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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Positive Discipline Strategies Yield Quick Results

Classroom disruptions decline dramatically when kids are held accountable for their behavior to both their teachers and their classmates. More to this story.

Positive Discipline Strategies Yield Quick Results (Transcript)

Teacher: Let's talk about respectful group work in science. What does it look like, what does it sound like and what does it feel like when we do those things?

Narrator: Clearly articulated class norms and expectations are the cornerstones of a discipline system, which has dramatically reduced suspensions and other disciplinary problems in Jefferson County schools.

Teacher: This is the list I got from you: "We're happy. We're proud."

Narrator: There are several options available to teachers and students to rectify inappropriate behavior. Developmental discipline provides appropriate consequences for infractions, allows students to take responsibility for resolving problems and makes the resolution process an opportunity to improve self-discipline skills.

Teacher: If the contract's broken, then that means that we have to have parent conference.

Sheldon: Developmental discipline is looking for appropriate consequences. For example, a student pushes another student or takes something away from another student. You might say, "Well, let's give that student a detention," so they have to stay after school, but that isn't an appropriate consequence. That isn't a direct consequence. A student doesn't necessarily learn anything from that. The appropriate consequence may be to write an apology or to directly apologize to that student, but the consequences have to relate to the incident itself and improve the student's skills at handling those kinds of incidents.

Narrator: Most minor infractions are handled proactively with private conversations.

Teacher: Stop please. Please? Thank you. Have a seat.

Darren: Like I said, I am less than impressed with some of your behavior, and you laughing is not very responsible…

Narrator: When the behavior is disruptive, a teacher can call for a student to "take a break," or "TAB."

Darren: We're going to have a TAB-in, because I've got to nip this in the bud right away. We cannot have this type of behavior in the classroom.

Narrator: The student goes to a corner of the room to reflect on the incident and suggest ways the behavior will be changed.

Darren: This behavior action plan, you're going to put your name up at the top and you're going to write down here what the problem was, what you did. You understand what you did, right?

We had a little bit of disruption in class, and instead of just letting that behavior progress, our feeling is with this program is you need to stop it right then. Take a course of action, where you want to go from there, whether it's TAB in, take a break from the classroom; TAB out, take a break out of the classroom.

"Choices: I could've just kept my feelings to myself." I think that would've been a good one.

We give them behavior sheet, which is either a fix-it plan or some type of contract.

And then you're going to write me an apology and you're going to sign it.

I hate to see any kid get into trouble, but if we can stop a behavior from turning into something far worse, then we feel that that's a better route to go.

I want you to give me your agenda. I'll take this. I'm going to file it away. Now here…

See, I think it's a pretty easy option for the kids. They write down, obviously, what they did wrong, how they're correcting it, what they're not going to do next time, an apology, and then we just move on. We put it behind us.

Narrator: Another way to help students stay on track is called "ZAP," for "zeroes aren't permitted."

Chris: A lot of kids get ZAP'd. You can get it for a lot of reasons. It's where they take you out when you're eating lunch. You might just sit by yourself and eat lunch all day, but you might do work, because you didn't get your work done in class when you was talking or something or when you was misbehaving. I think it helps me, like other kids. It shows them that you can't do whatever you want. You'll see big-time troublemakers over there for days and days, just aren't getting the point. They'll get it across to them someday, though.

Student: Those are the fighting, right? Fighting? You all have fight…

Student: Fist-pump.

Student: Yeah, fist-pump.

Narrator: Another option is to have students resolve conflicts themselves with the help of trained mediators.

Durk: There's a lot of schools that do peer mediation, but they don't really use it. Here it's kind of engrained in the building, and you have kids coming to me all the time, "Mr. D, I need a mediation tomorrow. Can I get a mediation today? I'm having a problem with so-and-so." And then my mediators, they're trained. They all want to work every day. I mean, it's a kind of a cool thing to be a mediator, so it has resolved a lot of the conflict.

That's two you've done, isn't it?

Student: Yeah.

Durk: We average about 150 peer-mediation resolutions every year. That's 150 situations, where kids aren't being suspended, kids are not getting referrals because they have an avenue or an outlet to come down to this office, sit with the young man they're having a problem with and working it out and then going back and telling their peers that, "Hey, we worked that problem out."

Student: You can go back to your friends and say that this problem is solved and it's all good.

Student: Thank you.

Durk: And it reduces a lot of the conflict that could go to that next level, so we nip all that in the bud.

Narrator: For more information about what works in public education, go to edutopia.org.

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis


  • Karen Sutherland

Associate Producer

  • Doug Keely

Camera Crew

  • Rob Weller
  • Mark Crowner

Coordinating Producer

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Carl Bidleman

Support for Edutopia's Schools That Work series is provided, in part, by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

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