Written By: Claire Watson
Self.....is the key word in this document. How teachers can help students to become self-disciplined????????
Teachers can help empower students to accept responsibility for and control over their choices. Teachers can help students to understand that their choices influence not only theirs, but others lives as well. By fostering social responsibility as a cornerstone for self-monitoring of student behavior and discipline, teachers can set the foundation for a more caring society, promote student dignity, and accentuate student abilities to make morally sound choices in regards to their own behavior. Ellsworth noted, "Research indicates that students who are self-motivated, who have a major stake in decisions, and who self-assess, and self-discipline will be successful in learning concepts, creating ideas, and becoming successful citizens." (1997, p. 1).
This approach of course may raise more than a few eyebrows, as the moral responsibility for our children in the past has always rested primarily on the shoulders of the parents and the clergy. In today’s society, however, we are inundated by single parent homes, dysfunctional families, extended families, etc., and the clergy may or may not be present. Who then takes responsibility for teaching our next generation how to become caring, self-directed, self-responsible citizens???? Who will accept the challenge if not the adults who teach them on a daily basis??? Are we overstepping our bounds?? Or are we stepping up to meet the needs of the next generation??????
Social responsibility.... where and when does it start?? When and where should children be taught how to accept responsibility for their actions, how to accept the consequences and rewards for those actions and how to become.....Self-Disciplined!!!!! In the past, moral values and social responsibility were the primary focus of the family unit, community and the clergy. Mashall cites, "Until the 1960’s the entire community usually assisted in the fostering of social responsibility. The core values of the home, the school, the community and the media reinforced each other. Children then came to school understanding basic values and possessing sufficient social skills so that the teacher and the class could function with relatively few problems." (1998, p. 2). In today’s society there are single parent homes, dysfunctional families, violence, abuse, and extended families. Marshall stated, "Violence, gang activities, and graffiti--all prevalent in our society are manifestations of a lack of social responsibility." (1998, p.1). Where are our children learning social-responsibility and self-direction????? Societal changes have altered the nature of youth and now require a different approach to teaching self-regulation skills to children.
Educators must step up to the plate and hit a home run for children and our future society. They must accept the challenge of modeling and teaching our children how to accept responsibility for their actions. This is a very intimidating task at best. According to a study conducted by Fuetch (cited in Marshall, 1998) 50% of all new teachers will leave the profession within five years and he believes that disruptive behavior among students is a primary reason for their decisions to leave.
Could this demise of educators be caused by the pre-set pedagogy of altering and controlling student behavior by coercion, rewards, and punishment?? According to McCaslin and Good (1998) classroom management has historically been seen by both educators and administrators as controlling student behavior, getting the student to act on demand--be quiet, raise your hand, stay in your seat, etc. Educators have done this by meting out an abundance of punishment and rewards....coercion. We have done this without regard to what prominent study has shown us to be true. Glasser (as cited in Madden) says, "as soon as a teacher uses coercion the teacher and the student become adversaries." (1997, p. 2). Gagne (as cited in Gredler, 1997) believed that being told what to do does not facilitate learning. Vygotsky (also cited in Gredler, 1997) believed that subjected feelings regulated behavior, but that the mechanisms of this regulation remain to be developed. Teachers can help students to develop these subjected feelings into socially acceptable behavior, by empowering students to become self-disciplined through self-monitoring of their own behaviors.
Self-regulation skills include all of the SELF words in the introduction. Self-management, self-monitoring, self-responsibility, self-direction, self-regulation, self-reliance, self-efficacy.....they all lead the way to SELF-DISCIPLINE!!! According to Gredler (1997) Lev Vygotsky viewed self-regulation of behavior as the highest form of psychological functioning!!! In their writings Hoff and Dupall noted a study by Shapiro and Cole, "Recently, research investigations have focused on self-management strategies as a viable alternative to more traditional contingency management approaches. Self- management refers to actions in which an individual takes to change or maintain his or her own behavior. Past research has indicated that behavior changes resulting from self-management interventions have a greater generalization potential than contingency management procedures." (1998, p. 2).
