the teacher’s attention.
Thus, public praise by the teacher is a powerful reinforcer of appropriate behavior.
At the secondary level, peer approval is more highly valued than teacher approval;
thus, public praise by the teacher is not a powerful reinforcer and indeed may not be
a reinforcer at all. For these reasons, it is best to use public praise of individuals spar-
ingly. Public reinforcement of the group as a whole, however, may be an appropriate
intervention at the secondary level.

The authors are aware that some who write about classroom management argue
that the use of adjacent reinforcement is problematic because the teacher is using
praise disingenuously. These theorists argue that the intent is not really to praise the
student who is behaving appropriately but rather to admonish those students who
are not. We, the authors, are aware of the danger of disingenuous praise and certainly
do not promote its frequent use. However, we would argue that when using peer
reinforcement, the praise for the student who is behaving appropriately is genuine
praise that has a twofold purpose, to recognize appropriate behavior and to provide
an opportunity for those who are not behaving appropriately to recognize how they
should be behaving.

calling on the student/name-dropping

To use the calling on the student/name-dropping technique, the teacher redirects the stu-
dent to appropriate behavior by calling on the student to answer a question or by insert-
ing the student’s name in an example or in the middle of a lecture if asking a question
is not appropriate. Rinne (1984) labeled the technique of inserting the student’s name
within the content of a lecture name-dropping. Hearing her name is a good reminder
to a student that her attention should be focused on the lesson. This technique may be
used to redirect students who are off-task but are not disrupting the learning of others
(see Chapter 8), as well as students who are overtly disrupting the learning process.

Chapter 9 • Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences 223

Calling on a student who is misbehaving is a subtle yet effective technique for
recapturing the student’s attention without interrupting the flow of the lesson or risk-
ing confrontation with the student. There are two possible formats for calling on
students exhibiting disruptive behavior. Some teachers state the student’s name first
and then ask a question; others ask the question and then call on the student. The
latter technique invariably results in the student being startled and unable to answer
the question because she did not hear it. Often, the teacher who uses this technique
follows the period of embarrassed silence with a comment on why the student can’t
answer and why it is important to pay attention. Although this procedure may satisfy
the teacher’s need to say, “I gotcha,” it is preferable to call on the student first and then
ask the question. Using the name first achieves the goal of redirecting the student’s
attention without embarrassing her.

In Case 9.1, calling on John to answer or saying John’s name is not an appro-
priate technique for Mr. Rodriguez to use in dealing with the situation because each
encourages John’s calling out by giving him recognition. Although not appropriate in
this particular case, calling on the student and name-dropping are appropriate in a
wide range of situations with learners of all ages.


Humor that is directed at the teacher or at the situation rather than at the student can
defuse tension in the classroom and redirect students to appropriate behavior. The use
of humor tends to depersonalize situations and can help establish positive relation-
ships with students (Saphier and Gower, 2008).

If Mr. Rodriguez wished to use humor to handle John’s calling out, he might say
something like this: “I must be hallucinating or something. I’d swear I heard some-
body say something if I didn’t know for sure that I haven’t called on anyone yet.” In
using this technique, teachers need to be very careful not to turn humor into sarcasm.
There is a fine line between humor and sarcasm. Used as a verbal intervention, humor
is directed at or makes fun of the teacher or the situation, whereas sarcasm is directed
at or makes fun of the student. It is important to keep this distinction in mind to
ensure that what is intended as humor does not turn into sarcasm.

Questioning awareness of effect

Sometimes students who disrupt learning are genuinely not aware of the effect their
behavior has on other people. Our research (Levin et al., 1985) indicates that even
students who exhibit chronic disruptive behavior learn to control their behavior when
they are forced to acknowledge both its positive and negative effects. Given this,
making disruptive students aware of how their behavior affects other people can be
a powerful technique for getting them to control their own behavior. A teacher can
usually make a student aware of the impact of her behavior through the use of a
rhetorical question, which requires no response from the student. The teacher who
wants to handle Mr. Rodriguez’s problem by questioning the student’s awareness of
the behavior’s effect might say something like this: “John, are you aware that your
calling out answers without raising your hand robs other students of the chance to
answer the question?” As soon as the question was asked, the teacher would continue
with the lesson without giving John an opportunity to respond.

224 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

The informal question not only makes the student aware of the impact of the
behavior but also communicates to other students the teacher’s desire to protect their
right to learn and may build peer support for appropriate behavior. In using this
intervention, however, especially with students at the junior high level or above, the
teacher must be prepared for the possibility that the student will respond to the
question. If the student does respond and does so in a negative way, the teacher
may choose to ignore the answer, thereby sending the message that she will not use
class time to discuss the issue, or the teacher may respond, “Your behavior is having
a negative impact on other people, and so I will not permit you to continue calling
out answers.” This option sends the message that the teacher is in charge of the
classroom and will not tolerate the misbehavior. In dealing with a possible negative
response from the student, it is important to remember that the teacher’s goal is to
stop the misbehavior and redirect the student to appropriate behavior as quickly
as possible. Prolonged confrontations frustrate that goal. If, on the other hand, it
seems clear from the student’s nonverbal behavior that she is truly unaware of the
impact of her behavior on others, the teacher can talk privately to explain how
the behavior in question has a negative impact on other students, the teacher, and
the student herself.

sending an “I message”

Thomas Gordon (1989), the author of Teaching Children Self-Discipline at Home
and in School, developed a useful technique for dealing with misbehavior verbally.
He termed the intervention an “I message.” The I message is a three-part message
that is intended to help the disruptive student recognize the negative impact of her
behavior on the teacher. The underlying assumption of the technique is the same as
the assumption underlying the previously discussed questioning awareness of effect:
once a student recognizes the negative impact of her behavior on others, she will
be motivated to stop the misbehavior. The three parts of an I message are (1) a simple
description of the disruptive behavior, (2) a description of its tangible effect on the
teacher and/or other students, and (3) a description of the teacher’s feelings about
the effects of the misbehavior. Using I messages models for students the important
behavior of taking responsibility for and owning one’s actions and feelings. There is
one important caveat in the use of this technique. Just as the teacher expects students
to respect the feelings that are expressed in an I message, the teacher must respect
feelings expressed by students.

To use an I message to stop John from calling out, Mr. Rodriguez might say,
“John, when you call out answers without raising your hand (part 1), I can’t call
on any other student to answer the question (part 2). This disturbs me because
I would like to give everyone a chance to answer the questions (part 3).” Teachers
who enjoy a positive relationship with students, which gives them referent authority
(see Chapter 4), are usually successful in using I messages. When students genuinely
like the teacher, they are motivated to stop behavior that has a negative impact on
the teacher. On the other hand, if the teacher has a poor relationship with students,
she should avoid the use of I messages. Allowing students who dislike you to know
that a particular behavior is annoying or disturbing may result in an increase in that
particular behavior.

Chapter 9 • Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences 225

direct appeal

Another technique that is useful when a teacher enjoys a referent or expert authority
base is direct appeal. Direct appeal means courteously requesting that a student stop
the disruptive behavior. For example, Mr. Rodriguez could say, “John, please stop
calling out answers so that everyone will have a chance to answer.” The direct appeal
leans more toward an assertive delivery mode; it is not made in any sort of pleading
or begging way.

Teachers must not use direct appeal in a classroom in which students seem
to doubt the teacher’s ability to be in charge. In this situation, the appeal may be
perceived as a plea rather than as a straightforward assertive request.

Positive Phrasing

Many times, parents and teachers fall into the trap of emphasizing the negative out-
comes of misbehavior more than the positive outcomes of appropriate behavior. We tell
children and students far more frequently what will happen if they don’t finish their
homework than we tell them the good things that will occur if they do finish. Of course,
it is often easier to identify the short-range negative outcomes of misbehavior than it
is to predict the short-range positive impact of appropriate behavior. Still, when the
positive outcomes of appropriate behavior are easily identifiable, simply stating what
the positive outcomes are can redirect students from disruptive to proper behavior.
Shrigley (1985) called this technique positive phrasing. It usually takes the form of “as
soon as you do X (behave appropriately), we can do Y (a positive outcome).”

In using positive phrasing to correct John’s calling out, Mr. Rodriguez might say,
“John, when you raise your hand, you will be called on.” The long-term advantage of
using positive phrasing whenever possible is that students begin to believe that appro-
priate behavior leads to positive outcomes. As a result, they are more likely to develop
internalized control over their behavior.

“are not For’s”

Of all the verbal interventions discussed in this chapter, the phrase are not for
(Shrigley, 1985) is the most limited in use. It is implemented primarily when elemen-
tary or preschool children misuse property or materials. For example, if a student
is drumming on a desk with a pencil, the teacher may say, “Pencils aren’t for drum-
ming on desks; pencils are for writing.” Although it is usually effective in redirecting
behavior positively at the elementary or preschool level, most secondary students
perceive this intervention as insulting. Using “are not for” is not an appropriate tech-
nique for Mr. Rodriguez because John is a secondary student and is not misusing
property or material.

reminder of the rules

When a teacher has established clear guidelines or rules early in the year (see
Chapter 6) and has received student commitment to them, merely reminding stu-
dents of the rules may curb misbehavior. This approach is even more effective if past
transgressions have been followed by a reminder and a negative logical consequence
if the misbehavior continued. Notice that at this point on the hierarchy, the teacher

226 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

is no longer relying solely on the student’s ability to control her own behavior but
instead is using external rules to influence behavior as well as the student’s past
commitment to follow the rules.

In using this technique, Mr. Rodriguez might say, “John, the classroom rules state
that students must raise their hands before speaking,” or “John, calling out answers
without raising your hand is against our classroom rules that you agreed to follow.”
The technique is particularly effective for elementary and middle school students.
Although it may be used at the senior high level, at this level many students resent the
feeling that they are being governed by too many rules. It is important to note that
when a reminder of the rules does not redirect the misbehavior, the application of
consequences must follow. If this does not occur, the effectiveness of rule reminders
will be diminished because students will not see the link between breaking classroom
rules and negative consequences.

glasser’s triplets

In his system for establishing suitable student behavior, William Glasser (1969, 1992)
proposed that teachers direct students to appropriate behavior through the use of
three questions: (1) What are you doing? (2) Is it against the rules? (3) What should
you be doing? These questions, always used privately but not publicly, are known
as Glasser’s triplets. They obviously require a classroom in which the rules have
been firmly established in students’ minds. To stop John from calling out answers,
Mr. Rodriguez would simply ask Glasser’s triplets. The expectation underlying Glasser’s
triplets is that the student will answer the questions honestly and will then return to
the appropriate behavior. Unfortunately, not all students answer the triplets honestly,
and therein lies the intervention’s inherent weakness. Asking open-ended questions
may result in student responses that are dishonest, improper, or unexpected.

If a student chooses to answer the questions dishonestly or not to reply at
all, the teacher responds by saying (in John’s case), “No, John, you were calling out
answers. That is against our classroom rules. You must raise your hand to answer
questions.” To minimize the likelihood of an extended, negative confrontation ensu-
ing from the use of Glasser’s triplets, it is suggested that teachers use three statements
instead of questions: “John, you are calling out. It is against the rules. You should
raise your hand if you want to answer.” Some teachers may want to recognize the
positive component of the student’s behavior, that is the desire to participate. This can
be done by adding a short phase to the triplets: “John you are calling out. It is against
the rules. I like that you want to participate, but you should raise your hand if you
want to answer.”

explicit redirection

Explicit redirection consists of an assertive order to stop the misbehavior and return
to acceptable behavior. The redirection is a teacher command and leaves no room for
student rebuttal. If Mr. Rodriguez used explicit redirection with John, he might say,
“John, stop calling out answers and raise your hand if you want to answer a question.”
Notice the contrast between this technique and those discussed in the earlier stages of
the hierarchy in terms of the amount of responsibility the teacher assumes for influ-
encing student behavior.

Chapter 9 • Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences 227

The advantages of this technique are its simplicity; clarity; and closed format,
which does not allow for student rebuttal. Its disadvantage lies in the fact that the
teacher openly confronts the student, who either behaves or defies the teacher in
front of peers. The demand should be made as privately as possible for that reason.
Obviously, if the student chooses to defy the teacher’s command, the teacher must be
prepared to proceed to the next step in the hierarchy and enforce the command with
appropriate consequences.

canter’s “broken record”

Canter and Canter (2001) developed a strategy for clearly communicating to the
student that the teacher will not engage in verbal bantering and intends to make
sure that the student resumes appropriate behavior. They labeled their strategy
the broken record because the teacher’s behavior sounds like a broken record. The
teacher begins by giving the student an explicit redirection statement. If the student
doesn’t comply or if the student tries to defend or explain her behavior, the teacher
repeats the redirection. The teacher may repeat it two or three times if the student
continues to argue or fails to comply. If the student tries to excuse or defend her
behavior, some teachers add the phrase “that’s not the point” at the beginning of
the first and second repetitions. The following is an example of this technique as
applied by Mr. Rodriguez:

RodRiguez: John, stop calling out answers and raise your hand if you want to
answer questions.

John: But I really do know the answer.

RodRiguez: That’s not the point. Stop calling out answers and raise your hand
if you want to answer questions.

John: You let Mabel call out answers yesterday.

RodRiguez: That’s not the point. Stop calling out answers and raise your hand
if you want to answer questions.

Return to lesson.

We have found the broken record technique to be effective for avoiding verbal
battles with students. If, however, the statement has been repeated three times without
any result, it is probably time to move to a stronger measure, such as the application
of logical consequences.

comPly or Face tHe logIcal conseQuences:
“you HaVe a cHoIce”

Although nonverbal and verbal interventions often stop misbehavior, sometimes the
misbehavior remains unchecked. When this occurs, the teacher needs to use more overt
techniques. The final tier on the decision-making management hierarchy is the use of
logical consequences to influence student behavior.

As the reader will recall from Chapter 6, there are three types of consequences:
natural, logical, and contrived (Dreikurs, Grunwald, and Pepper, 1998). Natural
consequences result directly from student misbehavior without any intervention

228 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

by the teacher; although not usually necessary, the teacher may point out the link
between the behavior and the consequence. Doing so may actually lessen the impact
on the student because it is usually not necessary. If a student runs down the hall
and falls, no one needs to tell the student she fell because she was running; the
student is quite aware of why she fell. By doing so, the teacher becomes the focus
of the student’s attention rather than her fall. The use of natural consequences is an
intervention strategy because the teacher decides whether or not to let the natural
consequences occur. That is, the teacher decides not to take any action to stop the

Unlike natural consequences, logical consequences require teacher intervention
and are related as closely as possible to the behavior; for example, a student who
comes to class five minutes late is required to remain five minutes after school to
make up the work.

Contrived consequences are imposed on the student by the teacher and either
are unrelated to student behavior or involve a penalty beyond what is fitting for the
misbehavior. Requiring a student who writes on her desk to write 1000 times “I will
not write on my desk” and sentencing a student who comes once to class five minutes
late to two weeks of detention are contrived consequences. Because contrived con-
sequences fail to help students see the connection between a behavior and its conse-
quence and place the teacher in the role of punisher, we do not advocate their use.
Consequently, contrived consequences are not part of the decision-making hierarchy.

When nonverbal and verbal interventions have not led to appropriate behavior,
the teacher should use logical consequences to impact student behavior. To do so,
the teacher applies logical consequences calmly and thoughtfully in a forceful but not
punitive manner.

Brophy (1988) suggested that the teacher who uses logical consequences should
emphasize the student changing her behavior rather than retribution. When this is

Talking to students one-on-one is the first step in establishing relationships
and solving long-term problems.

Chapter 9 • Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences 229

done, the teacher makes sure that the student understands that the misbehavior must
stop immediately or negative consequences will result. Often, it is effective to give
the student a choice of either complying with the request or facing the consequence.
This technique is called you have a choice. For example, if John continued to call
out answers after Mr. Rodriguez had tried several nonverbal and verbal interven-
tions, Mr. Rodriguez would say, “John, you have a choice. Stop calling out answers
immediately and begin raising your hand to answer or move your seat to the back
of the room, and you and I will have a private discussion later. You decide.” Phrasing
the intervention in this way helps the student realize that they are responsible for
the positive as well as the negative consequences of the behavior and that the choice
is theirs. It also places the teacher in a neutral rather than punitive role. Remember,
students do, in fact, choose how to behave. Teachers can’t control student behavior;
they can only influence it.

Once the teacher moves to this final level of the hierarchy, the dialogue is over.
Either the student returns to appropriate behavior or the teacher takes action. The
manner in which the consequences are delivered is important and provides the
teacher another opportunity to reinforce the idea that the student is in control of
her behavior, that the choice to behave or misbehave is hers to make, and that her
choice has consequences. In Mr. Rodriguez’s case, if John chose to continue to call out,
Mr. Rodriguez would say, “John, you have chosen to move to the back of the room;
please move.” There are no excuses, no postponements. The teachers intentions
are clear. Because consistency is crucial, it is imperative that the teacher is ready to
enforce the consequences that have been specified before moving to this final tier on
the hierarchy.

Obviously, the exact consequence to be applied varies with the student misbe-
havior. However, one principle is always involved in the formulation of consequences:
the consequence should be as directly related to the offense as possible. Consistent
application of this principle helps students recognize that their behavior has conse-
quences and helps them learn to control their own behavior in the future by predict-
ing its consequences beforehand.

Because it can be difficult to come up with directly related logical conse-
quences on the spur of the moment (Canter and Canter, 2001), teachers should
consider logical consequences for common types of misbehavior before the misbe-
haviors occur. Developing one or two logical consequences for each of the class-
room rules developed in Chapter 6 is a good way to begin. When misbehavior
occurs for which there is no preplanned logical consequence, a teacher should ask
the following questions to help formulate a consequence directly related to the

1. What would be the logical result if this misbehavior went unchecked?
2. What are the direct effects of this behavior on the teacher, other students, and

the misbehaving student?
3. What can be done to minimize these effects?
4. What lesson will the consequences help the student learn?

The answers to these four questions will usually help a teacher identify a logical
consequence. In Case 9.3, notice how Ms. Ramonda used the first of the four questions
to formulate the logical consequences for Doug’s behavior.

230 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

It must be pointed out that Ms. Ramonda would have to speak to the school
principal and obtain approval before allowing Doug to do nothing. Still, although most
classroom behavior problems do not warrant the drastic measures that Ms. Ramonda
took, the case does illustrate a successful use of logical consequences to deal with a
difficult classroom situation. Ms. Ramonda’s application of logical consequences in a
firm but neutral manner helped redirect Doug to more appropriate behavior and, at the
same time, helped him recognize the direct connection between his behavior and its

WHen “you HaVe a cHoIce” doesn’t Work

At this point, almost all readers are probably thinking, what if “you have a choice”
doesn’t work? Some teachers confuse “not working” with a student choosing the neg-
ative consequences rather than changing her behavior. Remember, teachers cannot

Doug is a seventh-grade student with a
learning disability who has serious reading
problems and poses behavioral problems for
many teachers. At the beginning of the year,
he is assigned to Ms. Ramonda’s seventh-
period remedial reading class. Because Doug
hates reading, he is determined to get out
of the class and causes all sorts of problems
for Ms. Ramonda and the other students.
Ms. Ramonda’s first reaction is to have Doug
removed from her class to protect the other
students; however, after talking to Doug’s
counselor and his resource room teacher, she
comes to believe that it is important for Doug
not to get his way and that he desperately
needs to develop the reading skills that she
can teach him.

