FIFTY-ONE MIDDLE SCHOOL VOICES:
A STUDY OF DISCIPLINE FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF
SEVENTH GRADE MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS
Barbara G. Masciarelli
B.M., Southern Illinois University, 1973
B.S., University of Colorado, 1978
M.S., University of Colorado, 1981
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
Barbara G. Masciarelli
has been approved
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Masciarelli, Barbara G. (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Fifty-One Middle School Voices: A Study of Discipline from the
Perspective of Seventh Grade Middle School Students
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Ellen Stevens
Student behavior that creates an unsafe physical environment, or
classroom behavior that prevents others from teaching and learning,
interferes with the schools charge to address the educational needs of all
children. Of late, providing a safe school environment has been a
continuing public concern. The Colorado Legislature passed H.B. 93-1093
(Safe Schools legislation) in response to these concerns. Sadly, in spite
of prevention projects and legislation, local communities and educators
continue to struggle with the effects of negative student behavior. One
voice noticeably absent from this public discussion is the adolescent
Two key questions guided the studyHow do middle school 7th-
graders perceive discipline? And What reasons do middle schooler 7th-
graders give for their behavior at school? Three bodies of literature
moral leadership, developmental^ responsive middle school practices,
and school disciplineshaped the study design and analysis.
The study was conducted at an urban middle school in east, central
Colorado. The school population represented a wide spectrum of socio-
economic backgrounds; 55% of the student body were classified as other
than Caucasian. Students selected as participants were proportionally
stratified by gender, ethnicity, and math class ability level. Twenty-six
males and 25 females were interviewed. The open-ended and non-
directive interview questions centered on the topic of student behavior.
All interviews were audio-taped and transcribed.
Students voiced a variety of issues related to the meaning of
discipline, few of which coincided with an understanding that discipline
was a tool to learn self-management. Rather, students focused heavily on
discipline as a consequence for misbehavior or rules about misbehavior.
Students reasons for school behavior were coded as internally or
externally guided. Internal factors were divided into five categories:
attention, personal control, personal identity, family values, and learning
needs. External factors were: avoiding home consequences, avoiding
school consequences, gaining school recognition, gaining home recognition,
and avoiding legal consequences. Student responses were discussed in the
context of moral leadership in a developmentally responsive school.
Implications for educational policy makers and school practitioners
included the suggestion that disciplinary policy and practice be grounded
in the knowledge of the private and long-lasting meanings such decisions
have for students.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis.
I recommend its publication.
Sincerest appreciation, gratitude, and admiration are expressed to
Ellen Stevens for her work as chair of the doctoral committee. She
provided continual encouragement, inspiration, and direction in the
completion of this study. She continues to be a guide and a Mend.
Thank you to the members of the committee for conceptual and
editorial assistance. Thank you too for your support during the defense,
making it more of a pleasurable experience.
A special thank you goes to the 51 students who participated in this
study and gave unselfishly of their time and honesty of their wisdom.
They have enriched my perspective on the inclusion of students ideas in
their own experience of schooling.
Friends and colleagues are sincerely appreciated for their steady
encouragement, thoughtfulness, and support throughout this endeavor.
You listened endlessly and tirelessly. You were a consistent source of
strength and hope for me.
My deepest appreciation goes to my family. My mother instilled in
me a deep passion for life that includes dedication to family, work, and
learning, as well as service and an unselfish, sincere concern for others.
My husband offered his love, support, guidance, knowledge, and
understanding. He so unselfishly and lovingly gave enormous amounts of
time, patience, and technical help, and he now shares my goal with me.
1. PURPOSE OF STUDY.....................................1
Introduction to the Problem.....................2
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE............................14
Theoretical Framework: Moral Leadership and
Developmentally Appropriate Middle School Practice.15
Moral Leadership as Cultural Influence.........16
Defining Moral Leadership......................17
Characteristics of Moral Leadership............18
Synopsis of Moral Leaderships Key Principles.....26
1. Care and Concern for the Whole Student......26
2. A Community of Learners.....................27
3. Equity: All Students Can Learn..............28
Developmentally Appropriate Practice for Middle School
Developmentally Appropriate Practices............34
Principles of Developmentally Responsive Middle
Summary: Principles of Developmentally Appropriate Middle
Commitment to Pre-Adolescent Youth...............38
A Safe Physical and Nurturing Emotional
Focus on Learning...................................40
Conclusions for the Theoretical Framework: Basic Principles
of Moral Leadership in Developmentally Appropriate Middle
Review of Literature on Discipline as a Central Feature of
The Traditional Perspective on Discipline: Control over
Discipline as Care and Concern for the Whole Student.. 54
Discipline in a Community of Learners...............61
Summary and Conclusions from the Review of Literature on
Selection and Sampling Strategies................89
Data Analysis Procedures.........................93
4. DESCRIPTIONS OF FINDINGS..............................97
What Is Discipline?................................100
Discipline is Consequences......................101
Discipline is Rules.............................106
Discipline is Appropriate Behavior..............112
Discipline is Misbehavior.......................113
Discipline is Self-Controlled Behavior..........118
5. DESCRIPTION OF FINDINGS..............................124
Students Perceptions as Reasons for Students Misbehavior:
Internally and Externally Guided Choices Introduction.125
Avoid Home Consequences........................137
Avoid School Consequences......................140
Gain School Recognition........................142
Gain Home Recognition..........................143
Avoid Legal Consequences.......................144
Students Perceptions about Teachers..............145
Care and Concern for the Whole Student.........146
Equity: All Students Can Learn.................148
A Community of Learners........................148
6. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS.........................151
Moral Leadership in a Developmentally Responsive School:
A View of Western Middle School Introduction......153
Care and Concern for the Whole Student in a Community
Equity. All Students Can Learn in a Community of
Implications for Future Research............175
Effects of Tracking.......................177
A. INTERVIEW SCRIPT.........................179
B. SUMMARY OF STUDENT INTERVIEWS............182
C. PARENT PERMISSION LETTER.................193
D. STUDENT PERMISSION LETTER................195
E. STUDENT SAMPLE DATA TABLE................197
PURPOSE OF STUDY
Our students are trying to tell us something. Are we listening?
Do we lay to understand the real problems? Are we equipped to
listen to the real problems? Are we willing to revamp
curriculum offerings, teaching strategies, or school discipline
rules to meet the relevant needs of students? Do we care?
(Krajewski etal., 1998, p. 8).
Student behavior, and more specifically student misbehavior, has
received much attention in Colorado, as a result of the passage of the
Safe Schools Act (Colorado Legislative House Bill #93-1093). Schools
across the state have implemented revised disciplinary practices in
response to this legislation. Those practices, based on community specific
philosophies, set the climate for the educational opportunities a given
school might offer. Students who interfere with the learning of others by
ignoring or flaunting these rules are subject to suspension and expulsion.
The business of schools is education. Children who are not in school
lose their education. Thus, it is critical for school personnel to discover
what motivates student behavior so that children can take advantage of
educational opportunities. The primary source we must turn to as we try
to understand student behavior is the students themselves. Student
perceptions of schooling may provide relevant and surprising insights into
the study of school functioning, particularly student behavior and
Introduction to the Problem
It is important to study student behavior and discipline issues
because society continues to look to the public schools to address the
misbehavior of youth in response to social problems plaguing our society.
Kober (1996) states that:
Crime, violence, and delinquency continue to affect American
society, and education remains the best strategy for preventing
crime and violence (p. 13).
Kober suggests that public schools may contribute to future societal
concerns when they neglect to successfully correct students misbehavior.
Social ills, such as crime, place a heavy toll on the nation; we are spending
increasingly larger sums of taxpayer dollars to maintain the criminal
justice system. While overall crime statistics have recently shown a
leveling trend, juvenile crime has risen at an alarming rate. It would
come as no surprise that many of these juvenile perpetrators were having
discipline problems in school.
The publics view of this problem has been widely disseminated.
Phi Delta Kappans public opinion polls have reported the publics views
on schooling for over 30 years. One of the most consistent issues for the
public who responded to this poll was their concern for student
misbehavior and discipline. Several local media programs highlighted
young violence [e.g., Denvers Summer of Violence (Dire, 1993)].
Nationally, Diane Sawyer (1993) used two Colorado schools to depict the
lack of discipline and uncontrolled student behavior in schools across the
It has long been thought that a society undermined by crime may be
deficient injustice (Machiavelli, 1522, cited in Crick [Ed.], 1974). For
adults, society includes local communities, the country, and even the
world. For students, society means the school environment. Student
behavior that creates an unsafe school environment or classroom
misbehavior that prevents others from teaching and learning eliminates
the justice for other students. Public schools that are able to answer
societys charge to address the educational needs of children do so by
ensuring that students are provided with an emotionally and physically
safe school environment.
Colorado took this charge to heart with the "Safe Schools
legislation (House Bill #93-1093). This bill charged schools with ensuring
safe school environments so that all children will have the potential to
learn. Schools were directed to protect the learning environment by
developing rules and regulations, in the form of student handbooks and
student behavior expectations, that all students were required to follow.
Students who interfered with school administrations rights and
responsibilities to provide educational opportunities for its student body
were to be suspended or expelled.
According to a more recent public opinion poll (Elam and Rose,
1995), student misbehavior continues to be one of the major problems in
schools today. Thus, in spite of the safe schools legislation, local
communities and school educators continue to struggle with the effects of
negative student behavior. This type of behavior does not appear to be
declining (Bell, 1998; Lawton, 1998; Ritter, 1998; Attacks a wake-up,
1998; Boy accused, 1998; Rap music, 1998; Violence creeps, 1998). It
would appear that the solutions to juvenile violence devised by adults
have not succeeded in arresting the rise of crime and violence in our
communities or schools.
Pre-adolescents are unlike elementary or high school students.
These students are portrayed in the literature as undergoing many critical
emotional, social, and physiological changes (Carnegie, 1989,1996;
Hillman, 1991; Johnson and Kottman, 1992; Wood and Hillman, 1992).
Because these developmental differences impact students, they are
relevant to the nature of work in middle schools. Examining middle grade
students actions is a constant challenge for educators directly involved in
addressing student behavior and discipline issues. Knowing the diverse
behavioral differences of students during early adolescence helps explain
the reasons for students behavior. In addition, an examination of school
policies and curriculum could further our knowledge of students behavior.
Educators deal with many students each day whose ability to learn
is compromised by the behavior of other students. For example, a student
may disrupt a classroom lesson by being physically aggressive to other
students or to the teacher. Students who think that school is irrelevant
and behave in ways that trivialize learning become the focus of classroom
attention. Students bringing drugs or weapons to school threaten the
learning environment and make the school unsafe. Thus, understanding
the actions that impact student behavior becomes important in effectively
and safely educating all students and is an important area for study.
However, there is a significant link missing in our understanding of
student behaviorthe students perceptions of that behavior. Do
misbehaving students know what factors guide their behavior? Are these
factors different for students who follow rules than for those who do not?
Can students accurately articulate a rationale for their own behavior and
for that of their peers?
A child is impacted by various influences. It would be impossible to
include all potential influences in one study. Therefore, three schools of
thought have contributed to the theoretical frame for the study. These
areas are moral leadership as a function of school culture,
developmentally responsive middle school practices, and the impact of
discipline on student behavior.
Moral Leadership. Moral leadership (Sergiovanni, 1992) centers on
doing what is right and just for the community of people who comprise the
school. A morally responsive middle school leader understands the
developmental stages of middle school students. This leader believes that
a morally and develop mentally responsive curriculum needs to endorse
those practices that involve the social, psychological, emotional, academic,
physical, and moral developmental natures of these youth. Morally
responsive leadership practices connect naturally to developmentally
responsive educational strategies; both strive to do what is right for
students in the middle.
Morally led schools attempt to create moral, principled centers in
which the environment is ethically and virtuously transformed
(Sergiovanni, 1992). The moral leader facilitates the development of an
environment in which a set of reasoned, conscious values for the school are
modeled and followed. When schools build culture around a set of moral
principles, community is created (Sergiovanni, 1992).
