Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction
Statement of the Problem
Purpose of the Study
Chapter 2: Literature Review
Concerns Regarding School Safety
Consequences of Student Misbehavior
Zero Tolerance Policy
Developing Effective Discipline Programs
Approaches to Encouraging Appropriate Student Behavior
The MYD Program
Theoretical Framework of the MYD Program
Chapter 3: Methodology
Chapter 4: Results
Results for Research Question 1
Results for Research Question 2
Results for Research Question 3
Results for Research Question 4
Results for Research Question 5
Chapter 5: Discussion
Overview of the Study
Discussion of Results
Implications of Findings
Recommendations for Future Research
A Percentage of Students in Specific Groups Who Achieved at or Above Grade Level on the State ABCs End-of-Grade Reading Tests
B Percentage of Students in Specific Groups Who Achieved at or Above Grade Level on the State ABCs End-of-Grade Mathematics Tests
C Percentage of All Students in Grades 7 and 8 Who Achieved at or Above Grade Level in Both Reading and Mathematics on the State ABCs End-of-Grade Tests
1 Acts of Crime or Violence, Suspensions, and Expulsions Per 100 Students ..
2 Demographics of Students Before and After Implementation
3 Make Your Day (MYD) Training and Support Offered by Make Your Day Facilitators
4 Consistency of Implementation of Make Your Day Program Components ..
5 Modification of Make Your Day Program Components
6 Ease of Implementing Make Your Day Program Components
7 Effectiveness of Implementation of Make Your Day Program Components
8 Impact of Make Your Day Program Components on Student Disciplinary Problems
9 Impact of Make Your Day (MYD) Program on Student Achievement and Parent Involvement
10 Impact of Make Your Day (MYD) on School Climate
11 Satisfaction With the Make Your Day (MYD) Program
12 The Average Number of Short-Term, Out-of-School Behavior Suspensions Per 100 Students and the Average Percentage of Students Who Attended School Daily
13 Chi-Square Test for Statistical Significance of Differences in Suspensions and the Statistical Significance of Differences in Attendance
14 Percentage of All Students Who Achieved at or Above Grade Level on the State ABCs End-of-Grade Tests
15 Chi-Square Test for Statistical Significance of Differences in Pre- and Post-intervention percentages of All Students Who Achieved at or Above Grade Level
16 Chi-Square Test for Statistical Significance of Differences in Pre- and Post-intervention Percentages of Students in Specific Groups Who Achieved at or Above Grade Level in Reading
17 Chi-Square Test for Statistical Significance of Differences in Pre- and Post-intervention Percentages of Students in Specific Groups Who Achieved at or Above Grade Level in Mathematics
18 Chi-Square Test for Statistical Significance of Differences in Pre- and Post-intervention Percentages of All Students Who Achieved at or Above Grade Level in Both Reading and Mathematics
Percentage of Students at or Above Grade Level in Both Reading and Mathematics on the State ABCs End-of-Grade Tests
Impact of a Citizenship Program for Middle School Students. Jeanette Mughal, 2013: Applied Dissertation, Nova Southeastern University, Abraham S. Fischler School of Education. ERIC Descriptors: Character Education, Middle Schools, Discipline Problems, Program Effectiveness
The problem addressed in this study was the inappropriate behavior of students at the target middle school located in a southeastern state. Teachers were concerned about the behavior of students in the classrooms and elsewhere in the school. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of the Make Your Day (MYD, 2012) school-wide citizenship program on student academic achievement, attendance, and short-term behavior suspensions at the target middle school.
The research design that was used to ascertain if change occurred after the program was implemented was the interrupted time series design. The behavior, attendance, and academic achievement of students in the 3 years (2003-2004 to 2006-2007) before the implementation of the program were compared with these areas in the 4 years after implementation of the program (2007-2008 to 2010-2011). In addition, teachers at the target school were surveyed in order to determine their perceptions of the MYD school- wide citizenship program.