Ms. Ramonda decides to try to use
Doug’s personal interests to motivate him.
The next day she asks, “Doug, what would
you like to do?” Doug answers, “Nothin’.
I don’t want to do nothin’ in here. Just leave
me alone.” For the next two days, Doug sits
in the back of the room and doodles as Ms.
Ramonda tries to determine what the next
step should be. Finally, Ms. Ramonda asks

herself what the logical result of doing noth-
ing is. She decides that the logical result is
boredom and resolves to use that to motivate

On the following day, she announces to
Doug that he will get his wish. From then on,
he can do nothing as long as he wants to. She
explains that he will no longer need books
or papers or pencils because books are for
reading, and papers and pencils are for writ-
ing, and doing nothing means doing none of
those things. He will not be allowed to talk
to her or to his friends, she explains, because
that too would be doing something and he
wants to do nothing. “From now on, Doug,
you will be allowed to sit in the back corner
of the room and do nothing, just as you wish.”

For one full week, Doug sits in the back
corner and does nothing. Finally, he asks
Ms. Ramonda if he can do something. She
replies that he can do some reading but noth-
ing else. Doug agrees to try some reading.
That breaks the ice. Ms. Ramonda carefully
selects some low-difficulty, high-interest
material for Doug and gradually pulls him
into the regular classroom situation.

case 9.3
“Doing Nothin’”

Chapter 9 • Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences 231

force students to behave appropriately, but they can deliver the logical consequences
when students choose them. Beyond this point, teachers can only hope that if they are
consistent and follow the guidelines for verbal interventions, students will internalize
the relationship between behavior and its consequences and choose to behave appro-
priately the next time.

Teachers can increase the likelihood of a student choosing appropriate behav-
ior by using an assertive response style when employing “you have a choice.”
Assertiveness is communicated to others by the congruent use of certain verbal and
nonverbal behaviors. Do not confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness, which leads
to unwanted student outcomes. An aggressive response is one in which a teacher
communicates what is expected but in a manner that abuses the rights and feelings
of the student. When this happens, students perceive the stated consequences as
threats. An aggressive delivery of “you have a choice,” with the emphasis on you as
opposed to on choice, would probably be viewed by students as “fighting words”
and escalate both hostility and confrontation, leading to further disruptive behaviors.
When a teacher uses an assertive response style, the teacher clearly communicates
what is expected in a manner that respects a student’s rights and feelings. An asser-
tive style tells the student that the teacher is prepared to back up the request for
behavioral change with appropriately stated consequences but is not threatening.
The authors like to describe assertiveness as a style that communicates to the student
a promise of action if appropriate behavior is not forthcoming. Table 9.1 compares
the verbal and nonverbal behaviors that differentiate assertive response styles from
aggressive ones.

Students need to believe that you are there to help them work through problems and issues.

232 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

Of course, some students will always choose not to behave appropriately. When
the teacher assertively delivers the consequence, these students argue or openly refuse
to accept and comply with the consequence. If this happens, the teacher must not be
sidetracked by the student and enter into a public power struggle with the student.
Instead, the teacher should integrate the use of the Canters’ broken record (Canter and
Canter, 2001) and a final “you have a choice” in a calm, firm assertive manner. The
following example between Mr. Rodriguez and John illustrates integration of these
verbal interventions:

1. Mr. Rodriguez gives John a choice of raising his hand or moving to the back of
the room. John calls out again. Mr. Rodriguez says, “John, you called out; there-
fore, you have decided to move to the back of the class. Please move.”

2. John begins to argue. At this point Mr. Rodriguez uses the Canters’ broken record
and, if necessary, a final “you have a choice.”

John: You know Tom calls out all the time and you never do anything
to him.

RodRiguez: That’s not the point. Please move to the back of the room.

John: I get the right answers.

RodRiguez: That’s not the point. Please move to the back of the room.

John: This is really unfair.

RodRiguez: That’s not the point. Move to the back of the room.

John: I’m not moving and don’t try to make me.

RodRiguez: John, you have a choice. Move to the back of the room now, or I will
be in touch with your parents. You decide.

As this interaction illustrates, after two or three broken records, the teacher issues
a final “you have a choice,” and then disengages from the student. Some teachers will
have the student removed from the classroom by an administrator as the consequence
for the final “you have a choice.” Whatever the consequence, the teacher must be

table 9.1 Comparisons of Assertive and Aggressive Response Styles

Assertive Aggressive

Audience Private only to student Public to entire class

How student is addressed Student’s name “You. Hey, you”

Voice Firm, neutral, soft, slow Tense, loud, fast

Eyes Eye contact only Narrowed, frowning eyes

Stance Close to student without
violating personal space

Hands on hips, violating
personal space

Hands Gently touch student or
student’s desk

Sharp, abrupt gestures

Chapter 9 • Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences 233

This chapter presented the final two tiers
of the hierarchy introduced in Chapter 8:
verbal intervention and use of logical conse-
quences. The following guidelines for verbal
intervention were developed: (1) use verbal
intervention when nonverbal is inappropriate
or ineffective; (2) keep verbal intervention
private, if possible; (3) make it as brief as
possible; (4) speak to the situation, not the
person; (5) set limits on behavior, not feelings;
(6) avoid sarcasm; (7) begin with a verbal
intervention close to the student-centered end
of the hierarchy; (8) if necessary, move to a
second verbal intervention technique closer
to the teacher-centered end of the hierarchy;
and (9) if two verbal interventions have been
used unsuccessfully, move to the application
of consequences.

In addition to the nine guidelines, three
types of ineffective verbal communication pat-
terns were reviewed: (1) encouraging inap-
propriate behavior; (2) focusing on irrelevant
behaviors; and (3) abstract, meaningless direc-
tions and predictions.

Twelve specific intervention techniques
were presented in a hierarchical format ranging
from techniques that foster greater student con-
trol over behavior to those that foster greater
teacher management over student behavior.
The verbal interventions were divided into
three categories: hints, questions, and requests/
demands. Hints include (1) adjacent or peer
reinforcement, (2) calling on the student or

name-dropping, and (3) humor. The sole ques-
tioning intervention that was presented is
(4) questioning awareness of effect. It was
noted that many interventions could be used in
a question format. The interventions classified
as requests/demands include (5) I message,
(6) direct appeal, (7) positive phrasing, (8) are
not for’s, (9) reminder of rules, (10) Glasser’s
triplets, (11) explicit redirection, and (12) the
Canters’ broken record.

The last section of the chapter dis-
cussed the final tier of the hierarchy: use of
logical consequences. It was suggested that
this intervention should be phrased in terms
of student choice, and the consequences
should be related as directly as possible to the
misbehavior. Four questions were proposed to
help teachers formulate logical consequences
for those misbehaviors for which the teacher
has not developed a consequence hierarchy.
The use of an assertive response style and the
integration of “you have a choice” with the
Canters’ broken record were presented as a
means to increase the likelihood that a student
chooses to behave appropriately.

When taken together with the information
presented in Chapter 8, the ideas presented in
this chapter constitute a complete hierarchy
that teachers can use to guide their thinking
and decision making concerning how best to
intervene to influence students who exhibit
disruptive behavior. The hierarchy is presented
in its complete format in Figure 9.2.


willing and able to follow through. Thus, teachers must be sure the consequence
can be carried out. Because interaction between a student and teacher at this level
is likely to be of great interest to the other students in the class, it is imperative for
the teacher to remain calm, firm, and assertive. This is a time for the teacher to show
the rest of the class that she is in control of her behavior and means what she says.
A teacher who remains in control, even if the student refuses to comply, will garner
more respect from onlooking students than the teacher who becomes humiliating,
harsh, or out of control.

234 Section 3 • Interventions for Common Behavior Problems

FIgure 9.2 Hierarchy for Management Intervention.

Level 1: Nonverbal Intervention Student Centered
Planned Ignoring (Less Confrontation)
Signal Interference (Less Disruption)
Proximity Interference
Touch Interference

Level 2: Verbal Intervention

Adjacent (Peer) Reinforcement
Calling on Student/Name-Dropping

Questioning Awareness of Effect

“I Messages”
Direct Appeal
Positive Phrasing
“Are Not For’s”
Reminder of Rules
Glasser’s Triplets
Explicit Redirection
Canters’ “Broken Record” (More Disruption)

(More Confrontation)
Level 3: Use of Logical Consequences Teacher Centered

“You Have a Choice”

1. What types of student misbehavior might lead
a teacher to use verbal intervention without
first trying nonverbal techniques? Justify your

2. Use each of the verbal intervention techniques
presented in this chapter to help redirect the
student to appropriate behavior in the follow-
ing situations:

(a) Student won’t get started on a seat work

(b) Student pushes her way to the front of the

(c) Student talks to a friend sitting on the other
side of the room.

(d) Student lies about a forgotten homework

3. Under what circumstances, if any, would it be
appropriate for a teacher to move directly to
the third tier of the hierarchy: use of logical
consequences? Justify your answer.

4. Develop logical consequences for each of the
following misbehaviors:
(a) Student interrupts while teacher is talking

to a small group of students.
(b) Student steals money from another

student’s desk.
(c) Student copies a homework assignment

from someone else.
(d) Student squirts a water pistol during class.
(e) Student throws spitballs at the blackboard.
(f ) Student physically intimidates other students.
(g) Graffiti is found on the restroom wall.


Chapter 9 • Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences 235

5. List some common teacher verbal interventions
that fall under the three types of ineffective
verbal communication patterns.

6. Role-play the assertive delivery of “you have a

7. When a teacher uses an aggressive response
style, what feelings and behaviors are com-
monly elicited from the student? What effect
does an aggressive response style have on
overall teacher effectiveness in both the aca-
demic and management domains?

8. When a teacher uses an assertive response
style, what feelings and behaviors are com-
monly elicited from the student? What effect
does an assertive response style have on over-
all teacher effectiveness in both the academic
and management domains?

9. Principles of Teacher Behavior After reading
Chapter 9 and doing the exercises, use what
you have learned to briefly describe your
understanding of the implications of the
principles listed at the beginning of the chapter
for a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:


Interventions for
Working with Students
Who Exhibit Chronic
Behavior Problems


The Basics

Nature of the Discipline Problem

Understanding Why Children Misbehave

Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students

The Professional Teacher

Structuring the Environment

Building Relationships

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 237

Classroom Interventions for Working with Students
Who Exhibit Chronic Behavior Problems
The Dynamics of Chronic Disruptive Behavior

Long-Term Problem-Solving Strategies
Relationship Building • Breaking the Cycle of Discouragement

Talking to Solve Problems
Receiving Skills • Sending Skills • Asking Authentic Questions

Short-Term Problem-Solving Strategies
Self-Monitoring • Anecdotal Record Keeping • Functional Behavior Assessment

• Behavior Contracting

Using Nonverbal Interventions to Influence Students to Behave

Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences to Influence
Students to Behave Appropriately

PrinciPles Of Teacher BehaviOr ThaT influence aPPrOPriaTe
sTudenT BehaviOr

1. When working with students who exhibit chronic behavior problems, teachers
should employ strategies to resolve the problems within the classroom before
seeking outside assistance.

2. Breaking the cycle of discouragement, in which most students who exhibit
chronic behavior problems are trapped, increases the likelihood that the problems
can be resolved within the classroom.

3. When teachers conduct private conferences and use effective communication
skills with students who exhibit chronic behavior problems, the likelihood that
the problems can be resolved within the classroom increases.

4. Interventions that require students to recognize their inappropriate behavior and
its impact on others increase the likelihood that the problems can be resolved
within the classroom.

5. Interventions that require students who exhibit chronic behavior problems to
be accountable for trying to control their behavior on a daily basis increase the
likelihood that the problems can be resolved within the classroom.

Prereading acTiviTy: undersTanding The PrinciPles Of Teacher
BehaviOr ThaT influence aPPrOPriaTe sTudenT BehaviOr

Before reading Chapter 10, briefly describe your understanding of the implications
of the principles for a classroom teacher.

238 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Principle 3:

Principle 4:

Principle 5:

Prereading QuesTiOns fOr reflecTiOn and JOurnaling

1. Think about and describe a student whom you have known and whom you would
classify as exhibiting disruptive behavior over a long period of time. What factors
influenced this student to behave inappropriately?

2. What behaviors on the part of the teacher are most important in working with
students who exhibit chronic disruptive behavior?


Research, as well as our own experience, indicates that the overwhelming majority of
discipline problems (somewhere in the neighborhood of 97 percent) can be either pre-
vented or redirected to positive behavior by the use of a preplanned hierarchy of non-
verbal and verbal interventions (Shrigley, 1980). However, some students pose classroom
discipline problems of a more chronic nature. These students continue to misbehave
even after all preventive and intervention techniques, verbal and nonverbal, have been
appropriately employed. They disrupt learning, interfere with the work of others, chal-
lenge teacher authority, and often try to entice others to misbehave on a fairly consis-
tent basis. These are the students who prompt teachers to say, “If I could only get rid
of that . . . Nikolai, third period would be a pleasure to teach.” “Every time I look at that
smirk on Jodi’s face, I’d like to wring her little neck.” “If that . . . Greg weren’t in this class,
I would certainly have a lot more time to spend on helping the other students learn.”

These are the students, who come to mind when a teacher asks himself, “If
I had to do it all over again, would I still choose to become a teacher?” These are
the students that a teacher thinks about when he is driving home from school and
passes the shopping mall that is advertising HIRING NoW foR all PoSITIoNS. He
thinks maybe he should apply; retail can’t be that bad, after all; he almost majored in
business in college. and, these are the students he thinks about when he reflects back
upon his career and asks if it was worthwhile, and he answers yes because 10 years

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 239

ago little Billy McCall was in his class. He remembers him. He was the student who
challenged his authority. Just about every day, he called him a bitch more times than
he wished to remember. He had him suspended twice and he twice failed his class.
last week, though, he stopped by his class and thanked the teacher for not giving up
on him. He and handed him an invitation and said if he weren’t busy next Saturday,
maybe he’d like to come to his college graduation.

The authors of this text stress that teachers are highly qualified professionals,
who, just like doctors and lawyers, apply a specialized body of knowledge to address
challenging complex problems. Therefore, consider the following if there were no
illness and people were born healthy and died at a ripe old age, what professionals
would we not need? If everyone were law abiding, which professionals would we
not need? finally, if every student came to school motivated, well behaved, and with
no behavioral or academic problems, what professionals would we not need? It is
because students come to school with a myriad of behavior, academic, and motiva-
tional issues that we need professional teachers.

This chapter and Chapter 11 are for the teachers who work with the students
who cause us to question what we are doing in the moment but also give us tremen-
dous satisfaction over time.

the dynamIcs of chronIc dIsruptIve BehavIor

as Mr. Voman, the counselor, discovered when he talked to Jodi’s teacher Ms. Kozin,
Jodi had been a constant nuisance for the past month. The book-dropping incident was
simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. Jodi continually talked during lectures;
forgot to bring pencils, books, and paper; refused to complete homework; didn’t even
attempt quizzes or tests; and reacted rudely whenever Ms. Kozin approached her,
and it seemed as if it was getting worse. Ms. Kozin had tried nonverbal and verbal
interventions, time-out, detention, and notes to parents. By the time Jodi accidentally
dropped her book, Ms. Kozin was totally fed up with her.

Jodi entered Mr. Voman’s guidance office
hesitatingly, sat down, and looked blankly at
Mr. Voman.

Mr. VoMan: Well, Jodi, what are you doing

Jodi: Ms. Kozin sent me out of class and told
me not to ever come back. She told me to
come see you.

Mr. VoMan: Why did she send you out of class?

Jodi: I don’t know. I just dropped my book
on the floor accidentally!

Mr. VoMan: Now, come on, Jodi. Ms. Kozin
wouldn’t put you out of class just for that.
Come on now. What did you do?

Jodi: Honest, Mr. Voman, you can ask the
other kids. all I did was drop my book.

Mr. VoMan: Jodi, I’m going to go and talk
to Ms. Kozin about this. Wait here until
I get back.

Jodi: o.K., Mr. Voman. I’ll wait here, and
you’ll see that I’m not lying.

case 10.1
“I Just Dropped My Book”

240 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

Many, though not all, students like Jodi have problems that extend beyond
school. Some have poor home lives with few, if any, positive adult role models. Some
live in poverty. Some have no one who really cares about them or expresses an interest
in what they are doing. Some simply view themselves as losers who couldn’t succeed
in school even if they tried. as a result, they act out their frustrations in class and
make life miserable for both their teachers and their peers.

No matter how understandable these students’ problems may be, they must learn
to control their behavior. This may require that the teacher assume responsibility for
teaching the student how to behave appropriately, which is consistent with this text’s
approach that you teach appropriate behavior (see Chapter 6). When students are
lacking positive adult role models in their lives, it is often the case that no one has
bothered to teach them how to behave appropriately, especially in difficult or chal-
lenging situations. Thus, if the teacher really expects students to behave positively, he
must be willing to help the students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to do
so. If they do not, they are at risk of continued failure and unhappiness. furthermore,
although teachers are always concerned for the future of the student who is exhibiting
disruptive behavior, they are also responsible for ensuring that misbehavior does not
deprive the other students of their right to learn. Thus, chronic misbehavior must not
be allowed to continue.

In attempting to work with students who exhibit chronically disruptive behavior,
classroom teachers often fall into a two-step trap. first, they frequently give in to that
natural, fully understandable, human urge to “get even.” They scream, punish, and
retaliate. When retaliation fails, which it is apt to, because the student who exhibits
chronically disruptive behavior often loves to see the teacher explode, the teacher
feels helpless and seeks outside assistance; that is, he turns the student over to some-
body else. often, such students are sent to an administrator or counselor and required
to do some form of in-school or out-of-school suspension, which has many drawbacks
that will be discussed later in this chapter.

Because outside referral removes the disruptive student from the class, the dis-
ruptive behavior does cease. However, this is usually a short-term solution because the
student soon returns and, after a brief period of improvement, again disrupts the class-
room. The severity and frequency of the misbehavior after a return to the classroom
often increase. one hypothesis is that misbehavior increases because students view the
referral either as a further punishment or as a victory over the teacher. When they view
referrals as punishments, many students who exhibit chronic behavior problems retali-
ate as soon as they return to the classroom. When they view referrals as victories, these
students often feel compelled to demonstrate even more forcefully their perceived
power over the teacher. This back-and-forth behavioral display whereby the teacher
publically reprimands the student, the student is removed from the classroom, the
student returns to class and exhibits even more disruptive behavior is an example of a
parallel process. In this case, both the teacher’s and the student’s pro-social self-esteem
have been lowered and both are now trying to raise their self-esteem by displaying
distorted power (see Chapter 3). for many reasons, including being a professional and
having a higher level of cognitive and moral development than his younger students,
it is the teacher’s responsibility to stop the process (levin and Shanken-Kaye, 2002).

Porter and Brophy (1988), in a research synthesis on effective teaching, strongly
recommended dealing with chronic discipline problems within the classroom.

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 241

In a study of teachers’ strategies for working with students who presented sustained
problems in personal adjustment or behavior, teachers who were identified as most
effective in dealing with such problems viewed them as something to be corrected
rather than merely endured. furthermore, although they might seek help from school
administrators or mental health professionals, such teachers would build personal
relationships and work with these students, relying on instruction, socialization, cog-
nitive strategy training, and other long-term solutions. In contrast, less effective teach-
ers would try to turn over the responsibility to someone else (such as the principal,
school social worker, or counselor).

Contrary to popular belief, chronic behavior problems often can be resolved
successfully within the confines of the regular classroom and with a minimum of addi-
tional effort by the teacher. When this occurs, everyone benefits. The student learns
to control his behavior without loss of instructional time and without developing the
negative attitudes that are often evident in students who have been excluded from the
classroom. The teacher gains a more tranquil classroom and additional confidence in
his ability to handle all types of discipline problems successfully. finally, the other
students in the class are again able to concentrate their attention on the learning tasks
before them.

alfie Kohn (2005) suggested that removing students from the classroom because
of their behavior teaches them that they are valued only when they live up to the
expectations of others. He claimed that temporarily ejecting a student from a class
or from school for misbehaving is in effect telling everyone, the excluded student
as well as those who stay, that everyone is part of this community only condition-
ally, thus creating an ultimately psychologically unsafe climate. In addition, handling
chronic behavior problems within the classroom negates the possibility that these
behavior issues will lead to an expulsion from school for the student. often, repeated
referrals for inappropriate behavior carry with them the eventual punishment of an
out-of-school suspension. Many people applaud such punishments. They believe that
eliminating the culprit from the school is a benefit for everyone. However, Sautner
(2001) has identified multiple negative outcomes that appear to be associated with
out-of-school suspensions. These include alienation from school, an increased dropout
rate, increased academic failure, greater antisocial behavior, increased negative behav-
ior upon returning to the school environment, and increased aggressive behavior.
Therefore, handling the chronic behavior within the classroom may well prevent or at
least postpone a distressing series of negative outcomes.