Developmentally Responsive Practices. Schools have a
responsibility to create a learning environment that is interesting and
challenging. This responsibility is especially important in middle schools,
because these students are concurrently undergoing rapid changes in their
physical, social, and emotional development and are establishing
individual and group identities. These developmental factors, combined
with the learning demands of schools, compound the difficulties that
middle grade students experience. This concern is aptly summarized
below by Hamburg (cited in Carnegie, 1996), President of Carnegie
Corporation of New York:
The problems of adolescence deal with deep and moving human
experiences. They center on a fateful time in the life course when
poorly informed decisions can have lifelong consequences. The
tortuous passage from childhood to adulthood requires our
highest attention, our understanding, and a new level of
thoughtful commitment (p. 19).
Our highest attention has not been given to pre-adolescents.
Instead, the nation is neglecting its 19 million young adolescents,
according to Great Transitions (Carnegie, 1996). Starting Again in the
Middle states that less attention has been paid to pre-adolescent young
people than to the early childhood stage or to those youth who are
approaching adulthood (Kellogg, 1996). Elias and Branden-Muller (1994)
concur with the Kellogg assessment and advise schools not to turn middle
school students into social casualties (p. 6). It is precisely due to this
lack of attention that middle schools should develop and actually use
methods that are sensitive to the special needs of those youth approaching
Develop mentally responsive school practices encourage students to
inquire, experience first-hand, and create meaning of the concepts that
schools ask them to learn. These practices appeal to young adolescents
who are experiencing changes in their own bodies, their emotions, and their
social world (Carnegie, 1989,1996; NMSA, 1995; Kellogg, 1996). These
school approaches may directly impact student behavior as students try to
make sense out of who they are and what they are learning (Carnegie,
1989,1996; NMSA, 1995; Kellogg, 1996). Middle school students are
naturally inquisitive beings who want to see the relevance of what they are
learning at school and expect a valid answer as to why it is important
(Carnegie, 1989,1996; Elias and Branden-Muller, 1994; NMSA, 1995;
Kellogg, 1996). Middle schools that do not make an attempt to implement
these strategies may find students losing interest in the subject at hand
(Elias and Branden-Muller, 1994).
Students who lose interest in school may act out, withdraw, stop
doing their school work, or be truant in an attempt to gain some control
over their school environment. Students who lose interest in school will find
other areas in which to place their attention. They may make poor choices
that can result in juvenile justice problems or place them at higher risk for
drug or alcohol abuse and limit their life choices for the future. Students
who drop out of school face lifelong challenges of economic and identity
survival (Elias and Branden-Muller, 1994; Henderson and Milstein, 1996;
Elias and Branden-Muller (1994) emphasize the need to pay special
attention to middle school students as they eloquently conclude:
Thus, on the voyage to academic excellence we must not lose the
child as a person. The middle school years represent a
particularly tricky set of currents and choppy seas during which
many students can get thrown overboard. Unlike students
during the elementary school years, they are not being watched
so vigilantly that their departures are always noticed
immediately. Unlike students during the high school years, they
often lack the wherewithal to get the attention of the captain and
crew, or to somehow clamber back onto the boat. We must equip
the S.S. Middle School with hand-holds throughout, and guard
rails and life-lines around the ship, with the latter extending far
into the sea for those who do fall overboard (1994, pp. 6-7).
Discipline. As do all organizations in society, schools are institutions
that transmit culture. Bolman and Deal (1991) view cultural organizations
as "complex, constantly changing, organic pinball machines and more
fluid than linear (p. 245). As cultural organizations, schools are systemic
in nature. A system is:
"... like a big bowl of JELL-O : if you touch it, the whole thing
jiggles; everything is connected to everything else (Purkey and
Strahan, 1986, p. 7).
As cultural systems, middle schools maybe chaotic and unpredictable
places. However, middle schools that support their students as they
mature and change provide stability for young adolescents who are
searching for identity and fit in the organization.
One such area that provides stability for pre-adolescents is the area
of discipline. Discipline provides structure in the lives of students. Fuhr
(1993) states that The need for properly administered discipline in our
classrooms is manifested in misbehaving students who desire structure in
their lives (p. 83). Thus, students expect, want, and need discipline as a
structure to help them function within the proper behavioral boundaries.
For purposes of this study, I focused on discipline as a behavior
management system that helps students regulate their behavior in
accordance with the schools pre-determined expectations. A component of
the management system would include disciplinary consequences for
behavior that failed to comply with the schools stated disciplinary policies
School leadership that directs school curricular practices and
disciplinary regulations can affect middle grade students in ways that may
conflict with what is best for them. There are many stresses on middle
schools that are imposed by parents, the state legislature, and the
community at large in order to control the masses. To this end, schools
may unwittingly contribute to a negative affect in the school environment
as they struggle with disciplinary and curricular methods designed to keep
the peace among the student body.
What is the best way to discover the reasons that students behave
as they do? Obviously, by asking them. While student perception may not
represent the entire story at school, students perceptions are their own
reality (Ivey and Simek-Dowiling, 1980). The student voice in schooling
procedures is noticeably absent in the literature. Because this is so,
student perceptions will be examined to discover what factors they believe
affect their behavior. Therefore, the focus of the research will be guided by
the following questions:
1. How do middle school 7th-graders perceive discipline? and
2. What reasons do middle school 7th-graders give for their
behavior at school?
Chapter I outlined the significance of discipline and student behavior
as a course of study. The middle school learner was defined as youth "in the
middle from ages 10-14 (Carnegie, 1989,1996; Atwell, 1987; Clark and
Clark, 1992; Mee, 1997; Elias and Branden-Muller, 1994). Moral leadership
and developmentally responsive practices were suggested as important
factors necessary to meet pre-adolescents unique learning needs.
Consequently, middle level development, emphasizing developmentally
responsive practices, and moral leadership as it impacts school culture,
especially the area of discipline, provide the theoretical underpinnings for
Chapter two will review literature relevant to three bodies of
research. Those areas are moral leadership, young adolescent
development, including developmental^ responsive middle school practices,
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Hie topic of the dissertation is student perceptions of discipline as a
critical feature of middle school culture. The literature on discipline
consists of writing and research that reflect different perspectives on
students and schools. The traditional perspective on discipline narrowly
focuses on maintaining order through control and consequences. Critics of
this perspective, especially in relation to middle schools, point out that the
traditional approach does not meet the developmental needs of adolescents.
Further, traditional ideas about discipline do not contribute to creating
schools that are morally responsive communities of learners as espoused
by Sergiovanni (1992) and others.
It is important to understand and study the role of discipline as a
critical feature of school culture. Thus, this chapter reviewing the relevant
literature is organized into two mqjor sections. The first section develops
the theoretical framework for the study by asking what characteristics of
the middle school environment are most important for considering competing
conceptions and research about discipline. This section reviews the
literature broadly about schools as moral communities and then considers
literature that describes the special needs of middle school students. The
result of this review is a set of key theoretical principles that underlie moral
leadership and developmentally appropriate practice in middle school. The
principles are used as the theoretical framework for the dissertation, to
organize and describe the literature on discipline and to guide the study.
The second mqjor section of the chapter describes the literature on
discipline, organized according to three perspectives and using the
principles developed for the theoretical framework. The perspectives
(1) traditional conceptions of discipline based on control and consequences,
(2) discipline related to the moral leadership principle of care and concern
for the whole student, and
(3) discipline as viewed from the perspective of a community of learners.
Each perspective on discipline is first described as it is used in the
literature, followed by research findings from studies within the
Theoretical Framework: Moral Leadership and
Developmentally Appropriate Middle School Practice
The theoretical framework portrays a set of principles to guide the
study of discipline at the middle school level. Two areas of literature seem
most appropriate to developing the set of guiding principles. First, the
literature on moral leadership describes ideals of how schools can function
to best support student learning. Second, the literature on developmental^
appropriate practices in middle schools describes practices that are
considered best for this particular group of students. Each will be reported
in turn, with their conclusions at the end for the set of guiding principles.
Moral Leadership as Cultural Influence
Moral, ethical leadership seeks to do what is the right and best
practice, what is moral for students. A moral leader is morally
responsive, i.e., capable of responding to the duties and obligations that
stand above self-interest of any kind, according to Kant (cited in
Sergiovanni, 1992, p. 20). To foster student achievement, this leader
facilitates the development of a moral environment in which members of
the school community model and follow a set of reasoned, conscious values.
The moral principles are building blocks with which to build morally
responsive schools and ensure that certain educational and democratic
ideals will occur. These principles include the following (Sergiovanni, 1992):
1. Creating a community of learners (emphasizing service to and
respect for diversity of ideas, approaches, and individuals),
2. Equity: All students can learn (emphasizing justice, and fair
3. Care and concern for the whole student (emphasizing nurturance).
Defining Moral Leadership
How does the morally responsive leader determine whether or not
the school values selected are moral? Kant offers his second categorical
imperative as a check for morality. A moral principle is good in and of
itself, and each act is an end in itself, never a means to an end. hi
agreement with Kant, Rawls (cited in Sergiovanni, 1992) encourages moral
leaders to apply the veil of ignorance test in order to determine whether
an idea is morally founded. A concept is deemed worthy on its own merits
alone, without the knowledge of whose idea it is. This test adds a dimension
of fairness and negates the ability to promote self-interest.
Habermas (cited in Sergiovanni, 1992) offers a third view of
determining the moral worth of an idea with his moment of empathy.
Habermass view of testing ideas seems to be directly opposite to Rawls.
When one empathizes with another, it is necessary to exchange conceptual
places in order to adopt the other persons viewpoint (even for a short time).
That action requires owning the idea or action.
Frankena (cited in Sergiovanni, 1992) defines morality as a code or
a set of moral beliefs (p. 108), as something that a school has rather than
does. He, along with Sergiovanni, suggests that moral principles are almost
sacred communal beliefs binding people together as a covenant. The
covenant consists of deeply held and cherished beliefs about the nature
and structure of the universe and ones place in it (Benjamin, cited in
Sergiovanni, 1992, p. 108). This covenant guides the decisions for everyday
practices, curricula, policies, pedagogy, and structures that the school
Frankenas principles of justice and beneficence form the
cornerstones of these moral beliefs. Justice assures equal treatment of
and respect for each individual in the community. Granting the same
equality, dignity, and fair play to each member in the community, both
adult and child, suggests treating each member equally. Beneficence
displays concern for the community and its welfare as a whole. Every
action taken by the school is measured by the agreement previously
established with the community to determine if it meets covenant criteria
(if it promotes the welfare of the community).
Characteristics of Moral Leadership
Sergiovanni lists several ideas that he believes compose the
virtuous school. I have used some of his thoughts as they mesh with my
own ideas to outline what I believe moral leadership embodies. These
three ideas translate into both moral principles and school structures,
practices, policies, pedagogy, and curricula.
A Community of Learners. A moral leader facilitates the creation of
a community of learners (Sergiovanni, 1992). Each student and adult
learner make up tins community (including teachers and other adult staff
members, parents, and the community at large). Building relationships
with and among the various members of the community is a vital concept.
Morally based contractual relationships based on community values
become the glue that bind people together in their attempts to reach
communal goals that place the needs of others before their own self-
interests. This selfless human value drives emotions and values to make
connections with others, for the purpose of forming a covenant that
transforms the school into a virtuous and ethical place. This covenant is
almost sacred in its desire to do what is right, good, and best for kids.
Students, parents, and school personnel work together to effectively
support and assist in accomplishing the work of the school: teaching and
To this end, moral leaders constantly keep in mind communal
purpose, gemeinshaft (Sergiovanni, 1996), not self-interest or self-
importance. Leaders who collaborate with others in the community
welcome the ideas of others, forge relationships, and invite participation in
forward progress. Relationship-building among all populations of the
morally responsive school invites mutual trust and benefits each member
of the community (Sergiovanni, 1992).
Relationships with others create reciprocal obligations to others and
responsibilities for community members to meet. Each member of the
learning community is a self-learner and self-manager who becomes
increasingly more self-competent and less dependent on others to control
his/her own decision making. The school community becomes stronger as
each learner grows in self-discipline or self-managamant., and self-
assurance. Individual rights and freedoms are fundamental, but may not
compromise communal purpose. The leader is important, but common
purpose or vision of the school is more important (Sergiovanni, 1992).
The moral leader facilitates an environment of inquiry and
possibilities within the learning community. What if thinking is more
desirable than Why we cant. Each member is empowered to think
critically and make individual and communal derisions that focus on what
is possible for the school to become, not merely what it has always done.
