Assertive discipline is an approach to classroom management developed by Lee and Marlene Canter. It involves a high level of teacher control in the class. It is also called the "take-control" approach to teaching, as the teacher controls their classroom in a firm but positive manner. The approach maintains that teachers must establish rules and directions that clearly define the limits of acceptable and unacceptable student behavior, teach these rules and directions, and ask for assistance from parents and/or administrators when support is needed in handling the behavior of students.
The underlying goal of assertive discipline is to allow teachers to engage students in the learning process uninterrupted by students’ misbehaviour.
Part of this approach is developing a clear classroom discipline plan that consists of rules which students must follow at all times, positive recognition that students will receive for following the rules, and consequences that result when students choose not to follow the rules. These consequences should escalate when a student breaks the rules more than once in the same lesson. But (except in unusual circumstances) the slate starts anew the next day.
Assumptions of this approach include:
- Students will misbehave.
- Students must be forced to comply with rules.
- Teachers have needs, wants and feelings and the right to teach without interruption by students misbehaving.
- Punishment will make students avoid breaking rules and positive reinforcement will encourage good behavior.
Brief overview of model
- Assertive discipline is a structured,systematic approach designed to assist educators in running an organized, teacher-in-charge classroom environment.
- This program is a common sense, easy-to-learn approach to help teachers become the captains of their classrooms and positively influence their students' behavior.
- Today, it is the most widely used behavior management program(walker, 1997).
- Assertive discipline has evolved since the mid 70's from an authoritarian approach to one that is more democratic and cooperative.
Authorities’ contribution to discipline
- This company, Canter and Associates, Inc., was founded by Lee and Marlene Canter in 1976. They used this company to market their assertive discipline program.
- They also marketed products aimed at educating teachers on other topics such as motivation, violence prevention, conflict resolution, and instructional strategies with titles like "How to Get Parents On Your SideTM".
- They provided professional development training for teachers, and materials that could be used by universities for degree programs and graduate-level course work.
- In 1998, Canter and Associates, Inc. was purchased by Sylvan, now Laureate International Universities.
The main focus of the discipline
- The key to this technique is catching students being good.
- Recognizing and supporting them when they behave appropriately, and on a consistent basis letting them know you like what they are doing.
- For Canter, students obey the rules because they get something out of it.
- Doing so, or conversely, understand the consequences of breaking the rules.
- Assertive discipline in some form is likely the most widely used discipline plan in schools.
- Teachers who use assertive discipline say they like it because it is easy to use and is generally effective.
- I will not tolerate any student stopping me from teaching.
- I will not tolerate any student preventing another student from learning.
- I will not tolerate any student engaging in any behavior that is not in the student's best interest and the best interest of others.
- Most importantly, whenever a student chooses to behave appropriately, I will immediately recognize and reinforce such behavior.
- Finally, assertive teachers are the "boss" in their classroom. They have the skills and confidence necessary to "take charge" in their classroom.
How to Use Assertive Discipline
- Dismiss the thought that there is any acceptable reason for misbehavior.
- Decide which rules (4 or 5 are best) you wish to implement in your classroom.
- Determine negative consequences for noncompliance.
- Determine positive consequences for appropriate behavior.
- List the rules on the board along with the positive and negative consequences.
- Have the students write the rules and take them home to be signed by the parents and return an attached message explaining the program and requesting their help.
- Implement the program immediately.
Weaknesses of the discipline
- According to Canter, there are only three types of teachers: non assertive, hostile, and assertive; there is no other type of discipline system.
- Canter’s research to develop the program was with children with special needs. Canter assumes that the system will work with all students.
- Rules and consequences are determined by an authority figure and students are told they can choose to obey or not.
- Burden, P. R. (2003). Classroom management: Creating a successful learning community (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.
- Arthur-Kelly et al. (2006) "Classroom Management: Creating positive learning environments" 2nd edition. Thomson.