The remainder of this chapter is divided into three parts. The first part focuses
on two long-term strategies for solving chronic behavior problems that are derived
from referent authority. They are relationship building and breaking the cycle of
discouragement and are presented first because they constitute essential tools for
helping resolve the underlying issues that are influencing the student to engage in
disruptive behavior.

The second part of the chapter, also derived from referent authority, focuses
on talking with the student privately as a way to resolve the behavior problems. We
believe that conversing honestly and openly with the student should always be a part
of the teacher’s plan for helping the student regain control of his behavior. Sitting
down to discuss the problem openly results not only in a better relationship but
may also result in a resolution that is acceptable to both the teacher and the student.

242 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

Even if an immediate resolution is not found, the groundwork for positive future com-
munication has been laid.

The final section of the chapter focuses on four specific short-term problem-
solving techniques, derived from expert authority, that may be used to solve chronic
behavior problems. Student self-monitoring, a student-directed strategy; anecdotal
record keeping, a collaborative management strategy; functional behavior assessment;
and behavior contracting, a teacher-directed strategy, comprise the four short-term
techniques. In contrast to relationship building, breaking the cycle of discouragement,
and talking to solve problems, which are always used in working with students who
exhibit chronic behavior problems, these short-term strategies may or may not be
used depending on the specific situation, the student’s needs, and the teacher’s beliefs.

Long-term proBLem-soLvIng strategIes

relationship Building

In Chapter 7, we examined the process of building student-teacher relationships as
a proactive effort to reduce all types of misbehavior in both frequency and intensity.
However, this relationship needs to be further developed for working with the stu-
dents who are still exhibiting chronic disruptive behavior.

Without a doubt, the development of a positive relationship between the teacher
and the student with a chronic behavior problem is one of the most effective strategies
for helping such students. These students usually do not have positive relationships
with their teachers or with adults in general. Indeed, teachers often tend to avoid
interaction with such students. This is quite understandable. Students who exhibit
chronic behavior problems are displaying distorted power (see Chapter 3) and are
often very difficult to deal with. They disrupt the teacher’s carefully planned learn-
ing activities. They sometimes intimidate other students and prevent their peers from
engaging in classroom activities. They frequently challenge the teacher’s authority and
cause the teacher to doubt his own competence.

These doubts about competence arise from the misconception that the teacher
can control a student’s behavior. as we have noted continually in this text, the teacher
can only influence and react to a student’s behavior. He cannot control anyone’s behav-
ior except his own. If a teacher has the mistaken notion that his job is to control a
student’s behavior, he will feel that he is not as competent as he should be every time
the student acts inappropriately. Thus, one of the first steps a teacher should take in
working with students who exhibit chronic behavior problems is to recognize that his
role is to help these students learn to control their own behavior. The teacher can be
held accountable only for controlling his own behavior in such a way that it increases
the likelihood that the students will learn and want to behave appropriately.

To accomplish this, the teacher must disregard any negative feelings he has
toward the student and work at building a positive relationship with that student.
Because feelings lead to actions, if a teacher has negative thoughts about a student
that he cannot get beyond, he will likely act negatively toward the student. This will
then put the teacher in a position that will greatly lessen his ability to influence the
student to behave more appropriately. Understand that we are not suggesting that the
teacher must like the student. This is not always possible. No teacher honestly likes

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 243

every student whom he has ever encountered. However, a truly professional teacher,
as hard as it may be, does not act on or reveal those negative feelings.

our experience has given us two important insights about working with stu-
dents who exhibit chronic behavior problems. first, teachers who look for and are
able to find some positive qualities, no matter how small or how hidden, in students
who exhibit chronic misbehavior are much more successful in helping those students
learn to behave appropriately than those who do not. Second, the primary factor that
motivated the vast majority of students who were at one time chronically disruptive to
turn their behavior around was the development of a close, positive relationship with
some caring adult. Case 10.2 illustrates the impact that a caring relationship can have
on such an individual.

of course, building positive relationships with students who exhibit chronic
behavior problems is not always an easy task. Many of these students have a
long history of unsuccessful relationships with adults. Because the adults in these

Darnell, who was born to a single mother
in a rundown, crime-ridden neighborhood,
was raised by his grandmother, the one kind,
caring, and protective figure in his early life.
Despite her efforts to shield him, Darnell
was exposed to drugs, street violence, and
a variety of illegal activity while he was
still in elementary school. In middle school,
Darnell, who described himself at that age as
full of anger and energy, became involved in
petty theft and violent attacks on other ado-
lescents and adults. as a result, he was sent
to a juvenile detention facility and, after his
release, assigned to Barbara, a juvenile pro-
bation officer.

Barbara was a streetwise veteran in
her fifties who had worked with many trou-
bled adolescents. as Darnell has said, “She
did not take any crap.” Barbara insisted
that Darnell stop his aggressive behavior.
She made it clear to him that she saw him
as an intelligent young man who had the
potential to be successful if he changed his
behavior. over the six-year period Darnell
and Barbara worked together, Darnell
changed dramatically. In Darnell’s words,

“Barbara taught me how to take my anger
and my aggression and turn them into posi-
tive forces, first on the basketball court and
then later, much later, in the classroom.”
as a result of the close, positive relation-
ship Barbara built, Darnell earned passing
grades in school, stayed out of trouble, and
became a good enough point guard to earn
a scholarship to a small state college. He
became a special education teacher and
returned to his hometown to teach, hoping
to make a difference in the lives of kids
like him.

after returning, he saw the need to
change the educational system itself but felt
powerless to do so. after a few frustrating
years, he left teaching and went on to earn
a master’s degree in counseling, a Ph.D.
in curriculum, and a principal’s certificate.
Today, Darnell is a middle school principal
in the inner city where he was raised. He
lives in the city with his wife and young
son and spends his time helping inner-city
kids turn their energy and anger to useful
purposes in much the same way as Barbara
helped him.

case 10.2

244 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

Mike Egan is a veteran elementary school
teacher who generally gets along well with
each of his students. on the first in-service
day for teachers, Ms. Dorothy Powell, one
of the third-grade teachers in his building,
stops in for a visit. She notices Evan Blewitt’s
nametag on one of the desks and blurts out,
“Wow, Mike, I am so sorry, but you are in
for one long year! I had Evan last year and
he ruined the entire atmosphere in my class-
room. I think he probably spent more time
in the office than he did with me.” Mike
does not respond to the negative nature of
Dorothy’s comments. Instead, he begins to
ask questions about Evan. He finds out where
Evan lives, what his family situation is like,
what hobbies he has, what subjects he does
well in, and if there are any students that he
relates well with.

on the first day of school, Evan is one
of the first students to arrive. Mike greets him
at the door, shows him to his seat, and points
out the other students who will be sitting
at his desk set (one of them is frank, a stu-
dent with whom Evan gets along really well).
Mr. Egan also tells Evan that he heard that
Evan is interested in mixed martial arts (MMa).
although Mike confesses that he does not
know much about that sport, he says that he
would like to learn more about it and wonders
if Evan might be willing to help him under-
stand the basics of how points are scored
during matches. Evan gleefully agrees and at
recess seeks out Mr. Egan to begin tutoring
him about MMa. although Evan did exhibit
some disruptive behavior from time to time
during the year, his behavior was not remark-
able in any negative way in fourth grade.

case 10.3
Relating to Evan

relationships have ended up being abusive in one way or another, many of the stu-
dents actively resist attempts to build positive relationships. Brendtro, Brokenleg,
and Van Bockern (2002) suggested that the teacher who works with students with
chronic behavior problems should think of the student’s natural desire to form attach-
ments with significant others as if it were a piece of masking tape and the significant
others were walls. Each time the student begins to form a relationship with an adult,
the masking tape sticks to the wall. Each time the relationship ends in a negative or
hurtful way, the masking tape is ripped off the wall. This process of attachment and
hurt is repeated several times. Eventually, the masking tape stops sticking. In other
words, the desire to form attachments and relationships with adults is lost. In the
eyes of the student, it becomes safer not to build any relationships at all than to risk
another relationship that will result in hurt and disappointment.

Thus, teachers who want to build relationships with such students must be
persistent, consistent, and predictable in their own behavior toward the student. They
must search for positive qualities in the students and work at building the relation-
ship without much initial encouragement or response from the student. as Brendtro
et al. noted, the desire to build a relationship does not have to spring from a feel-
ing of liking or attraction. The teacher simply has to choose to act toward the stu-
dent in caring and giving ways. over time, positive feelings of liking and attraction
develop. Notice how Mike Egan, the veteran teacher in Case 10.3, proactively builds a

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 245

relationship with Evan. although such dramatic results are not guaranteed, the efforts
can be rewarding.

Bob Strachota (1996) called attempts to build positive relationships with stu-
dents who have chronic behavior problems “getting on their side.” He noted that
teachers need to view themselves as allies rather than opponents of these students
and has suggested several steps to help teachers do so. The first step is “wondering
why.” Strachota pointed out that many teachers become so preoccupied with tech-
niques for stopping the misbehavior that they forget to ask fundamental questions
such as, “Why is the student behaving in this way?” and “What purpose does it serve
or what need does it fulfill?” Strachota’s underlying assumption is that behavior is
purposeful rather than random and directed at meeting some need even if the goal
of the behavior is faulty or mistaken (see Chapter 3). If the teacher can identify the
need, it is often possible to substitute a positive behavior that will result in fulfillment
of the need.

The second step is to develop a sense of empathy and intimacy with the student.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you wanted to stop a behavior
but couldn’t get control of it? Have you ever yelled at your children using the same
words as your parents, despite your promise to yourself that would never happen?
Have you ever eaten too much or had too much to drink, although you vowed that
you wouldn’t? If you have, then you have a great opportunity to develop a sense
of empathy with these students. If you can view yourself and the student in similar
terms—wanting to stop a behavior but not being able to—you are much more likely
to be able to work successfully with the student. finding parallels between issues
that you have struggled with and your student’s struggle to control his own behavior
enables you to reframe the problem in a much more productive way. Instead of being
viewed as a control issue that threatens your sense of competence as a teacher and
pits you against the student, reframing the problem allows you to see it as a teaching
opportunity. You have the potential to help the student gain control over his behavior.
In so doing, you become an ally and develop a much more accurate sense of empathy
for what the student is experiencing.

The third step is to stay alert for cues and behaviors that reveal other aspects
of the student’s personality. Sometimes teachers become so riveted on the misbehav-
ior that they do not look at other aspects of the student’s behavior and personality.
Students who pose chronic behavior problems have other aspects to their beings as
well, but it takes self-control and persistence to focus on them. When a teacher is
controlled and focused enough to see the student’s personality and behavior in its
entirety, he is often able to find positive and attractive aspects that can be used as a
foundation for building a positive relationship.

Strachota’s fourth and final step is for the teacher to monitor carefully his own
behavior in interacting with the student. Strachota pointed out, “What’s going on
for me leaks out in the way I talk. I know what I sound like when I am happy,
relaxed, curious, flexible, enthusiastic, etc. I know the difference when I feel tense,
short, angry, controlling, hurried, sarcastic, or harsh” (1996, p. 75). Sometimes
teachers unintentionally communicate negative feelings toward disruptive and low-
achieving students (see Chapter 5). If a teacher listens closely to what he is saying
and observes how he is behaving, he can avoid negative messages and instead offer
positive, caring ones.

246 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

our experience reinforces Strachota’s belief that the teacher’s mind-set is criti-
cal. In most chronic behavior situations, the teacher sees the student as an opponent
in the conflict. Teachers who are successful in resolving chronic behavior problems
see themselves on the student’s side, working together to overcome the problem. The
reader would probably laugh if a teacher saw a student having academic problems as
an opponent. Instead, the teacher would likely search his experience and knowledge
base and perhaps consult with more tenured professional peers to look for other ways
to teach. The same parallels can be drawn with the student exhibiting chronic disrup-
tive behavior. Instead of finding faults, try being on the student’s side and phrase the
issue to be education oriented, for example, “The student does not understand how
to behave respectfully.” It is the teacher’s job to teach respect just as it is the teacher’s
job to teach math. This is another parallel process that can be summarized as how the
teacher feels about a student is usually how the student feels about the teacher. It all
starts with the teacher’s feelings regarding the student.

Breaking the cycle of discouragement

Many students with chronic behavior problems suffer from low self-esteem and have
a low success-to-failure ratio (see Chapters 3 and 11). Their need for a sense of sig-
nificance or belonging, a sense of competence or mastery, a sense of power or inde-
pendence, and a sense of virtue or generosity has not been fulfilled. as explained
in Chapter 3, when these needs are not fulfilled, individuals take action to fulfill
them. Unfortunately, the student with chronic behavior problems often takes actions
that are inappropriate and negative. These negative behaviors are met with negative
teacher responses, punishments, and consequences that further reduce the student’s
self-esteem and lead to further misbehavior, negative responses, punishments, and
consequences. This cycle of discouragement, which is depicted in figure 10.1, will
continue until a teacher takes action to break it.

Students who fail to develop a strong sense of belonging are much more likely
to be connected with a whole host of negative outcomes, including increased rates
of failure, higher dropout rates, increased risk of teenage suicide, and an increased
likelihood of criminal activity (osterman, 2000). Thus, it is critical that each student
feel a sense of belonging and connectedness to the teacher and to other students.

fIgure 10.1 The Cycle of Discouragement.

Unfulfilled Self-Esteem Needs;
Low Success-to-Failure Ratio

Negative Behaviors
Negative Teacher Responses,
Punishments, and

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 247

To establish a strong sense of belonging on the part of all students, Kohn (2005)
exhorted teachers to practice what he calls unconditional teaching. Unconditional
teaching means that although the teacher does have high expectations for stu-
dent behavior, the teacher’s personal affection and concern for each student are
not dependent on how the student behaves. They are given unconditionally to
each student. The teacher’s modeling of unconditional acceptance has been demon-
strated to have a powerful impact on how the students in the class treat each other
(osterman, 2000).

although it is entirely appropriate for students to receive negative messages
about their inappropriate behavior and to experience the negative consequences of
such actions, if that is all that occurs, the cycle of discouragement is simply reinforced.
Suppose after reading this chapter, you walked into your kitchen and saw water pour-
ing from underneath your kitchen sink. What would you do? although you might pre-
fer to close the kitchen door, pretend you never saw it, and go to a movie, that would
not be the appropriate adult response. The appropriate response would be to shut off
the water and then fix the leak. Shutting off the water is like applying punishment or
consequences. It stops the water (the inappropriate behavior), but it does not fix the
leak (the unfulfilled self-esteem needs). although it is necessary to stop the misbe-
havior, the teacher must also find ways to meet those unfulfilled needs and break the
cycle of discouragement.

Just as there are students who are caught in the cycle of discouragement, there
are students who are caught in the cycle of encouragement. These students have
a high success-to-failure ratio and are having their needs for pro-social feelings of
significance, competence, power, and virtue met. as a result, they behave in positive
and caring ways toward teachers and peers. These positive behaviors are recipro-
cated, and students are given the message that they are attractive, competent, and
virtuous, resulting in the cycle of encouragement depicted in figure 10.2. We believe
that the appropriate way to solve chronic behavior problems is to break the cycle of
discouragement by stopping the inappropriate behavior through intervention tech-
niques and, at the same time, engaging in behaviors that will help meet the student’s
needs for feelings of significance, competence, power, and virtue. Together, these
two actions result in the disruption of the cycle of discouragement, as shown in
figure 10.3.

fIgure 10.2 The Cycle of Encouragement.

Fulfilled Self-Esteem Needs;
High Success-to-Failure Ratio

Positive Behaviors
Positive Teacher Responses,
Reinforcements, and

248 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

fIgure 10.3 Disrupting the Cycle of Discouragement.

Negative Behaviors

Management Techniques
and Logical Consequences

Teacher Behaviors to Meet
Self-Esteem Needs

Positive Student

More Fulfilled Self-Esteem
Needs; Higher
Success-to-Failure Ratio

Unfulfilled Self-Esteem Needs;
Low Success-to-Failure Ratio

Positive Teacher Responses,
Reinforcements, and

To accomplish this, teachers who are dealing with students with chronic behavior
problems should ask themselves four questions:

1. What can I do to help meet this student’s need for significance or belonging?
2. What can I do to help meet this student’s need for competence or mastery?
3. What can I do to help meet this student’s need for power or independence?
4. What can I do to help meet this student’s need for virtue or generosity?

obviously, the suggestions that follow are not the only possibilities. We know that
teachers will use their own creativity to build upon and enhance these ideas. Contrary
to the notions about self-esteem that are popular on talk radio, enhancing self-esteem
does not mean telling students that they are good at everything even if this is not the
case. In fact, telling students that they are good at things when they know they are not
will actually reduce self-esteem. Students will think, “Boy, I must be really bad if he
has to lie to me about how bad I am.” or “What is he talking about? This paper really
is not good. He must really think I’m stupid.” on the contrary, the route to enhancing
self-esteem is twofold: (1) helping students acquire the necessary knowledge, skills,
and attitudes to meet their needs for belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity
and (2) creating classroom learning situations in which the knowledge, skills, and atti-
tudes can be used.

Clearly, behavior on the part of the teacher that aims to build a positive student-
teacher relationship is one powerful tool for meeting a student’s need for signifi-
cance. Cooperative learning strategies (see Chapters 5 and 7) and other forms of

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 249

group work help meet the student’s need for feelings of belonging. Student teams that
work together productively over time also can help the student develop a sense of
group identity and belonging. often, students who exhibit chronic behavior problems
are not well liked by their peers. Thus, putting them in a student-selected group does
not usually work and may result in the disruption of the group. The likelihood of posi-
tive group interaction can be increased greatly by the teacher’s careful selection of
the appropriate group for the student. The optimum group typically includes students
who are good at controlling their own behavior, are sensitive to the needs of others,
and can tolerate some initial conflict. It is also helpful if the teacher uses cooperative
learning activities to teach students productive social skills (see Chapter 7).

at the elementary level, it is sometimes effective to place the student who exhibits
chronic behavior problems in a responsible role, for example, message carrier. This
often enhances the student’s sense of belonging. In middle school and high school,
finding clubs, intramurals, or other extracurricular activities or out-of-school activities
(sometimes a job) in which the student has some interest and talent and then sup-
porting the student’s participation in this activity helps enhance the student’s sense of
belonging. at all levels, the teacher should make it a point to give the student atten-
tion and positive feedback when he engages in appropriate behavior.

