Discipline in the Classroom Discipline is the ?practice or methods

Discipline is the 'practice or methods of ensuring that people obey rules by teaching them to do so and punishing them if they do not' (Encarta Dictionary: English (UK)).

The word discipline often invokes images of punishment, however there is much more to it than punishment alone. Discipline is about learning the rules of conduct that control behaviour and maintain order.

Discipline in the classroom is a fundamental aspect of classroom management. Proactively establishing and maintaining discipline helps promote a productive and enjoyable environment and an atmosphere conducive to learning. C.M. Charles (2002) uses four types of management in his classroom discipline plan: preventative, supportive, corrective and proactive. These are designed to make students accountable and responsible for their choices. According to Charles, preventative discipline includes: 1.assessing, clarifying and communicating students needs and expectations

2.creating a warm, nurturing and personalized classroom environment

3.democratically developing and agreeing rules and consequences

4.developing a routine, but remaining flexible

5.making learning attractive and fun

Regarding un-disciplined behaviour, prevention is undoubtedly the best cure, however at some point behavioural problems are inevitable and disciplinary measures will be required. Charles' plan for supportive and corrective discipline is to 'deal with misbehaviour quickly, consistently and respectfully with class defined consequences'.

The following techniques, adapted from an article by McDaniel and Kappan (1986) also contribute to effective group management:

Focusing attention: Fulfilling and interesting lessons engage students and generate active participants, minimizing opportunity for disruptive behaviour. Students should be focused from the outset; therefore the teacher must be prepared and efficient. This is particularly important where class sizes are large and harder to manage.

Direct instruction: Instructions should be clear and simple and tasks appropriate for the students needs. This contributes to a structured, controlled classroom.

Monitoring progress: Circulating and moving to within close proximity of a student deters misbehaviour.

Modeling: Teachers who are courteous, prompt, enthusiastic, in control, patient and organized provide examples for their students through their own behavior (Churchward, 2003).

Non-verbal cuing: Teacher attitude has a huge impact on student behaviour. Discipline can be communicated using clear body language and eye contact. This can prevent escalation of bad behaviour.

Low profile intervention: Strategies include reminding students of rules and redirecting behaviour to an acceptable alternative. Changing classroom dynamics separates disruptive students and helps avoid detrimental effects of peer pressure. Privately reprimanding a student enhances the chance of a constructive discussion and minimizes class disruption.

Assertive and Humanistic messages: Clearly describe appropriate behaviour and appeal to their conscience using expressions of disappointment towards inappropriate behavior.

Assertive discipline: Rules should be consistently enforced and logical consequences should relate to the behaviour, providing an obvious connection between behaviour and results. Where stronger action is necessary, the teacher should always remain calm and avoid power struggles. Shouting often has the immediate effect of stopping bad behaviour; but may cause humiliation and destroy rapport. It is unlikely to prevent misbehaviour from reoccurring.

Proactive and Positive Discipline: Describe behaviours you want, not those you don't. Reinforcement of expectations, genuine understanding of needs and praise for positive acts encourages proper behavior. Low self-esteem often leads to misbehaviour and praise and encouragement builds confidence:

Consistency and predictability are the cornerstones of discipline and praise is the most powerful reinforcer of learning (Academy of Psychiatry 2006).

The extent to which discipline is an issue in the classroom depends on a variety of factors; students' age, their level of motivation, class size, school policy towards undisciplined behaviour and the student teacher relationship. This relationship is probably the singularly most important factor in establishing discipline. Rapport with students and mutual respect play a significant role in determining classroom atmosphere. The teacher must relate to students and show interest in them. Misbehaviour is far less likely if students like and respect the teacher.

Although no classroom discipline plan can account for all actions and behaviors of students, having a plan that guides a teacher's decision making allows for the flexibility to deal with most situations (Charles 2002).

An enthusiastic, well organized and proactive approach to teaching, combined with mutual respect between student and teacher are fundamental ingredients in achieving a well disciplined and productive classroom.