Collaboration with others ensures the continual evaluation of who we are
as a school community, where we are going, and what we want to become.
Each member of the community matters and all ideas count, as the
community works toward a common vision. The community respects the
diversity of ideas and personalities. It desires and welcomes meaningful
participation. Tolerance and acceptance promote mutual trust and regard
for all people and result in mutual benefits for the community. The
community respects the rights and responsibilities of all individuals
In fact, morally responsive schools emphasize respect. Of all the
moral ideals, respect is paramount. It is also contagious. There is a
transfer or spill-over effect created when respect is demonstrated
consistently. The merited nature of their work affords respect and
professionalism to both adults and children (Sergiovanni, 1992).
Teachers who are treated as professionals are more likely to behave
in ways that identify them as such. Therefore, teachers and other adults
are treated professionally. They have autonomy to decide the educational
methods and approaches that best suit their students and commit to this
task. Teachers become leaders, while as partners, they actively reshape
the school and experiment with ideas for change (Bums, 1978).
Morally founded schools value students and design forums through
which students voice ideas and perceptions. Students are meaningfully
involved with decisions that directly concern and affect them. When
students feel connected to school, they are more likely to take school
seriously and make an effort to do well (Gottfredson, et al., 1993).
Therefore, students become professional learners who take pride in
themselves and in their capability to learn. They value learning for its own
sake and because it is another indication of how they define who they are.
Bolman & Deal (1995) and Greenleaf (cited in Sergiovanni, 1992)
agree that the leader as servant is virtually missing from the research on
leadership. This moral type of leadership emphasizes a moral authority,
not a show of power. A morally led school serves a set of ideals, i.e., the
moral code of the community. The moral code defines the values and ideals
of the community, and each member of the community (not just the leader)
shares the burden of servant leadership (p. 125) by attending to each
others needs and the needs of the community.
Service is a fundamental tenet of moral leadership. The moral leader
utilizes the idea of stewardship, as every member of the school community
serves each other and focuses its efforts on the care and welfare of the
students. Caring for each member of the learning community establishes
the foundation of a good school community. Mutual respect and regard for
human dignity are put into action by serving others.
Equity: All Students Can Learn. The moral leader believes that all
students can learn. Thus, they do what is best for all kids. There is a
transforming link between what types of behaviors leaders engage in and
student success. According to Goldman (1998), Leadership style is
determined by deep-seated values and beliefs about how people learn (p.
21). A set of moral principles, emphasizing mutual respect and justice or
fair treatment of all, guides leadership, policy, curricula, and disciplinary
Sergiovannis Moral Leadership theory (1992) connects to the social
justice theory as it dictates that the basic structure of society should be
based on dictums of justice (equality) for all (Rawls, 1971). Justice as
fairness must be the social order of the day. Society must be rightly
ordered and people justly treated so that favor is not allotted to those bom
into social or economic advantages. Approximately two centuries before
Rawls, Thomas Jefferson (1787) believed in equal educational opportunities
for all students:
Above all things, I hope the education of the common people will
be attended to; convinced that on this good sense we may rely
with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of
liberty" (cited in Kober, 1996, p. 1).
Leaders of morally responsive schools not only want to do what is
right, good, and best for kids, but actually carry out the work that enables
the school to accomplish this mission. Primarily an academic family,
morally responsive schools encourage practices that promote the
participation of all students in learning, no matter what their learning
needs or conditions. Learning problems are challenges to be met and solved
rather than accepted as too difficult to handle or as conditions that exist
due to student limitations. Diversity of ideas and approaches provide for
the individual needs of students (Sergiovanni, 1992).
The school utilizes practices that support rather than divide and
limit students. Cooperative methods rather than competition are
emphasized. High academic standards and expectations encourage all
students to learn as much as they can. The school does things because
they are the right way, even though it may not be easiest.
Developmentally appropriate approaches focus on the unique needs
of the middle level learner. Coherent and integrated curricular methods
provide a plan for student success, rather than using practices that exclude
and expect less from some students. The emphasis is on students
constructing meaning as they learn. Thus, interested and involved
students promote self-directed and self-disciplined learners. Engaged and
responsible students learn more and cause less classroom and school
behavior problems. Consequently, the need for imposed discipline is less
Care and Concern for the Whole Student. Morally founded schools
demonstrate care and concern for the whole student. Caring is the at the
core of academic success. Caring about students by serving their needs
leads to greater likelihood of students academic success. Getting to know
students and paying attention to them as they mature nurtures them and
contributes to their healthy emotional development, in addition to academic
success (Gottfredson, etal., 1993).
Spending time with students sends the message that adults respect
them, that their opinions are worthwhile, and that the sacredness of the
person is honored (Boyer, cited in Sergiovanni, 1992, p. 118). When
empowered students feel respected, they behave in ways that promote
responsibility for themselves and the school. Students will be more likely to
make choices they know are in the best interest of themselves and others
when they believe they matter. Students who feel someone likes and cares
about them will serve each other and the common good, thereby behaving
in communal- and self-satisfying ways (Sergiovanni, 1992).
Social support through developmental appropriate school
activities offers the opportunities for social growth and development.
Cooperative types of activities, such as intramurals, clubs, and other
collaborative gatherings, replace competition.
A dean and safe physical environment meets the safety needs of the
learning community. Creating a dean and safe environment establishes
obligations between both student and adult community members. A policy
of peace in the community, of nonaggression and nonviolence, must be the
starting place. What happens at school is the concern and business of
everybody in that learning community. It is more than rules that count;
the rules have to be accepted and enforced by the entire school
community (Sergiovanni, 1992, p. 113). In addition, only rules
accompanied by a positive, peaceful climate are effective.
Rules are a commitment to each other, which implies understanding
and willingness to do ones part in order to further the communal aspect of
school. Disciplined members of the community represent individuals who
accept their responsibilities and obligations to the group, induding the
ability to live together with the freedom to voice an opinion in amending the
covenant. Participation is expected and invited, and behavioral mistakes
are viewed as opportunities to learn.
The Golden Rule," or treating others as one wishes to be treated, is
at the crux of respectful behavior. It also promotes an understanding of
how students behavior choices affect others in the environment. Pro social
skills training assists students in viewing their behavior choices in a
When students learn pro social skills, they focus on compromise,
consensus seeking, solving problems without force or violence, and reflect
on moral dilemmas. Peer mediation and other informal social learning
situations offer students valuable practice in gaining conflict management
skills. These strategies are among those moral practices that promote and
encourage the exercise of judgment and self-control (Curwin, 1995).
Synopsis of Moral Leaderships Key Principles
From this review, moral leadership (Sergiovanni, 1992) comprises
three key principles: providing care and concern for the whole student,
creating a community of learners, and promoting educational equity,
defined as follows:
1. Care and Concern for the Whole Student
Care and concern for the whole student does not divide a child into
intellectual, moral, physical, emotional, and social components. The
morally led school pays attention to the whole middle school student and
assists as the student grows in each area. Students feel comfortable to
learn at school through the creation of a safe physical environment.
Students learn peaceful ways to deal with conflict, including conflict
resolution and peer mediation strategies.
Empowered individuals at school become self-managed and have
important roles to play in individual and collective accountability. Students
take responsibility for becoming intrinsically self-disciplined as they
mature, thereby reducing the need for adults to externally impose discipline
on them. A non-violent school climate is the business of each member of
the school community, and mutual respect and pride are results of this
2. A Community of Learners
The emphasis is on building a learning community. Each adult and
student belong to the community itself, which includes parents and extends
into the larger community where the school stands. This learning
community focuses on the needs of the members of its community. A
moral middle school community concentrates on meeting the
developmental needs of those students in the middle, because middle
schools educate pre-adolescent youth who have special learning needs.
A moral code, a collective set of beliefs and values that stand for the
community, binds this community together. Building relationships among
members of the community promotes collective responsibility and
accountability. No one is excluded. On the contrary, peoples diversity of
ideas leads to an abundance of possibility thinking and the school created
as a center of inquiry.
In the morally led school, each member is a self-manager and learner
and depends less on others for these ideals to occur. Empowered adults and
students make decisions that represent communal vision or covenant,
which is more important than anyone person. Respect, loyalty,
nurturance, service, and diversity are central traits of this aspect of
morally founded schools.
3. Equity: All Students Can Learn
Equity, demonstrated by the belief that all students can learn, is one
of the building blocks of morally founded schools, and respect is the primary
ingredient of the mortar. The expectation that all students will learn,
perhaps at different times and in different ways, builds esteem for students
and ensures academic success. Morally led schools support students as
they find ways to help students who experience learning difficulties succeed.
Schools do not view learning problems as the students fault or too large for
the school to try to solve in the learning process. Respect, justice and fair
treatment, tolerance, diversity of needs, and acceptance are parts of the
moral code that supports this moral educational principle.
Developmentally Appropriate Practice for Middle School Students
Developmentally appropriate practices are those which promote the
growth of young adolescents as they encounter educational programs
designed for their success at school. This review focuses on the three most
important reports that describe the middle school movements emphasis on
and definitions of developmentally appropriate practice and are listed
1. This We Believe, The National Middle School Associations position
2. Starting Again in the Middle, the Kellogg Foundations report
3. Turning Points and Great Transitions, the Carnegie Foundations
reports (1989 and 1996, respectively).
The years from 10-14 are a crucial turning point in lifes trajectory
(Carnegie Council, 1996, p. 4). This period represents the time spent in
middle school. The Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development was
established in New York in 1986. It recognized the importance of meeting
the needs of young adolescents to facilitate their healthy development
toward adulthood; thus, it was created to study the challenges of and
influences on young adolescents.
With good schools, supportive families, and caring community
institutions, middle schoolers grow up to meet the requirements
of family life, friendship, the workplace, and citizenship in a
technically advanced, democratic society. Even under difficult
conditions, most young people grow into responsible, ethical,
problem-solving adults. For others, however, the obstacles in
their path can impair their physical and emotional health,
destroy their motivation and ability to succeed, and damage their
personal relationships. At least one quarter of all adolescents are
at high risk for engaging in dangerous behaviors that threaten
their health and long-term prospects (p. 4).
Echoing the Carnegie findings, Pipher (1994), in her study of young
adolescent females, emphasizes that:
"Adolescence is an intense time of change. All kinds of
developmentphysical, emotional, intellectual, academic, social,
and spiritualare happening all at once. (p. 72)
Choices that adolescents make in their struggles to mature and discover
their own identities may have a long-reaching impact throughout the rest
of their lives.
Erikson (cited in Muuss, 1988) offers an understanding of adolescent
development when he emphasizes that "the outstanding characteristic of
adolescence is the identity crisis (p. 53). Erikson defines identity as "a
sense of sameness and continuity (p. 60). The ability of adolescent
children to cope with identity issues during their future lives may depend
on the degree of success with which the adolescent identity crisis was
mastered (p. 55). Adolescent children who do not gain autonomy and a
sense of self-control during pre-adolescence may experience problems in
developing a mature ego-identity.
Pipher (1994) helps explain why students at the pre-adolescent and
adolescent levels may struggle with self-concept and esteem issues. These
issues occur as youth pull away from parents in the search for personal
identity. As these young adolescents begin the natural process of
separating from their parents,
... peers are everything. Peers validate their decisions and
support their new independent selves. This is a time of deep
searching for the self in relationships (Pipher, 1994, p. 67).
Adolescents have a strong desire to be their own person; the need to
be independent may cause difficulty for those adolescents who have not
become appropriately autonomous. Pubescent youth striving to discover
who they are and how they fit into the structure of the school may conform
to, withdraw from, or rebel against expectations of them. Some
adolescents may become extremely self-conscious, lacking in autonomy,
and have doubts about their self-worth. Others may experience too much
autonomy and openly rebel against all authority figures.
As young adolescents experience the onset of puberty while
struggling to acquire an identity, they are dealing with psychophysiological
factors. Adolescents want to fit in with the crowd and are acutely self-
conscious about their personal appearance during development. This self-
consciousness, exacerbated by the psychophysiological changes occurring,
is manifest in adolescents over-concern for their appearance. Acceptance
into a peer group is often determined by how well the teen fits in with the
group. Thus, appearance leading to social acceptance is one obvious
measure of that fit (Erikson and Bronfenbrenner, cited in Muuss, 1988).
