Vito Prosciutto: Teaching community college math on the road to a PhD.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Lee and Marlene Canter's Assertive Discipline 

When I first investigated classroom discipline on the internet last summer the Canters were names that popped up a lot. One thing that appealed to me was the idea of using scaffolding in teaching proper behavior to students.

The primary text for the Canter discipline system is Assertive Discipline but this is just the tip of the iceberg. I do find myself a bit put off by how much of an industry the Canters seem to have developed around their ideas, although perhaps that's just a sign of how much demand there is for this sort of thing.

But on to the system (and apologies for being a bit disorganized): The Canters have built their system on humane behavior management through attending to student needs, formalized classroom rules, positive attention for students, talking helpfully with misbehaving students and establishing an atmosphere of trust and respect.

The Canters divide teachers into three broad categories:

One of the most valuable things I see in the Canter philosophy is the idea that proper classroom behavior must be taught. Ideally this should be happening at the primary level, but if it's not, that doesn't mean that I, as a secondary teacher, can ignore that. Much like if I have students who don't know how to work with fractions, then I need to remedy that problem.

The fact that different teachers have different discipline expectations means that even if students have been taught proper behavior, a teachers' expectations must still be taught to the students. After all, if hand-raising is required in some classrooms and not others, it needs to be made clear that in this classroom, hand-raising is expected.

The Canters have good ideas on redirecting off-task behavior, and ideas that I've used myself: "The look", moving towards the misbehaving student, and mentioning the student's name have all been strategies that I've used. Proximity praise, where on-task students near the off-task student are praised for their behavior is something that I've not tried, and I think might be a bit less effective at the secondary level where praising students by name for appropriate behavior could be an embarrassment rather than an incentive.

Dealing with difficult students is the topic of another book by the Canters. Their strategy can be summarized as identifying students' needs and working to meet them. Needs are identified by examining how students react to your responses to their behavior (or lack of work) and using that as a basis for evaluation.

Charles indicates that the Canter system can be implemented fairly easily. The system evolves in response to feedback from users so it's probably worth getting the current editions of books rather than trying to save a few dollars and getting previous editions.

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