Assertive discipline of Lee Canter and Marlene Canter
Assertive Discipline (Lee & Marlene Canter)
Assertive Discipline involves establishing a ‘discipline plan’ to maintain ‘order’ to facilitate the best teaching and learning. This requires clear limits and rules to be set and taught. The teacher is expected to adopt an assertive style while at the same time remaining approachable and supportive. Compliance should be rewarded with formal recognition and incentives. Noncompliant disruptive behaviour invokes enforcement of rules with a hierarchy of sanctions.
Individual plans may be negotiated with the support of the school executive and parents, but individual counselling should only occur outside of class time. Classroom rewards and sanctions do not necessarily equate to those which apply outside the classroom. Note: in our taxonomy of classroom management theories, Assertive Discipline would be positioned as a theory strongly influenced by behaviourist theory.
• Children need clear behavioural limits and adults to exercise control over them, so teachers must be assertive and exercise their rightful duty to control students. External control teaches children to develop self-discipline.
• Assertive Discipline is based on an explicit classroom discipline plan, sanctioned by the school executive, but not dependent on school-wide plans.
• Classroom order requires clear behavioural limit setting, and then rewards and sanctions for compliance and non-compliance. Teachers own classrooms – students do not.
• Assertive Discipline requires good teaching which in turn requires both quality curriculum and quality pedagogy.
• Compliance (obedience) provides psychological safety for students.
• Much of the disruptive student behaviour in schools is a product of relatively unstable,
unsupportive and ill-disciplined home lives, and the resulting poor self-esteem and selfresponsibility.
• Unassertive teachers encourage misbehaviour.
Teachers who align to Assertive Discipline can build positive learning environments by:
• establishing an ordered and productive teaching learning environment, so good teaching and learning (including both good curriculum and pedagogy) can flourish
• preparing and teaching a comprehensive discipline plan, with rules and positive and negative consequences for compliance and non-compliance
• getting to know their students, especially their names and interests
• greeting their students daily – by name, and having some fun and (equitable) ‘quality’ time with each
• focusing on helping students to achieve academic success
• invoking negative consequences and escalating sanctions in a calm, matter-of-fact, systematic way.
Teachers who align to Assertive Discipline can intervene with more challenging students by:
• clearly identifying and evidencing noncompliant and disruptive behaviours for students who are not responding reasonably to the class discipline plan
• publicly reiterating rules, behavioural expectations, consequences and sanctions – in a calm and systematic way
• engaging closely with these students to ensure they understand their misbehaviours and the consequences for continued non-compliance. This usually requires counselling outside of class time
• collaborating with the student to develop an individualised behaviour plan. This will still contain class rules and behavioural expectations, but individualised consequences, sanctions and due process may apply. This must be taught to the student. This plan may also involve the support of the school executive and the student’s parents. (Note that school rules and due processes still apply outside the classroom.)
Challenges and criticisms
Critics argue that Assertive Discipline is not rigorously theoretically based, and does not account for wider school community culture. It presumes absolute authority for the teacher with little consideration of democratic principles and/or student rights, and provides no pathways for the evelopment of student self-discipline. Structure and limit setting are indistinguishable from rule setting. Critics claim that both students and teachers are widely constrained by Assertive Discipline and that although it may control student behaviours it does little to change the reason misbehaviours occur. The rigidity of this approach may leave little, if any, room for teachers to use professional discretion and accommodate individual differences. There is little research evidence to support claims of its efficacy.
Assertive Discipline Model of Canter (1988)
Teachers have to control students as they are not capable of controlling themselves. Teachers should insist on decent, respectful behaviours. Those who fail to maintain discipline are failing as teachers. Firm, strict boundaries are important for students and it is an error to think otherwise. Parents and school executives need to support the teacher. Students have the right to learn in optimal learning environments without inappropriate behaviours from others and to have teachers who ensure this is the case. In order to implement this model successfully teachers need to develop a range of assertive behaviours.
Based on the teacher as an authoritarian. Only considers the rights and needs of the teacher, not the students (Render et al.. 1989).
o Students must be forced to comply with rules
o Students cannot be expected to determine appropriate classroom rules and follow them
o Punishment will cause students to avoid bad behavior and engage in good classroom behavior
o Good behavior can also be encouraged by positive reinforcement
o For proper classroom management, parents and school administrators msut help to enforce rules.
o Child guidance specialist
o Established an organization called Canter and Associates
o Provides training for teachers who want to become more assertive in their teaching
o Emphasizes punishing unacceptable behaviors
o Providing reinforcement for behaviors that are acceptable to teachers
o Canter believed that teachers generally ignored their own needs in the classroom in favor or satisfying the students needs.
Misconceptions according the Canter
o Teachers should be able to handle discipline problems without help
o Firm discipline will be harmful to children and cause psychological harm (or disrupt the student teacher rapport)
o Canter believes these misconceptions lead us to discipline students in wishy-washy ways
o This leads to other problems
TYPES OF TEACHERS
Must always have the ‘upper hand’
Students as the enemy
“Lay down the law”
“Sit down, shut up & listen”
Life’s Not Fair
Take away pleasure of learning
Harsh responses stunt trusting relationships
Start kids down the path of hating school
Expectations not clear
Wishy-Washy (How many times do I have to tell you?)