The teachers’ responses on the questionnaires indicated they believed they had received sufficient training to implement the MYD program but all components of the program were not implemented with fidelity. Also the majority of the teachers did not have positive perceptions of the program. Implementation of the MYD program did not improve the number of short-term, out-of-school behavior suspensions or students’ attendance. Moreover, overall student academic achievement did not improve after implementation of the MYD program nor did improvement in mathematics and reading improve for gender groups, ethnic groups, or economically disadvantaged students except for the noted improvement of Hispanic students in mathematics. Suggestions for program improvements and recommendations for future research are included.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Statement of the Problem
The topic. This study was designed to determine the impact of a school-wide citizenship program on the behavior, attendance, and academic achievement of students at a middle school. The program was implemented to address student misbehavior. Simonsen, Sugai, and Negron (2008) suggested that because educators are very concerned about the effect student misbehavior is having on the school climate, they need to develop proactive, evidence-based plans to reduce the offending behaviors. In the 2011 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll (Bushaw & Lopez, 2011), lack of discipline was cited as the third most pressing problem facing schools, behind school funding and overcrowded schools. Lack of discipline is a problem because widespread misbehavior can negatively affect the academic achievement of all students (Gest & Gest, 2005; Horner et al., 2004). Finding ways to prevent or at least respond to behavior problems is important not only for the school climate but also for the students misbehaving who may face rejection from teachers and other students, increased academic problems, and who are at risk for dropping out of school (Stormont, Lewis, & Beckner, 2005; Tyler-Wood, Cereijo, & Pemberton, 2004).
The research problem. The problem addressed in this study was the inappropriate behavior of students at the target middle school located in a southeastern state. Teachers were concerned about the behavior of students in the classrooms and elsewhere in the school. Table 1 shows behavior disruptions at the target school. The increasing numbers of short-term suspensions indicated that misbehaviors such as refusal to comply with rules, defiance, dishonesty, and aggression were disrupting learning in the school.
Acts of Crime or Violence, Suspensions, and Expulsions Per 100 Students
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Background and justification. Concerns regarding student misbehavior are not unique to the target school. In the 2008 School Survey on Crime and Safety (Robers, Zhang, & Truman, 2010) completed by 2,560 school principals, middle school principals reported the following behaviors occurred in their schools at least once a week: student bullying (43.5%), gang activities (35.4%), student acts of disrespect for teachers other than verbal abuse (17.7%), and student verbal abuse of teachers (9.8%). The survey results also indicated that in several categories, there were more discipline problems reported at urban schools and schools that had greater numbers of students (76.0% or more) eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food, and Nutrition Service, 2011). Moreover, research indicated that concerns regarding student misbehavior at middle schools are increasing (Lapointe & Legault, 2004; Muscott et al., 2004). At the same time, there are federal mandates stating that educators must fine efficacious ways to reduce these problems. Maag (n.d.) reported that the 2004 Individual with Disabilities Education Act included these disciplinary requirements:
All students, with and without disabilities, deserve to be educated in safe, welldisciplined schools, and orderly learning environments.
School personnel should have effective techniques to prevent behavior problems and to deal positively with them if they occur.
A balanced approach to discipline must exist in which the order and safety of schools is maintained, while also protecting the rights of students with disabilities to receive a free appropriate public education. (para. 2)
Gable, Hester, Hester, Hendrickson, and Sze (2005) suggested that if educators are going to meet the requirements for a learning environment that is orderly and the requirements to ensure students are successful academically, as indicated in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, they will need “the skills and supports to respond to a rapidly changing school age population” (p. 40). The necessary skills and supports should include the adoption of researched-based strategies. Epstein, Atkins, Cullinan, Kutash, and Weaver (2008) stated that two interventions have strong research evidence of effectiveness in reducing school behavior problems: making environmental changes in the classroom and explicitly teaching behavior and social skills. In addition, recommended interventions that have moderate research evidence of effectiveness are (a) collaborating with colleagues to develop intervention plans, (b) determining the cause of a student’s misbehavior and developing specific response strategies, and (c) adopting a school-wide program to prevent misbehavior.
Implementation of a citizenship program. At the target school, there was a need to develop behavioral strategies that would enable all students to learn. Students who constantly misbehaved needed to be made accountable for their negative behaviors so that teachers and students could work comfortably without fear of being physically or verbally attacked by their students. School staff members, administrators, and parents cooperated to design a system of behavior accountability for students that would improve the standards of student conduct and ensure the safety of everyone in the learning environment.