Social feedback is quite important to the adolescent as relevant
peers and other groups serve as role models for the adolescent to mirror.
This process aids the adolescent's search for personal identity. Young
adolescents acquire identity through individual effort. It cannot be given
to another. Establishing personal identity for middle school-aged children
involves the natural separation from parents as adolescents mature and
develop. Young adolescents satisfy their need to belong by forming dose
ties with a peer group, and these relevant groups take the place once held
Identity development is a personally challenging time for teens
(Erikson, 1950; Rogers, 1962; Ruch, 1963). Adolescents may choose to
behave in ways that are unusual for them as they seek to discover the
desired fit with a peer group. This behavior may puzzle the significant
adults in their lives unless they understand the impact of developmental
changes on teenage youth (Bronfenbrenner, cited in Muuss, 1988).
During this time when students are establishing personal and group
identity, it becomes vital for the school environment to positively assist
them in the maturing process. Middle school educators who do not
acknowledge, understand, and nurture the young adolescents emerging
identity may damage the student. These students may experience
confusion and behave in ways that are destructive to themselves, others,
and to the school environment itself. Middle schools need to offer
assistance by being a safety net," or a safe haven for middle schoolers to
experience failure and success as they mature.
Support for the middle level learning process ought to take on both
academic and social foci. Educational guidance in the form of identity-
related relevant curricula and
meaningful ways of frustrating adolescents by challenging them
with new ideas, problems, and subjects may increase their efforts
to learn and master, and ultimately contribute to their process of
maturing (Bronfenbrenner, cited in Muuss, 1988, p. 84).
Bronfenbrenners (cited in Muuss, 1988) ecological theory of human
development reminds us that adolescents must continually adjust their
behavior to fit their sociocultural environment as they interact among the
particular settings in which they live. These environments, (friendship and
other peer groups, school structures, and family values), may be in
harmony or at odds with each other. As children develop, they abandon
former microsystems and replace them with new behaviors that become
new mesosystems or ways of behaving in response to lifes changes.
These ecological transitions may be smooth or disruptive depending on
the stability of the structures (family, school, church) with which
adolescents are directly and deeply involved. For the purpose of this study,
the environment is limited to the school environment.
Developmentally Appropriate Practices
Taking into account the unique characteristics of pre-adolescents is
a significant emphasis in developmentally appropriate leading to
developmentally responsive middle school approaches. Embracing a
developmentally-appropriate behavior management system, Johnson and
Kottman (1992) strongly believe that middle school educators must
become well-versed in the characteristic behavior and attitudes of each
developmental stage of the middle school child. Wood and Hillman (1992)
share this view and acknowledge that "these very young adolescents have
important and special needs (p. 19).
Purkey (1986) agrees that middle level students face developmental
issues that impact their learning and behavior in schools. Due to
unpredictability in their lives as they mature, middle schoolers find it hard
to concentrate or sit still. Dewey (cited in Lemley, 1997), feels that the
problem with discipline is not all students fault with his remark:
The chief source of the problem of discipline in schools is that...
a premium is put on physical quietude; on silence, on rigid
uniformity of posture and movement; upon a machine-like
simulation of the attitudes of intelligent interest. The teachers
business is to hold the pupils up to these requirements and to
punish the inevitable deviations which occur (p. 37).
Disciplinary and curricular strategies designed with participatory,
flexible, experiential, and exploratory approaches may work best in working
toward the development of positive school climate. Paying attention to the
social side of learning is important for middle level learners. Too often the
emphasis is on controlling students with little freedom given for them to
discover who they are or what they want to become. Ignoring or not
understanding these needs may force middle schoolers to resort to primitive
defense mechanisms which usually result in student misbehavior. Thus,
knowledge of the developmental stages of adolescents is critical for
educators who work at this level according to the Carnegie Council (1989).
"Teachers in middle grade schools should be selected and specially
educated to teach young adolescents (Clark and Clark, 1990). Many
teachers are ill-prepared to deal with the special needs of young
adolescents. The task force of the Carnegie Council recommends
specifically that "middle level teachers must understand early adolescent
development, learn how to work in teams, and understand the principles of
guidance (1989, p. 12). This We Believe adds that middle level educators
should be "committed to young adolescents (National Middle School
Academic teaming creates cognitive and emotional support for
students and teachers, in that adults and children get to know each other
well. Through teaming, close relationships create bonds and act as a safety
net when both students and teachers have difficulties. With advisory
programs and teaming, students make a meaningful connection with at
least one school adult for social and emotional support.
Flexible groupings allow students to move in and out of groups
depending on their needs, and heterogeneity is emphasized rather than
ability grouping. Flexible and block scheduling options allow more time for
experiential kinds of activities such as science labs. Integrated curriculum
compels students to create manning from what they are learning. It is also
appealing to middle grade students, who are naturally curious and want to
know why they need to know this."
Developmentally appropriate approaches are responsive practices
that seek to use educational strategies based on how young adolescents
learn best. These strategies strive to do what is right for students in the
middle. Martin (1997) encourages middle schools to utilize student-
centered classrooms and to develop school practices that assist students in
experiencing their own identities and internalization of moral structures.
Such practices might emphasize the relevance between their own
development and treatments with curricula and pedagogy, such as the
school-to-work focus, activity-based student involvement, and peer
mediation and conflict resolution.
Principles of Developmentally Responsive Middle Schools
Starting Again in the Middle," Michigans middle level study
conducted by the Kellogg Foundation (1996), says that middle grade
developmentally responsive educational practices should focus on three
areas. Those areas include a safe physical environment, a nurturing
emotional environment, and challenging academic environment. Students
learn how to construct meaning from and make connections to their
academic educational experiences and the world around them.
The Kellogg and Carnegie Foundation studies join the National
Middle School Associations report This We Believe: Developmentally
Responsive Middle Level Schools in studying the young adolescent. NMSA
believes that there are six characteristics of young adolescents that make
theme uniquely different from other ages. Therefore, NMSA strongly
encourages middle schools to provide six areas of support for their middle
school learners. Each group (NMSA, Carnegie, and Kellogg) points out
that developmentally responsive middle schools emphasize the
academically purposeful nature of schooling while demonstrating care and
concern for students. Thus, they facilitate academic success for students.
Summary: Principles of Developmentally Appropriate Middle Schools
The results of this review are key principles underlying
developmentally appropriate middle school practices. They are the
Commitment to Pre-Adolescent Youth
Pre-adolescents are special youth who deserve educational
programs that focus on meeting their unique needs. Adults who value
these youth and enjoy the challenges that working at the middle level
afford are essential. Eichhorn (cited in Bennett and Irvin, 1996) describe
the characteristics of good middle school teachers as personally secure,
understanding, resourceful, adaptable, enthusiastic, cooperative, and in
possession of a sense of humor (p. 53).
These teachers desire a democratic atmosphere in the classroom
and feel that students can be self-disciplining. A thorough understanding
of young adolescents helps middle school teachers assist students in
developing their own sense of self-control. In addition, professional
teachers who are specially trained in the learning needs of young
adolescents support each other and their students through teaming.
A Safe Physical and Nurturing Emotional Environment
Creating a safe physical environment promotes the health, safety,
and welfare of all students through school programs and policies. As
students mature, they experiment with individual and group identity trial
and errors within well-defined parameters. These limits and structures
help keep students safe and let them know that adults are paying
attention to them.
Students learn self-discipline through conflict resolution and peer
mediation strategies. They begin to develop individual and collective
responsibility and accountability through the process of becoming self-
managed. Students who are in the process of becoming self-disciplined
individuals understand that they can choose to behave in ways that are
good for themselves and the school community. This choice is intrinsically
guided, without the need for imposed discipline.
It is as essential to meet the emotional needs of students as the
intellectual needs. This whole student view focuses on building
relationships: relationships between peers (adult to adult and child to
child) and student to adult. Additional guidance systems provide student
A positive school climate results from relationships that connect
members of the school community and form partnerships with families
and the larger community. Adults support and model high social
expectations for students. Social cooperative gatherings support esteem
building and help students create connections between themselves and
Focus on Learning
A challenging academic environment, which is a combination of core
academics and exploratory foci, emphasizes high expectations for all.
Heterogeneous, cooperative groupings and structures replace homogeneous
and competitive structures, such as tracking, ability grouping, and fixed
instructional patterns. Teachers who are specially trained in the
characteristics of young adolescents and understand their stages of
development provide a variety of learning approaches. Groups are flexible,
Inquiry-based, interdisciplinary, exploratory, and integrated
curricula focus on constructing meaning. Academic teaming forms the
structure to provide academic and emotional support for students. When
students grow in academic competence and ability, their self-esteem is
also enhanced. A focus on cooperation and collegial groups minimize
social, athletic, and academic competition.
Conclusions for the Theoretical Framework: Basic Principles of Moral
Leadership in Developmentally Appropriate Middle Schools
Due to the similarity among the two literatures described above
that serve as the theoretical framework for this study of discipline, I have
compared and combined the moral leadership and developmentally
appropriate principles, based on the following rationale. Moral leadership
principles naturally include the important ideas of developmentally
responsive schools. They form the umbrella to protect and provide for
developmentally responsive practices. Additionally, morally led schools
endorse a moral code of behavior for the community that becomes almost
a covenant agreement. Developmentally responsive middle schools share
a set of beliefs like a covenant that is articulated through curricular
treatments, programs, and policies with the members of their community.
In a similar way, moral leadership focuses on a shared ethical code to do
what is right and best for each member of the school community.
For the purpose of the dissertation, the theoretical framework for
investigating discipline in a morally responsive and developmentally
appropriate middle school can be summarized as the following major
1. Care and concern for the whole student (includes a safe physical
and nurturing emotional environment);
2. A community of learners (includes commitment to pre-
adolescent youth); and
3. Equity: All students can learn (includes focus on learning).
Review of Literature on Discipline as a Central Feature of School Culture
Discipline is an important cultural area that affects the safety of
students. Both the existence of disciplinary policies and the manner in
which these policies are carried out may have a direct impact on student
behavior. The manner in which disciplinary measures are established and
implemented reflects core values and beliefs of more that just the
behavioral expectations of students at school and who is responsible for
them. The discipline policies for the entire school reflect its assumptions,
values, and beliefs about how educators treat students.
Every year since 1969, the Phi Delta Kappan has listed discipline
as the number one problem in public schools (Charles, 1989; cited in
Murphy, 1995, p. 31). An ERIC search of the educational literature on
school discipline indicates that over 100 journal articles, newspaper
stories, and books offer conceptions of discipline or recommended
disciplinary approaches. Fourteen published studies since 1987 provide
the empirical research about discipline policies or practices in school.
The review that follows reports several different discipline
philosophies and approaches. These views of discipline provide a variety
of purposes and intents for using discipline. While it is generally thought
that a safe and orderly environment creates opportunities for learning to
occur, various authors disagree about how to create that environment.
The Traditional Perspective on Discipline: Control over Student Behavior
A traditional view of school discipline is rooted in issues of
authority and control (Bennett and Irvin, 1996, p. 53). Thought of in this
way, discipline consists of regulatory and punitive actions directed
towards students. Unable to view discipline as part of an academic
environment, they (schools) focus on punitive measures to be used
against students (Lipsitz, cited in Bennett and Irvin, p. 53).
Most traditional disciplinary purposes stress behavior
management systems with emphasis on imposed consequences for
misbehavior. These consequences include controlling students using
punishment. In this view, discipline controls students by imposing school
disciplinary consequences for misbehavior. Malesich (1994) states that
students are afraid to go to school, due to the threat of verbal or physical
assault. To promote a safe school environment, he suggests creating an
action team, including parents, students, teachers, and administrators.
Their task would be to design a set of consequences to impose on students
who misbehave. Malesich lists a process for the action team:
1. Inform the public of the discipline system through letters,
meetings, and local media;
2. Clearly convey the consequences for infractions; and
3. Empower teachers to handle most discipline situations, referring
only the most severe to the office.
Malesich states: When students are referred to the office for discipline,
parents have already been contacted. There are never any surprises (p.