The need for a sense of competence can be met by the use of encouragement
as described in Chapter 3. Students who exhibit chronic behavior problems and their
parents often receive only negative messages. Showing an interest in those things that
the student values and making sure that you, as the teacher, recognize those strengths
will help increase the student’s sense of competence. Sometimes setting short-term
goals with the student and then helping the student keep track of his progress in
meeting the goals helps the student feel more competent.

at all times, feedback to the student with chronic behavior problems should
emphasize what the student can do as opposed to what the student cannot do.
Suppose, for example, that a student with chronic behavior problems takes a valid
test of the material he was supposed to learn, makes a concerted effort to do well,
and receives a 67 on the test. In most classrooms, the only message that the student
would receive would be one of failure, which would reinforce the student’s own feel-
ings of incompetence. If we examine the situation more objectively, however, we can
see that the student knows twice as much as he does not know. This does not mean
that 67 is good or acceptable, but rather than communicating that the student is a
failure, the teacher can point out that he has indeed learned and then use that limited
success to encourage him to continue to make the effort to learn. Using encouraging
communication, engaging the student in short-term goal setting, stressing effort and
improvement, and focusing on the positive aspects of the student’s behavior and per-
formance can increase the student’s sense of competence.

a student’s need for a sense of power revolves around the need to feel that he
is not simply a pawn on a chessboard. We all need to feel that we have control over
the important aspects of our lives. When students are deprived of the opportunity to
be self-directing and to make responsible choices, they often become bullies or totally
dependent on others, unable to control their own lives. a teacher can enhance the
student’s sense of power by providing opportunities to make choices and by allowing
the student to experience the consequences of those choices. as noted in Chapter 4,
there is a wide range of classroom decisions in which, depending on the teacher’s

250 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

philosophy, the student can have a voice. When students are deprived of the opportu-
nity to make choices, especially students with chronic behavior problems, they often
become resentful and challenging of the teacher’s authority. It is very important for
the teacher not to engage in power contests with these students. Thus, the best course
of action for the teacher is to find appropriate opportunities for these students to
make responsible choices.

The need for a sense of virtue or generosity revolves around the need to feel
that we are givers as well as takers. When we have a fulfilled sense of virtue, we
realize that we are able to give to and nurture others. Elementary teachers often use
“book buddies” and cross-grade tutoring opportunities to develop a sense of virtue
among their students. Many secondary students have their sense of virtue fulfilled by
participating in food drives, marathons, and walkathons for charities and other types
of community service projects. Some of the most successful rehabilitation programs
for juvenile offenders engage these adolescents in activities that are beneficial to
others in the community (Brendtro et al., 2002). although it is sometimes difficult to
arrange classroom activities that tap into the need for a sense of virtue, peer tutoring
and other opportunities to share talents can enhance a student’s sense of virtue or

lisa Delpit (2012) describes a specific type of cycle of discouragement that
can entrap students who are culturally different from the teacher. The danger
appears to be especially high for african american males. as explained in
Chapter 4, Delpit argues that many americans have unconsciously adopted a type
of racism that sees black students as less capable than white students. The resulting
lowered expectations (see Chapter 5) are communicated in subtle but powerful
ways. Some african american males unconsciously internalize these stereotyped
expectations and begin to doubt their own ability to succeed. The resultant decrease
in their sense of competence can lead to acting out behavior that has a twofold
purpose. It increases the students’ sense of power and also diverts attention from
the learning task at hand, enabling the student to avoid having to perform and risk
not doing well. The acting-out behavior reinforces the teacher’s low expectations,
thereby creating a cycle of stereotype discouragement based on cultural differ-
ences. Breaking this cycle of sterotype discouragment requires creating a sense of
belonging among the students, a sense that they belong in the club of scholars and
achievers (Delpit, 2012, p. 20).

Before turning to techniques for influencing students who exhibit chronic behav-
ior problems, it should be emphasized that relationship building and breaking the
cycle of discouragement require commitment, persistence, patience, and self-control
on the part of the teacher. These strategies will not turn things around overnight.
Sometimes they do not result in any tangible benefits for several weeks or months. In
fact, the behavior often gets worse initially. Students who have had abusive or aban-
donment experiences with adults will be resistant to your overtures. Their experience
tells them that they need to be self-protective rather than trusting. as a result, they
often react negatively in order to drive away adults who are trying to manipulate or
con them. In addition, caring behavior on the part of adults in authority positions
constitutes an anomaly for them. It creates cognitive dissonance. They are not sure
how to interpret it. It seems too good to be true. While they are trying to sort out the
dissonance, the safest behavior, in terms of protecting their egos, is to be resistant and

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 251

negative. Persistent, caring behavior on the part of the adult is critical in helping such
students learn to trust and to react positively. Persisting with them and ignoring the
natural desire to get even or give up constitute the ultimate in professional behavior.
It is extremely hard to do, but it is often the only thing that makes a real difference to
students with chronic behavior problems in the long run.

taLkIng to soLve proBLems

Holding private conversations with students who exhibit chronic behavior problems
is a sine qua non of strategies designed to influence students to regain control of their
behavior. Until the teacher takes time to sit down with the students to discuss their
behavior and attempts to find ways to help the students behave in more productive
ways, the teacher has not really employed the tool that may well be most influential
of all. a private conversation or series of conversations with a student accomplishes
several important goals: (1) it ensures that the student is aware that there is a problem
that must be dealt with, (2) it is an initial step toward building a positive relationship
with the student, (3) it is an important tool for helping the student take ownership for
the problem and see it as his issue as opposed to viewing it as the teacher’s problem,
and (4) it can lead to innovative solutions to the problem that might not have occurred
to the teacher alone.

receiving skills

During private conversations, the teacher needs to be aware of the student’s percep-
tion of the problem and point of view in order to be sure that the intervention focuses
on the actual problem. Suppose, for example, the student’s chronic misbehavior is
motivated by the student’s belief that he doesn’t have the ability to do the assigned
work (e.g., as in the case of the stereotypic cycle of discouragement). Solutions that
ignore the student’s underlying feeling of incompetence are not likely to be successful
in the long run. Therefore, it is important to be sure you receive the message that the
student is sending. The following receiving skills will help ensure that you receive the
student’s message:

1. Use silence and nonverbal attending cues. allow the student sufficient
time to express his ideas and feelings and employ nonverbal cues such as eye contact,
facial expressions, head nodding, and body posture (e.g., leaning toward the student)
to show that you are interested in and listening to what he is saying. Most important,
make sure these cues are sincere; that is, you really are listening carefully to the

2. Probe. ask relevant and pertinent questions to elicit extended information
about a given topic, for clarification of ideas, and for justification of a given idea.
Questions such as “Can you tell me more about the problem with Jerry?” “What makes
you say that I don’t like you?” “I’m not sure I understand what you mean by hitting on
you; can you explain what that means?” show that you are listening and want more

3. Check perceptions. Paraphrase or summarize what the student has said
using slightly different words. This acts as a check on whether you have understood
the student correctly. This is not a simple verbatim repetition of what the student has

252 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

said. It is an attempt by the teacher to capture the student’s message as accurately
as possible in the teacher’s words. Usually a perception check ends by giving the
student an opportunity to affirm or negate the teacher’s perception; for example, “So,
as I understand it, you think that I’m picking on you when I give you detention for
not completing your homework; is that right?” or “You’re saying that you never really
wanted to be in the gifted program anyway, and so you don’t care whether you are
removed from the program. Do I have that right?”

4. Check feelings. feeling checks refer to attempts to reach the student’s emo-
tions through questions and statements. In formulating the questions and statements,
use nonverbal cues (e.g., facial expression) and paralingual cues (voice volume, rate,
and pitch) to go beyond the student’s statements and understand the emotions behind
the words. for instance, “It sounds as if you are really proud of what you’re doing in
basketball, right?” or “You look really angry when you talk about being placed in the
lower section. are you angry?”

sending skills

Individual conversations not only allow the teacher to be sure he understands the
problem from the student’s vantage point, but also allow the teacher to be sure the
student understands the problem from the teacher’s point of view. Using sending skills
to communicate the teacher’s thoughts and ideas clearly is a first step toward helping
the student gain that insight. Ginott (1972) and Jones (1980) offered the following
guidelines for sending accurate messages:

1. Deal in the here and now. Don’t dwell on past problems and situa-
tions. Communicate your thoughts about the present situation and the immediate
future. although it is appropriate to talk about the past behavior that has created
the need for the private conference, nothing is gained by reciting a litany of past

2. Make eye contact and use congruent nonverbal behaviors. avoiding
eye contact when confronting a student about misbehavior gives the student the
impression that you are uncomfortable about the confrontation. In contrast, main-
taining eye contact helps let the student know that you are confident and comfort-
able in dealing with problems. Because research indicates that students believe
the nonverbal message when verbal and nonverbal behavior are not congruent
(Woolfolk and Brooks, 1983), be sure nonverbal cues match the verbal messages.
Smiling as you tell the student how disappointed you are in his behavior is clearly

3. Make statements rather than ask questions. asking questions is appro-
priate for eliciting information from the student. However, when the teacher has
specific information or behaviors to discuss, he should lay the specific facts out on
the table rather than try to elicit them from the student by playing “guess what’s on
my mind.”

4. Use “I”—take responsibility for your feelings. You have a right to your
feelings. It can be appropriate to be annoyed at students, and it can be appropriate
to be proud of students. Teachers sometimes try to disown their feelings and act as if

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 253

they were robots. Students must know that teachers are people who have legitimate
feelings and that their feelings must be considered in determining the effects of the
student’s behavior on others.

5. Be brief. Get to the point quickly. let the student know what the problem
is as you see it and what you propose to do about it. once you have done this, stop.
Don’t belabor the issue with unnecessary lectures and harangues.

6. Talk directly to the student, not about him. Even if other people are
present, talk to the student rather than to parents or counselors. Use “you” and spe-
cifically describe the problem to the student. This behavior sends the student the
powerful message that he, not his parents or anyone else, is directly responsible for
his own behavior.

7. Give directions to help the students correct the problem. Don’t stop at
identifying the problem behavior. Be specific in setting forth exactly what behaviors
must be replaced and in identifying appropriate behaviors to replace them.

8. Check student understanding of your message. once you have commu-
nicated clearly what the specific problem is and what steps you suggest for solving it,
ask a question to be sure the student has received the message correctly. It is often a
good idea to ask the student to summarize the discussion. If the student’s summary
indicates that he has missed the message, the teacher has an opportunity to restate or
rephrase the main idea in a way that the student can understand.

asking authentic Questions

The substance of the private conversation should be an open discussion between
the teacher and student to identify the problem clearly and develop procedures for
resolving it. The teacher should consider beginning the conversation with a brief
description of the situation as he sees it and then posing a question about the situation
to the student. The question should not be one to which the teacher already knows
the answer. It should be something that is unclear or truly puzzling to the teacher.
Strachota (1996) referred to this process as asking real questions of students. He sug-
gested that students have a wonderful capacity and willingness to engage in solving
authentic problems: “I can best help children take responsibility for their thinking and
actions by helping them feel fascinated by life’s dilemmas and then helping them feel
that they have the power to go to work on these predicaments” (pp. 26–27). asking
real questions to which the teacher does not already know the answer opens up the
possibility for the student to become a partner in the problem-solving process. It also
enhances the likelihood that a novel solution can be found.

for example, a teacher who is faced with two students who simply seem to rub
each other the wrong way on an ongoing basis could sit down with the two students
and invite them to help him think through this dilemma: “How can it be that two well-
intentioned and likeable individuals like yourselves just cannot seem to get along in
this classroom?” an authentic question for a situation in which the teacher finds the
student constantly antagonistic might be phrased something like this: “It seems to me
that you and I are almost constantly doing things that aggravate the other person.
I am not sure how we got to this point or what to do about it. I am wondering if you
have any thoughts about that.” If the teacher really allows the conversation to proceed

254 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

naturally without leading it in a preconceived direction, it is likely that new insights
about the student will emerge from the conversation. These new insights often point
the way to innovative solutions. of course, teachers who ask real questions must
conceive of their role as collaboratively solving problems with students as opposed
to imposing their own solutions. This requires a change in belief for many teach-
ers. Strachota’s rationale for the use of authentic questions is very powerful: “Since
I believe that I cannot pass on the part of the truth that I know simply by telling it to a
child, I must set up situations which allow me and her to explore together so that she
can invent her own understanding. Therefore, my job becomes one of looking for the
right questions rather than the right answers” (1996, p. 27).

open pursuit of the authentic question might provide clear direction for the
solution to the problem, making the use of short-term problem-solving techniques
unnecessary. If the solution is found through the conversation, the teacher implements
the solution and then continues to work on both relationship building and breaking
the cycle of discouragement. If a solution is not found through the conversation
process, the teacher can then turn to one of the four specific short-term problem-
solving strategies that are described next.

specIfIc short-term proBLem-soLvIng strategIes

With these guidelines for talking about problems in mind, we can now consider four
specific techniques for students with chronic behavior problems. five assumptions
underlie these techniques:

1. The number of students in any one class who should be classified as exhibiting
chronic behavior problems is small, usually fewer than five. If there are more
than five, it is a good indication that the teacher has not done all that could be
done to prevent the problems from occurring.

2. The teacher is well prepared for each class, engages the students in interesting
learning activities, and employs a variety of effective teaching strategies (see
Chapter 5).

3. The expectations for behavior are clearly understood by students and enforced
on a consistent basis (see Chapter 6).

4. The teacher intervenes with a preplanned hierarchy of nonverbal interventions,
verbal interventions, and logical consequences when commonplace disruptions

5. The teacher attempts to build positive relationships with students who exhibit
chronic behavior problems and attempts to break the cycle of discouragement
by helping them meet their self-esteem needs.

The teacher who is not aware of these assumptions may use short-term and
long-term intervention techniques when their use is not appropriate or may use them
in appropriate situations but fail to implement them correctly.

When several students exhibit chronic behavior problems, they usually fall into
one of two categories—those who have the greatest potential for improving their
behavior quickly and those whose behavior causes the greatest disruption. When sev-
eral students with chronic behavior problems are in one class, the teacher may have
to choose to work with one category over another. There are pitfalls in either choice.

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 255

Those with the greatest odds for quick improvement are usually the students with the
least severe behavioral problems. Thus, even if the teacher succeeds in helping them,
the general level of disruption in the classroom may remain quite high. on the other
hand, those students who have the most severe and most disruptive behavior usually
require the longest period of time to improve, but their improvement tends to have a
more dramatic impact on the classroom.

There are no clear guidelines as to which category of students teachers should
choose. It is really a matter of personal preference. If the teacher is the type of indi-
vidual who needs to see results quickly in order to persist, he is probably better off
choosing those students with the greatest likelihood for quick improvement. If, how-
ever, the more serious behavior is threatening to any individuals, the teacher must
begin intervention with those students.

It must be noted that self-monitoring, anecdotal record keeping, behavior con-
tracting, or functional behavior assessment probably will not be effective in influenc-
ing chronic behavior problems if the five assumptions underlying these techniques
have not been met. If these assumptions have been met, then the teacher has done all
that he can do to prevent behavior problems from occurring, and the following four
intervention techniques have a reasonably high chance of success.


Some students who exhibit chronic disruptive behaviors perceive a well-managed pri-
vate conference as a sign of a teacher’s caring and support. Some students leave the
conference with a new understanding that their behaviors are interfering with the
rights of others and will no longer be tolerated in the classroom. Given the nature and
background of chronic behavioral problems, however, most students will need more
intensive and frequent intervention techniques. The challenge is to design techniques
that are congruent with the belief that students must be given opportunities to learn
how to control their own behavior.

Self-monitoring of behavior is a student-directed approach that is often effec-
tive with students who are really trying to behave appropriately but seem to need
assistance to do so. The use of self-monitoring can help establish an internal locus of
control concerning behavior. The technique is usually more appropriate for elemen-
tary students who have extremely short attention spans or who are easily distracted
by the everyday events of a busy classroom. Whereas self-monitoring can be effective
with some older students, the teacher must consider the age appropriateness of the
self-monitoring instrument that the student will use.

for self-monitoring to be effective, the instrument must clearly delineate the
behaviors to be monitored and must be easy for a student to use. The student must
also clearly understand the duration of the self-monitoring and the frequency of
behavioral checks. Unfortunately, teachers occasionally design an instrument that is
too cumbersome to use or is too time consuming. Thus, using the instrument actually
interferes with on-task behavior.

In the beginning, the student may require teacher cues to indicate when it is time
to check behavior and record it on the self-monitoring instrument. These cues may be
private, nonverbal signals agreed upon by the teacher and the student. In the begin-
ning, it is a good idea for the teacher to co-monitor the student’s behavior using the

256 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

Date: _______________

Part of the Day Rating Comments

Morning Work


Languages arts

Social studies/science

End of the day jobs

Rating System:
1—I did not finish all my work because I was talking to other people.
2—I did not finish all my work because I did not understand what to do.
3—I did not finish all my work because I didn’t get started right away.
4—I finished all my work, but I was rushing so it is not my best work.
5—I finished all my work, and I am proud of it.

fIgure 10.4 Self-Monitoring Check Sheet.

same instrument. When this is done, the teacher and the student can compare their
monitoring consistency and discuss the proper use of the instrument as well as the
progress that is being made.

The effectiveness of self-monitoring relies heavily on how the use of the instru-
ment is explained to the student. If self-monitoring is presented as a technique
that students can use to help themselves with the teacher’s assistance, support, and
encouragement, the likelihood of improved behavior is high. When teachers have
successfully communicated the purpose of the technique and stressed the possible
positive outcomes, students have actually thanked them for the opportunity and
means to demonstrate on-task behavior. on the other hand, if the intervention is
introduced as a form of punishment, the likelihood of positive behavioral change is

figure 10.4 shows a self-monitoring check sheet that Brittany Bird, an intern
in the Penn State Elementary Professional Development School Collaborative, used
with Kahlil, a third grader, to help monitor his completion of tasks during the school
day. Kahlil was having difficulty getting his work done despite several teacher inter-
ventions to help him be successful. Before introducing the self-monitoring check

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 257

fIgure 10.5 Self-Monitoring Checklist.

1. Do the teacher and student clearly understand
and agree on the behaviors to be monitored? _____ Yes _____ No

2. Is the time period for self-checks clearly specified? _____ Yes _____ No

3. Does the student understand how to use
the instrument? _____ Yes _____ No

4. Have the teacher and student agreed on a meeting
time to discuss the self-monitoring? _____ Yes _____ No

5. Is the instrument designed so that small
increments of improved behavior will be noted? _____ Yes _____ No

6. Is the instrument designed to focus on one
behavior? _____ Yes _____ No

sheet, Brittany and Khalil discussed his behavior, the need to improve it, and his
desire to do a better job. Brittany also made sure that Khalil understood the rat-
ing scale on the check sheet. Khalil rated himself after each activity, and he and
Brittany discussed the ratings twice each day, at lunch and just before dismissal.
after three weeks of self-monitoring, Khalil improved dramatically in his ability to
complete his work.

as with any intervention that focuses on the improvement of chronic behavior,
progress may be slow. Two steps forward and one step backward may be the best a
student can do in the beginning. We must remember that chronic misbehavior does
not develop in a day, and it will not be replaced with more appropriate behavior in
a day. It is difficult to learn new behaviors to replace behaviors that have become
ingrained and habitual. Therefore, the teacher must be patient and focus on improve-
ments. It is usually best to work on one behavior at a time. for example, if a student
continually talks to neighbors and calls out, the teacher and student should decide
on which behavior to work on first. If the student is successful in managing the
selected behavior, experience has shown that subsequent behaviors are more readily

as behavior improves, the teacher should begin to wean the student from self-
monitoring. as a first step, once the teacher is convinced that the student is reliably
monitoring his own behavior, the teacher stops co-monitoring and relies solely on the
student’s report. Next, as behaviors begin to improve, the teacher lengthens the period
of time between self-checks. finally, the teacher removes the student completely from
self-monitoring. When this happens, the teacher uses the event to build self-esteem
and self-control by making the student aware that he has changed his behavior on his
own and should be quite proud of his accomplishments. any corresponding improve-
ments in academics or peer interactions should also be noted and tied to the student’s
improved behavior.

figure 10.5 is a checklist that teachers can use to evaluate the self-monitoring
procedures and instruments that they design.