After consideration of possible options, the educators, with the support of parents, chose the Make Your Day (MYD, 2012) program, and it was implemented in fall of 2007. School district administrators organized a day of training for all staff members and administrators. Epstein et al. (2008) suggested that a program intended to address behavior concerns should have a school-wide focus and should teach behavior skills; the MYD program met these needs. MYD “is based on a philosophy that promotes development of an internal locus of control in students. The basic tenets of this philosophy are built on human dignity and responsibility” (Philosophy section, para. 1) Deficiencies in the evidence. Vale and Coe (2006), who evaluated the MYD program, reported that their evidence regarding outcomes related to academic achievement and behavior issues was not decisive. They suggested additional studies using a quasi-experimental approach are needed to determine the efficacy of the program. Osher, Bear, Sprague, and Doyle (2010) also stressed the importance of collecting data that can be used to assess the success of interventions intended to improve school discipline. In addition, Greenberg et al. (2003) indicated that multiyear evaluations are needed in order to determine the sustainability of programs to prevention misbehavior and promote positive social skills.
Audience. The audience for this study was the students, staff, and school administrators at the target school as well as district administrators who would benefit by having access to the information regarding the effectiveness of the program, which may be used for future considerations regarding program implementation. In addition, the information gained would add to the body of literature about the MYD program.
The setting. The target school is the only middle school within the county; therefore, all middle school students in Grades 7 and 8 attend this school. The student population in the 2007-2008 school year, when the MYD program was implemented, was 652. There was a principal, an assistant principal, 42 classroom teachers, 10 regular substitute teachers, and a support staff of 10. The state sets target proficiency goals in reading and mathematics that schools must meet to make adequate yearly progress under the federal NCLB legislation (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). In the 2003-2004 to 2006-2007 school years, the school did not make adequate yearly progress.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of the MYD (2012) school- wide citizenship program on student academic achievement, attendance, and short-term behavior suspensions at the target middle school. The research design that was used to ascertain if change occurred after the program was been implemented was the interrupted time series design. Evans (2007) stated this type of evaluative design consists of “multiple historical measures on a treatment group before and after its exposure to the program” (Interrupted Time Series section, para. 1). The behavior, attendance, and academic achievement of students in the 4 years (2003-2004 to 2006-2007) before the implementation of the program were compared with these areas in the 4 years after implementation of the program (2007-2008 to 2010-2011). In addition, teachers at the target school were surveyed in order to determine their perceptions of the MYD school- wide citizenship program. Both formative and summative questions were asked. The data gathered to answer the formative question determined if the program was implemented as intended, and the data gathered to answer the summative questions determined the effect of the program.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
The problem addressed in this study was the inappropriate behavior, which included refusal to comply with rules, defiance, dishonesty, and aggression, of students at the target middle school. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of the MYD (2012) school-wide citizenship program on student academic achievement, attendance, and short-term behavior suspensions at the target middle school. This chapter begins with literature on concerns regarding school safety followed by consequences of student misbehavior, zero tolerance, and antisocial behavior. Developing effective discipline programs is then discussed. Literature also is reviewed regarding approaches to encouraging appropriate student behavior, the MYD program, and the theoretical framework of the MYD program. The research questions are also presented.
Concerns Regarding School Safety
Stephens (n.d.), executive director of the National School Safety Center, offered this definition of a safe school:
A safe school is in place when students can learn and teachers can teach in a welcoming environment, free of intimidation and fear. It is a setting where the educational climate fosters a spirit of acceptance and care for all students; where behavior expectations are clearly communicated, consistently enforced, and fairly applied. (What is a Safe School? section, para. 1)
Borum, Cornell, Modzeleski, and Jimerson (2010) suggested that such plans to create a safe school must encompass all behaviors from low-level misbehavior to serious crimes while maintaining an emphasis on school order and safety. School violence is an area that includes the most serious student misbehaviors and these behaviors must be addressed when developing a plan to ensure school safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2011) stated that school violence includes “bullying, fighting (e.g., punching, slapping, kicking), weapon use, electronic aggression, and gang violence” (What is School Violence? section, para. 2).
Creating an environment of learning and safety has become more difficult in today’s society because of school shootings that have created considerable anxiety among members of the public and have created doubt regarding the safety of schools (Borum et al., 2010). In recent years, schools have become perceived as being less safe as a result of school shootings and increases in other violent acts. The CDC (2010a) suggested that these violent acts being committed by students represent a public health threat and that “school violence is a subset of youth violence, a broader public health problem. Youth violence refers to harmful behaviors that may start early and continue into young adulthood” (para. 2).
Borum et al. (2010), however, argued that the media creates too much of a focus on school shootings and asserted, “The fear of school shootings is greatly exaggerated in comparison with other risks such as riding in a car” (p. 27). Cornell (2003) also contended the publicity that accompanies a school shooting may have contributed to several additional school shootings in the 1997-1998 and 1998-1999 school years. Cornell suggested that some of the shootings “may be to copycat behavior stimulated by tremendous media publicity” (p. 706).