Calvin, Lowe, and Clanton (1986) give a specific procedure for
teachers to follow in the establishment of classroom rules. They
emphasize that the discipline plan must clearly convey acceptable
behavioral standards. The basic intent of a discipline plan is to
communicate to each child that behavioral standards are expected in the
classroom (p. 32).
Calvin et al. suggest that teachers establish and rehearse
classroom rules at the beginning of the school year and to practice those
rules that students break frequently. They go on to say that positive
compliance should result in positive consequences and inappropriate
behavior, in negative consequences. They advise teachers to establish and
consistently administer positive and negative consequences for rule
compliance or infraction, tied as closely as possible to the rule broken or
Calvin et al. claim that Most discipline referrals come from just a
few teachers who do not have a discipline system in their classrooms (p.
31). The authors encourage schools to ensure a discipline plan for each
classroom, making sure that teachers are utilizing effective strategies for
misbehavior. They recommend a discipline referral process in the school
that supports teachers from the office level, to include establishing
individual discipline plans for students who consistently misbehave.
Discipline as Types of Consequences. Another group of authors
endorses the use of certain types of consequences in schools. Ellis and
Geller (1993) state that suspension is a legitimate educational tool used
to maintain order in schools. The authors claim that suspensions may be
used for all students including the handicapped because it does not
demand a change in placement. Ellis and Geller contend that giving
handicapped students due process subjects them to the same discipline
system els all other students, as long as their handicap does not cause or
have a direct link to the disruptive behavior.
Suspension from school may be used for emergency reasons, as
being considered a danger to self, others, property, or interfering in the
education of other students. It maintains order, in that all students can
learn proper and acceptable behavior, and is a temporary, short-term
Ellis and Geller consider acceptable means of school discipline as:
2. In-School Suspension (or ISS),
3. Saturday School or Detention,
4. Out-of-School Suspension (or OSS), and
Ellis and Geller write about alternative methods of discipline that
may be effective for handicapped as well as all students, including time out,
counseling sessions, and withdrawal of privileges. They particularly
encourage Saturday school and detention, because of the followingreasons:
1. It is supervised by adults;
2. It is not viewed as a vacation by students;
3. Students are isolated from peers; and
4. Students may receive academic instruction on an individual basis
by adults and do not miss class duringthe school week.
Other authors name similar consequences for student misbehavior.
Stenersen and Stouffer (1994) agree with Ellis and Geller (1993) in praising
a Saturday school and detention system. Stenersen and Stouffer cite these
methods as a strong deterrent to misbehavior at school. Since most
students immensely dislike giving up part of their weekend, it is most
definitely not a vacation. They note that decreasing suspensions from
school benefits students because academics may not be affected.
Stenersen and Stouffer claim that Keeping students in their classes while
maintaining a strong disciplinary deterrent is a critical step in developing a
positive school climate (p. 37). Stenersen and Stouffer find that Saturday
school also accomplishes the following:
1. Reduces the number of discipline offenses throughout the school,
2. Increases the total attendance rate of both students and
3. Fosters parental ownership of student misbehavior at school, and
4. Provides an effective way of disdplininghandicapped students, in
that it does not require a change of placement.
Malesich (1994) agrees philosophically with Saturday school and
detention. He supports certified teachers offering services on Saturday on
a volunteer or paid basis. A comprehensive discipline program should
include the staff, parents, students, and community members (p. 38).
Malesich suggests involving the community, so that the community could
entirely fund the Saturday school system. This allows certified teachers
either from the school or the community at large to tutor those students
who are placed in Saturday school due to misbehavior at school, including
Malesich describes a plan operated by local community ministers
and used for suspended students that requires them to perform community
service. Students who consistently misbehave and face suspension must
often experience learning at local jails or prisons, in a partnership worked
out with the school, local law enforcement agencies, and the District
Students who violate youth court procedures or continue to
intimidate or be disruptive may be remanded to the real court
system through a diversion program called Shape Up that could
lead to a two-day learning experience at the state prison (p. 39).
Finally, Roberts (1993) writes about a positive alternative discipline
system, used in place of suspension and expulsion, for students who
consistently misbehave in a serious way. The Toughlove system offers
students an opportunity to participate in Toughlove meetings during the
school day, for the same number of days that they would otherwise face
suspension. Tougfalove consists of student peer groups who acknowledge
their misbehavior and confront each other to help them change. Teachers
or administrators who have been trained in the Toughlove process teach
the classes. Parents of these students attend evening meetings, much like
a support group. Roberts raises the notion that schools need adults to
support the schools in their efforts. She insists that cooperation between
home and school is a necessity, not a luxury.
Critiques of Traditional Approaches to Discipline. Grossnickle, Bialk,
and Panagiotaros (1993) support Roberts belief about the necessity of the
relationship between school and home. Grossnickle et al. believe that
discipline should be commonly determined and that adults should work
together to design discipline. These authors say that discipline should
promote the working together of parents, students, teachers, and
administrators, in order to identify a shared vision of discipline standards
and expectations. Schools can promote personal and social responsibility
by involving community members, parents, and teachers in defining
specific expectations and standards (p. 2).
Kohn (1991) agrees with Malesich (1994) and Grossnickle et al.
(1993) when he charges schools to utilize collaborative planning and
mutual problem solving in designing a discipline system for a school or
classroom. While involving others conveys community ownership, Kohn
notes that this traditional view of discipline still emphasizes adult control.
He says that it reacts and responds to student misbehavior with imposed
consequences, rather than teaching to prevent misbehavior.
Continuing, Kohn (1991) states that schools use discipline to control
students behavior. He writes that discipline methods used in schools
include punishing and bribing. According to Kohn, punishing reinforces the
punitive, and students focus on what they did wrong, not on the lesson they
are supposed to learn from the experience. Bribing often stifles creativity,
and both methods are extrinsic, rather than intrinsic in nature (1993).
Kohn (1993) explains:
Bribes and threats work. What rewards and punishments do is
produce temporary compliance. They buy us obedience. If thats
what we mean when we say they work, then yes, they work
wonders. But if we are ultimately concerned with the kind of
people our children will become, there are no shortcuts. Good
values have to be grown from the inside out. Praise and
privileges and punishments can change behavior (for a while), but
they cannot change the person who engages in the behaviorat
least, not in the way we want. No behavioral manipulation ever
helped a child develop a commitment to becoming a caring and
responsible person (pp. 160-161).
Rather than promoting a positive preventive approach to discipline,
Kohn (1991) believes that most schools concentrate on influencing student
behavior and especially curbing student misbehavior. Kohn (1993)
observes the following about school discipline practices:
"What concerns me is the practice of taking what people want or
need and offering it on a contingent basis in order to control how
they actthis is where the trouble lies (p. 4).
According to Marshall (1998), fostering social responsibility and
reducing irresponsible behavior effectively promotes student self-discipline
when punishment is not used. With punishment, ownership is
relinquished; once the punishment has been served, the student is free and
clear," but social learning may not have occurred (p. 31). Shin (1997)
believes that students who are forced to obey rather than choosing to obey
may not commit to long-term behavior change.
Kohn (1993) has this to say specifically about punishment:
All punishment, by which I mean any reliance on power to make
something unpleasant happen to a child as a way of trying to
alter that childs behavior, teaches that when you are bigger or
stronger than someone else, you can use that advantage to force
the person to do what you want (p. 167).
Many times, punishment is mistaken for discipline just as power is
mistaken for authority. Marshall (1998) explains that when students
misbehave, adults may want them to suffer and punish them, in order to
teach them a lesson. He believes that when adults punish students, adults
mistakenly think that they have taught students how to constructively
make their own behavior choices. Marshall claims, however, that students
do not make good behavior choices when they feel bad, but when they feel
good. "When was the last time you felt bad and did something good? We do
good when we feel good (p. 34).
Research Findings about Traditional Discipline. Day, Factor, and
Szkiba-Day examined the disciplinary styles among parents of 6-12 year
old children (Day, Factor, and Szkiba-Day, 1994). For the purpose of this
study, discipline referred to those things that parents do to dissuade
children from engaging in particular behaviors (p. 523). Discipline was
further used to decrease the frequency of negative behaviour through
punishment rather than increase the frequency of desirable behaviour
through reinforcement (p. 523). Hie authors identified behavior problems
representing noncompliance, stealing, school behavior problems, and
aggression towards peers and adults.
Disciplinary methods reported two types: coercive, such as yelling,
hitting, and slapping; and inductive, as in removing privileges and talking
about the issue. Results from this study revealed that parents who did not
feel comfortable using discipline strategies tended to report that their
children experienced more behavior problems than other parents. Applying
this finding to schools suggests that adults need to develop knowledge and
use of appropriate discipline strategies with students.
Day etal. discovered that the use of harsh, coercive discipline styles
relate to a higher incidence of conduct problems and delinquency in children.
Parents who reported less perceived control of themselves tended to
perceive their childs behavior as threatening and to use coercive methods.
This finding has significant indications for both parents and teachers who
use these strategies with children. It contributes to the understanding that
punitive philosophies and methods relate directly to more severe and
frequent student misbehaviors (Freiberg et al., 1995, and Gottfredson et al.,
1993). Rather, it suggests using discipline as a teaching tool to help
children become more self-controlled in the social development area.
Similar in focus to the study above, Straus (1991) studied children
ranging in ages from 1 to 17 and their parents to draw a relationship
between the physical punishment of children and its consequences. The
researcher defined physical punishment as spanking, slapping, grabbing,
and shoving a child roughly, or with more force than is needed to move the
child (p. 134). While using physical punishment is thought to decrease
deviance, Straus found that it increases social conforming, not decreased
However, he states that almost all parents and the majority of
teachers in this study (90%) believe that physical punishment is an
appropriate and effective form of discipline (p. 133). Straus concluded
that although physical punishment may produce short term conformity,
over the longer run it probably also creates or exacerbates deviance (p.
147). Strauss findings point out that positive rather than punitive
strategies help reduce misbehavior, and that punitive approaches may
actually increase misbehavior. Curwin (1995) concurs with Corporal
punishment only gives credibility to hitting as a solution to problems
(1995, p. 75).
Discipline as Care and Concern for the Whole Student
Shin (1997) introduces this perspective on discipline by explaining
that the social learning of students is as important as academic success.
She approaches discipline from a teaching standpoint.
Staff members who have maintained authority by strict
enforcement of rules and demands for obedience will need to
empower young people to take responsibility and learn from their
mistakes. They will have to learn discipline for responsibility
(Shin, 1997, p. 4).
This report from the PTA views discipline as a teaching opportunity
and requirement, as well, with the following:
To many people, discipline means punishment. But, actually, to
discipline means to teach. Rather than punishment, discipline
should be a positive way of helping and guiding children to achieve
self-control. The purpose of discipline, then, is to teach children
acceptable behavior so that they will make wise decisions when
dealing with problems (National PTA, 1993, p. 1).
The morally and developmentally responsive principle of care and
concern for the whole student at the middle level needs to take into account
the uniqueness of each young adolescent in the area of social development.
Through a better understanding of young adolescents and
through an examination of our personal orientations toward
teaching, classroom management, and students, we can promote
an environment that leads to higher levels of student self-
discipline (Bennett and Irvin, 1996, p. 54).
Meyerhoff (1997) concludes that schools ought to make a distinction
between discipline and punishment and utilize approaches that support
students who are continually becoming self-managed. He believes that
management by power, rather than real authority, results when behavior
standards are externally imposed and not internally embraced. Schools
where external disciplinary strategies strictly manage student behavior do
not contribute to the development of student self-discipline (Shin, 1997).
To demand submission is to fuel rebellion and the rejection of adult values
The focus on imposed consequences as discipline continues to place
responsibility for student control not on students themselveswhich is
where it belongs (Marshall, 1998, p. 31). He goes on to say that the idea of
mere conformity to established and imposed behavior expectations fosters
an extrinsic acceptance. On the other hand, democratic methods foster a
commitment to internally derived social responsibility to a civil society.
Marshall sees that the difference in these two views is essential and points
to the difference between teaching as discipline and punishing as discipline
(1998). People grow without coercion and punishment (p. 34).