258 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

anecdotal record keeping

If the teacher either has tried self-monitoring or has decided not to try this technique
because of philosophical objections or the student’s refusal to make the required
commitments, a second option, called anecdotal record keeping, can be used to work
with chronic behavioral problems. This method, which is a collaborative approach to
managing classroom behaviors (see Chapter 4), has been used successfully by student
teachers and veteran teachers alike to handle a variety of chronic discipline problems
at a variety of grade levels (levin, Nolan, and Hoffman, 1985). It is based on the prin-
ciples of adlerian psychology, which state that changes in behavior can be facilitated
by making people aware of their behavior and its consequences for themselves and
others (Sweeney, 1981).

anecdotal record keeping is usually most appropriate for middle and secondary
students because students at these levels have better developed self-regulation. To
employ the technique, the teacher merely records the classroom behaviors, both posi-
tive and negative, of a student who exhibits chronic disruptive behavior over a period
of a few weeks. although it is preferable to have the student’s cooperation, anecdotal
record keeping can be employed without it.

The record the teacher has made of the student’s behavior and the measures
that have been taken to improve that behavior form the basis for a private confer-
ence with the student. Nine guidelines should be followed in conducting this initial

1. The teacher should begin on a positive note.
2. The teacher should help the student recognize the past behavior and its nega-

tive impact, showing the student the record of past behaviors and discussing it if

3. The teacher should explain that this behavior is unacceptable and must

4. The teacher should tell the student that he will keep a record of the student’s
positive and negative behavior on a daily basis and that the student will be
required to sign the record at the end of class each day.

5. The teacher should record the student’s home phone number on the top of the
record and indicate that he will contact the parents to inform them of continued
unacceptable behavior. (This option may not be useful for senior high students
because parents are often not as influential at this age.)

6. The teacher should be positive and emphasize expectations of improvement.
7. The conference should be recorded on the anecdotal record.
8. a verbal commitment for improved behavior should be sought from the student.

This commitment, or the refusal to give it, should be noted on the anecdotal

9. The student should sign the anecdotal record at the end of the conference. If the
student refuses to sign, the refusal should be recorded.

after the initial conference, the teacher continues the anecdotal record, each day
highlighting positive behaviors, documenting negative behaviors, and noting any cor-
rective measures taken. Keeping this systematic record enables the teacher to focus on
the behavior (the deed) rather than on the student (the doer; Ginott, 1972). The teacher

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 259

reinforces the student for improved behaviors and, if possible, clarifies the connection
between improved behaviors and academic achievement. Thus, the teacher “catches
the student being good” (Canter and Canter, 2001; Jones, 1980) and demonstrates the
concept of encouragement (Dreikurs, Grunwald, and Pepper, 1998). To illustrate the
concept of student accountability, the teacher must be consistent in recording behav-
iors, sharing the record with the student, and obtaining the student’s signature on a
daily basis (Brophy, 1988). If the student refuses to sign the record on any day, the
teacher simply records this fact on the record. figure 10.6 is the anecdotal record used
with one tenth-grade student over a three-week period. The technique succeeded after
the intervention hierarchy had been utilized with little improvement in the student’s
behavior. Note that the teacher highlighted positive behaviors to “catch the student
being good.”

although teachers may think that this technique will consume a lot of instruc-
tional time, it does not. If the documentation occurs in the last few minutes of class,
perhaps when students are doing homework or getting ready for the next class, the
two or three minutes required for it compare favorably to the enormous amount of
time wasted by unresolved chronic discipline problems. Thus, this technique actually
helps to conserve time by making more efficient use of classroom time.

In studying the use of anecdotal record keeping, levin et al. (1985) requested
teachers to log their views on the effectiveness of the procedure. Here are three rep-
resentative logs by secondary teachers.

Teacher’s Log—eLeVenTh-grade engLish

about a week and a half ago, I implemented the anecdotal record in one of my
classes. Two male students were the subjects. The improvement shown by one of
these students is very impressive.

on the first day that I held a conference with the student, I explained the
procedure, showed him my records for the day, and asked for his signature. He
scribbled his name and looked at me as if to say, “What a joke.” on the second
day, his behavior in class was negative again. This time, when I spoke to him and
told him that one more day of disruptive behavior would result in a phone call to
his parents, he looked at me as if to say, “This joke isn’t so funny anymore.” from
that moment on, there was a marked improvement in his behavior. He was quiet
and attentive in class. after class, he would come up to me and ask me where he
was supposed to sign his name for the day. and he “beamed” from my remarks
about how well behaved he was that day. only one time after that did I have to
speak to him for negative behavior. I caught him throwing a piece of paper. as
soon as he saw me looking at him, he said, “are you going to write that down in
your report?” Then, after class, he came up to me with a worried expression on
his face and asked, “are you going to call my parents?” I didn’t because of the
previous days of model behavior.

I must say that I was skeptical about beginning this type of record on the
students. It seemed like such a lengthy and time-consuming process. But I’ll say
what I’m feeling now. If the anecdotal record can give positive results more times
than not, I’ll keep on using it. If you can get one student under control, who is
to say you can’t get five or ten students under control? It truly is a worthwhile
procedure to consider.

260 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

fIgure 10.6 Anecdotal Record.

Student’s Name _____________________

Home Phone _______________________

Date Student Behavior Teacher Action Student Signature

4/14 Talking with Van
Out of seat 3 times
Refused to answer question

Verbal reprimand
Told her to get back
Went on

4/16 Had private conference
Rhonda agreed to improve

Explained anecdotal record
Was supportive

4/17 Stayed on task in lab Positive feedback

4/20 Late for class
Worked quietly

Verbal reminder
Positive feedback

4/21 Worked quietly
Wrestling with Jill

Positive feedback
Verbal reprimand

4/22 No disruptions
Volunteered to answer

Positive feedback
Called on her 3 times

4/23 Late for class
Left without signing

Detention after school
Recorded it on record

4/24 Missed detention Two days’ detention

4/27 Stayed on task all class Positive feedback

4/28 Listened attentively to film Positive feedback

4/29 Worked at assignment well Positive feedback

4/30 Participated in class
No disruptions
Left without signing

Called on her twice
Positive feedback
Recorded it

5/1 Conference to discontinue
anecdotal records

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 261

Teacher’s Log—TenTh-grade science

day 1
as a third or fourth alternative, I used an anecdotal record to help con-
trol the discipline problems incurred [sic] in my second-period class.
Previously, I had used direct requests or statements (for example, “What
are you doing? What should you be doing?” “Your talking is interfering with
other students’ right to learn,” etcetera). The anecdotal record involved
having one-to-one conferences with the four students. The conferences
were aimed at reviewing the students’ classroom behaviors and securing
commitments from them for improved behavior. It was fairly successful, as
I received a commitment from the four involved; and they, in turn, let the
rest of the class in on the deal. In choosing the four students, I tried to
pick a student from each trouble pair. Hopefully, this will eliminate mis-
behavior for both.

day 2
The progress in my class with the anecdotal records was excellent today,
as I expected. The four students were exceptionally well behaved. I will be
sure to keep extra-close tabs on their progress the next few days to prevent
them from reverting back to their disruptive behavior.

day 3
My second-period class was again very well behaved. I did, however, need
to put a few negative remarks (for example, talking during film) on the
anecdotal records. I will continue to keep close tabs on the situation.

day 4
My second-period class (anecdotal records) is quickly becoming one of my
best. We are covering more material, getting more class participation, and
having less extraneous talking. I did need to make a couple of negative
remarks on the record; but on seeing them, the students should, hopefully,
maintain a positive attitude and appropriate behavior.

Teacher’s Log—eighTh-grade science

day 1
I discovered a method with which to deal with some major discipline prob-
lems in one of my classes. It uses an anecdotal record, which is a record
of student actions and student behaviors. I think it will probably work
because it holds the student accountable for his his behaviors. If something
must be done, the student has nobody to blame but himself.

day 2
Today, I set up private conferences with anecdotal record students. I wonder
if they’ll show up—and if they do, how will they respond?

day 3
Two students (of three) showed up for their anecdotal record conferences.
The third is absent. Both students were very cooperative and made a com-
mitment to better behavior. one student even made the comment that he

262 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

thought this idea was a good one for him. The way things look; this will
work out fairly well. We’ll see…

day 4
one of the students on anecdotal record has improved in behavior so
much that I informed him that if his good behavior kept improving, I’d
take him off the record next Wednesday. I think it will be interesting
to see how his behavior will be; will it keep improving or will it backtrack

Implementing any new strategy may be difficult, and anecdotal record keeping is
no exception. The teacher must expect that some students will be quite hostile when
the procedure is introduced. Some may adamantly refuse to sign the record; others
may scribble an unrecognizable signature. The teacher must remain calm and positive
and simply record these behaviors. This action communicates to the student that he is
solely responsible for his behavior and that the teacher is only an impartial recorder
of the behavior. Student behavior will usually improve, given time. Because improved
behavior becomes part of the record, the anecdotal record reinforces the improvement
and becomes the basis for a cycle of improvement.

When the student’s behavior has improved to an acceptable level, the teacher
informs him that it will no longer be necessary to keep the anecdotal record because
of the improvement in his behavior. It is important, as suggested earlier, to connect
the improved behavior to academic success and improved grades if possible. It must
also be made clear to the student that his fine behavior is expected to continue.
Because continued attention is a key link in the chain of behaviors that turn disruptive
students into students who behave appropriately, the teacher must continue to give
the student attention when he behaves appropriately. If the student’s behavior shows
no improvement, it may be time to discontinue the process.

It can be quite difficult to decide when to stop recording behavior. There are no
hard-and-fast rules, but there are some helpful guidelines. If the student has displayed
acceptable behavior for a few days to a week, the record may be discontinued. If the
student’s behavior remains disruptive continuously for a week, the record keeping
should be discontinued and the student told why. If the misbehavior is somewhat
reduced, it may be advisable to have a second conference with the student to deter-
mine whether or not to continue record keeping.

functional Behavior assessment

The third short-term strategy for working with students who exhibit chronic behavior
problems is functional behavior assessment (fBa), which is a teacher-directed strat-
egy (Chapter 4) based on behavioral learning theory: “a functional behavior assess-
ment simply means that someone skilled at observing behavior tries to determine the
function (i.e., the motive) for the student’s behavior” (Hall and Hall, 2003, p. 149). The
intent of functional behavior assessment is to identify the purpose that the behavior
serves either consciously or unconsciously for the student, the antecedents that pro-
voke the behavior, and the consequences that maintain the behavior. once the func-
tion, antecedent, and consequences have been identified, a positive behavior support
plan can be developed for extinguishing the unproductive or disruptive behavior and

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 263

replacing it with appropriate behavior. The behavioral support plan might take many
forms, including but not limited to, altering the instructional environment and/or con-
text in which the behavior occurs, teaching the student new social and academic skills,
or modifying the consequences that follow the behavior. Modifying consequences
could involve the use of behavior contracting (see the next section of this chapter).

Several assumptions underlie functional behavior assessment: (1) behavior is
learned not innate, (2) behavior serves a specific purpose, and (3) behavior is related
to the context in which it occurs (PaTTaN, 2008). The most common functions of
behavior, according to Hall and Hall (2003), are to get or avoid attention, to become
engaged in or avoid particular activities, to obtain or avoid certain objects or items,
and to obtain or avoid sensory stimulation. according to training materials concern-
ing fBa from the Pennsylvania Training and Technical assistance Network (PaTTaN,
2008), functional behavior assessment is a data-gathering and analysis process that
addresses the following questions:

1. How often does the target behavior occur and how long does it last?
2. Where does the behavior typically occur or never occur?
3. Who is present for the occurrence/nonoccurrence of the behavior?
4. What is going on during the occurrence/nonoccurrence of the behavior?
5. When is the behavior most likely/least likely to occur?
6. How does the student react to the usual consequences that follow the behavior?

functional behavior assessment has been used most often with special needs
students, and in fact, Chapter 14 of the Pennsylvania School Code, which focuses on
special education, mandates the use of functional behavior assessment and positive
behavior support as a prerequisite for exclusion of the special needs student from his
educational setting (PaTTaN, 2008). Most often, a team of professionals that includes
the special education teacher, regular education teacher, behavior specialist, and/or
school psychologist, and other therapists collaborates in carrying out the fBa. It is
helpful to include other individuals in the fBa process to share the workload but also
to obtain a more comprehensive picture of the student’s behavior that is less suscep-
tible to bias than data that are collected by one person. Thus, we would suggest that
you, as a classroom teacher, engage colleagues who have expertise in fBa to assist
you in carrying out the process. If other professionals are not available to help, how-
ever, you can carry out much of the process independently, but doing so will require
extra time and effort on your part.

The functional behavior assessment process consists of three parts: a pre-
observation interview of individuals who have observed the student’s behavior over
time; direct observations of the student’s behavior; and a summary that includes a
hypothesis regarding the purpose or function of the behavior, the antecedent condi-
tions under which it occurs, and the consequences that maintain or reward the behav-
ior. The summary then serves as the basis for the development of the positive behavior
support plan.

The pre-observation interviews are often conducted with the regular classroom
teacher, the special education teacher, teachers of elective or special subjects such
as physical education, parents, and others. The interviews may be conducted by the
regular classroom teacher or by another team member. although an interview is the
recommended strategy for gathering data, an alternative technique would be to ask

264 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

fIgure 10.7 Suggested Items for FBA Interview or Questionnaire.

1. Please describe the behavior that you are concerned about.

2. Could the behavior be related to any medical issue (for example, a medical condition
or side effects of medication, etc.)?

3. Could the behavior be related to some physiological issue (for example, hunger, thirst, lack
of rest, temperature, etc.)?

4. Are there certain circumstances that are typically or almost always present when the
behavior occurs (for example, time of day, location of activity, type of activity, people
present, etc.)?

5. Does the behavior seem to occur in response to certain stimuli (for example, noise level,
tone of voice, demands of the activity, change in routine, number of people, etc.)?

6. Could the behavior be related to any skill deficits (for example, academic skills, social skills,
communication skills, sensory processing, etc.)?

7. Does the behavior allow the student to gain anything (for example, preferred activities,
peer or adult attention, items or objects, etc.)?

8. Does the behavior allow the student to postpone or escape anything (for example,
nonpreferred activities, academic or social demands, etc.)?

9. Does the behavior provide stimulation or activity that is satisfying to the student?

the individuals just mentioned to fill out a questionnaire concerning the student’s
behavior. If the classroom teacher is engaged in the process alone, he might start by
completing the questionnaire himself. Some of the questions that might be asked in an
interview or on a questionnaire are listed in figure 10.7.

The interview or questionnaire results create a measurable description of the
behavior of concern and leads to a concrete and focused plan for data collection. The
plan outlines the observation schedule including where, when, how often, and who
will collect data. It is important to begin the data collection process by recording
baseline levels of the behavior and its antecedents and consequences. The behavioral
records should include the frequency and/or duration of the behavior and indicate
time of day, location, activities occurring, and people present.

four common recording strategies are used in collecting data. The choice of
data recording technique depends on the behavior in question. Event recording

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 265

engages the observer in documenting every occurrence of the behavior separately.
The result is a record of exactly how many times the behavior occurs. It is a useful
strategy for behavior that occurs fairly frequently in short bursts with a definite
beginning and ending point. When the behavior in question occurs rapidly within
a very short time period, event recording can be quite difficult, if not impossible.
Duration recording, as the name implies, consist of recording the beginning and
ending time of the behavior so that the duration of the behavior can be calculated.
This strategy can be helpful when it is difficult to separate one instance of the
behavior from the other or when the student engages in inappropriate behavior for
lengthy periods of time. Latency recording refers to recording the interval between
the time when the student is asked to initiate a behavior and when he actually starts
the behavior. This strategy is particularly important when students attempt to avoid
situations by finding ways to delay engagement in particular activities. finally, inter-
val recording or time sampling consists of recording behavior at preset intervals
(e.g., every 15 seconds). Use of a time sampling strategy provides a record of both
inappropriate and appropriate behaviors over a designated time period. The use
of a combination of these strategies is often useful in capturing a comprehensive
portrayal of a student’s behavior. for example, it is possible to combine event and
duration sampling by coding each occurrence of behavior and noting how long each
occurrence lasts.

once the data have been collected, the team members or the individual teacher
analyzes the data. The analysis needs to address two key questions as accurately as

1. How often does the behavior of concern occur and how long does it last?
2. What patterns can be identified concerning the occurrence and/or duration of

the behavior?

The first question concerning the frequency and/or duration of the behavior is
presented in a visual format, typically a graph that depicts the intensity of the behav-
ior over time and may include comparisons with the same behaviors for peers of the
student in question. The patterns that can be identified always include the anteced-
ents of the behavior: the conditions (time of day, location or setting, activity, people,
objects, etc.) that are typically present when the behavior occurs as well as the conse-
quences that seem to maintain the behavior.

as noted earlier, the analysis culminates with a summary statement that consists
of three key parts:

1. a description of the antecedents/circumstances—“When X occurs”
2. a description of the target behavior—“the student does this”
3. a description of the consequences—“to get/to avoid this”

for example, a summary statement might say, “When Justine is asked to engage
in a creative writing activity, she engages in other tasks (sharpening her pencil, getting
a drink, talking to other students, searching for materials) to avoid having to develop
ideas on her own so that the teacher will provide help in coming up with ideas.” once
the summary statement has been developed, the team or teacher develops a positive
behavior support strategy to enable Justine to replace the inappropriate behavior

266 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

with more productive behavior. following are three general categories of positive
behavior support:

1. Antecedent strategies. adjusting the environment to reduce the likelihood of
problem behavior occurring and to allow the student to be more independent
and successful. Examples include modifying the curriculum, reorganizing the
physical setting, and clarifying routines and expectations.

2. Educative strategies. Teaching replacement academic and social skills (teach-
ing students how to ask to join a group to play or equipping a student with
learning strategies that could be helpful in completing in-class activities).

3. Consequence strategies. Managing consequences to reinforce desired behaviors
and withholding reinforcement following undesirable behavior (praise, access to
reward, verbal redirect, loss of privilege; PaTTaN, 2008). additional informa-
tion concerning positive behavior support can be obtained from the National
Technical assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports’
website at

Given the hypothesis that Justine is using delaying tactics for the purpose of
avoiding having to come up with her own ideas and to ensure that the teacher helps
develop ideas, the team and/or the individual teacher can develop a strategy to extin-
guish the delaying tactics and replace them with a more productive strategy for getting
started on the writing activity. an example of an antecedent strategy would be alerting
Justine the day before a creative writing activity will be done in class so that she has
time to brainstorm some potential ideas at home the night before. an example of an
educative strategy for this situation would be to work with Justine independently on
brainstorming techniques that would make it more likely that she could develop ideas
for writing on her own with minimal or no teacher support. an example of a conse-
quence strategy would be making sure that the teacher does not come to Justine’s aid
(withdrawing the reinforcement) to help her develop ideas during the writing activity.
If she cannot complete the writing activity during the allotted time, it would have to be
completed during her free time. figure 10.8 provides a worksheet that can be used to
develop the summary statement and to brainstorm positive behavior support strategies.

one of the strategies that can be used to provide positive behavior support is
behavior contracting. We now turn our attention to this fourth short-term strategy for
dealing with chronic behavior problems.

Behavior contracting

Behavior contracting is a teacher-directed strategy (see Chapter 4) that can be used in
conjunction with or independently of functional behavior assessment. This technique
is grounded in the principles of operant conditioning, which state that a behavior that
is reinforced is likely to be repeated and that a behavior that is not reinforced will

This technique involves the use of a written agreement, known as a behav-
ior contract, between the teacher and student that commits the student to behave
appropriately and offers a specified reward when the commitment is met. The con-
tract details the expected behavior, a time period during which this behavior must
be exhibited, and the reward that will be provided. The purposes of the contract

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 267

fIgure 10.8 Behavior Strategies Worksheet.

Student Name: Date:

Use this section of the worksheet to describe the problem.

Trigger/antecedent Problem behavior Maintaining consequence

Use this section of the worksheet to brainstorm positive behavior support strategies.