The CDC (2010b), working with the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education, gathered statistics that indicated between July 1992 and June 2006, homicides among school-age children did decrease from 0.07 per 100,000 to 0.03 per 100,000 students but that between July 1999 and June 2006, homicide levels among school-age children remained stable. Findings by the CDC (2008) regarding violent deaths at schools suggested the rates were higher for males in secondary schools and in central city areas. There were 116 students who were killed in 109 incidents between 1992 and 2006 (or at least 16.5 homicides that involved a student for each year reported). Most of these violent deaths occurred at the start of a semester, during transitional times such as lunchtime, or before and after the school day. Almost 50% of those who committed the crime often gave warning signals to their victims by writing a note or verbal threat.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (CDC, 2010b), which is administered by the CDC and conducted by CDC and state and local education and health agencies, was completed by students in Grades 9 to 12 in 2009. In the report of the results, the CDC compared health-risk behaviors in 1991 or 1993 (depending on when the questions were first asked) and 2009. Instances of most at-risk behaviors were reduced in 2009 when compared to 1991 or 1993. In 2009, 5.6% of students indicated having various types of weapons such as a gun, knife, or club at school the 12 months before the survey; this was a reduction from 11.8% in 1991. There were 11.1% of students who were involved in physical fighting the 12 months before the survey and 16.2% in 1991. In 2009, 25.4% of students were offered, sold, or given an illegal drug on school grounds. This was fewer than in 1993 when 24.0% of students reported being offered an illegal drug on school grounds. The percentage of students who attempted suicide the year before the survey was completed was 6.3%. This was a reduction from 1991 (7.3%) and the peak in 2001 (during the 12 months before the survey). After examining a variety of data related to school safety, Mayer and Furlong (2010) concluded the data indicated that although schools are safer than they were at the turn of the century, violence, bullying, intimidation, and anything that can harm students are issues that concern school stakeholders.
Although the current study was not directly focused on school shootings and other acts of extreme violence, the data did suggest that the creation of an environment of school order and safety is necessary. The CDC (2010a) maintained that school safety features should be promoted and enacted to ensure that all within the learning community can be safe and learning can take place. A strong discipline program where the learning community fully participates in addressing and using strategies to help curb misbehaviors is required to reduce the effects of an unsafe school climate. Skiba and Peterson (2000) concluded, “The key importance of school discipline in preventing school violence has been highlighted by data demonstrating the relationship between day-to-day school disciplinary disruptions and more serious violence” (p. 336).
Consequences of Student Misbehavior
The Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS, 2004) stated the purpose of schools is to ensure that students achieve academic, social, and lifestyle skills and competencies. Unfortunately, the problem behaviors of students often make it difficult for educators to achieve this goal. The Center on PBIS offered these reasons to explain why educators are challenged to cope with disorder in schools:
1. “Students are more different from each other than similar.”
2. “Multiple initiatives compete and overlap.”
3. “School climates are reactive and controlling.”
4. “School organizational structures and processes are inefficient and ineffective.”
5. “Public demand is high for greater academic accountability and achievement.”
6. “Occurrences of antisocial behavior in school (e.g., aggression, substance use, dropping out, attendance, and insubordination/noncompliance) are more severe and complex.”
7. “Limited capacity exists to educate students with disabilities.”
8. “Media that portrays role models are violent and antisocial.” (pp. 7-8)
Moreover, Rathvon (2008) suggested that educators are witnessing a growth in the number of students with behavioral or academic challenges due to the growing heterogeneity of classrooms, which include students with a variety of “achievement levels, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, socioeconomic status, and disability status, including an increasing number of students from families living below the poverty level and/or from homes in which English is not the primary language” (pp. 3-4). In addition, Crosnoe, Johnson, and Elder (2004) reported an increasing number of students are entering school without the behavioral, academic, and social skills required in the school environment. In addition, educators are coping with stronger testing and accountability requirements.
