The Carrot, the Stick, or the Relationship: What Are the Effective Disciplinary Strategies?

May. 15, 2011

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 34, No. 2, May 2011, 233–248.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The current article intends to examine the impact of discipline styles on a range of factors, including: students’ respect for the rights of others; their level of connection to peers/school; their general wellbeing; and how much they like their teacher and subject.

The authors examined the responses on two interrelated questionnaires of 1975 students from eight secondary schools in lower socio-economic status suburbs in north-eastern Melbourne, Australia, during 2007.
The students, who were approximately12 to 16 years-old, were asked to comment on the behaviour of one of their current teachers in one of six subject areas, namely English, science, maths, physical education, technology/art, and humanities. A separate questionnaire focused on student connectedness to peers and school, and their general wellbeing.


Punishment combines with the other styles so that we can have punishment mitigated with discussion, established with student involvement, following hints, and balanced with rewards and recognition, or, alternately, applied with aggression.
However, it seems that these other strategies influence the results and consequences of punishment, whether it’s a learning experience, includes or excludes, is justified, or makes students the victims of teacher anger. Therefore, teachers don’t need to constantly punish when they are able to deploy a range of strategies before actually having to take overt action.

The results showed that discussion, involvement, hinting, and use of recognition and rewards encourage greater levels of communal responsibility. The results indicate that these strategies reinforce the positive nature of these disciplinary techniques. These more democratic forms of management can develop out of the teacher engaging with students as adults, sharing the decision-making process with the student group, and only employing punishment as a representative of the group, whilst trying to protect their rights by encouraging students to act responsibly.

Furthermore, the results revealed that aggression not only fails to encourage students to act responsibly, individually or collectively, it may increase the actual level of misbehaviour.
Hence, the increasing use of aggressive disciplinary strategies by teachers will have consequences for both students and teachers. It is necessary to minimize the use of aggressive strategies that exacerbate the level of misbehavior becomes critical for reducing the levels of teachers stress and attrition. That hinting, discussion, involvement, and especially rewards and recognition, offer benefits for the teachers who deploy them is both common sense and supported by the results of this study.

The authors conclude that teachers need to avoid ‘coercive’ styles of discipline in favour of techniques that reinforce a positive relationships between teachers and students. Techniques such as rewarding and recognising positive student behaviour, involving students in setting expectations for appropriate behaviour, and calmly discussing breaches of rules with students as part of an agreed upon system aimed to help them develop responsibility and respect for the rights of others.
These strategies are able to help minimize student misbehaviour, reduce teacher stress, and build a pile of goodwill between students and teachers that support both the teaching and the learning process.

Updated: Feb. 13, 2012