Punishment and Learning

Seminar Paper, 2012
19 Pages



This paper intends to discuss the issue concerning punishment and learning in the classroom situation especially in Tanzanian context. The paper presents learning theories in relation to punishment, types of punishment, forms of punishment, arguments for the use of punishment in schools, arguments against the use of punishment in schools, impacts of punishment on those inflicted, guidelines for the use of punishment, alternatives to punishment, challenges which face the prohibition of punishment and the recommendations.


Schools have regimes of punishment. In fact, it could be argued that systems of punishment are central to the organisation of schooling (Sanderson, 2002). Most aspects of school organisation have been subjected to punishment presumably because it is accepted as 'natural', 'necessary', 'commonsensical' and is seen to be administered with a sense of justice (ibid.). However, it can also structure relationships of power at the same as it is structured by the power relationships of schooling. There is a need for a more critical analysis on the use of punishment in schools.

Punishment is used world-wide in education institutions as a means of controlling undesirable behaviour (Rose, 1984). In some parts of the world it is used extensively and freely, partly because of teachers’ low level of education and partly because there are no legal measures in existence to restrain its use, particularly in the form of corporal punishment (ibid). The use of punishment is a controversial issue, with some psychologists arguing in its favour and others for its banning (ibid). The controversy regarding to the efficacy of punishment for redressing misdeeds in the education system is a long history because of different views about its practice (Omari, 2006). These are the most debatable issues in contemporary psychology, basically because of the varied and equivocal result, coupled with human rights objections, and shaky premises upon which its application is based (ibid). Tanzania, like other countries in the world is reported having high prevalence of punishment especially corporal punishment, (86%) of students being in one way or another punished in schools in a year (Kuleana, 1997). Many countries in the world are struggling to ban the use of punishment, therefore, Tanzania has to put efforts to ban it and not to allow it through the few heads of schools as per Corporal Punishment Regulations act of 1979 section 60 (c) as amended in 2002 (Kuleana, 1997) but to ban it completely.

The term punishment refers to any consequence that decreases the future likelihood of behaviour to recur (Myers, 2004). Punishment means being subjected to a painful stimulus or having a pleasant one removed due to engaging in undesirable (Mwamwenda, 1995; Bernstein & Nash, 2008; Mbunda, 2003). Punishment also can be defined as the removal of pleasant stimulus. The corporal punishment is the punishment that involves doing something that inflicts pain or injury to the body such as spanking the child’s buttocks or slapping child’s hand or face. Normally, deliberate infliction of pain intends to discipline or to reform a wrong doer or change a person. Moreover, the term punishment refers to the striking a student on his or her hand or on his/her normally clothed buttocks with a light flexible stick but excludes striking a child with any other part of the body, (Corporal punishment regulation as stipulated 1978 by the National Education).

Punishment may take the form of suspension, manual work, expulsion, dismissal, isolation, detention after school, scolding, written lines, restitution, being sent to the head master and being deprived of certain privilege. removal of teacher’s smile, forbidding a student from going home on time, deprivation of privileges, reprimanding and time out punishment; or the application of unpleasant stimulus which tends to suppress the response such as corporal punishment, frog jumping, verbal aggression, kneeling down, slapping, working in school farm/garden (Mwamwenda, 1995).

Types of misbehaviour for which punishment may justifiably be administered are disrespect for teachers or authority, lateness, fighting, vandalism, missing classes, failing to do assignments, making a noise in class, chewing gum in class, not paying attention in class and cheek (Mwamwenda, 1995).

Those in favour of punishment say it is quick, easily available and apparently effective. Punishment reduces or eliminates an undesirable behaviour and serves a lesson for other pupils not to engage in similar behaviour. (Rose, 1984). Those who are against the use of punishment state that it is an effective means of controlling undesirable, and that its effects do not justify its use. For example, punishment may develop hatred for school, teachers and learning in general. Also it may lead to absenteeism, or dropping out of school altogether. Many teachers who use spanking, slapping, whipping and beating serve as models for solving of problems by violence. (Mwamwenda, 1995).

Most people think of learning as “studying” (Morris, 1988). Psychologists define it more broadly. This certainly covers classroom learning and studying, and many other aspect of learning such as simple learning (ibid). People have tried to define learning in their own ways. However, the consensus definition that describes learning it is a relatively permanent change in behaviour that result from practice or experience (Morris, 1988; Myers, 2004; Huffman, et a l., 2000 and Kosslyn & Rosenberg, 2004). Learning shapes our thought and language, our motivations and emotions, our personality and attitudes (Myers, 2004). Learning plays a central role in most aspects of human behaviour. That is why it is termed as the modification of preexisting behaviour and understanding (Bernstein & Nash, 2008). Learning occurs when we interact with our environment. For instance, an infant gathers all his energies and tries to stand and walk when he needs something to go for, or cries when feels hungry .Exercising the connection between the learner and the environment results in a huge mount of information about what to do in order to achieve certain goals and objectives. The interactions between the learner and the environment in which she/he exists are a major source of knowledge. The mind of a child is in some respects like a blank floppy disc; it records on itself what the child observes and experiences. The first thing he comes into contact is his mother and the infant bonds closely with her as soon as he gets his first feed.

Types of Punishment

There are two major types of punishment that are frequently used in learning institutions (Lefrançois, 1994; Omari, 2006; Mbunda, 2003). The first type of punishment involves presenting a noxious stimulus, usually in an attempt to eliminate some undesirable. An example of this type of punishment is corporal punishment. Corporal punishment when applied in school settings refers to the purposeful infliction of bodily pain or discomfort by an official in educational system upon a student as a penalty for unacceptable behaviour (Tarimo, 2006). Ministry of Education and Culture (MOEC, 2002), defines corporal punishment as punishment by striking a pupil on his hand or on his normally clothed buttocks with a stick but excludes striking a child with any other instrument or on any other part of the body. Other examples in this type of punishment include; frog jumping, verbal aggression, kneeling down, slapping, working in school farm/garden.

The second type of punishment involves the removal of pleasant stimulus (Lefrançois, 1994; Omari, 2006; Mbunda, 2003). This is the process whereby the teacher denies the student some of the privileges or takes away something which is of interest to the student. Examples of this type of punishment include but not limited to forbidding a student from going home on time, reprimanding and time out punishment. Similarly, stopping smiling to a student in the class after wrongdoing represents this variation of punishment as well. Other scholars such as (Gordon, 1989) categorize punishment as positive one and negative punishment. Positive punishment is the punishment in which an aversive or undesirable stimulus is applied to decrease a response. Negative punishment is a punishment in which a desired stimulus is removed to decrease a response. By providing punishments, the expectations are that the student will change their behaviour into the desired one. Thus, undesired stimuli can produce desired. Punishment can be psychological or corporal punishment.


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Punishment and Learning
University of Dodoma  (College of Education)
Educational Psychology
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punishment, learning
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Erasto Kano (Author), 2012, Punishment and Learning, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/191323


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