All of this means teachers have many tasks to complete and coping with the behavior problems of students has complicated their roles of being educators (Kelly, 2009). Kelly (2009) suggested that coping with student misbehavior makes it difficult for teachers to complete these categories of tasks performed by teachers: planning instruction; record keeping; instructing students; assessing learning; and professional activities, such as attending professional development sessions or participating in student extracurricular activities. Teachers’ primary goal is to educate their students but the focus on maintaining discipline has become a worrisome task to overcome in order for learning to be accomplished. Teachers have also been subjected to threats and violence in schools. Robers et al. (2010) reported that in the 2003-2004 school year, 7% of teachers were threatened with injury by students from their school. This number was less than in the 1993-1994 school year when the percentage was 12%. However, in the 2003-2004 school year, 10% of teachers working in urban area schools were threatened by students. In suburban area schools, 6% of teachers reported being threatened as did 5% of teachers working in towns and rural area schools.
Student misbehavior, whether it is violent or low level, negatively affects teachers. In a study of 100 British primary school teachers, Hastings and Bham (2003) explored the relationship between student behavior patterns and teacher burnout. Teachers completed a rating scale to gauge the behavior of their students and a questionnaire to measure their attitudes to their work environment. The results of Hastings and Bham’s analysis indicated student behavior did affect teacher burnout. Matheny, Gfroerer, and Harris (2000) indicated a teacher who is suffering from burnout suffers a loss of self-esteem and enthusiasm for teaching.
When students are engaged in antisocial behaviors, the learning climate of the classroom is negatively affected and students miss learning opportunities. Nishina, Juvonen, and Witkow’s (2005) study of the self-reports of 1,526 Grade 6 students indicated that students who reported they were victimized by other students in the fall also reported they had physical symptoms and psychosocial adjustment problems in the spring. The authors also found that students with psychosocial problems were more likely to be victimized. In a study of 368 students, Stearns, Dodge, and Nicholson (2008) found students were more likely to exhibit misbehaviors related to authority acceptance after being exposed to disorderly behavior in the classroom.
Whitted and Dupper (2005) supported the findings of Nishina et al. (2005) and indicated that bullying, in particular, can create a climate of fear in a school. For example, Rivers, Poteat, Noret, and Ashurst (2009) conducted a study of how 2,002 students, aged 12- to 16-year-olds, who witnessed bullying experienced risks to mental health, such as anxiety and depression, to a greater extent than participants in bullying incidents. In a study that involved 199 elementary schoolchildren, Schwartz, Gorman, Nakamoto, and Toblin (2005) found that students who were victimized by other students experienced reduced academic achievement. Schwartz et al. suggested a longer study may help to determine the longevity of the negative consequences. Nakamoto and Schwartz (2010) followed this study with a meta-analysis of 33 studies (29,552 participants) related to students victimized by peers. The results indicated there was a significant, although small, negative correlation between the two factors. The perpetrators of aggressive actions also experience negative consequences for their behavior. Walter, Lambie, and Ngazimbi (2008) reported that students who are often disciplined for antisocial behavior are at risk for later problems with misbehavior and social relationships. In a study of 714 African American and European American students, Dishion, Nelson, and Yasui (2005) found that students who in Grade 6 had behavior and academic problems and were rejected by other students were also likely to be involved in gangs in Grade 8.
Henry (2000) reported that students who commit the most misbehavior within the learning community tend to be the students who are failing, lack motivation to learn, and who often feel alienated. Misbehaviors may even be attributable to the students’ own personal challenges: race, gender, grade level, family economic situation or level, and limited-English proficiency (Gregory, Skiba, & Noguera, 2010). The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (Hazelden Foundation, 2013) stated that students who bully others are more inclined than other students to participate in fights, possess a weapon, vandalize property, and be academically unsuccessful at school. Smokowski and Kopasz (2005) reported that research indicated middle-school-aged boys who were bullies were more likely than other students to have a criminal record by the age of 30.
The next section describes the effectiveness of zero tolerance policy, a response to concerns about student misbehavior, and school safety that has been adopted by some schools. The policy is based on the assumption that if students who contribute to disorder in schools are expelled, other students will be deterred from this behavior and a safe place to learn will be ensured (Skiba, 2010).
Zero Tolerance Policy
Sugai and Horner (2008) asserted that when educators are faced with recurring and seemingly ineradicable problem behaviors causing disorder in schools, they often implement reactive strong punishments. The creation of zero tolerance policies was such a response in the early 1990s to violent acts that occurred in schools. Cornell and Mayer (2010) stated the policy, which was intended to ban drugs and guns from schools, was enlarged to encompass more minor misdemeanors. According to Skiba (2008), the American Psychological Association (APA) Zero Tolerance Task Force indicated that a zero tolerance policy “mandates the application of predetermined consequences, most often severe and punitive in nature, that are intended to be applied regardless of the gravity of behavior, mitigating circumstances, or situational context” (p. 852). The policy is intended to expel students who violate school rules in order to improve the learning conditions for the majority of students.