Antecedent strategies New skills needed Consequence strategies

are to influence behavior that is not influenced by normal classroom procedures, to
encourage self-discipline, and to foster the student’s sense of commitment to appro-
priate classroom behavior. although behavior contracting can be used with students
at any grade level, it is often more appropriate and effective with elementary and
middle school students because older students often resent the obvious attempt to
manipulate their behavior. This technique is frequently and effectively used in special
education classes.

Because an integral part of behavior contracting is the use of rewards, often
extrinsic, concrete rewards, some teachers may be philosophically opposed to the
technique. These teachers often overcome their philosophical objections by replacing
concrete, extrinsic rewards with those more focused on learning activities, such as

268 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

additional computer time, library passes, or assignment of special classroom duties
and responsibilities. Teachers who believe that students should not be rewarded
for behavior that is normally expected should keep in mind that this technique has
been shown to be effective and is one of the last possible strategies that can be used
within the classroom. However, if there are strong philosophical objections to the
technique, the teacher should not use it because the likelihood of its successful use
is diminished if its philosophical underpinnings are in contradiction to the teacher’s
(see Chapter 4).

Teachers who decide to use behavior contracting should remember that it is
unlikely that one contract will turn a chronically disruptive student into the epitome
of model behavior. Usually, the teacher must use a series of short-term behavior con-
tracts that result in steady, gradual improvement in the student’s behavior. a series of
short-term behavior contracts allows the student to see the behavior changes as man-
ageable and to receive small rewards after short intervals of improvement. In other
words, a series of contracts provides the student with the opportunity to be successful.
Manageable changes in behavior, shorter time intervals, and frequent opportunities
for success make it more likely that the student will remain motivated.

In designing the series of contracts, the teacher should keep three principles in
mind. first, design the contracts to require specific, gradual improvements in behavior.
for example, if a student normally disrupts learning six times a period, set the initial
goal at four disruptions or fewer per day. over time, increase the goal until it is set at
zero disruptions per day. Second, gradually lengthen the time period during which the
contract must be observed in order to gain the reward. for instance, the set time is

It is critically important to help parents believe that you all want what is best
for their child.

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 269

one day for the first contract, a few days for the second contract, a week for the third
contract, and so on. Third, move little by little from more tangible, extrinsic rewards to
less tangible, more intrinsic rewards. Thus, a pencil or other supplies are the rewards
under the first few contracts, and free time for pleasure reading is the reward under a
later contract. Using these three principles takes advantage of a behavior modification
technique called behavior shaping and gradually shifts management over the student’s
behavior from the teacher to the student, where it rightfully belongs.

Before writing the contract, the teacher should make a record of the student’s past
misbehaviors and the techniques that were used to try to ameliorate these misbehav-
iors. The teacher should use all available evidence, including documents and personal
recollections, trying to be as accurate and neutral as possible. This record will help the
teacher decide which specific behaviors must be changed and how much change seems
manageable for the student at one time. It also ensures that all appropriate management
techniques have been used before the implementation of the behavior contract process.
once the record is compiled, the teacher holds a private conference with the student.
It is best to begin the conference on a positive note. The teacher should communicate
to the student that he has the potential to do well and to succeed if he can learn to
behave appropriately. In doing this, the teacher is employing the concept of encour-
agement (Dreikurs et al., 1998). The teacher should then attempt to get the student to
acknowledge that his behavior has been inappropriate and to recognize its negative
impact on everyone in the classroom. Stressing the effect of the student’s behavior on
others promotes the development of higher moral reasoning (Tanner, 1978). To help the
student recognize that his behavior has been unacceptable, the teacher may want to use
questions similar to these: “What have you been doing in class?” “How is that affecting
your chances of success?” “How would you like it if other students treated you like that?”
“How would you like it if you were in a class you really liked but never got a chance
to learn because other students were always causing trouble?” Thereafter, the teacher
should tell the student that his behavior, no matter what the explanation for it, is unac-
ceptable and must change. This is followed by a statement such as “I’d like to work out
a plan with you that will help you to behave more appropriately in class.”

The teacher must clearly state how the plan works. Because a contract is an agree-
ment between two people, the technique cannot be used if the student refuses to make
a commitment to the contract. If, however, the student commits himself to improvements
in classroom behavior for a specified period of time, some positive consequences or
rewards result. The reward may be free time for activities of special interest; a letter, note,
or phone call to parents describing the improvements in behavior; or supplies, such as
posters, pencils, and stickers. The most important consideration in deciding which par-
ticular reward to use is whether or not it is perceived as motivating by the student. for
that reason, it is often a good idea to allow the student to suggest possible rewards or to
discuss rewards with him. If the student’s parents are cooperative, it is sometimes pos-
sible to ask them to provide a reward at home that is meaningful to the student. at this
point, the teacher should draw up the contract, setting forth the specific improvements
in behavior, the time period, and the reward. Both the teacher and student should then
sign the contract and each should receive a copy. In the case of young students, it is
often a good idea to send a copy of the contract home to parents as well. The confer-
ence should end as it began, on a positive note. The teacher, for example, might tell the
student that he is looking forward to positive changes in the student’s behavior.

270 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

fIgure 10.9 Third Contract between Jessica and Ms. Jones.

1. Expected Behavior
Jessica remains in her seat for the first 30 minutes of each social studies period.

2. Time Period
Monday, February 27, to Friday, March 3.

3. Reward
If Jessica remains in her seat for the first 30 minutes of each social studies period,

a. she can choose the class’s outdoor game on Friday afternoon, March 3.
b. Ms. Jones will telephone her parents to tell them of the improvement in Jessica’s behavior

on Friday afternoon, March 3.

4. Evaluation
a. After each social studies period, Ms. Jones records whether Jessica did or did not get out

of her seat during the first 30 minutes.
b. Jessica and Ms. Jones will meet on Friday, March 3, at 12:30 P.M. to determine whether

the contract has been performed and write next week’s fourth contract.

Student __________________________________

Teacher __________________________________

Date _____________________________________

Behavior Contract Checklist

1. Is the expected behavior described specifically? _____ Yes _____ No

2. Is the time period specified clearly? _____ Yes _____ No

3. Has the reward been specified clearly? _____ Yes _____ No

4. Is the reward motivating to the student? _____ Yes _____ No

5. Is the evaluation procedure specified? _____ Yes _____ No

6. Has a date been set to meet to review the contract? _____ Yes _____ No

7. Has the student understood, agreed to, and signed the contract? _____ Yes _____ No

8. Has the teacher signed the contract? _____ Yes _____ No

9. Do both the teacher and student have copies? _____ Yes _____ No

10. Did the student’s parents get a copy of the contract? _____ Yes _____ No

figure 10.9 is an example of a behavior contract and a behavior contract
checklist that teachers may use to evaluate the quality of contracts that they draw
up. The sample contract was the third in a series between Jessica and her fifth-
grade teacher, Ms. Jones. Before the behavior contract intervention, Jessica spent
the vast majority of each day’s 40-minute social studies period wandering around
the room. The first two contracts resulted in her being able to remain seated for
about half the period.

once the contract is made, the teacher should record the behavior of the student
each day in regard to the terms specified in the contract. at the end of the contract

Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 271

period, the teacher can use this record to conduct a conference with the student. If
the student has kept his commitment, the teacher should provide the reward. If the
student’s behavior needs further improvement, the teacher can draw up a new con-
tract that specifies increased improvement over a longer time period. If, at the end
of the contract, the student’s behavior has improved sufficiently to conform to final
expectations, the teacher can inform the student that a behavior contract is no longer
needed. If possible, the teacher should point out to the student the direct relationship
between the improved behavior and the student’s academic success in the classroom.
The teacher also should make clear that he expects acceptable behavior and success
to continue. of course, the teacher must continue to give the student attention after
the contract has ended. This consistent attention helps the student recognize that posi-
tive behavior results in positive consequences and usually helps maintain appropriate
behavior over a long period of time.

If, at the end of the contract period, the student has not kept the commitment,
the teacher should accept no excuses. During the conference, the teacher should
assume a neutral role, explaining that the reward cannot be given because the stu-
dent’s behavior did not live up to the behavior specified in the contract. The teacher
should point out to the student that the lack of reward is simply a logical consequence
of the behavior. This helps the student see the cause-and-effect relationship between
behavior and its consequences. If the student learns only this, he has learned an
extremely valuable lesson.

at this point, the teacher must decide whether or not it is worth trying a new
contract with the student. If the teacher believes that the student tried to live up to the
contract, a new contract that calls for a little less drastic improvement or for improve-
ment over a slightly shorter time frame may be worthwhile.

If the student has not made a sincere effort to improve, obviously the contracting
is not working. It is time to try another option. Nothing has been lost in the attempt
except a little bit of time, and the teacher has accumulated additional documentation,
which will be helpful if it is necessary to seek outside assistance.

There is one final technique for the teacher to try when these classroom tech-
niques do not work. This is the exclusion of the student from the classroom until he
makes a written commitment to improve his behavior.

Prior to exclusion, the teacher tells the student that he is no longer welcome in
the class because of his disruptive behavior, which is interfering with the teacher’s
right to teach and the students’ right to learn. The teacher then tells the student to
report to a specified location in the school where appropriate classroom assign-
ments involving reading and writing will be given. The student is also told that he
will be held accountable for the completion of all assignments in an acceptable and
timely manner, the same as required in the regular classroom. The teacher stresses
that the student may return to the classroom at any time by giving a written com-
mitment to improve his behavior. This written commitment must be in the student’s
own words and must specify the changed behavior that will be evident when the
student returns to the classroom. of course, exclusion presupposes that the admin-
istration is supportive of such a technique and has made appropriate arrangements
for the setting.

our experience has shown that those few students who have been excluded
from the classroom and have then made the written commitment and returned

272 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

have remained in the classroom with acceptable behavior. Exclusion finally demon-
strates to the student that his behavior will no longer be tolerated and that the entire
responsibility for the student’s behavior is on the student and only the student.

If a student does not make the written commitment within a reasonable period
of time, usually no more than a few days, outside assistance (in the form of parents,
counselor, principal, or outside agency) must be sought (see Chapter 11). If it is neces-
sary to seek outside assistance, the teacher’s use of self-monitoring, anecdotal record
keeping, or behavior contracting will provide the documented evidence needed to
make an appropriate referral.

This chapter discussed the strategies that
can be used in working with students who
exhibit chronic behavior problems. Two long-
term strategies for resolving chronic prob-
lems—building positive relationships and
breaking the cycle of discouragement—were
described. In addition, four techniques for
working with students with chronic behavior
problems were introduced: self-monitoring,
anecdotal record keeping, functional behav-
ior assessment, and behavior contracting. of
these techniques, self-monitoring is most com-
patible with the student-directed philosophy;
anecdotal record keeping is most compatible

with the collaborative philosophy; and func-
tional behavior assessment and behavioral
contracting are most compatible with the
teacher-directed philosophy. This chapter also
discussed when, how, and with which students
to employ these strategies and techniques. The
communication skills needed for a private con-
ference, an essential component of any strategy
for working with students who have chronic
behavior problems, were divided into receiving
skills and sending skills. finally, the technique
of exclusion from the classroom, the final step
between in-class teacher intervention and out-
side referral, was presented.


1. Think of the teachers you had in school who
were most successful in building positive rela-
tionships with students. What qualities did
these teachers possess? How was their behavior
toward students different from the behavior
of teachers who were not good at building
relationships? What implications do these dif-
ferences have for building positive relation-
ships with students who have chronic behavior

2. This chapter presents several ideas for break-
ing the cycle of discouragement by helping to
meet students’ self-esteem needs. In each of the
following four categories of self-esteem needs,
suggest additional behaviors that a teacher
might use to enhance student self-esteem: (a)

the need for significance, (b) the need for com-
petence, (c) the need for power, and (d) the
need for virtue.

3. form a triad with two other classmates. Designate
a letter (a, B, or C) for each of you. Role-play
three conversations between a teacher and a
student who exhibits chronic behavior prob-
lems. In each role-play, the individual playing
the teacher will create the scenario that has led
to the conversation. During each conversation,
the person who plays the role of teacher should
practice using effective receiving and sending
skills. The process observer will give feedback
to the teacher on his use of effective communica-
tion. Divide the roles for the three conversations
according to the following format:


Chapter 10 • Classroom Interventions 273

4. Design a self-monitoring instrument that is
appropriate for elementary children and moni-
tors (a) calling out, (b) talking to neighbors,
and (c) staying focused on seat work.

5. This chapter classified self-monitoring as a
student-directed approach to the management
of chronic behavior problems. Do you agree? If
so, what makes it a student-directed approach?
If not, how should it be classified? If not, is it
possible to have a student-directed technique
to manage chronic behavior problems?

6. Should students who exhibit chronic behavior
problems receive special rewards for behaviors
that are typically expected of other students?
Justify your answer.

7. Make a list of rewards under the regular class-
room teacher’s control that could be used in
behavior contracts or functional behavior
assessment for students at each of the follow-
ing levels: (a) elementary, (b) middle or junior
high, and (c) senior high.

8. Develop a list of learning-focused positive con-
sequences that could be substituted for the use
of concrete, extrinsic rewards in behavior con-
tracts or functional behavior assessment.

9. Design an initial behavior contract for the
following situation: Jonathan, a sixth-grade,
middle school student who loves sports, has
refused to do homework for the past three
weeks, has started fights on three occasions
during the past three weeks, and has disrupted
class two or three times each day during the
past three weeks.

10. We classify anecdotal record keeping as a col-
laborative approach to classroom management.
Do you agree? If so, what makes it a collab-
orative approach? If not, how should it be

11. Examine the sample anecdotal record in
figure 10.6. Explain whether you agree or dis-
agree with the following decisions made by
the teacher: (a) to continue the intervention
after 4/23 and 4/24 or (b) to stop the record
after 4/30. Justify your statements.

12. Which types of misbehavior constitute suf-
ficient grounds for exclusion from the class-
room? Justify your answer.

13. Principles of Teacher Behavior after reading
Chapter 10 and doing the exercises, use what
you have learned to briefly describe your
understanding of the implications of the prin-
ciples listed at the beginning of the chapter for
a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Principle 3:

Principle 4:

Principle 5:

Person A Person B Person C

Conversation 1 Teacher Student Process observer
Conversation 2 Process observer Teacher Student
Conversation 3 Student Process observer Teacher


Seeking Outside


The Basics

Nature of the Discipline Problem

Understanding Why Children Misbehave

Philosophical Approaches to Influencing Students

The Professional Teacher

Classroom Interventions for Working with Students
Who Exhibit Chronic Behavior Problems

Structuring the Environment

Building Relationships

Using Nonverbal Interventions to Influence
Students to Behave Appropriately

Using Verbal Interventions and Logical Consequences
to Influence Students to Behave Appropriately

Chapter 11 • Seeking Outside Assistance 275

PrinciPles of Teacher Behavior ThaT influence aPProPriaTe
sTudenT Behavior

1. Professional teachers recognize that some chronic misbehavior problems are not
responsive to treatment within the classroom or are beyond their expertise and
necessitate specialized outside assistance.

2. When outside assistance must be sought to manage a chronic misbehavior
problem, the use of a multidisciplinary team is the most effective approach.

3. Family support and cooperation with the school is critical when attempting to
work with a student who exhibits chronic behavior problems. Careful planning
and skilled conferencing techniques are essential in developing a positive
homeschool working relationship.

Prereading acTiviTy: undersTanding The PrinciPles
of Teacher Behavior

Before reading Chapter 11, briefly describe your understanding of the implications
of the principles for a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Principle 3:

Prereading QuesTions for reflecTion and Journaling

1. How do you know when it is appropriate or necessary to obtain help from other
people (families, administrators, counselors, etc.) in working with a student who
exhibits behavior problems?

2. What are some important ideas to keep in mind in working with families
to improve their child’s behavior?

Seeking Outside Assistance
Understanding the Nature of Persisting Misbehavior • Recognizing

When Outside Assistance Is Needed • Making Referrals
•  Counselors  •  Administrators  •  School Psychologists

• Working with Families • Alternatives to Suspension • Protecting
Students’ Rights

276 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems


Even when teachers employ all of the strategies suggested in this text to prevent,
intervene in, and solve discipline problems, some students simply cannot behave
appropriately without some type of specialized outside assistance or intervention.
These students can be a continual source of frustration to the teacher and the other
students in the classroom. Indeed, students who exhibit chronic behavior problems
can so overshadow the positive educational climate of the classroom that a teacher can
begin to question her professional competence. Thus, it is very important for teachers
to acknowledge that there are certain circumstances under which they should and
must seek outside support and expertise. In fact, the mark of a skilled professional
is to recognize the limits of her expertise and to make the necessary and appropriate
consultations and referrals without any sense of professional inadequacy.

Sometimes the first referral the teacher makes is to contact the student’s family.
It is helpful if the teacher has already begun to establish a positive relationship with
the family early in the school year before any problems arise (see Chapter 7). If a
behavioral issue requires contacting the family, the contact may be made through
written correspondence or a phone conversation. If possible, a phone conversation is
preferable because it allows for immediate two-way dialogue. Teachers should think
about making this contact when (1) the misbehavior is a minor surface behavior that
continues after the teacher has employed the strategies discussed in this text and
(2) the teacher is confident that family input can play a positive role in ending the
misbehavior. The contact should be made only after the student has been given a
choice of improving her behavior or having her family informed of the behavior.
Although it applies to all students, this caveat is especially important in working with
middle and high school students. The teacher should point out the primary responsi-
bility for controlling her behavior rests with the student, not her family. This in itself
will often bring the desired change. If not, family contact is made and may result in
consequences at home that are enough to motivate a change in school behavior.

At other times, the behavior is such that the teacher decides family contact will
not be sufficient to remedy the problem and that she needs outside expertise to
understand and work with the student. In these cases, family contact comes after
consultation with other professional staff members. Consultation ensures that the
student’s family will have an adequate description of the problem, an explanation of
the intervention strategies attempted, and a comprehensive proposed plan of action.

Whether family contact is the first step or a later step in seeking outside
assistance, it is critical that the contact sets the stage for a cooperative home-school
relationship. For this to occur, it may be necessary to overcome negative, defensive
family perceptions and attitudes toward the school and/or the teacher. Thus, careful
planning and preparation must precede any family contact. In addition to the
student’s family, the teacher may consult with the school’s counselors, administrators,
psychologists, learning specialists, and social workers. By doing this, specialized
expertise is brought to bear on understanding and working with both the student who
is displaying unremitting misbehavior and her family. In some cases, referrals outside
the school may be necessary.

This chapter discusses the nature of persisting misbehavior, the point at which
a teacher needs to seek outside assistance, preparing for and conducting family

Chapter 11 • Seeking Outside Assistance 277

conferences, and the roles of other school staff members. The final section details
behaviors that may not be disruptive but that teachers must be aware of because they
may be symptomatic of other serious problems that require outside referrals.

the nature of PersIstIng MIsbehavIor

Chapter 3, which dealt exclusively with why children misbehave, noted that much of
the daily disruptive behavior observed in children is characteristic of the developmental
stages that all children go through and a normal reaction to society and recent societal
changes. Obviously, some children display disruptive behavior more frequently or
with more intensity than others, but again, most of this behavior is within the range
of normal child and adolescent behavior and usually can be influenced through the
techniques and strategies suggested in this text. However, some students display
behaviors that resist all attempts at modification.

These students are often reacting to negative influences within their environment.
These influences may be quite obvious and identifiable, or they may be rather subtle.
When a teacher is trying to understand a long-term pattern of misbehavior, environmental
influences must be viewed in a summative manner. Long-term behavior is not understood
by examining one or two snapshots of specific environmental influences. A history of
influences must be considered.

