Kohn, A. (2008). Beyond discipline: from compliance to community. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
"Beyond Discipline" by Alfie Kohn: In this novel, the author seeks to tear down traditional methods for classroom management. Instead of using positive and negative reinforcement to gain desired behaviors, the author looks into methods that teach students moral behavior, rather than attempting to force them into it.
Chapter 5: How Not to Get Control of the Classroom
When teachers are asked what they want their students to be like many years later, they use words like happy, responsible, caring, creative, life-long learners, etc. Not one of them state that they hope that their students can solve complex algebra equations or recall the names of Civil War generals. So why do we teach class like those are the things that matter? Likewise, why do we push for compliance in the classroom when what we should be teaching is the ability to make intelligent, moral decisions?
In truth, the more we micromanage student behavior in class, the harder it is for students to become free thinking individuals. Teachers may have many rules, not because it effects the learning process in any way, but because it makes it easier for the teacher. In other words, the classroom has become less focused on learning and more focused on "Do what you're told."
- How can students be expected to grow into independent, free-thinking adults when throughout their previous years, they were expected to fall in line and conform to someone else's expectations?
- How can an environment exist that is most beneficial students when so many teachers construct classroom environments that benefit themselves?
In order to develop a sense of right and wrong, students must do more than what they are told. True moral reasoning is constructed by oneself. When a student does something wrong, it is more important to help the student understand why the action is wrong, rather than punishing them for it. For example, if a student hits another student. Obviously it is morally wrong to hit another person, yet the student (especially dependent on their age) may not fully understand. As a teacher, it should be your job to first understand why they hit the other student, then you should help the student understand why hitting is wrong. The author states that asking a student to put themselves in someone else's shoes is often an effective strategy for helping students understand.
Chapter 6: A Classroom of their Choosing
In chapter 6, the author strongly advocates the use of a democratic classroom, an environment in which students have a say in their education. Democratic classrooms encourage students to make decisions for themselves, promoting free-thinking and decision making. A student will feel more involved in a classroom that they had a part in constructing. Likewise, they will feel more inclined to become involved in the material when they helped decide on the style of the lesson.
The idea of a democratic classroom is that everyone gets a say. It may take some time to get students to speak their minds on topics being discussed. In addition, it is important to ensure that students are making decisions because they feel is it the best choice, not because they believe it is what you want to hear. The author also stresses that an instructor should make sure that all students have a say and that a small group isn't making decisions for the whole class. In the end, the goal is compromise, not majority rules.
If the students vote on something that you disagree with, it is more important to deal with the new vote, rather than take that privilege away from them. The best solution would be to agree to implement it for a week or two and then have another meeting to discuss the effectiveness of the strategy. If it is counterproductive, a new approach may be voted upon.