The APA Zero Tolerance Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of the literature to determine the effectiveness of the zero tolerance policy in ensuring that educators are better able to cope with behavior infractions and create safe schools (Skiba, 2008). The task force found no evidence that discipline issues are dealt with more consistently or that the school climate has improved. In fact, Raffaele-Mendez (2003) and Skiba and Rausch (2006) found that overall academic achievement of students was negatively impacted by a large number of suspensions and expulsions in a school. In addition, students who are suspended are likely to exhibit increased incidents of misbehavior and resulting suspensions (Raffaele-Mendez, 2003). The APA Zero Tolerance Task Force recommended that zero tolerance policies be reserved only for the most serious infractions related to violent assaults or threats of assaults, weapons, and drugs and recommended reforms to the policy (Skiba, 2008). A primary recommendation was that all disciplinary programs be rigorously evaluated to determine if they benefit students. Peterson and Schoonover (2008) suggested school administrators cease using the term zero tolerance because it has the connotation of being an unyielding approach that ignores the conditions of the situation. The APA Zero Tolerance Task Force recommended, with regard to alternatives to the use of zero tolerance policies, that schools (a) find ways to improve school climate and student engagement (especially for students who have been suspended or expelled), (b) develop threat assessment strategies, and (c) plan a variety of options for students involved in serious disruption of the learning setting.
Because of the negative social, emotional, and academic consequences of a lack of discipline in schools, it is essential that all members of the school community cooperate to create a healthy school climate (National School Climate Center, 2011). The National School Climate Center (2011) indicated the National School Climate Council, that is led by the National School Climate Center (and the Education Commission of the States), developed this definition of a positive school climate: “A sustainable, positive school climate fosters youth development and learning necessary for a productive, contributing and satisfying life in a democratic society” (How Do We Define School Climate? section, para. 2). The National School Climate Center said the National School
Climate Council also indicated that a positive climate has these features:
1. Norms, values and expectations that support people feeling socially, emotionally and physically safe.
2. People are engaged and respected.
3. Students, families and educators work together to develop, live and contribute to a shared school vision.
4. Educators model and nurture attitudes that emphasize the benefits and satisfaction gained from learning.
5. Each person contributes to the operations of the school and the care of the physical environment. (How Do We Define School Climate? section, para. 3)
Developing Effective Discipline Programs
Foley (2007) argued that most teachers would rather be teaching students than disciplining them; however, creating rules and regulations is a task that most teachers know is essential in establishing an environment conducive to learning. McLeod, Fisher, and Hoover (2003) agreed and stated, “Discipline in the 21st century should be proactive—focused on preventing conflicts and disruptions rather than on punishing misbehavior. We need to teach students responsibility, self-management, problem solving, and decision-making” (p. 61). According to McLeod et al., the focus is on the teacher and establishing a positive, working environment for the students rather than one of fear and intimidation. When students perceive that a teacher has a problem with classroom management, they may criticize and prejudge the teacher, which usually results in the teacher having less control and ultimately less respect. McLeod et al. suggested, “The teacher’s job is not to control, but to teach; not to command, but to influence” (p. 61).
Boynton and Boynton (2005) agreed discipline systems that are most effective use proactive strategies and suggested the four essential components of such a system are “positive teacher-student relations, clearly defined parameters of acceptable student behaviors, monitoring skills, and consequences” (p. 3). This may be achieved with some type of social contract that outlines explicit behavioral expectations and consequences. Tauber (2007) suggested that parameters of acceptable student behaviors may be developed if students and teachers create a social contract that outlines explicit behavioral expectations and consequences. McLeod et al. (2003) reinforced this idea of creating a working environment for students and teachers by stating that structure, which includes procedures, standards, and rules, is needed whenever more than two people meet for a purpose. Furthermore, they maintained it is more effective to teach students techniques that will help them with productive behaviors rather than to rely on rules. Foley (2007) suggested that students can be given the choice of following the expectations for behavior or of choosing the consequences. This method may be problematic for some educators who believe that allowing students a choice in their consequences for misbehavior may give them an unrealistic perception of who is in charge. However, giving students a choice of consequences gives them an opportunity to think about their behavior. McLeod et al. (2003) stated the importance of a teacher being able to express and receive verbal communications in a way that will increase the likelihood of students making appropriate behavior choices. The focus of the interrelationships within the learning community should be on the students. Contributing factors that can determine the climate within the classroom environment are how students perceive themselves and how they relate to their peers.
