Assertive vs. Democratic Discipline in Classrooms

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  • 0:03 Background on…
  • 0:42 Assertive Discipline
  • 2:24 Democratic Discipline
  • 3:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

How should students be disciplined in the classroom? What method brings about the best results? This lesson will describe and differentiate between assertive discipline and democratic discipline. Examples and strategies for using both approaches will also be provided.

Background on Classroom Discipline

Do you ever struggle with behavioral issues in your classroom? If so, how do you handle them? Do you ignore undesired behaviors or instead discipline students who misbehave? What does discipline look like in your classroom? These questions are important to consider in terms of classroom discipline.

Discipline is most often defined as a punishment for undesired behavior. The overarching goal of discipline is usually focused on teaching correct ways of behaving. There are many different ways of disciplining students in the classroom. Let's take a closer look at two particular methods: assertive discipline and democratic discipline.

Assertive Discipline

Jamie is a student in your classroom. She struggles to stay seated in class and often gets up without permission and wanders around the classroom. This not only annoys you but is also beginning to distract the other students. How should Jamie be disciplined?

Assertive discipline, a method developed by the educators Lee and Marlene Cantor, places teachers in a position of authority in the classroom. Teachers define clear rules and expectations for behavior, while students must follow those rules to avoid punishment. Assertive discipline includes positive feedback for good behavior and specific punishments for disobeying the rules. How might Jamie's behavior be handled with assertive discipline?

As previously stated, in a classroom governed with assertive discipline, the teacher will clearly define the expectations for behavior. In other words, it should be clear to Jamie and the other students that leaving one's seat without permission is against the rules. This means that Jamie's refusal to do so is punishable.

Secondly, a classroom using assertive discipline will have clearly defined punishments for breaking the rules. Therefore, when Jamie leaves her seat and roams about the classroom, it's pretty clear to everyone that she will be punished in a specific way. The teacher might say, ''I like how Susan and Ron are staying seated. Jamie, leaving your seat without permission is not allowed in this classroom. You broke the rules and will need to stay after class today to discuss this with me. Please sit down now.''

Teachers using the assertive discipline approach remain calm and in control when facing disobedience. They issue praise and positive feedback for desired behavior, call students out when rules are broken, administer punishment, and explain the differences between behaviors that are acceptable and unacceptable.

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