Applying Gordon's Classroom Management Theory to Discipline

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  • 0:04 Background on Gordon's Theory
  • 0:36 Basics of Gordon's Theory
  • 1:40 Gordon's Theory in the…
  • 3:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore Gordon's theory of classroom management and discover the proper ways to foster mutually beneficial relationships and how to manage discipline in the classroom.

Background on Gordon's Theory

Problem children are never fun for teachers. Whether they're not doing their school work, generally being loud and disruptive, or even recruiting other normally good students into their merry band of mischief, they can be exhausting little terrors to teach. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way. In this lesson, we'll explore Gordon's theory of classroom management, an exciting method of in-class behavioral management which attempts to get each child to take responsibility for their own actions and become self-reliant, attentive students.

The Basics of Gordon's Theory

Gordon's theory, naturally, was formulated by a man named Thomas Gordon. Born in Illinois in 1918, Gordon flew in the Air Force during WWII before going on to get his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Chicago. Gordon first formulated his ideas in the 1960s. The crux of his philosophy is that coercive relationships are detrimental to both parties.

For example, traditionally in the classroom, the teacher wields absolute power to task, award, and punish. Gordon believes this type of power can undermine otherwise productive student-teacher relationships. As a result, according to Gordon's theory of classroom management teachers are encouraged not to discipline students in the traditional manner. Instead, teachers should foster open relationships marked by excellent student-teacher communication that encourages the student to take an active role in their own behavior and understand that it is their own choice and in their own best interest to behave in a manner that benefits the student, the teacher, and the rest of the class.

Gordon's Theory in the Classroom

There are several useful tools prescribed by Gordon that can achieve this vital balance. One of the guiding principles is the ownership of problems. Behavioral problems are 'owned' by those who they affect. So if a student's behavioral issue is affecting only the student's well-being and performance, it is solely his/her problem. Likewise, if the problem affects the entire class, then it becomes the class' problem.

Once this value is instilled in the class, it's important for the teacher and student alike to actively listen to one another's feelings and motivations when behavioral problems arise. For example, if a student is not turning in their assignments, it is the student's problem - the negative impact mainly affects him or her. However, if the teacher listens to the student's justification for his or her behavior, the teacher can gain greater insight into the student's situation, and together they can arrive at a better plan of action for both parties moving forward. This solution is far more preferable than any punitive measures the teacher might employ which would simply breed resentment between both parties.

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