The Center on PBIS (2004) argued that educators need to move to a positive and preventive discipline plan by taking these actions:
1. “Work for and with all students, since every child entering school needs behavior support.”
2. “Give priority to empirically validated procedures and systems that have demonstrated effectiveness, efficiency, and relevance.”
3. “Integrate academic and behavioral success for all students.”
4. “Emphasize prevention in establishing and maintaining safe and supportive school climates.”
5. “Expand the use of effective practices and systems to district, county, regional, and state levels.”
6. “Increase collaboration among multiple community support systems (i.e., education, juvenile justice, community mental health, family, and medical).”
7. “Build a school environment where team building and problem solving skills are expected, taught, and reinforced.” (p. 9)
Bear (2011) agreed that a preventative and positive discipline plan is necessary and suggested that a framework of positive psychology provides guidelines regarding how to achieve the dual purposes of discipline: to direct the behavior of students, a short- term goal, and to aid in the growth of their self-discipline, a long-term goal. This can be achieved, according to Bear, by emphasizing capabilities related to responsibility and self-determination as well as virtues and character traits such as kindness and social and emotional intelligence. The plan to enhance self-discipline must include provisions for meeting the students’ needs for autonomy, belongingness, and competence. The next section describes discipline approaches that meet the criteria outlined by Bear.
Approaches to Encouraging Appropriate Student Behavior
Osher et al. (2010) suggested there are three promising approaches to encouraging appropriate student behavior in order to have a safe school with a positive climate. These are the ecological approach, school-wide PBIS (SWPBIS), and social emotional learning (SEL). Literature related to these approaches will be presented in this section.
Ecological approach. This approach is classroom based and focuses on classroom management techniques to engage the students in classroom activities.
Ecologists believe that the classroom environment has an important influence on the learning that takes place (Doyle, 2006). Osher et al. (2010) stated the ecological approach is based on the belief that participation in classroom events are well-organized that encourages students to exercise self-discipline when they see the benefits of working cooperatively. Furthermore, Osher et al. said there should be prominence given to “cooperation, engagement, and motivation” rather than “compliance, control, and coercion” (p. 49).
Teachers are an essential component in a learning community and play a primary role in meeting the learning needs of their students. The classroom environment is the main arena of the teacher. Marzano, Marzano, and Pickering (2003) reported research indicated the most influential variable affecting student achievement is the teacher. Experienced teachers have the advantage of becoming more effective educators over their years of experience within their profession but newly graduated teachers bring innovative ideas and strategies. Whether experienced or novices, all share the universal objective of having all their students succeed. Moreover, teachers would like to have classroom environments where students’ learning is not interrupted by behavioral disruptions. According to Marzano et al. (2003), the effective teacher not only makes decisions about teaching strategies and curriculum but also about effective classroom management techniques. The authors suggested that each of these areas is essential. Marzano et al. completed a meta-analysis of more than 100 research studies related to classroom management and calculated the following effect sizes for the various aspects of managing a classroom: rules and procedures (-.763), disciplinary interventions (-.909), teacher-student relationships (-.869), and mental set (awareness and objectivity) of the teacher (-1.294). The effect size indicated the decrease in the classroom disruptions when these elements were in place. As shown, all of these factors reduced the misbehavior affecting learning in the classroom.
Marzano et al. (2003) suggested the effective teacher has to establish ground rules and procedures at the very beginning of the school year so that expectations for students are clearly understood. These rules and procedures vary for different grade levels and research suggested the students should participate in their development (Marzano et al., 2003). When it comes to disciplining students, teachers have to use a variety of strategies to eliminate classroom disruptions. Teachers should know their students well in order to be effective in using tactics that suit the student. A more effective teacher is one who communicates well with the students, especially the disruptive students. Despite the variations of interventions for treating misbehaviors, the most important relationship is between the student and teacher. The perceptions that students have towards their teachers play a vital role in the outcomes of discipline. Marzano et al. (2003) suggested that student misbehaviors can be greatly reduced if there is a good rapport between the teacher and students. The authors’ meta-analysis of the research indicated the effect size for positive teacher-student relationships in middle school was -2.891, which was very high. McLeod et al. (2003) agreed that student and teacher relationships are significant and stated the importance of a teacher being able to express and receive verbal communications in a way that will increase the likelihood of students making appropriate behavior choices. In fact, McLeod et al. suggested the focus of the interrelationships within the learning community should be on the students and the teachers should facilitate positive relationships. It is important to note how students perceive themselves and how they relate to their peers are contributing factors that can determine the climate within the classroom environment (McLeod et al., 2003). According to Barnwell (2009), a middle school teacher, teachers should promote students’ social skills development by regularly providing students with times when they can have positive learning interactions with other students and by working collaboratively with other teachers to model the positive benefits of joint projects. Barnwell believed the teacher should use team-building and communications activities to make the classroom experience interesting as well as enhance learning opportunities for each student.
