Lesson 1: Management, Discipline, and Control

Discipline: Student Conduct and Classroom Management

Discipline problems do arise in the college classroom. What would you consider a discipline problem? Why do they arise? How would you address them?

Gerald Amada in his Coping With Misconduct in the College Classroom (1999) identifies common misconduct issues. Among those are:

  • undermining teacher authority
  • spacing-out or sleeping in class
  • frequent absences/tardiness
  • food and cell phone disruptions
  • plagiarism or lying
  • disrespectful behavior
  • refusal to participate
  • too much chit-chat

Undesirable student behaviors experienced by language teachers.

Duration: 01:43

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Lisa Rodriguez, in her article Classroom Management, suggests strategies for addressing such issues by way of maintaining discipline in the classroom, but also by trying to identify their root causes. She offers tips to addressing such behavior and lists "positive impression givers" and "negative impression givers". Positive impression givers include sitting at the front, maintaining eye contact, and being prepared. This as opposed to negative impression givers: rolling one's eyes in response to a statement by the teacher or by a peer, leaving course materials at home, and so on.

Strategies for addressing discipline issues:

  • Define your expectations and the policies of your institution on the first day of the term, and respond in a consistent, decisive manner.
  • Be careful not to embarrass a student in front of his peers unnecessarily.
  • Before you respond to what looks like a conduct issue, consider possible causes. Could there be a reasonable explanation?
  • Create a class culture that encourages appropriate behavior and discourages disruption.
  • Remember that most problems are, after all, what you make them out to be. Stay cool, don't take everything personally, diffuse tensions, exhibit a good sense of humor and much flexibility, but make sure to draw lines..
  • Document disruptive behaviors. Create a paper (or electronic) trail; share your concerns with your supervisor or department chair.

Think about and identify local resources for classroom management: Does your institution have a special unit that deals with behavioral concerns such as plagiarism, harassment, frequent absences, and low performance?

Classroom Management as a Complex Endeavor

Discipline, of course, is only one of the many components that figure into classroom management. The variety of interpersonal relationships and personalities within the classroom and many more aspects can play a critical role. To quote Evertson and Weinstein in their Handbook of Classroom Management (2006:5), classroom management is not merely a "bag of tricks" that is passed on from one teacher to another--it is "a multifaceted endeavor that is far more complex than establishing rules, rewards, and penalties to control students' behavior."