One concept that is especially helpful in understanding historical influences
is the success/failure ratio, which is a ratio of the amount of success a student
experiences in her daily life to the amount of failure she experiences. Most students
exhibit adaptive, productive behavior and feel good about themselves when they
are successful. Students who do not meet with a reasonable degree of success become
frustrated and discouraged, and their behavior becomes maladaptive and destructive
(Glasser, 1969). Although students with chronic behavior difficulties may appear hard
and defiant, they are often very damaged and vulnerable. They are frequently encased
in a negative and failure-oriented system of experiences, beliefs, and expectations
that are highly resistant to normal classroom influences. These experiences have left
them unresponsive to the normal classroom reinforcements intended to increase
the success/failure ratio. What are the influences that cause students to have a low
success/failure ratio?

failure in the classroom environment

Some students simply are not or cannot find a way to be successful at school in
academic, social, and/or extracurricular activities. For these students, school is a daily
source of failure that significantly reduces their overall success/failure ratio. Success
in school and behavior are so interrelated that it has been concluded that many
misbehaving students do not feel successful in school (Wolfgang, 2008).

In some cases, careful observation and evaluation will uncover a learning or
behavioral disability. The disability may have gone undiagnosed because it did not
become apparent until the child moved toward higher grade levels, where behavioral
expectations and the conceptual demands of the curriculum increased. These students
are not involved or interested in what they learn. Their misbehavior serves as a
protection from further hurt and feelings of inadequacy (Wolfgang, 1999). In other

278 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

cases, students may possess personality traits that cause classmates to pick on or
ignore them. The behavioral difficulties that these students display may be understood
as an expression of their frustration and discouragement, which many times escalates
into the observable behaviors of anger and retaliation. For these students, reward and
gratification stem more from their success at focusing attention on themselves than
from meeting appropriate behavioral and instructional objectives.

failure outside the classroom environment

Some students exhibit extreme behaviors that seem to have little to do with the day-to-day
realities of the class environment. Extreme apprehension, distrust, disappointment,
hurt, anger, or outrage is triggered in them under the most benign circumstances or
with the slightest provocation. A teacher may find such a student reacting to her as if
she were an abusive or rejecting family member, other adult, or peer.

These distorted emotional responses are reactions that often have been shaped
outside the classroom and reflect problems that exist within the home and family
or long-standing problems with peers. Some studies have concluded that 50 percent
of children who experience behavior problems at school also experience them at
home (e.g., Johnson, Bolstad, and Lobitz, 1976; Patterson, 1974). Some students with
long-standing interpersonal relationship difficulties find the normal social pressures
of the classroom too much to tolerate. Just as failure within the classroom lowers a
student’s perceived success/failure ratio, so does failure outside the classroom.

In some instances, initial failure outside the classroom actually has more impact
on the student’s perceived success/failure ratio than initial failure within the classroom.
This occurs because the student’s difficulties outside the classroom result in distorted,
inappropriate classroom behaviors that cause additional experiences of failure within
the classroom.

failure as a result of Primary Mode of conduct

For some students, misbehavior seems to be the natural state of affairs. Their behavior
seems to be an expression of their own internal tension, restlessness, and discomfort
rather than a reaction to any apparent environmental influence. These students’
difficulties emerge during the preschool and kindergarten years. Their teachers view
them as immature, emotionally volatile, inattentive, demanding, overly aggressive,
and self-centered. They are usually quick to react with anger to any sort of stress or
frustration. Unfortunately, their behavior is too often explained simplistically as the
natural expression of the “difficult child” temperament. For some, there is a significant
improvement with age; for others, the problems intensify as negative reactions to
home and school further reduce the success/failure ratio. Many of these children
are eventually diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or
oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

When outsIde assIstance Is needed

How does a teacher decide when to seek outside consultation or referral? Although
there are no rules, two general guidelines can assist with the decision. First, referral
is warranted when a teacher recognizes that a developing problem is beyond her
professional expertise. When a true professional recognizes this, she acts to identify

Chapter 11 • Seeking Outside Assistance 279

and contact specialized professional assistance. Second, the more deviant, disruptive,
or frequent the behavior, the more imperative it is to make referrals. In other words,
referral is necessary when

1. a student who displays disruptive behavior does not improve after the hierarchical
interventions described in this text have been exhausted.

2. the hierarchical approach has resulted in improvement, but the student continues
to manifest problems that disrupt either teaching or learning.

Some students are not discipline problems but show signs that may be symptoms
of serious problems that require the attention of professionals with specialized training.
Symptoms of social difficulty, illness, anxiety, depression, learning difficulty, abuse,
substance abuse, suicide, and family discord become apparent to the knowledgeable
and sensitive teacher. A more detailed discussion of these symptoms is included in a
later section of this chapter.

the referral Process

When outside assistance is warranted, the teacher must have access to a network of
school support personnel who are trained to cope with children with unremitting
problematic classroom behavior. The first referral is most often to a counselor and/or
an administrator (typically a principal in elementary school and an assistant principal at
the secondary level). Contact with the counselor and/or the appropriate administrator
helps ensure that families are not called in before the school has explored all the
possible interventions at its disposal. Except for serious problems, families should be
contacted only when it is apparent that the school has no other alternatives ( Jones
and Jones, 2006).

As was discussed in Chapter 7, families are apt to be responsive and cooperative
if there is a history of positive family-teacher relationships. Have there been previous
contacts by the teacher or the school with good news about their child or generally
about curriculum and other school happenings? If so, and there is also a record of
teacher and school interventions directed at the present problem, most families will
be cooperative. Working closely with the families of students who exhibit chronic
behavior problems is so critical that it will be discussed in depth later in this chapter.
First, what role does the administrator or counselor play?

the role of the counselor

In schools with a counselor on the professional staff, the teacher contacts the student’s
counselor as soon as the decision has been made to seek outside assistance. The
teacher should be prepared to present documented data on the student’s misbehavior
and all approaches the teacher has used in the attempt to manage the disruptive
behavior. Anecdotal records, functional behavior analyses, and behavior contracts (see
Chapter 10) are excellent sources for this information.

In difficult situations, a teacher may become stuck, repetitively applying strategies
that do not work. As an outside observer, the counselor is quite useful. She is a neutral
onlooker with a fresh view who may be able to suggest modifications in the strategies
or techniques the teacher has tried. The counselor may want to explore further the
student’s behavior, the teacher’s style, the nature of the teacher-student interaction, and

280 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

the learning environment by visiting the classroom or by scheduling further conferences
with the student and/or teacher, either alone or together. Once this has been done, the
counselor may be able to provide objective feedback and offer suggestions for new
approaches and/or work closely with the student to develop more acceptable behaviors.

The counselor can also help improve the strained teacher-student relationship
by assisting the teacher and the student simultaneously. She can offer support to the
teacher who must cope with the stress of teaching a child who exhibits chronically
disruptive behavior, and she can discuss with the student classroom problems that
arise from behavior, academics, or social interactions. Because the counselor has a
thorough understanding of the viewpoints of both the teacher and student, she is able
to act as an intermediary.

Often problems are adequately handled at the counselor level. However, when
this is not sufficient, additional consultants are called on. They include an administrator,
family members, or a school psychologist.

the role of the administrator

In many cases of chronic misbehavior, certain in-school strategies or decisions require
the authoritative and administrative power of the principal or assistant principal. For
example, decisions to remove a student from a classroom for an extended period
of time, to change a student’s teacher, and to institute in-school or out-of-school
suspensions, which will be discussed later in this chapter, must be approved and
supported by an administrator. An administrator’s approval often is needed to refer a
student to a learning specialist or the school psychologist.

Extremely deviant behavior may require action at the school district level. In cases
of expulsion or recommendations for placement in specialized educational settings out-
side the school, the administrator will be expected to provide testimony at any hearings
that may be held and thus must be thoroughly familiar with the student’s history.

the role of the school Psychologist

If there are indications that a student’s problems are rooted in deeper and more
pervasive personality disturbances or family problems, the clinical resources of the
school psychologist should be sought. The initial role of the school psychologist is
one of evaluation and diagnostic study. Although the school psychologist will apply
independent observational, interview, and testing techniques, these are really an
extension of the day-to-day data that have already been accumulated by the classroom
teacher, counselor, and administrator. The results of the school psychologist’s evalua-
tive studies may lead to recommendations for further study, specialized programming,
or referral to outside resources.

the consultation team

Once the counselor, an administrator, and possibly a learning specialist or school psy-
chologist are involved, a consultative team has been created. Although a team approach
is not formalized in many schools, it can be quite effective in delineating responsi-
bilities and keeping the lines of communication open and clearly defined. The team
approach facilitates group problem solving, offers a multidisciplinary perspective, and
reduces the possibility that any one individual will become overburdened with a sense

Chapter 11 • Seeking Outside Assistance 281

of responsibility for “the problem.” As with any team, a leader is needed to coordinate
the team’s efforts. The counselor may be a good coordinator because she is thoroughly
familiar with the student and has quick access to all members of the team.

Many school districts have come to realize that teachers cannot be expected
to possess the expertise necessary to deal effectively with all the learning and
behavior problems found in today’s classrooms. To provide support in modifying
these problems, school-based consultation teams that follow systematic models of
assistance and/or intervention have been implemented. These teams are often referred
to as intervention assistance teams, motivational resource teams, child study teams,
and so on. In Pennsylvania, for example, all elementary schools are required to have
i nstructional support teams. These teams, made up of classroom teachers, instructional
support specialists, principals, family members, and others, work to modify the regular
classroom environment to increase student achievement and improve behavior before
a student can be referred for testing for possible placement in special education. At the
secondary level, there are student assistance teams made up of teachers, c ounselors,
principals, and others who provide assistance to students who are having serious
personal, behavioral, or academic difficulties.

WorkIng WIth faMIlIes

When it is apparent that the teacher and school have explored all the interventions
at their disposal, the student’s family should be contacted. It is essential to have the
support and cooperation of the family in working effectively with students who exhibit
chronic misbehavior. Unfortunately, familial contacts are often characterized by negative
reactions and defensiveness on the part of the family and the teacher. It is imperative
to minimize negativity and maximize positive support and cooperation. This takes
careful planning and a great deal of skill in interpersonal interaction and conferencing
techniques on the part of the consultative team members (Canter and Canter, 2001).
As detailed in Chapter 7, if the teacher is proactive and started to build a positive rela-
tionship with the family before the problem really began, family contacts concerning
surfacing problems are likely to result in much greater cooperation. Many teachers send
a beginning-of-the-year letter home to families. This letter explains a little bit about
the teacher and the teacher’s academic and behavioral goals and hopes for the coming
year. In addition to providing information about how to contact the teacher, the letter
also spells out opportunities for family involvement in the classroom and suggestions
for how families can help their child be successful. Many effective teachers follow up
on this beginning-of-the-year letter with positive messages to families in the form of
e-mails, telephone calls, and “good news notes.”

When families should be contacted

Families should be contacted concerning behavior problems when the following con-
ditions occur:

1. The student displays unremitting misbehavior after the teacher and the school
have employed all available interventions.

2. The consultative team decides that the student needs a change in teacher or

282 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

3. The consultative team decides that the student should be removed from a class
for an extended period of time or from school for even one day.

4. The consultative team decides that the student needs to be tested for learning,
emotional, or physical difficulties.

5. The consultative team decides that outside specialists such as psychiatrists,
physicians, and social workers are required.

the Importance of Working with families

When the school has exhausted its alternatives in attempting to assist a student
who exhibits chronically disruptive behavior to bring her behavior into appropriate
boundaries, it is essential for the student’s family to be contacted and made members
of the consulting team. After all, whether or not a student exhibits disruptive behav-
ior, all families have the right to be informed of their child’s behavioral and academic
progress. Furthermore, as this text has continually stressed, family support of the
school has a major impact on a child’s positive attitude toward school ( Jones, 1980).
When a student’s family feels good about the teacher and school, the student usually
receives encouragement and reinforcement for appropriate school behavior ( Jones
and Jones, 2006). Thus, families can be one of the teacher’s strongest allies, which is
particularly helpful when the student exhibits chronic behavior problems (Brookover
and Gigliotti, 1988). support and cooperation must be cultivated by the teacher and
other school staff members. To this end, schoolwide programs such as family visi-
tation, back-to-school nights, parent-teacher organizations, parent advisory boards,
and volunteer programs have been instituted. As noted earlier, and in Chapter 7,
individual teachers complement these efforts by communicating positive aspects of
children’s schooling to their families through notes and phone calls, inviting families
to call when they have any questions, and requiring students to take home graded
assignments and tests.

Children with chronic behavior problems, especially when they are adolescents,
are frequently not motivated or responsive to the encouragements a school can pro-
vide. Their families, on the other hand, can provide a wider variety of more attractive
encouragements. Indeed, a system of home consequences contingent on school behav-
ior can be an effective means for modifying classroom behavior (Ayllon, Garber, and
Pisor, 1975). Such a system is illustrated in Case 11.1. Thus, because families, with few
exceptions, care greatly about their children, they represent an interested party that
can provide an inexpensive, continuous treatment resource to augment school efforts.
The school’s positive working relationship with families is often the most critical com-
ponent for effectively influencing a student who engages in chronic misbehavior.

understanding families

For all the positive help families may be able to offer, many teachers and other school
personnel feel uncomfortable contacting them, and many families harbor negative
feelings toward their child’s teachers and school. School personnel often complain
that family contacts necessitate using time, usually before or after school, that could
be put to better use. Teachers also complain that they often feel intimidated by fami-
lies who think that teachers should be able to maintain control of their child without
family help. Also because education is funded by tax dollars, they sometimes appear

Chapter 11 • Seeking Outside Assistance 283

to believe they should be able to judge and monitor teacher performance. However,
as professionals, teachers and other school staff must not allow these feelings to
jeopardize the opportunity to gain the support and cooperation of families.

If family contacts result in distrust, apprehension, and dissatisfaction for both
families and teachers, efforts to assist the disruptive student probably will fail. In
time, the family’s sense of alienation from the school will be passed on to the child,
further lessening the possibility of the school working with the family to find a means
to redirect the student toward acceptable behavior. Therefore, the members of the
consultative team must create an atmosphere that facilitates a change of negative
family perceptions and assumptions into positive ones. This is more easily accom-
plished when team members understand the family’s perspectives.

Many children who exhibit chronic misbehavior in school display similar
behaviors at home. Often, their families have been frustrated by their own failures in
influencing their child. Because many parents consider their children extensions of
themselves and products of their parenting, they are not anxious to be reminded of
how inadequate they have been. Sometimes, there has been a long history of negative
feedback from teachers, counselors, and administrators that has created a feeling of
powerlessness and humiliation. Because these families feel everyone is blaming them
for their child’s misbehavior, they are quite wary of any sort of school contact and
react by withdrawing, resisting, or angrily counterattacking and blaming the school
for the problems. This does not have to happen. Through careful planning and the use
of proper conferencing skills, the school consultative team can gain the needed sup-
port and cooperation from families.

Recalling from Chapter 7 Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (1997) suggest that three
major factors influence a family’s decisions about whether or not to become involved
in their child’s education. These are the family’s role construction, sense of efficacy,
and sense of school involvement.

Dawn is 15 years old. Her grades have gone
from Bs to Ds in Spanish and social studies.
The decline in academic performance results
from inattentiveness and poor study habits.
After the teacher and counselor speak to
Dawn without any noticeable improvement,
her parents are called.

During a conference, Dawn explains
that she doesn’t like Spanish or social studies
and doesn’t see why she needs these subjects
anyway. Her teachers try to explain why
these subjects are important, especially in
today’s world, but have little success. Finally

her parents intervene and point out to Dawn
that she has scheduled driver’s education
for the spring semester. If she expects to be
able to drive, they say, she must demonstrate
responsibility and discipline and one way
to do so is to do well in all school subjects.
They finally give Dawn a choice, either her
grades improve or she will not be allowed to
take driver’s education or obtain her learner’s

Her teachers and parents keep in
contact, and by the end of the fall semester
Dawn’s grades are again Bs.

Case 11.1
To Drive, You Must Speak Spanish

284 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

conducting family conferences

When the consultative team determines that conditions warrant family involvement,
the counselor, who is often the coordinator, usually makes the first contact. The tone
of this initial contact is extremely important in developing a cooperative working
relationship. The counselor should expect some degree of defensiveness on the part
of the family, especially if the student has had a history of school misbehavior. This
attitude should be understood and not taken personally. The cause of the school’s con-
cern should be stated clearly and honestly. The climate of the conversation should be
“How can we work as a team to best meet your child’s needs?” rather than “Here we
go again!” or “We’ve done everything we can; now it’s up to you.”

Once a conference has been scheduled, the team must decide who will attend
the conference. Should all the members of the consultative team be in attendance?
Should the student be at the conference? The answers depend on the particular
problem, the amount of expertise needed to explain the situation and the approaches
that have been tried, and who will need to be available to answer any questions that
may arise. In addition, it must be kept in mind that the conference must be conducted
in a positive manner that is least threatening to the family. This often means the
fewer people present, the less threatening the conference appears to the family. In
most circumstances, the counselor or administrator and the teacher conduct the initial
conference. Unless the problem includes discussing behavior or other signs that indi-
cate serious health, emotional, or legal problems, the student is usually present.

The counselor should begin the conference by introducing all in attendance,
thanking the family for its willingness to attend, and outlining the goal of the confer-
ence. Throughout the conference, the counselor ensures that everyone has an equal
chance to express her viewpoint. The counselor also looks for any signs that indicate
that the conference is deteriorating into a debate or blaming session and acts rapidly
to defuse the situation by directing the conference back to the major purpose of how
best to meet the student’s needs.

Obviously appropriate interpersonal and conferencing skills must be familiar
to and practiced by all professionals in attendance. Some of these skills are to be
friendly; to be supportive; and to use active listening, which includes paraphrasing
to ensure proper understanding by all included (see Chapter 10). The teacher should
be prepared to have some positive things to say about the student. Information
should be elicited through the use of questions rather than directive statements
aimed at the student or family. Neither the child nor the family should be attacked,
disparaged, or blamed. However, sometimes families and the student attack, dispar-
age, and blame the teacher or other school officials. If this occurs, it is important to
remember that one does not defend one’s professional competence with words, but
with behavior.

One of the best means to demonstrate professional competence is through the
use of previously collected data that illustrate and demonstrate the concerns of the
school and the need for the conference. These data should include a history of objec-
tive and specific information about the student’s behaviors and the actions taken by
the teacher and the school to manage them. Anecdotal records are an excellent source
for these types of data (see Chapter 10). The use of these data reduces the like-
lihood of the conference turning into a debate, illustrates that the problem is not

Chapter 11 • Seeking Outside Assistance 285

exaggerated, and defuses any attempt by the family to suggest that the school did not
take appropriate and necessary actions.

Throughout the conference, the family’s and student’s feelings, viewpoints,
and suggestions should be actively solicited. The outcome of the conference, it is
hoped, will be an agreed-upon course of action or the decision that the counselor will
contact the family in the near future with a suggested course of action. The meeting
ends on an optimistic note with a summary; a show of appreciation; and an encour-
aging statement that with both the home and school working as a team, a successful
outcome is likely.

With some students, a decision may be made to try additional school and/or
classroom strategies with little additional family involvement. This decision is usually a
result of new information that allows the school to design additional appropriate strat-
egies or because the family, like Sharon’s mother in Case 11.2, clearly demonstrates its
disinterest. Sharon’s mother is atypical, not because she is disinterested but because
she openly and honestly admits it. When families are disinterested, there is sometimes
a tendency on the part of the school personnel to give up and adopt an attitude that
“if they don’t care, then we’ve done what we can.” However, children should never
be denied access to potentially effective school intervention programs because their
families are disinterested, uncooperative, or unsupportive (Walker, 1979).

When it is apparent that family involvement will probably improve the child’s
behavior significantly or the family is interested in helping but there is evidence of a
deficiency in parenting skills, increased family involvement will be requested. Many
school districts now provide classes or employ family educators to work with families
of children experiencing behavior problems in school.

