Self-Discipline Approach to Classroom Management

Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Every teacher wants to have good behavior in the classroom. But is there a way to increase good behavior and also boost students' self-discipline? In this lesson, we'll explore the self-discipline approach to classroom management.

Classroom Management

Lupita is a teacher. She wants to be better at keeping her students on task in her classroom, but she isn't sure how to do that. What's the best way to make sure students don't misbehave?

Lupita is concerned about classroom management, which is any action done to increase learning and decrease off-task behavior. Classroom management can take many forms. Lupita can focus on making her lessons engaging, so students will be so involved in learning that they don't misbehave. She could focus on discipline, so that punishments and rewards help guide student behaviors. The point is, there are many ways that Lupita can approach classroom management.

To help Lupita plan her classroom management, let's look at the self-discipline approach to classroom management, including what it is and a few variations on it.

Self-Discipline Approach

Lupita doesn't just want her students to behave when she's teaching them. She also wants them to learn how to control themselves both in her classroom and outside of it.

If her goal is to teach her students self-control in and out of the classroom, the best classroom management technique for Lupita might be the self-discipline approach to classroom management. In this approach, students are encouraged to regulate their own behavior and build self-discipline (hence the name of the approach).

There are two major underlying assumptions of the self-discipline approach to classroom management. The first is that students are able to regulate their behavior. That is, they are able to recognize when they are misbehaving and to correct their bad behavior. If one of Lupita's students doesn't know when they are doing something wrong, the self-discipline approach won't work for him or her.

The other major assumption underlying the self-discipline approach is that teacher-student relationships are built on respect and trust. Teachers have to trust and respect students to play an active role in their own behavior management.


Lupita likes the idea of the self-discipline approach to classroom management, but she isn't sure how to implement it. How does it actually look in the classroom?

Well, the name is slightly misleading. You see, there isn't a single self-discipline approach; there are many variations that all look a little different when implemented. Let's look at three popular self-discipline approaches.

Reality therapy

The first is reality therapy. In this classroom management approach, a misbehaving student discusses his or her infraction with the teacher. Together, the teacher and student come up with a discipline plan, or a way for the student to make things right. Students have input into their discipline, and are consistently asked to reflect on their behavior.

For example, what if one of Lupita's students interrupts the class with talking? Lupita might pull the student aside and talk to him about talking out of turn. She'd explain that it not only hurts that student, but keeps other students from learning, too. Then, she'd ask him what he thinks a fair punishment would be when he talks. The student has to come up with a punishment (such as being held after class), and Lupita (if she agrees that it's a good punishment) would implement it each time the student talks.

Kounin Model

Another self-discipline approach is the Kounin model, named for the man who first described it. In this approach, the focus is on preventing misbehavior from happening. Teachers can do this through being alert and aware of what's going on in class, encouraging on-task behavior, and making sure students are continually working, among other things.

So, let's look at this in Lupita's classroom. With the Kounin model, Lupita will watch for any small infractions and immediately address them with a frown or a shake of her head. She can encourage her students to participate by calling on them randomly to answer questions as she teaches. She could also make sure that there is no downtime in her classroom by having many different activities available for students.

Jones Model

Yet another self-discipline approach is the Jones model. Like the Kounin model, the Jones model is named for the person who invented it. In the Jones model, teachers make sure that expectations for different situations are made clear, use body language to communicate to off-task students, implement rewards and punishments, and avoid wasting too much time disciplining students during class.

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