Puhr (1993) believes that discipline provides structure in the lives of
students. The need for properly administered discipline in our classrooms
is manifested in misbehaving students who desire structure in their lives
(1993, p. 83). In addition, they actually expect, want, and need discipline,
according to Puhr as he continues to assert: Students not only need order
and control in the classroom, they want it. Students who need attention
will do anything for it, including misbehaving (p. 85). He claims that
students eventually accept the freedom that comes from knowing where
the appropriate boundaries are, so they can function within the proper
Fay and Clines system of Discipline of Love and Logic (1997)
closely resembles Glassers Reality Therapy (1969), which stresses being
responsible for oneself, learning how to solve problems, and making self-
satisfying choices. Nelsen (1981) agrees with Glasser, Fay, and Cline that
rules should be dear, reasonable, and enforceable, and that logical
consequences should be related, respectful, and reasonable. Each
disdplinary approach emphasizes the establishment of dear expectations
along with logical, natural consequences that are firmly, fairly, lovingly, and
An emphasis on allowing children to make behavior choices, coupled
with consistent follow-through with the results of potential choices, are
essential components of these approaches. They employ procedures that
view students who misbehave with care and concern, in addition to
teaching and modeling mutual respect. The emphasis is not on rule
enforcement or imposed consequences when students misbehave, but on
the learning opportunities that mistakes offer (Nelsen, 1981).
Hunter (1990), Lock (1991), and Raebeck (1993) focus on using
disdpline as a teaching tool. Schools need to develop the disdplinary
teachings that promote self-discipline (Hunter, 1990) and should focus on
prevention rather than responding to misbehavior (Lock, 1991). Lock
states that Discipline should not be used to make life easier for adults but
to educate children to be more responsible and to become self-disciplined
(1991, p. 7). According to Raebeck, the use of discipline in schools should
focus on causes of misbehavior rather than symptoms, on students
themselves rather than process, and on providing student consequences
and choices rather than punishment or merely demanding obedience
Shin (1977) agrees, stating that While the notion that children
should learn to follow rules is not debatable, the important question
concerns why children do follow rules. If rules are imposed by external
sanctions, children will follow them only as long as they are policed (p. 1).
Schools that provide students with opportunities to learn by making
choices (whether good or poor) empower students to think before they act,
and thus increase the potential for student self-discipline.
Wayson et al. (1982) stress the relationship between student self-
discipline and the need for educators to teach students these skills. These
authors point to a critical difference as they state: Discipline is learned.
Behavior is caused (p. 63). They point to the need for schools to create
learning situations where students may practice accepting responsibility
and behaving appropriately. A schools responsibility is to teach.
Discipline that does not teach and is not related to the students
misbehavior is simply a punishment (Johns et al., 1995, p. 2-1). Both sets
of authors reinforce the need for schools to view discipline as a teaching
Nelsen (1981) says that students ought to be taught problem
solving skills in order to learn how to make reasoned choices for their own
behavior. They become effective decision makers with healthy self-
concepts when they learn to be contributing members of a family and of
society (p. 19) Students need hope, the belief that they can make good
choices. Nelsen advocates disciplinary methods that stress praise,
involvement of students, reasoned choices, responsibility, communication,
and learning to work with others empower students to become socially
Kohn (1993) strongly believes in the need for youth to grow socially
and become self-controlled individuals. He states:
One is repeatedly struck by the absurd spectacle of adults who
talk passionately about the need for kids to become "self-
disciplined and to take responsibility for their own behavior-
all the while ordering children around. The truth is that if we
want children to take responsibility for their own behavior, we
must first give them responsibility, and plenty of it. The way a
child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by
following directions (p. 249).
Hunter (1990) takes a psychologists point of view when she asserts
that most of the behavior schools deal with is learned behavior and not
genetic. In agreement with Lock (1991) and Raebeck (1993), Hunter
encourages schools to discover how to instill the desire for self-discipline,
which she defines as cognitive control over students own behavior (p. 2).
Hunters assertions are based on tenants from physiological, behavioral,
social, and cognitive psychologies. She further states that students who
are self-disciplined elect to behave in satisfying and productive ways.
Research Findings about Discipline from a Perspective of Care and
Concern for the Whole Student. Parkhurst and Asher (1992) studied peer
rejection at the middle school level. They identified patterns of behavior
and emotional responses associated with peer rejection of early
adolescents. Both submissive-rejected and aggressive-rejected young
adolescents were found to have loneliness, interpersonal, and behavior
concerns. The researchers also related that these groups of students were
found to be at higher risk for later problems, such as school dropout,
delinquency, and criminality.
Parkhurst and Asher noted that passive-rejected students may
suffer from low self-esteem, display unusually sad behavior, or depression,
and that bullies may face isolation through rejection. These findings have
implications for the middle school student who displays either negative
behavior as a bully or is the victim of such behavior. As in Parkhurst and
Ashers study (1992), an examination of a negative school environment
may contribute to student misbehavior or withdrawal, linking this work to
other studies that connect negative environment with misbehavior
(Boulton and Smith, 1994; Dupper and Krishef, 1993; and Wentzel, 1993).
According to Parkhurst and Asher, Positive interactional qualities
play an important role in determining whether or not aggressive or
submissive students are rejected (p. 239). Increased benefits to students
were found to exist when interventions that improved the relationship
between pro social behavior and peer interactions were provided. The
researchers discovered that teaching concepts such as friendliness,
cooperativeness, and supportiveness were found to be the most successful
traits as social interventions for rejected children.
A similar study paid attention to bully/victim problems in middle
school children. Boulton and Smith (1994) acknowledge the need for a
social support system for young adolescents, in order to reduce bully/victim
problems. The researchers examined issues of peer rejection and
popularity, as well. They note that The results confirm that
bullying/victimization represents a considerable problem among middle
school children (p. 324).
Boulton and Smith suggest that social concerns among peers in the
school environment may negatively influence middle schoolers and interfere
with student success. They feel that attempts to reduce bully/victim
problems acknowledge the need for a social support system. This finding
suggests social skills behavior training for middle school students, as did
Parkhurst and Asher (1992).
Kell am et al. (1994) examined the aggressive behavior of first
through middle grade students. These authors found aggressive first grade
behavior that continued as students transitioned into middle school became
manifest as exhibited by antisocial, violent, and criminal behavior, including
heavy controlled substance usage. Without social support, the stressful
transition into middle school was found to impact student development,
displayed as socially maladaptive behavior (p. 263).
However, the authors also found that interventions of parent
training and childrens social skills training were able to reduce aggressive
behavior after two years of treatment. This discovery links the findings of
researchers who advocate social skills training for children who struggle
with behavior issues (Boulton and Smith, 1994; Parkhurst and Asher,
1992; Dupper and Krishef, 1993; and Wentzel, 1993).
Discipline in a Community of Learners
A third perspective on discipline in the literature calls for morally
and developmentally responsive leadership to develop a community of
learners. Glasser says, Children who attend a school in which they are
asked to take some responsibility for the curriculum and rules discover
democracy (Kohn, 1993, p. 249). Consistent with the tenet of democracy
in Western culture is the moral principle of community. This value is
founded on the fundamental tenet that every member of the community
bears some responsibility for the welfare of others (Shin, 1997, p. 4). She
concludes that an emphasis should be placed on communicating to children
the effect of their behavior on others while fostering empathy and
responsibility (Shin, 1997).
The learning environment that young adolescents experience now
will have a strong effect on their futures. To fulfill our
responsibility, we must seek to understand them, examine our
own values, attitudes, and interactions with others; and provide
caring feedback for them to use in developing their own sense of
self-control (Bennett and Irvin, 1996, p. 54).
The authors send a clear message that middle school communities should
create environments that young adolescents can draw assistance from in
helping students shape personal identities and form values.
This focus on discipline in a community is similar to the previous
section in that both parts stress the importance of social education for
middle school youth. However, this sections focus goes beyond this aspect.
Curwin (1995) encourages schools to replace discipline based on rewards
and punishment with values, because he feels that rewards and
punishments do not teach the importance of values or the use of values in
decisionmaking. He continues with:
People with choices, skills, and positive role models still commit
violent acts. Before a different choice can be made, an individual
needs a powerful desire to do so. Only strong values motivate us
to control our naturally violent nature. We must know in our
minds, our hearts, and our spirits that hurting others is wrong (p.
In a morally responsive school, each member of the school
community is continually becoming more of an individual self-learner and
self-manager (Sergiovanni, 1992). Coles (1997) reminds us that children
learn to make good behavior choices by being and behaving with others,
including adults and other children in different settings. Coles clearly
suggests that adults teach children by their own behavior choices and as
principled role models. Sergiovanni states, Schools as moral communities
have an obligation to teach students these lessons of role responsibility
(1996, p. 86). As members of a comm unify, young people need to
understand that their behavior choices have effects on others in the
environment, which fosters empathy for others and responsibility for
individual behavior choices (Shin, 1997).
Dewey (1938) applauds the regard for individual freedom and for
decency and kindliness of human relations rather than autocratic
methods of repression, coercion, and force (p. 34). He asserts that
democratic social arrangements promote a better quality of human
experience," emphasizing humane treatment, not situations that reflect
exhibitions of personal power (p. 34). In agreement with Dewey, Baker &
States (1991) quote Emerson: I believe that our own experience instructs
us that the secret of education lies in respecting the pupil (p. 155).
Kohn encourages creating a nonpunitive, collaborative atmosphere
where students and adults solve problems together. Kohn also notes that
what educators believe, say, and do affects how educators relate to
students, and how educators encourage students to relate to one another
(1991,1993). Kohn directs schools to place an emphasis on the communal
aspect of school; how the choices that students make impact and affect
others and increase responsibility for one another (Sergiovanni, 1992). The
communal focus on school diminishes the importance of consequences as a
disciplinary priority and replaces imposed consequences with the teaching
of responsibility leading to self-control. Kohn (1993) states:
The process of doing so (helping children become good people)
cannot be reduced to simply teaching a set of social skills to each
student. It is not a matter of what the teacher does for (or,
better, with) this child and that one but rather how a caring
classroom and school community can be created to serve as the
context in which children acquire positive attitudes and skills.
Prosocial values are learned in a community, and part of what is
learned is the value of community (p. 245-246).
Kohn claims that if school adults trained students in and modeled for
them positive modeling behaviors, such as caring, sharing, kindness,
empathy, helping, and positivity, students would learn for life how to
behave. Kohn (1993) observes:
A growing number of observers, in surveying the moral state of
our society, are concluding that professional educators have a
role to play alongside parents in contributing to childrens moral,
social, and behavioral development. To some extent this is
because many children simply are not exposed to positive values
at home, and it falls to schools to take up the burden. To some
extent it is because educators already play a role in teaching
values whether they mean to or not: every element of classroom
life is unavoidably saturated in values. One way or another, a
teachers responsibility (and opportunity) is to help children
become not only good learners but good people (pp. 245-246).
Kohns endorsement of teaching character building in schools joins
Lickonas case for how character education and discipline are connected
In a person of good character, moral knowing, feeling, and acting
generally work together to support each other. Not always, of
course; even exceptionally good people often fall short of their
best moral selves. But as we develop charactera lifelong
processthe moral self we lead increasingly integrates judgment,
feeling, and patterns of right conduct
For this reason, children need, as part of their moral education,
lots of opportunities to develop good habits, plenty of practice at
being good persons. That means repeated experiences in doing
whats helpful and honest and courteous and fair. The good
habits they formed will serve them well even when the going is
tough (p. 62).
Again, like Kohn, Lickona promotes a communal focus for schools
as he states:
Character doesnt function in a vacuum; it functions in a social
environment. Schools must provide a moral environment that
accents good values and keeps them in the forefront of everyones
consciousness. It takes a long time for a value to become a
virtueto develop from mere intellectual awareness into
personal habits of thinking, feeling, and acting that make it a
functioning priority. The whole school environment, the moral
culture of the school, has to support that growth (p. 63).
Lickona (1995) teaches that knowing what is moral may lead to
morally guided behavior. Informed student behavior choice should deal with
moral education or character development, agrees Gill (1989). Until all of
the worlds citizens can function effectively in their native lands and be
their brothers keeper,"' there will be the need to consider morality in
guiding students to make right behavior choices (Gill, 1989, p. 22).