Sharon is in eighth grade. Her behavior is
perfect. She is of average intelligence, rarely
absent, and well dressed and has some
friends. She seems like the typical, happy
eighth grader. However, she always asks one
of her teachers if she can stay late to help
with anything. If there is nothing for her to
do, she just sits and talks. As the end of the
first report period approaches, it appears that
Sharon will receive all Ds and Fs.

Most of her teachers have spoken with
her, and she has also been referred to the
counselor. Throughout all of these sessions,
she maintains that she is happy and nothing
is wrong. Extra academic help is given but
results in no improvement.

Before report cards are issued, a confer-
ence is scheduled with Sharon, her mother, the
counselor, and her teachers. Sharon’s mother
arrives; she is well dressed and well spoken
and seems somewhat concerned. She listens
attentively to each teacher explain Sharon’s
poor academic performance. When they have
finished, she states, “Sharon’s dad left five
years ago. I’m busy. I need to look after myself
and get my life moving in the right direction.
I have a career and I date a lot. Truthfully,
besides buying her clothes and making sure
she eats properly, I haven’t much time for
Sharon. I would truly appreciate anything you
can do to help Sharon because I know I won’t
be much help. Is there anything else?”

Case 11.2
“Won’t Be Much Help”

286 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

a Question that Will surely be asked

In thinking about the appropriate timeline concerning how best to work with students
who exhibit chronic disruptive behavior, the authors as well as authorities on family-
school dynamics agree that a best practice is contacting families early or even per-
haps before the school year begins. This proactive effort is to develop positive family
teacher relationships that are related to improved behavior and grades for all students.
Additionally, this relationship is critical when the teacher is working with a student
with a history of disruptive behavior.

However, there is no common agreement concerning the point at which families
should be contacted in reference to student behavioral problems. Some experts and
families support the notion that the family be notified at the first sign of any problem
with their child. Others argue that making contact at the first sign of a problem is
inappropriate because that does not give a student enough time to learn and over-
come the difficulty before the family is brought into the situation. These same indi-
viduals also argue that waiting until the student is exhibiting chronic behavior is far
too long. So they would suggest family contact at some point after behavior problems
arise but before the student’s behavior meets the criteria for chronic behavioral issues
that we have outlined previously. In short, they argue not too early, but not too late.
By the same token, they can’t really stipulate any clear criterion for when the appro-
priate point for referral has been reached.

The authors of this text disagree. The disagreement is not about whether or not
families should be informed by the teacher regarding disruptive behavior but when
this contact should be made—at the first sign of a problem, at some intermediate but
undefined point, or only later after the teacher and the other school professionals
have attempted numerous interventions. Where you stand on this timing issue has to
do with the long-term goals families and teachers have for their students. If the goal
is compliance and obedience, then the first sign of disruptive behavior or the first
sign of the student not doing what she is told warrants a call home. If the goal is self-
control, then the student needs many more opportunities to learn self-control in many
different contexts with the teacher’s assistance. So when the family asks “Why weren’t
we notified earlier at the first signs of a problem?” the teacher needs to explain the
concept of self-control and contrast it with the concepts of obedience and compliance,
including the long-term benefits of being able to control one’s own behavior.

alternatIves to susPensIons

When a student’s behavior reaches the level of being chronic, teachers and administra-
tors begin to run out of interventions. It is at this point that many administrators begin
to remove students from the classroom and school with out-of-school-suspensions.
The rate of suspensions continues to rise. In the Chicago public schools more than
20,000 students were suspended, doubling the rate in less than a decade. African
American children and students with special needs get more than their share being
suspended disproportionally to their school population (Townsend, 2000).

No research indicates that suspensions have had a deterrent effect nor does
the research support a change to more appropriate behavior on the part of those
suspended (Skiba, Peterson and Williams, 1999). What research does support are the

Chapter 11 • Seeking Outside Assistance 287

numerous negative outcomes of frequent suspensions. These include denial of access
to learning opportunities while out of school, no follow-up learning opportunities
such as special workshops on social skill development or anger management, greater
dropout rates, and greater risk of running into legal issues because many of these stu-
dents are on the street rather than in school.

Alternatives to suspensions are many, and all of them offer better outcomes
than suspensions. These include learning modules on study skills, career exploration,
problem solving to identify likely outcomes of certain behavior, restitution programs,
community or school service, and special counseling groups. Likewise, peer mediation
could be an option if the problem is between students or a teacher and a student.

As difficult as it might be for administrators to admit, suspensions are easy
answers to tough problems; however, they send the message to the public that the
school is tough on discipline and that the school has and maintains high behavioral
expectations. The real challenge is not to suspend more students but to find alterna-
tives that offer students better educational outcomes and help the students acquire
alternative behaviors and thinking that can replace the inappropriate behaviors and
thoughts that created the problems in the first place.

Suspensions are considered by the courts to be a serious punishment that denies
the student a right to an education for a period of time. Therefore, the courts have
afforded students certain rights if they face a suspension. If a student is given an
in-school suspension for more than 10 days, the student has a right to an informal
hearing usually held by the principal. The school must tell the student the reason for
the suspension, give the student an opportunity to tell her side of the story, and notify
the family in writing. For an out-of-school suspension for more than three days, the
student has the same rights as just noted, and in addition, the hearing must be con-
ducted within five days of the suspension and the student can bring witnesses.

syMPtoMs of serIous ProbleMs

Some students display symptoms of serious problems that may or may not be accom-
panied by disruptive and/or academic difficulties. These problems may be related to
physical or emotional health or associated with an abusive home or with substance
abuse. All of these areas may fall outside the expertise and domain of the school.
An observant teacher often recognizes these symptoms and notifies the appropriate
school official, usually the counselor, who then decides the proper step.

Some of the signs that may be significant include the following:

1. Changes in physical appearance. Students may reveal their underlying prob-
lems through sudden changes in their physical appearance. Posture, dress, and
grooming habits are reflections of underlying mood and self-image, and a student’s
deterioration in these habits should be noted with concern. More striking changes
such as rapid weight loss or gain, particularly in light of the dramatic increase in
eating disorders among high school students, should be investigated. Although
unusual soreness, bruises, cuts, or scarring are signs of possible neglect or abuse,
they may also indicate self-mutilation or other self-destructive tendencies.

2. Changes in activity level. Teachers need to be aware of the significance
of changes in activity level. Excessive tardiness, lethargy, absenteeism, and a

288 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

tendency to fall asleep in class may result from a variety of problems, including
depression and substance abuse. Hyperactivity, impulsivity, lowered frustration
and tolerance levels, and overaggressiveness may also represent the student’s
effort to deal with emotional unrest and discomfort.

3. Changes in personality. Emotional disturbances in children and adolescents
are sometimes reflected in very direct forms of expression and behavior. The
seemingly well-adjusted child who is suddenly sad or easily agitated or has angry
outbursts not characteristic of her prior behavior should be closely observed and

4. Changes in achievement status. A decline in a student’s ability to focus on
her work, persist at her studies, or produce or complete work successfully is
often an indication of the draining effects of emotional turmoil or significant
changes in the home environment.

5. Changes in health or physical abilities. Complaints of not being able to
see or hear, when it appears the student is paying attention, should be referred
to the nurse for follow-up. Complaints of frequent headaches, stomachaches,
dizziness, non-healing sores, skin rashes, and frequent bathroom use lead to
concern for the student’s health.

6. Changes in socialization. Children who spend most of the time by
themselves, seem to have no friends, and are socially withdrawn are not often
identified as problem students because their symptoms do not have a disturbing
impact on the classroom. These students may drift from one grade to another
without appropriate attention and concern. However, they often leave a sign of
their underlying misery in their behavior, artwork, and creative writing samples.

In most cases of serious problems, schools are able to arrange for or make
referrals to a host of specialized professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists,
nutritionists, medical doctors, social workers, and legal authorities. However,
appropriate intervention rests with the aware and concerned teacher who must make
the initial observations and referral.

legal asPects of seekIng outsIde assIstance

Some legal issues must be considered to protect children’s and family’s rights when
seeking outside assistance. Most school districts are aware of these laws and have
developed appropriate procedures to abide by them.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) and earlier
versions all the way back to Public Law 94-142 require family consent before conduct-
ing any evaluation that might change the educational classification, evaluation, or
placement of a child. Evaluation is defined as any selective procedure not used with
all children in a school, class, or grade.

The release of student files is regulated by the Family Education Rights and
Privileges Act (FERPA), also known as the Buckley Amendment (PL 93-380, as
amended by PL 93-568). Briefly, schools may not release a student’s records to outside
sources without written consent from the family. This release must state the reasons
for the release, the specific records to be released, and who will receive the records.

Chapter 11 • Seeking Outside Assistance 289

Many states also have laws that require teachers to report any signs of child
abuse. Many of these have provisions that impose fines on school personnel who fail
to meet this responsibility.

Students have specific rights in many areas, including freedom of expression,
dress and grooming, corporal punishment, and student activities. Unfortunately, many
of these rights are infringed upon by certain disciplinary actions taken by teachers
and school administrators. These infringements usually go unnoticed or unchallenged.
However, “when the infraction is of a very serious nature involving possible suspension
or expulsion of the student, the legal rights of the student become of paramount
importance” (Melnick and Grosse, 1984, p. 147). School officials must be aware of
these rights and ensure that they are protected.

Some students simply do not experience the
degree of success in the classroom that sup-
ports the development and maintenance of
appropriate behavior. Their conduct problems
remain unremitting despite the application
of appropriate hierarchical strategies, or they
show other signs and symptoms indicative of
serious underlying disturbances. In these cases,
some type of specialized or out-of-school assis-
tance may be required.

A team approach, which may include
the student, family, teacher, counselor, admin-
istrator, and outside specialists, is an effective
means for expanded evaluation and for the

development of specialized interventions that
may extend beyond the normal classroom. The
counselor typically plays the crucial role of team
coordinator in communicating with and inte-
grating the efforts of the family and in-school
and out-of-school consultants. The support and
cooperation of the family is critical to increase
the likelihood of successful intervention. Any
negative family attitudes must be defused. This
is best accomplished through careful planning
and the skilled use of conferencing techniques
when working with families. Protecting stu-
dents’ rights throughout any process focused
on addressing misbehavior is paramount.


1. The student’s success/failure ratio is an
extremely important variable that influences
student behavior. There are many areas in
which students experience success and failure,
including academic, social, and extracurricular
areas. List several specific areas in a school
setting in which students can experience
success or failure.

2. Three important concepts are relevant to
understand when working with students who
exhibit chronic disruptive behavior. These
concepts are listed below. Diagram or explain
how each concept is related.

Success/failure ratio

Motivation = Expectation of Success × Value
Self-Esteem = Significance + Competence
+ Virtue + Power

3. The importance of success in specific areas
depends on the student’s age. Using the list
of specific areas for success developed in
exercise 1, rate each area’s importance for
students in elementary, middle, and senior
high school.

4. Develop a list of symptoms that could be added
to the list of potentially serious problems that


290 Section 4 • Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems

may warrant outside assistance. Be able to jus-
tify why each symptom should be included on
the list.

5. Are there any dangers associated with using a
list similar to the one developed in exercise 4?
Before answering, consider areas such as con-
textual setting, duration and severity of behav-
ior, and so on. If there are dangers, what can a
teacher do to minimize them?

6. Even when students are not exhibiting behav-
ioral problems, it is important for teachers to
gain the support of families. In what ways can
teachers develop such support?

7. Compose a beginning-of-the-school-year letter
that you could send to families. In the letter,
be sure to include information about yourself,
your classroom, your hopes and goals for the
coming year, and ideas about how families can
become involved in supporting their child’s
success. Also include contact information so
families can reach you. Make sure that the
letter is free of educational jargon.

8. Sometimes teachers may decide to contact the
families before consulting a student’s counselor.
When should families be contacted before the

9. In consultation with your instructor, contact a
school (use your own school if you are pres-
ently teaching) and identify all the resources
available to assist teachers with seriously mis-
behaving students.

10. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity dis-
order and oppositional defiant disorder are in
mainstream classrooms. Research the behaviors
these children exhibit and suggest or research
strategies that are effective in influencing these

11. It has been said that if a teacher is a good
teacher for difficult children, she will be an
excellent teacher for all the children in her
class. Explain what this means.

12. Principles of Teacher Behavior After reading
Chapter 11 and doing the exercises, use what
you have learned to briefly describe your
understanding of the implications of the prin-
ciples listed at the beginning of the chapter for
a classroom teacher.

Principle 1:

Principle 2:

Principle 3:

13. Using concepts from Chapters 8 through 11,
complete the fourth analysis of the iterative
case studies.


Iterative Case Study Analyses

Fourth analysis

Considering the concepts discussed in the Interventions for Common
Behavior Problems and Interventions for Chronic Behavior Problems
sections, Chapters 8 through 11, review your third analysis. What has
changed and what has stayed the same since your last analysis? Once
again, consider why the students may be choosing to behave inappro-
priately and how you might intervene to influence the students to stop
the disruptive behavior and resume appropriate on-task behavior.

Elementary School Case Studies

“I don’t remember” During silent reading time in my fourth-grade
class, I have built in opportunities to work individually with students.
During this time, the students read to me and practice word work with
flash cards. One student has refused to read to me but instead only
wants to work with the flash cards. After a few times I suggested we
work with flash cards this time and begin reading next time. He agreed.
The next time we met, I reminded him of our plan, and he screamed,
“I don’t remember. I want to do word cards.” At this point, I tried to
find out why he didn’t like reading and he said, “There’s a reason, I just
can’t tell you,” and he threw the word cards across the room, some of
them hitting other students. What should I do?

“Let’s do it again” Cathy is in my third-grade class. Whenever I ask
the class to line up for recess, lunch, or to change classes, Cathy is al-
ways the last to get in line. When she does, she pushes, shoves and
touches the other students. When this happens I usually demand that
all the children return to their seats, and we repeatedly line up again and
again until Cathy lines up properly. I thought that peer pressure would
cause Cathy to change her behavior but instead it has resulted in my stu-
dents being late to “specials” and having less time for recess and lunch.

Middle School Case Studies

“It makes me look cool” I can’t stop thinking about a problem I’m
having in class with a group of 12-year-old boys. They consistently use
vulgar language to one another and some of the shy kids in the class,

especially the girls. In addition, they are always pushing and shoving one another.
I’ve tried talking to them about why they keep using bad language when they
know it’s inappropriate. The response I get is that “it makes me look cool and
funny in front of my friends.” I have asked them to please use more appropriate
language in the classroom, but that has not worked. I haven’t even started to deal
with the pushing and shoving. What should I do?

“My parents will be gone all weekend” One of my seventh-grade girls was
passing notes to a boy two rows over. After the second note I made eye contact
with her and it stopped for about half an hour. When I saw her getting ready to
pass another note I went over to her desk and asked her to give me the note and
told her that that the note passing had to stop. She looked very upset but she did
give me the note. I folded it and put it in my desk drawer. When class ended she
ran out of the room crying. My personal policy is not to read students’ notes but,
instead, give it back to the student at the end of class or throw it away. However,
this time, maybe because of her reaction, something told me to read the note.
It said, “Mike my parents will be away Saturday night, why don’t you and John
sleep over, it will be fun. I promise I’ll do whatever you want me to do and that
you and John can do anything you want to me.” What should I as the teacher do?

High School Case Studies

“Homo” This past week I had a student approach me about a problem he was
experiencing in our class. This eleventh-grade student had recently “come out”
as a homosexual. He said he was tired and upset with the three boys who sit near
him. These boys frequently call him a “homo” and a “fag” every time they see
him, both in and out of class.

“Why don’t you get out of my face?” A twelfth-grade student came up to me
the first day of class and said, “My name is Ted. I don’t want to be here, so just
leave me alone and we’ll get along just fine.” I did not react to his comment but
instead said “After you see what we will be learning, I think you will find the class
interesting.” Ted walked away and took a seat in the back of the room. Later that
week I noticed Ted was reading a magazine while everyone else was working on
an in-class assignment. Without making it obvious I walked by Ted’s desk and
quietly asked him to put the magazine away and to begin working on the assign-
ment. Ted turned to me and said, “Maybe you don’t understand; I asked you not
to bother me. I’m not bothering you so why don’t you get out of my face.”



Appendix A

Analysis Inventory of Teacher Behavior that Influences
Appropriate Student Behavior

The Analysis Inventory of Teacher Behavior is a tool that the classroom teacher can
use to reflect upon her behavior used to influence appropriate student behavior
with respect to prevention, causes, and solutions. The inventory presents questions
teachers can ask themselves regarding the development of hierarchical plans for
influencing appropriate student behavior. Part I of the inventory contains questions
regarding the prevention of misbehavior. Part II contains questions regarding the
resolution of misbehavior.

Part I: Have I Done all I Can to Prevent MIsbeHavIor?

Chapter 1: the basics
1. Do I consider how my behavior affects student behavior?
2. Am I familiar with the principles of teacher behavior that influence student

behavior as presented in this book?
3. Do I employ a professional decision-making approach to influencing appropri-

ate student behavior?

Chapter 2: nature of the Discipline Problem
1. Do the behaviors I am trying to correct constitute discipline problems as defined

in the text? Do they interfere with teaching or the rights of others to learn? Are
they psychologically or physically unsafe? Do they destroy property?

2. Do my behaviors contribute to any discipline problems?
3. Do my behaviors maximize the time students spend on learning?
4. Do I deal with non-discipline behavior problems after the rest of the class is

involved in the learning activities?

Chapter 3: Understanding Why Children Misbehave
1. Is the misbehavior a result of unmet physiological needs (e.g., nourishment, rest,

temperature, ventilation, noise, lighting)?
2. Is the misbehavior a result of a lack of cultural synchronization that creates a

negative learning climate?
3. Is the misbehavior a result of unmet safety and security needs (e.g., fear of other

students, teachers, staff members, parents, other adults; insecurity about rules
and expectations)?

4. Is the misbehavior a result of unmet needs for belonging and affection?
5. Do I provide opportunities for students to feel significant, competent, and

powerful and to have a sense of virtue?
6. Is the misbehavior a result of a mismatch between the student’s cognitive

developmental level and instructional goals, tasks, or methods?

294 Appendix A • Analysis Inventory of Teacher Behavior that Influences Appropriate Student Behavior

7. Is the misbehavior a result of a mismatch between the student’s moral develop-
mental level and my management plan?

8. Is the misbehavior a result of striving to meet the faulty goals of attention, power,
revenge, or inadequacy?

9. Am I trying not to personalize students’ misbehaviors?
10. Is the misbehavior a result of mobility of the student’s family and that the student

is in a new school?
11. Is the misbehavior a result of the student being bullied?

Chapter 4: Philosophical approaches to Influencing students
1. Have I analyzed which authority bases(s) I employ to influence appropriate stu-

dent behavior.
2. Have I asked myself the nine basic questions to analyze which theories of teacher

influence are consistent with my beliefs about teaching and learning?
3. Do I employ the authority base(s) that is(are) consistent with my beliefs about

teaching and learning?
4. Are my teaching behaviors consistent with the authority base(s) and theories of

influence I want to employ?

Chapter 5: the Professional teacher
1. Do I make ongoing efforts to get to know my students as individuals and build

positive relationships with them?
2. Do I plan my lessons to include findings from effective teaching research by

Including an introduction?

Clearly presenting the content?

Checking for student understanding?

Providing for coached and solitary practice?

Providing for closure and summarization?

Conducting periodic reviews?

3. Do I increase student motivation to learn by considering student interests, student
needs, instruction novelty and variety, student success, student attributions,
tension, feeling tone, assessment and feedback, and encouragement?

4. Do I communicate high expectations to all learners for learning and behavior by
equalizing response opportunities, providing prompt and constructive feedback,
and treating each student with personal regard?

5. Do I use questioning to involve students actively in the learning process by ask-
ing questions at different cognitive levels and