Teach English in Jieshou Zhen - Zhuzhou Shi

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Educators have long debated whether or not forms of punishment are productive or counter-productive to modifying student behavior in the classroom. There are multiple forms of punishment which fall within a spectrum of effectiveness and approval, for example the least effective and most disapproved form of punishment being corporal punishment and the most favored and relatively effective form of punishment being non-violent punishment. All forms of punishment, however, are used as a behavioral tool by authority figures to ‘discourage the wrongdoer from repeating the offending behavior, and thereby it aims to restore order and control’ (Rich 261). In this essay, I will be focusing upon the use of non-violent punishment as a method of restoring control, analyzing its effectiveness, and whether alternatives to punishment may be more productive when managing undesirable behavior within an educational setting. The debate into whether non-violent punishment is effective or ineffective amongst learners has been ongoing for many decades. Many who oppose ‘claim that punishment can damage relationships, create resentment, and compel rather than encourage obedience’ (Rich 261). In more extreme cases, it is argued that ‘punishment may promote school absenteeism, dropping out, school vandalism, and excessive anxiety’ (Rich 261), all of which are detrimental to the student and to the school’s learning atmosphere. However, facing punishment is commonly part of a person’s development when growing up, as it aids in establishing their understandings of right and wrong, of consequence, and of responsibility. Therefore, as educators, it becomes a very difficult conundrum as to how one can positively develop their pupil’s understandings of these behavioral moralities when punishment is considered unethical. Studies have established that punishment is most effective when it ‘did not involve corporal harm and did not attempt to hold the pupil to ridicule’ (Hall et al. 25). Instead, it was found that when applied systematically, whereby ‘teachers devised certain behavioral criteria for the application of punishment’ (Hall et al. 25), punishment proved to be effective. Where unsystematic application of punishment would usually produce emotional resentment or retaliatory behavior amongst pupils, systematic application of punishment caused ‘pupils [to exhibit] little if any emotional behavior… [the pupils] recognized the fairness of systematic procedures’ (Hall et al. 25). Thereby indicating that if punishment were to be utilized, it should be fairly administered when behavioral criteria is violated. Furthermore, this study reinforces the sentiment that punishment ‘should not be harsh or excessive, as can occur when teachers punish in fits of anger or resentment. Punishment needs to be administered calmly, deliberately, and as briefly and mildly as the infraction and situation permits’ (Rich 263). Thus, punishment can be effective in restoring control and in cementing what is acceptable behavior when applied fairly and consistently with established rules, and when the punishment itself does not embarrass or shame the student. Then again, there is still the issue of punishment being a negative attempting to instill neutrality or a positive outcome. Punishment is fundamentally based upon taking something away (the negative) from the wrongdoer to encourage redemption (the positive) as well as refrainment from being punished further (the neutral). This being the nature of punishment has had many call into question the ethics of its usage, and have therefore attempted to find alternatives to punishment. One of the most recommended alternatives to punishment is to instill positive and negative reinforcement within the learning environment. Some studies have suggested that ‘Both positive and negative reinforcement are more effective in developing “desirable” student behavior than is punishment’ (McDaniel 455). Thus, incentivizing good behavior through reward systems is a more favored method amongst educators as it does not take anything away from the wrongdoer and instills a more positive learning environment. Yet, this alternative can be criticized as being slow to cement within a classroom and challenging to keep consistent, especially if an educator does not teach a class on a regular schedule or if the students themselves are apathetic to being rewarded or punished. In conclusion, depending on the educators’ teaching situation, their ethics and the extent of their students’ misbehavior, if positive and negative reinforcement have failed in implementation, systematic non-violent punishment should be utilized to restore learning conditions. For although it is debatable whether educators should be the authority figures who instill behavioral morality within a student and whether or not it is ethical to punish, it is undeniable that an educator’s duty is to teach – and one cannot teach effectively if a lesson is reduced into a disruptive and chaotic atmosphere. Word Count: (744) References: Hall, R. Vance, et al. “The Effective Use of Punishment to Modify Behavior in the Classroom.” Educational Technology, vol. 11, no. 4, 1971, pp. 24–26. JSTOR, McDaniel, Thomas R. “Exploring Alternatives to Punishment: The Keys to Effective Discipline.” The Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 61, no. 7, 1980, pp. 455–458. JSTOR, Rich, John Martin. “Punishment and Classroom Control.” The Clearing House, vol. 61, no. 6, 1988, pp. 261–264. JSTOR,