There’s been a lot of research over the past century over the question of classroom discipline. Is “spare the rod, spoil the child,” the way? Time-outs, suspension, expulsion, “school resource officers?” For most of history, discipline has been along those lines.

Keith Herman, a professor for University of Missouri College of Education has spent the past five years investigating the flip side of that coin, creating a positive encouragement program to inspire good behavior rather than waiting to punish bad behavior.

“As educators, we often focus on communicating what we don’t want our students to be doing in class, but we have found that just doesn’t work,” Herman said. “Instead, we need to be setting clear expectations of what behaviors we do want to be seeing.”

With the collaboration of several middle school teachers in the Hazelwood School District in St. Louis County, Missouri, Herman implemented CHAMPS, a new classroom behavior management training intervention based in positive encouragement.

“The intervention is based off … communicating clear expectations to students, giving more positive encouragement compared to negative reprimands and moving around the classroom to monitor student behavior,” said Herman.

Over the course of the five-year study, results indicated that giving students positive encouragement for good behavior had better results for both improving grades and reducing disruptive behavior than did focusing on any negative behavior. Herman and the involved teachers have high hopes for long-lasting positive ramifications as well.

“I want to help kids develop a positive view of themselves and see their own value as contributing members of society,” Herman said. “Too often we just think of mental health as sending a kid who may have concerns to a counselor. But even before we get to that point — how can we set these kids up for success so that fewer of them develop these problems that require further intervention in the first place?”

Photo: Shutterstock

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