Educators must move beyond student compliance and into motivating student self-discipline, through modeling and affirming the student’s right to become a self-regulated individual. We as educators have created an oxymoron: we strive to develop a curriculum that stretches a child’s potential and urges them to use critical thinking and higher problem solving skills; but at the same time we want them to be quietly obedient, never grasping the most important aspect of learning. McCaslin and Good sum it up nicely, "Simply put, if we want students to understand (i.e., not memorize) academic content, value the process of academic learning, and internalize their education, them we need to help students understand their own behavior in school settings and develop a capacity for managing and regulating themselves in a way that supports their learning goals." (1998, p. 5).
Several models for teaching student self-discipline have been developed. Most outline a classroom community concept, where students are empowered to take control of their behavior and become, as Panico noted "...shareholders and decision makers. Ultimately students choose to exercise control instead of needing to be controlled." Panico further stated, "I believe that our charge is to fashion environments that empower students to take control of their lives, to accept ultimate responsibility for their outcomes and to understand that they influence the outcomes of their classmates." ( 1998, p. 1).
Other caring community models teach simple uncomplicated interventions where students learn to resolve conflicts with other students in positive ways. A good example comes from Schmid, "...children learn to say, ‘stop, I don’t like that" then try ignoring the objectionable behavior." (1998, p. 2) This intervention proved to be affective in reducing time out and discipline referrals.
Still other models, such as RIPP (Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways) where peace education, social skills, problem-solving skills and critical thinking are an integral part of the curriculum framework are working towards reducing violence in the schools by teaching self-discipline through social responsibility. Meyer, Northrup and Bauers report that, ‘the RIPP curriculum is based in social cognitive learning theory (Bandura). Throughout the program, students are continually involved in self-evaluation and self-discipline." (1997, p.2).
Self-discipline approaches use a guidance rather than controlling approach by the teacher (a Constructivist approach). When a student behaves irresponsibly, the teacher helps the student identify the appropriate concept. Methods for doing so may include asking loaded questions as cited in Gossen , "Could you have done worse?" (1998, p. 6). Educators can use this question as a springboard, because if a student was arguing and answers, "Yes, I could have hit him." The educator can then say, "See you practiced self-control. Can you do even better?" This enables the student to look for other socially acceptable options to arguing. We are making the student responsible for his/her behavior and encouraging self-correction by helping the student recognize that there is always another choice for an inappropriate behavior. Marshall says that this, "choice-response thinking encourages self-control, self-evaluation and self-correction and is the basis for developing social responsibility." (1998, p. 7). [Self-Discipline]
By helping students to develop social responsibility and become self-regulated, self-disciplined individuals educators are empowering students to become productive citizens. According to Ellsworth, "This type of teaching is an art and a craft as well as a profession. Despite a century of emulating a scientific approach in teacher education, teaching has continued, at its core , to be a service, a dedication, a calling. Mastery of the art of teaching depends on intuition, on non-verbal impressions, timing, creativity, and a sense of humor. Teaching is a fully human pursuit. Using one’s humanity to teach the nature of humanity naturally expands teaching and student roles." (1997, p. 3).
Will educators embrace or reject the idea of teaching social responsibility as a cornerstone to student self-discipline??? Do we continue to control student behavior, or empower our students to make socially responsible choices for their own behaviors, by modeling and teaching them humanity????? The choice is yours!!!!
Ellsworth, J. (1997). Enhancing student responsibility to increase student success. Educational Horizons, 76, 17-22.
Gossen, D. (1998). Restitution: Restructuring school discipline. Educational Horizons, 76, 182-8.
Gredler, M. (1997). Learning and Instruction. NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc.
Hall, K. and Dupal, G. (1998). Reducing disruptive behavior in general education classrooms: the use of self-management strategies. The School Psychology Review, 27, 121-7.
Madden, L. (1997). A call for strength: how to manage students for a more caring society. Education, 118, 225-8.
Marshall, M. (1998). Fostering social responsibility. Phi Delta Kappa Fastbacks, 428, 7-41.
McCaslin, M. and Good, T. (1998). Moving beyond management as sheer compliance: helping students to develop goal coordination strategies. Educational Horizons, 76, 169-76.
Meyer, A. and Northup, W. (1997). What is violence prevention anyway?. Educational Leadership, 54, 31-3.
Panico, A. (1998). Classroom community model helps disadvantaged kids. The Education Digest, 63, 28-33.
Schmid, R. (1998). Three steps to self-discipline. Teaching Exceptional Children, 30, 36-9.