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Kathleen Alape Carpenter
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Columnists & Writers: Alfie Kohn; Harry & Rosemary Wong; Cheryl Sigmon; Dr. Marvin Marshall; Barbara & Sue Gruber; Marjan Glavac; Dr. Rob Reilly; Barb S. HS/MI; Ron Victoria; Brian Hill; Leah Davies; Susan Rismiller; Hal Portner; Karen Hawkes; Emmy; Tim Newlin; Chuck Brickman; Barb Gilman; Grace Viduna Haskins
When teachers impose “logical” and/or “natural” consequences on students, they are using their authority to impose a form of punishment. It matters not if the adult’s intention is to teach a lesson. Imposed punishments increase the likelihood that the student will feel punished by the adult. Anything that is done TO another person prompts negative feelings of reluctance, resistance, resentment, and sometimes even rebellion and retaliation.
In addition, when authority is used to impose, it deprives the student of an opportunity to become more responsible.
Working WITH the student, rather than doing things TO the student, is so much more effective. This approach avoids the problems typically associated with imposing something because (a) students will not feel like victims when they design their own consequence (b) they are guided to focus on learning from the experience. By ELICITING, rather than IMPOSING a consequence, the young person owns it. People do not argue with their own decisions.
By imposing a logical or natural consequence, the responsibility for thinking about the nature of the consequence falls to the adult, rather than upon the student. The student (as opposed to the teacher) should be the one required to do the most thinking.
Here is an example to help understand the difference between something imposed and something elicited. A young student has scribbled on a wall or an older student has vandalized a wall with graffiti.
In a school where consequences are imposed, the adult would think about the situation and arrive at a consequence that seems fair and meaningfully related to the misbehavior. In this situation, the adult would decide that, as an appropriate consequence the student should be required to clean up the mess on the wall. The adult would impose the consequence, thereby making it feel like punishment.
However, in a school using a collaborative approach working WITH the student, the situation would be handled differently. The teacher would expect the student to do the thinking, thus allowing the student an opportunity to take responsibility. Instead of imposing a consequence on the student, the teacher would elicit an appropriate consequence from the student.
The student would be asked, “What do you think should happen now that you’ve marked on the wall making the school less attractive to everyone else?” Because the student would be asked to think, you can imagine the student might say something like, “I should clean the wall.” The teacher would agree that this would be a suitable consequence. Interestingly, in either case, the consequence is exactly the same; the person who committed the act cleans the wall.
You may ask, “What’s the big deal? If in both scenarios the situation ends up that the young person cleaning up the mess made on the wall, why does it matter who thought of the idea?” This one difference is critical. Learning, growth, and long-term change come as a result of reflecting about one’s actions and about the outcomes that may result from them. By being prompted to think about and determine the consequence, the student not only takes ownership and responsibility but also is more likely to make more responsible choices in the future.
In summary, the most effective way to promote responsibility--be it regarding inappropriate behavior, reducing apathy toward learning, or even with home assignments--is to ELICIT a consequence, rather than impose one.
His approach is the only system that is proactive, totally noncoercive, and does not use external manipulatives or threats. He INDUCES students to WANT to act responsibly and WANT to put forth effort to learn.
His book, "Discipline without Stress® Punishments or Rewards - How Teachers and Parents Promote Responsibility & Learning" is used in schools, universities, and homes around the world. The book clearly and concisely demonstrates how external approaches of relying on rules, imposing consequences, rewarding students for appropriate behavior, and punishing students to make them obey are all counterproductive. His approach reduces stress and is more effective than traditional approaches that focus on obedience because obedience does not create desire.
A prime reason that the approach is the fastest growing discipline and learning system in the country and is taught in so many universities is that it teaches students to understand differences between internal and external motivation. A second reason is that the focus is on promoting responsibility; obedience then follows as a natural by-product. A third reason is that the system separates the deed from the doer, the act from the actor, a good kid from irresponsible behavior, thereby eliminating the natural tendency for a student to self-defend.
He offers the following resources to learn and support his approach:
http://www.marvinmarshall.com This is the foundational site that links to the teaching model, shares how a school can conduct its own in-house staff development, and contains free information for implementation. For a quick understanding of his approach, link to "THE HIERARCHY" and "IMPULSE MANAGEMENT."
http://www.disciplinewithoutstress.com This is the website for the best-selling book on discipline and learning. Three sections of the book are online: Classroom Meetings, Collaboration for Quality Learning, and Reducing Perfectionism.
http://www.AboutDiscipline.com explains reasons that external approaches - such as rewarding appropriate behavior, telling students what to do, and punishing them if they don’t - are not used to promote responsible behavior.