Noddings (cited in Bennett and Irvin, 1996), agrees with, To create
more successful schools, we must truly care for our students and adopt the
goal of promoting the growth of students as healthy, competent, and moral
people (p. 53). Howard (cited in Bennett and Irvin, 1996) continues the
focus on caring with Better control and improved student self-discipline
will come when there is teacher warmth and acceptance of the pupils (p.
53). Curwin (1995) also emphasizes that schools need to care about and
welcome all students. Teaching students the meaning of values means
helping them to find humanity within themselves so that they can care
about others (p. 74).
Lickona (1991), Etzioni (1993, cited in Sergiovanni, 1996), and Senge
(1995) agree that discipline should focus on the community of learners.
When people (in a learning organization) truly share a vision they are
connected, bound together by a common aspiration (Senge, 1995, p. 206).
Etzioni (, cited in Sergiovanni, 1996) explains:
When the term community is used, the first notion that typically
comes to mind is a place in which people know and care for one
anotherthe kind of place in which people do not merely ask
How are you? as a formality, but care about the answer. This
we-ness...is indeed part of its essence. Our focus here, though, is
on another element of community, crucial for the issues at hand:
Communities speak to us in moral voices. They lay claims on
their members. Indeed, they are the most important sustaining
source of moral voices other than the inner self ([p. 31], cited in
Sergiovanni, 1996, p. 59).
Lickona believes that students should examine moral dilemmas,
engage in moral reflection, and experience cooperative learning strategies.
"Skills in conflict resolution, peer mediation, anger control, and Discipline
With. Dignity are examples of existing programs that teach alternatives to
violence" (Curwin, 1995, p. 73). Curwin believes that these strategies offer
students resiliency when faced with difficult situations in life, such as
conflict and physical harm (1995).
Lickona and Etzioni believe that when youth feel the lack of stable
networks, many young people seek affiliation through negative influences,
such as gangs and drugs, and other such troubling behavior problems may
occur. A holistic approach that builds on young peoples strengths and
recognizes their needs adds to the development of individual self-worth,
without which social, behavioral, psychological, and learning problems may
occur. These authors advocate creating schools where students are
attached in some way to their environments, so that students understand
that they belong. Lickona and Etzioni feel that this nurturing support
promotes social, emotional, behavioral, and academic successes.
"Administrators should treat teachers in the same way that they
want teachers to treat students (Curwin, 1995, p. 74). It is not enough to
merely control the behavior of children. According to Curwin and Mendler:
Methods of discipline, when viewed from a holistic perspective,
play an important role in development of self-concept, the ability
to take responsibility for ones actions, the way children learn to
communicate with others, and how they learn to work
cooperatively with others (1988, p. 241).
Curwin and Mendler (1988) stress the prevention aspect of discipline
by teaching students to be responsible, contributing members of their
environments through a value system that maintains the dignity of each
student in all situations (p. 20). Hartwig and Ruesch (1994) agree that
the teaching of discipline should promote self-disciplined, functional, and
healthy members of society (p. 240). Doda and Lounsbury (cited in
Bennett and Irvin, 1996) concur that the prevention of misconduct and the
development of self-discipline are preventive middle school discipline
practices, with Caring guidance is preventive discipline (1981, p. 50).
Research Findings from the Perspective of Discipline in a
Community of Learners. Three studies focusing on adults, both teachers
and parents, propose that an understanding of the developmental stages of
children is important when working with children. Reed and Busby (1987)
conducted a study that centered on the classroom discipline problems of
experienced and student teachers. Elementary, middle, and high school
grade students participated in the study. Experienced teachers reported
that while they had encountered few incidents involving violence, other
kinds of behaviors were equally frustrating and forced them to correct
misbehaviors rather than teach.
Most problems relate to student lack of motivation, student talk at
inappropriate times, student inattentiveness, and student avoidance of
work (p. 60). Dealing with student discipline problems in the classrooms
interfered with effective teaching and learning, reported classroom
teachers. "The public and many experienced classroom teachers are
concerned about classroom discipline problems. These problems are of
even greater concern for student teachers (p. 64).
Reed and Busby recommend that all teachers should have an
understanding of the developmental characteristics of the age of students
with whom they work, including those in teacher education programs.
"Knowledge about the developmental process of children helps the (student)
teacher to view children realistically and to have realistic expectations of
them (p. 63). Realistic expectations may help both teacher and student to
experience success in the classroom, according to the researchers.
The researchers encourage teacher education programs to stress
positive teacher attitudes and behavior.
"Perhaps the most important teacher attitude is a healthy self-
concept. Feeling good about oneself and behaving in a self-
confident manner gives a student teacher presence,1 which
discourages back-talk and other rude behavior from children (p.
They also recommend that teachers develop an understanding of
discipline strategies. Reed and Busby believe that knowledge of a variety of
methods and components of discipline models may assist the teacher in
effective classroom management and discipline. "Knowledge about these
components and models can help students develop practical skills for
organizing and maintaining effective classroom discipline (p. 63).
Larzelere, Amberson, and Martin (1992) studied preschoolers in an
attempt to discover the frequency and patterns of discipline problems
among that age group and those that may develop later on during their
development. Because toddlerhood marks the beginning of active parental
efforts to direct, instruct, and limit a childs behavior in line with perceived
social norms, the responding discipline encounters have been considered
critical incidents in social emotional development (p. 192). A hypothesis
explored the connection between certain behaviors (particularly,
oppositional and aggressive) that youngsters exhibited and the likelihood
that these actions would later develop into behavior problems.
Findings revealed that adults who have knowledge about the stages
of child development will be more successful in recognizing a problem in
their own children. The authors feel that adults who are not familiar with
these stages may hold unrealistic expectations for children. These adults
may also unwittingly contribute to a behavior problem by using
developmentally inappropriate methods of discipline. The researchers also
recognize that adults may be counterproductive in allowing the behavior to
continue for too long without intervention.
Implications suggested in this study connect it to two other similar
studies that stress developing knowledge about developmental levels of
youth (Reed and Busby, 1987; and Snyder, 1991). Applied to a school
setting, this study could suggest that teachers who are not familiar with
the developmental stages of their classroom children may not provide an
effective discipline structure in their classroom.
Snyder (1991) also looked at preschool children to examine parental
disciplinary practices and the relationship between those practices,
parental mood, and stress. What he found was that parental mood and
stress had direct bearing on whether parents consistently dealt with their
childrens behavior problems and what form that discipline took. "On days
when mothers reported more negative mood and stress, they were more
likely to demonstrate poor disciplinary tactics (p. 263).
Snyders study implies to me that middle level adults also experience
stress and moodiness that may relate to a study of discipline. These
implications suggest that educators who understand that their stress level
and mood impacts their effectiveness with children may be able to control
their own behavior and not contribute unwittingly to student behavior
In a study by Freiberg, Stein, and Parker (1995), school adults
(mainly teachers) made reports on students whom they had referred to the
office for misbehavior. Thus, discipline referrals provided the data for this
study focusing on middle school behavioral problems.
Because significant peers and groups replace parental roles in
importance, external forces may dictate adolescent behavior (Erikson,
cited in Muuss, 1988). The researchers found that the turmoil experienced
during pre-adolescence is reflected in behaviors that may disrupt the
learning climate of schools and impact the future lives of students (p. 421).
This turmoil includes the transition to middle school, in which students may
feel they have fewer choices to make, actually participate in less decision-
making, and so perceive that they have less control over their
Like Gottfredson et al., Freiberg etal. noted that The misbehaving
student is not the only one who experiences reduced learning through
disruptive behavior (p. 437), therefore linking this work with
environmentalists (Bronfenbrenner, cited in Muuss, 1988; Dupper and
Krishef, 1993). Freiberg et al. say that Schools must focus on all aspects
of the school environment (p. 438). Rather than punishment., the authors
Schools must recognize the individuality of student and make
the classroom and the school community places where students
can not only learn but places where they are glad to be (p. 438).
Based on their findings, Freiberg et al. recommend that schools
support students in the areas of curriculum and school structures by
organizing into teams with a set group of students to create a family-like
environment (p. 436). Teachers from the Freiberg et al. study concluded
that a lack of curriculum and teacher-student interactions led to boredom
and discipline problems (p. 437). This discovery has implications for
middle school curricula, structures, and scheduling
Teachers are too often seen as practicing management techniques
that do not treat students as individuals, or take into account underlying
causes of student misbehavior (p. 438). Rather, they treat symptoms,
Freiberg et al. say: Referrals are symptoms of a greater problema
learning environment that does not work for either students or teachers
(p. 438). The authors note that consequences that are themselves
responsible and meet individual needs, rather than commonly used or rigid
consequences, may convey a care and concern for misbehaving students
and assist them toward self-control (Bronfenbrenner, cited in Muuss, 1988;
and Dupper and Krishef, 1993).
Freiberg et al. have implications for a study of discipline using the
needs of the young adolescent as the starting point. Curricula, policies, and
structures should be attentive to the developmental levels of pre-
adolescent youth and help middle schools establish moral principles that
guide the decisions of each member of the school community (Bennett and
Irvin, 1996). As Kamii (cited in Kohn, 1993) writes,
We cannot expect children to accept ready-made values and
truths all the way through school, and then suddenly make
choices in adulthood. Likewise, we cannot expect them to be
manipulated with reward and punishment, in school, and to have
the courage of a Martin Luther King in adulthood (p. 249).
Knoff (1983) found that the junior high school adolescent who was
consistently unsuccessful with school and social relationships tended to
develop maladaptive, emotionally disturbing behaviors (p. 541). These
negative behaviors are a direct link to poor self-concept and develop as
protective mechanisms, according to Knoff. However, since the young
adolescent can be socially and adaptively successful in the home and
community, Knoff points out that the school environment should adapt to
provide success for these students at school.
Rather than the student making adjustments to fit a school
structure, climate, and curriculum, Knoff recommends that schools be
flexible enough to attempt to meet the needs of all students. This study
suggests implications for the equitable treatment of students who are
different from the norm, with a myriad of labeling possibilities.
The author recommends that school programs should be in place to
meet the special learning and social needs of learning disabled youth and
should extend to parents. Knoff concludes that the junior high learning
disabled adolescent has characteristics, issues, and concerns which
uniquely affect his or her self-concept and feelings of success (p. 547).
Thus, he suggests that self-concept needs affect social and academic
The clarity of school rules and consistency of rule enforcement in
middle school were the topics of research in Gottfredson, Gottfredson, and
Hybls (1993) study. Authors reviewed what they already knew about
misbehaving students and adolescent misconduct. They cited several
points relevant to a study of middle school discipline. They say that:
Disruptive behavior in school harms both the misbehaving
individual and the school community. Students who misbehave
also drop out of school, use drugs and alcohol, and engage in
delinquent behavior at higher rates than do their more
conforming peers. The consequences of fear coupled with erosion
of the learning environment are among the cost of student
misconduct (p. 180).
Finally, the authors point out that the misbehavior of these students has
"both individual and environmental determinants (p. 180).
The Gottfredson et al. study examined school-, classroom-, and
individual-level interventions aimed at reducing the misbehavior of middle
school students. While the study found that schools can intervene to
improve student behavior, the authors advise caution. They note that
when schools merely improved the clarity of discipline policies,
implemented a computerized behavior management system, and provided
rewards for appropriate student behavior, they did not report changes in
Only schools that approached student misconduct with the above-
mentioned structures in place, in addition to significant reduction of
punishment and change of climate to positive, noted a reduction in student
misconduct, according to the authors. Schools that "changed the school
climate in the direction of respect, support, and fair treatment of students
experienced beneficial student outcomes (p. 209). Gottfredson etal. (1993)
echo Bennett and Irvin (1996) as they state the following:
When congruence between philosophy and practice exists in an
atmosphere where the students needs are considered
preeminent, the greatest discipline effectiveness can occur.
Inevitably, our behavior is reflected in the behavior of our
students. How we see is what we get (p. 54).
Hie last point suggests significant implications for a study of
discipline. A mere cosmetic change (p. 209) of adding a rewards
component to a punitive disciplinary system does not contribute to a
positive environment. Gottfredson et al. implies that the schools should
examine their fundamental beliefs about discipline in relation to how to
treat students, rather than simply trying to add to an ineffective system.
This point supports Sergiovannis ideas about creating a morally
responsive environment, in which he states that rules do not work unless
they are accompanied by the right climate (1992, p. 113).