Marzano et al. (2003) also found the teacher’s mental set is important in reducing behavior disruptions. Mental set was described by Marzano et al. as being related to Langer’s concept of mindfulness, “a heightened sense of situational awareness and a conscious control over one’s thoughts and behavior relative” (p. 65) and Kounin’s withitness, “the disposition of the teacher to quickly and accurately identify problem behavior or potential problem behavior and to act on it immediately” (p. 67). Also, an important aspect of a teacher’s mental set is the ability of the teacher to remain emotionality objective, which involves not viewing student’s negative behavior as a personal attack.
Monroe (2009), who focused on the urban middle school student, suggested some teachers may unfairly discipline or prejudge students based on race and thus these students are subjected to greater inconsistency in behavior sanctions. Teachers should be prepared to be fair and consistent to all students to be effective. The members of the learning community can play an important role in providing mentors or support systems for teachers to help them be more effective instructors and lead their classroom environments in a fair and safe manner. In addition, an outreach system to keep parents aware of or involved in school activities is important to the learning community. Although effective classroom management is essential to student learning, Osher et al. (2010) purported it may not be sufficient when students refuse to participate cooperatively. In these situations, school-wide approaches to student behavior are necessary.
SWPBIS. SWPBIS is based on teacher-centered plans focused on managing the behavior of students by using positive reinforcements and consequences (Osher et al., 2010). This approach is also known as school-wide positive behavioral supports (SWPBS), positive behavioral supports (PBS), and PBIS. For the purpose of this literature review, the terms are used interchangeably depending on the use in the study being cited. The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education (2010a), established The Technical Assistance Center on PBIS to provide educators with information to help them find and implement effective school-wide disciplinary practices. According to the OSEP, U.S. Department of Education (2010b), SWPBIS is a “decision making framework that guides selection, integration, and implementation of the best evidence-based academic and behavioral practices for improving important academic and behavior outcomes for all students” (para. 1). Simonsen et al. (2008) suggested that by implementing SWPBS most learning communities can achieve positive student behaviors and outcomes. Schools where learning is interrupted by the antisocial behavior of students can implement a SWPBS approach that will help reduce the number of infractions yet encourage learning to take place but 80% of the faculty and staff must support the intervention (Simonsen et al., 2008). Each school’s discipline program will be developed to accommodate the specific needs of the learning community. According to Simonsen et al., it is possible for school educators to establish a few expectations such as “Be Safe, Be Respectful, and Be Responsible” (p. 35) that will encompass all desired positive behaviors. Sugai and Horner (2006) argued research indicated reacting to antisocial behavior with harsh punishments not only does not reduce the problem behaviors but also is likely to increase them. In the SWPBIS approach, students learn prosocial skills and appropriate ways of behaving through direct teaching and practicing these skills. In addition, when they use prosocial skills, students receive immediate recognition of their positive choices. Sugai and Horner (2006) said three principles underlie the approach: “(a) prevention, (b) theoretically sound and evidence-based practice, and (c) systems implementation” (p. 246).
Sadler and Sugai (2009) stated that an effective school discipline plan requires the development of interventions along a continuum of three tiers or levels of intensity based on a response to intervention approach. Primary tier prevention, which will result in a positive response from 80-90% of students, involves using a classroom curriculum to teach all students prosocial skills. The 5-10% of students who do not respond to the primary tier intervention will require secondary tier prevention including additional instruction and support in a small-group setting. The few students (1-5%) who are not responsive to primary and secondary tier prevention need intensive individual support at the tertiary level (Sadler & Sugai, 2009).
Sugai and Horner (2006) advised that in order to acquire positive changes within the learning community, the school has to establish a working plan that outlines the intended outcomes.