Students do not take teacher seriously
Teacher feels stressed
Expresses expectations clearly and confidently
Teaches students how to behave
Clearly states consequences
Consistently enforces consequences
Balances students’ need for structure and empathy
Realizes students need direct instruction on how to behave
Creates environment for teacher and students to each meet their needs
Responds to student stimuli when faced with different situations
This increases the chances of anger and stress
Anticipates what students will do and say
Thinks about how to respond to different behaviors
Remembers they have a choice on how to respond
Does not give up on difficult student
o To establish classroom rules and procedures that produce optimum learning environments
o To insist on behavior from students that meets the teachers desires
o To insist on behavior that leads to positive social development
o To insist on behavior that leads to the educational development of students
o The right to receive help from administrators
o The right to receive help from parents
5 Steps to Assertive Discipline
Recognize and remove road blocks
Practice the use of Assertive response styles
Implement POSITIVE Consequences
Steps in the process
o Step 1. Create positive student teacher relationships
n Discipline procedures should be applied fairly to everyone
n Teacher must model what trust and respoct look like
n Teachers must instruct students in the procedures expected
o Step 2 Establish rules or expectations
n Usually 5 or 6 rules
n Teachers makes the rules
n Rules satisfy the teachers needs
n Communicate the rules
o Names on the board with check marks to indicate the degree of the punishment
o Step 3. Tracking the misbehavior is important
n Tracking should be private
n Negative consequences should be predetermined and applied strictly according to plan.
Four methods to request compliance
n 1. Hints --- “Everyone should be working.”
n 2. Question -- “Would you please get to work?”
n 3. I message -- I want you to open your books and get to work.”
n 4. Demand ---- “Get to work now.”
Methods to make the requests work more efficiently
o Eye contact
o Use hand gestures
o Use student names when making requests
o Use physical touch if appropriate
Broken record technique
o Repeat the demands several times if the students
n ignore you or
n object to request or
n argue with it
o Step 4. Use negative consequences to enforce limits
n Time out
n Withdrawing a privilege
n Send to principal’s office
n Call parents
n Send them to another class
n Do not issue threats
n Follow through with what ever you say you re going to do
n Some teachers have made recodings of the misbehaviors
o Step 5. Implement a system of positive consequences
n Less systematic than the negative consequences
n Can use
o Personal attention from the teacher
o Positive notes to calls to parents
o Special privileges
o Group rewards
DIFFICULT TO HANDLE STUDENTS
• Continually Disruptive
• Persistently Defiant
• Demanding Attention
• Denies Authority
• Cause Frustration, Anger & Stress
WHEN TO START?
Assertive discipline program can be implemented at any time
The first few days of a new school year are an especially favorable time to introduce the program.
HOW TO START?
Decide on behaviors you want from students and determine the positive and negative consequences that will accompany them.
Take a clear and concise list to the principal for approval and support.
Keep the list of behaviors (rules) to five or less.
On first meeting with the new students discuss the behaviors, consequences and the methods of follow through you intend to use.
Make clear that all students must comply with the rules.
Tell the students exactly what will happen each time a rule is broken. (The consequences they can expects for the first, second, third offense, etc.)
Ask students to write behaviors and consequences on a sheet of paper, to take the plan home and to have their parents read and sign it. Have them return it to you the next day.
Emphasize that these rules will help the class develop a sense responsibility for learning and behaving acceptably.
Reinforce the message over a period of time at appropriate occasions.
Ask students to tell you in their own words what they believe you expect of them and what the consequences will be for both compliance and violations.
Prepare a short letter describing the plan to parents in which you ask for their support and express your pleasure in being able to collaborate with them in efforts to benefit their child.
Implement the assertive discipline plan immediately.
Decisive Discipline Rogers (2003, 2007 2011)
This is a very practical model that draws on a number of theorists and is based on the interrelationship of rules, rights and responsibilities. Rogers' practical approach includes:
(i) expect disruption and respond according to the level of disruption - (a) low level or (b) high level:
(ii) try to decipher the reason for the individual student's behaviour and
(iii) how they are different from those who do not exhibit those behaviours:
(iv) acknowledge which type of teacher you are. this determines what action you will take to discipline the student:
(v) understand that teachers are part of the classroom ecology and can be predominantly proactive or reactive;
(vi) decisive teachers plan and respond in specific ways. They determine how intrusive to be according to the degree of disruption caused, have a step-by-step plan in place for dealing with disruption that is skilfully graduated from least intrusive (ignoring the behaviour) to most intrusive (invoking a severe penalty). They understand that implementing their plan requires specific communication skills such as appropriate language use, close proximity to the misbehaving student, use of hand gestures and body language and eye contact. The intervention plan is to be implemented consistently with fair warning, calmly and without malice or prejudice.
The lack of an underlying, uniting principle or theory is considered problematic, as is the use of humour. Whilst humour is generally agreed to be positive, it is a very personal trait and does not lend itself easily to transfer. What is funny to one person or in one situation Is not to others. What one teacher can do humorously may not work.