Gottfredson et al. found that in the area of discipline, punitive
techniques and an emphasis on adult power does not create an atmosphere
that promotes student self-discipline. Unfortunately, there is no such
thing as a quick and easy discipline fix method1 (Bennett and Irvin, p. 54).
According to Freiberg, et al., (1995), Self-discipline is built over time and
involves multiple sources of experiences for each student (p. 438).
An emphasis on the importance of creating a positive climate begins
the next section of research. Staub (1990) looked at the effects of the
disciplinary implications involved in combining positive verbal praise with
the posting of negative feedback of students hallway behavior. Staub
notes that Traditional school wide consequences, however, are often
administered with little or no effect toward developing more proactive
responses to hallway misconduct (p. 249).
The researcher found that posting alone had little effect on negative
hallway behavior. However, coupled with positive verbal praise and
feedback from school personnel, posting of this behavior can be effective in
targeting disruptive behavior in group situations. Staubs finding is
relevant to a study of the middle school disciplinary climate. He suggests
that the effects of positive feedback and attention, rather than a focus on
the negative, may produce desired change in various settings.
Two other studies look at the relationship between maladaptive
behavior and the environment. Dupper and Krishef (1993) investigated the
teaching of social-cognitive skills to middle school students with behavior
problems as an attempt to decrease maladaptive behavior. These social-
cognitive skills comprise principles of social learning (learned behaviors in
social situations) and cognitive theories (stressing that thinking determines
Drupper and Krishef s blend of these two theories promotes training
that enhances the competencies of children and adolescents with behavior
problems. The authors note that the goal of social-cognitive skills training
is to strengthen problem-solving capabilities in individuals as they interact
with their environment. This proactive, preventive approach may assist
students in the development of self-control and a measure of adaptive
The researchers studied thirty-five middle school students who were
at risk of being suspended from school based on exhibiting frequent
behavior problems by enrolling them in a social-cognitive skills program.
School behavior issues reflected problems with school authority figures or
peers, including defiance, disrespect, insubordination, tardiness, or fighting.
The researchers report that students identified as meeting the criteria for
this program met once a week during a 45-minute session for 10
Dupper and Krishef found that this "social-cognitive skills training
program shows promise as a school-based positive alternative to
suspension (p. 140). They noted that these skill concepts have helped
participants understand their unproductive school behaviors and acquire
more effective problem solving and school survival skills. The authors
suggest that the teaching of social skills may be an effective intervention,
rather than waiting for behavioral issues to become mqjor problems and to
minimize the damage of repeated suspensions.
Bronfenbrenners (cited in Muuss, 1988) ecosystems perspective,
defined as the result of the interaction between individuals and their
environment, sheds light on the implications of the environmental study by
researchers Dupper and Krishef (1993). An ecosystems perspective points
to the environment, rather than assigning blame to misbehaving students
for psychological problems or disorders within individuals, explain the
authors. Student maladaptive behavior is viewed as a mismatch between
the demands of the school environment and the competencies of individual
students (1993, p. 132).
A proactive approach to discipline and one that helps students
develop social school survival skills is effective in deterring social
misbehavior, according to Dupper and Krishef. They suggest that
assessing the environment of middle schools might provide insight into the
behavior of middle schoolers with identified behavior problems.
Antisocial middle school student behaviors and pro social skills
training as predictors of social competence and the relationship to
academic success in school were the central fod in Wentzels research
(1993). Although behaving in sodally appropriate and responsible ways is
valued in its own right, these aspects of sodal competence are also
powerful predictors of academic performance (p. 357). The author found
that significant relations exist between positive pro social behavior and
academic achievement in promoting classroom learning.
Wentzels study suggests equity implications for students who
misbehave. Disruptive students who are isolated from peers and teachers
are deprived of valuable sodal exchanges with peers and teachers (p. 363).
Student misbehavior deprives students of academic opportunities resulting
from isolation from their peers and classroom instruction, which prevents
them from receiving the same educational benefits as other students,
She believes that an emphasis on controlling disruptive students
might take precedence over promoting prosocial and proactive forms of
social interaction. Wentzel notes that developing more cooperative,
sharing, and helpful behaviors might be a more student-centered focus and
contribute to both self-management and intellectual performances at
Summary and Conclusions from the Review of literature on Discipline
It is dear from the various perspectives that there are different
ways to approach the subject of school discipline. This fact alone reveals
that the study of discipline is complex and not at all simple, as one may
think. While there is agreement among experts, much disagreement also
exists concerning philosophical approaches and strategies dealing with how
to help children become more self-managed.
Although not a consensus, most thinking about disdpline goes
beyond rules, consequences, and punishment. This current thinking
encourages schools to utilize an approach that is consistent with the
pnndples of moral leadership and developmentally appropriate practice
described for the theoretical framework.
In terms of methodology, all of the research on discipline located for
this review was conducted through survey research. No study reviewed
was qualitative in nature; all were quantitative. None used the theoretical
perspective developed here. In this review, I also found that no study has
been conducted from the student perspective. Researchers have not really
talked to students about discipline, they have only talked about them. A
study of discipline from the perspective of students in middle school that
uses principles of moral leadership and developmentally appropriate
practice would be unique and would contribute to the literature presented in
each section of this review.
While there is a real advantage in interviewing children, it is prudent
to keep the following in mind"Childrens responses are less linear than
those of adults; they require opportunities to return to a topic and address
it from a different perspective (LeCompte and Preissle, 1993, p. 181). The
purpose of this study was two-fold: first, to discover how middle school 7th-
graders perceive discipline and second, to examine middle school students
perspectives about their behavior at school. To that end, I interviewed 51
seventh grade students at Western Middle School.
The descriptive, qualitative study was exploratory in nature. In a
qualitative study, a gatekeeper is often used to facilitate access to the
study site. The original gatekeeper (LeCompte and Preissle, 1993; Corsaro,
1985) for the study was the principal of Western Middle School (a
pseudonym). I had access to Western based on my relationship with the
principal, as he and I had been friends for many years.
I assumed the role of observer-as-participant (LeCompte and
Preissle, 1993). According to Gold (cited in LeCompte and Preissle, 1993),
a... interviewers who schedule a single session are observers-as-
partidpants (p. 94). Observers-as-partidpants are known to their
participants as a researcher and have limited interaction with the
partiripants due to the brief interaction in each others lives. I conducted
the pilot study in the fall of1995 when I was a university researcher as
well as an assistant prinripal at another middle school in the Pikes Peak
area. These roles lent me credibility among staff members during the
visitations to Western Middle School.
I was interested in gaining a varied cross section of grade level
students. The 7th-grade year is the first time that students experience
tracking by being placed in math ability level groups. Therefore, I chose to
interview students from the 7th-grade in order to use student tracking
information as another one of the variables in the study.
I developed an interview script using the theoretical perspectives of
moral leadership and developmental^ responsive middle school practices.
See Appendix A for interview script. This script guided the development of
interview questions, using the three key principles of moral leadership and
developmental^ responsive middle schools. It also would guide future
description and analysis of the data, based on the same three principles.
The interview script consisted of approximately 20 open-ended, non-
directive questions. These questions focused on the student perspective
concerning the reasons that students behave in the ways they do at school.
A summary of each interview question and most common student
responses was compiled later. See Appendix B for this summary.
Fifty-one students participated in the project. The students were
proportionally stratified by gender, ethnicity, and math class ability level
(track) in school. Twenty-six males and 25 females were interviewed,
including the following: 21 Caucasian (11 boys and 10 girls), 12 Black (6
boys and 6 girls), 16 Hispanic (8 boys and 8 girls), and 2 other students, a
boy and a girl (to include Native American, Asian, or racially mixed). The
resulting sample quite closely represents the actual ethnic breakdown of
the school semi in Figure 2, with the following exceptions: three percent
fewer Caucasian and three percent more Hispanic students were
interviewed (approximately 1 student of each ethnic group). Figure 1 is
depicted on the next page.
See Figure 1 below representing the interview sample.
ID Caucasian s Black B Hispanic Other
Figure 1. Actual ethnic divisions of students interviewed.
There were 23 students from the high (10 boys and 13 girls), 15
from average (9 boys and 6 girls), and 13 from low ability tracks (7 boys
and 6 girls). Tables 1 and 2 show the distribution of female and male
students by gender, ethnicity, math track, attendance, number of
disciplinary referrals, and grades. See Table 1 for Female Study Design
Structure and Table 2 for Male Study Design Structure that follow.
Female Study Design Structure
TwH Female Stncfcr Dm an Structure
GENDEF b FEMALES (25)
Ethnic tt Group Discipline Reft. Days Absent Math Grades j
Math Track r 2-3 4-19 0-3 4-10 i 11-45 r 1 r r p r r r
IS1111 iii ill n| n g U PUP
t. 2. 5. 7. 8, 10 6 6 2 4 3 3 4 2
FWA 3. 4.6 3 3 2 i i T i i 1
FWL 9 1 1 i 1 ~r i t
jSSESg; ||||| |||| 1SH n d mm ill SI WWnff1 ip gg |I|
HU 17. 20. 21. 24 4 3 i 1 1 2 2 2 1 3 !
FtlA 22. 23 2 I i 2 ' ~r 1
Fill. 18. 19 2 1 t 1 1 l ~T ~2~
PBS|11I III ipii ||p fpgpMip || p ggg|g
FBII 31. 32. 3-1 3 3 2 l 2 i 2 l
FBI. 28. 29. 33 3 3 2 i I 2 1 1 P
SIMM MSH iMpMIlg ipiipp III lllilli iiii
POH 0 [ r i 1 | j
FOA 30 l ~ i 1 i i I j
FWH Female Wfcfee H%h
FWAFeaaie White Aee.
FWl Female Wlkt Lew
FMH Female Hispanic High
nu Female KbpankAve.
FHL Female Hkpmk law
FH Female Hack High
FBA Female Ibckln.
Flt Female Black law
FOH Female Other High
FOA wFemaMKker Av*.
FOL* Female Other lew
rrsE? 1 Male rwign structure
Ethnic Group ~T DitciplineRef*. DaytAbtent Math Grade* GradeAoerage
HrtkTVwtk 0-1 2-3 4-19 0-3 4-10 11-45 A B C D F A B C D F
MWH U.I8.48 3 2 1 1 2 2 1 1 2
MWA ILIA. 48.60 4 3 1 3 1 1 1 2 1 2 X
MWL I4.1S.H.AB 4 1 3 1 3 2 1 1 1 1 X X
MHH 4I.A47.48 4 2 2 2 2 3 I 1 1 2 X
MHA U.8M4 3 X 2 X 2 ~2~ 1 2 i X
MBL 0 1 X X 1 1 X J
II Wiki* - Mi p'i& \
MBH *9.46.40 3 2 X X 2 1 2 X X X 1
MBA m X X X X X
MBL 87.61 2 X X X X X X X X
' s ^s ftrv.'itvfcr.'.v.v.s'.hv " n v S. < 1 v ss" ^' ^ A. A X -- s' ' vwr-
MOH 0 1
MOA 1 1 X X ! X
HWM Hal* While H%h
HWA Hate Whlla Am
MW1. Male Wfcfce law
HKH Hale Kkpaak High
NHL Ma Hltyaair Law
MIH Mtoe Stack H%h
HU-Me Stock Am
Ml* Hale Black taw
HON Htoa Otbar Hlfh
HOA HalaOther Ave.
HOt Mala Other law
Western Middle School, located in the central part of Colorado
Springs, had recently completed its third year as a middle school, having
changed from a junior high to middle school structure at the beginning of
the 1993 school year. One of the changes made to Western during this
transition was to place students on academic learning teams. Academic
teams are thought to provide better support of teachers and students.
Teachers have common planning time during the school day, in order to
coordinate integrated approaches to curricula. Students then have team
teachers who know them well and can provide emotional and academic
support (Carnegie, 1989,1996; NMSA, 1995; Kellogg, 1996). The team
approach was designed to function as a safety net to catch students
before they failed, or at least to ease their fall.
Approximately 750 students were enrolled for the 1996-97 school
year, and it was estimated that 250 of each grade level would be in
attendance. The student population consisted of approximately 45 per-
cent Caucasian and 51 per-cent other than Caucasian. There was a wide
continuum of socioeconomic status among the students at Western from