Discipline Problem in the Classroom and its Remedies
Discipline problem is a phenomenon that causes fear and consternation for most teachers. It takes many forms including, disruptive talking, inaudible responses, sleeping in class, tardiness and poor attendance, failure to do homework, cheating in tests and exams and willingness to speak in the target language. There are many reasons for discipline problem, it can stem from students’ reactions to their teacher’s behaviour or from other factors inside or outside the classroom. Whatever the form discipline problem takes, we need to know why does it occur? What can teachers expect and how can they effectively handle discipline problem?
This article aims at dealing with the most important reasons of this phenomenon, which make students conduct badly and clumsy. Then we suggest some strategies to lessen and remedy this problem, which prevails among students. How can the teacher handle such problem and create interest and enthusiasm in his or her lectures?
The data was collected through an interview with English teachers at Tahri Mohammed University (Bechar) and a questionnaire distributed to English teachers at this university. Based on the results of the interview and the questionnaires, information about the causes and solutions of discipline problem in the classroom were collected.
Keywords: discipline, problem, classroom, teacher, student’s psychology, causes, obstacles, strategies, remedies.
Author: Karima Maazouzi (Tahri Mohammed University Bechar), (Algeria).
Teaching is both a science and an art. It is the process that facilitates learning, and it requires a balance of many factors in actual performance: knowledge, skill, and qualities of personality. However, the teacher is both an instructor and a learner. Yet, he also makes mistakes; he is human. However, the classroom environment includes how the teacher acts and students behave in response to the teacher method. One difficulty frequently encountered by teachers is the problem of maintaining discipline. The teacher may face many kinds of disruptive behaviour which are not confined to one age group. In this case these behaviours become an obstacle for the teacher, so it’s the task of the teacher to create a well managed learning environment, where he can do his work successfully.
At the level of Tahri Mohammed University (Bechar), teachers especially the inexperienced ones face many hardships arising from students’ misbehaviour mainly the first students classes. Investigating the problems the teachers may face when dealing with disruptive students is worthy of research to know what solutions to approve. In this respect, this investigative study is designed aiming at knowing the various factors and reasons which lead to behaviour problem. Then, suggesting strategies and remedies to lessen this problem, which prevails among students.
THE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
3.1 Factors and Reasons of Discipline Problem
The behaviour and attitude of the teacher towards his students are the most important factors that can have a major effect on discipline within classroom environment. The classroom environment encompasses the physical environment-including learning resources and references for lessons, as well as the psychosocial environment; for instance, using ways to promote learning as a community to reduce the feeling of crowdedness and to deal effectively with misbehaviour. The teacher ability to create well-managed physical and psychosocial environment can make the difference between a calm and functioning classroom and a classroom in chaos.
There are various types of teachers, some are persevering than others. There are teachers who just come into the classroom and started teaching without getting involved with the students. Those teachers do not show any interest about what the students are feeling. While teaching, I noticed that there are some students in the class who are shy and scare to get involved in the class or participate. So, it’s my duty to get them involved and feel at ease in class by encouragement and motivation. Therefore, I believe the way students behave depends on the teacher’s attitude. One reason is that all students depend on the teacher, and everything the teacher says will have an impact on the students. If the teacher feels cheerful or angry, it will be spread among students; because the attitudes of the teacher get contagious. If the teacher laughs, the students also laugh, why? Because the teacher is responsible of the social environment in the classroom, and according to me, if something goes wrong it is the responsibility of the teacher even if it is not his fault.
Teacher’s teaching is another factor that has a great effect on student’s behaviour. The student will get bored in the classroom if the teacher himself is boring. Like if the teacher is somewhat conventional in the methods he uses. Alternatively, if the subject or topic is tough and too wordy and if the method of teaching is so traditional and lecture’s plan and presentation are so boring. ‘’Effective learning in the classroom depends on the teacher’s ability…..to maintain the interest that brought students to the course in the first place.’’
Furthermore, there are many reasons of discipline problem, it can stem from students’ reactions to their teacher’s behaviour or from other factors inside or outside the classroom. The age of the student for instance plays a vital role in behaviour problem in the classroom, especially adolescence. In its broad sense, adolescence is a transitional stage of physical and mental human development that occurs between childhood and adulthood. This transition involves biological, social and psychological changes.
Adolescent psychology is associated with notable changes in mood sometimes known as mood swings, cognitive, emotional, and attitudinal changes that are characteristics of adolescence. In the search for a unique social identity for themselves, adolescents are frequently confused about what is right and what is wrong. G Stanley Hall denoted this period as one of ‘’storm and stress’’, and according to him, conflict at this development stage is normal and not usual. (G. Stanley Hall 1904) Margret Mead on the other hand, attributed the behaviour of adolescents to their cultural and upbringing. However, Jean Piaget attributed this stage in development with greatly increased cognitive abilities; at this stage of life the individual’s thoughts start taking more of an abstract form and the egocentric thoughts decrease, hence the individual is able to think and reason in a wider perspective. Adult students have different ways of disturbing the clear environment of the classroom, for example coming late, interrupting other students when they participate, neglecting homework, bringing drinks and food into the classroom, in addition they do not pay attention to the lesson. (Jeremy Harmer 1991, P.249.)
Home is also an important aspect of adolescent psychology, home environment and family have a substantial impact on the developing minds of teenagers. Family circle, mainly divorce of parents for example has a great impact on the student’s behaviour. Students from divorce families have more difficulty in school, more behaviour problems, more negative self-concepts, and more problems with peers. The negative effects of parental divorce upon students depend upon many factors, including the age and sex of the student at the marital dissolution, the amount of conflict within the family unit, and the degree of cooperation between the divorced or separated parents. (Dacey, J, & Travers, J. 2002) Each of these factors, alone and in interaction with each other, influence the psychological health of the student and his ability to do well at school. In general, students who have recently experienced a family dissolution have a more difficult time with academic and social expectations at school than students from intact families or established single-parent or blended families.
Also, the number of hours the students spend in learning. Such problem decreases the freedom to learning and students will be boring and wait just when they will go out. Even the class schedules itself get them bored, like when the subject is scheduled after lunch time, usually at 14: 00 until 17 :00. In this case, the student cannot concentrate this may get him bored or tired, and what is common is that our country is known by the bad organization of time. Other reasons can be mentioned, including large classes, problems in the family circle and the new curriculum, etc….
3.2 Strategies and Remedies for dealing with Disruptive Students
There are some strategies that can help the teacher lessen and handle discipline problem and create interest and enthusiasm in classroom environment. The teacher’s behaviour and the relationship he has with the students can help to prevent discipline problem from ever occurring. To overcome this problem, some questions should be posed : where does the teacher stand? Is the teacher hiding behind a desk or standing close to the students? Does he move around? So when the teacher moves around the class students, or noisy students will be silent, and the lower pitch commends is more respectful than a higher pitch. Also eye contact is an essential management tool; the teacher must look at his students when he is teaching them because it helps the teacher to know if they understand or not.
Students are much more assessing in teacher’s behaviour and his manners. If the teacher works very well, he will have good reputation and he will be known as an adorable and amazing teacher, but if he is not, good students will hate him. Students react to everything about the teacher: how does the teacher look? What does he do, what does he say? And how does he say it ? So, style shows the way teacher performs the contents of the lessons, and is important to attract student’s attention. The teacher must control himself, because students will test his patience, but politely he will be able to model patterns of respect.
For student’s misbehaviour, some teachers use different kinds of punishments to treat such problem, but the punishment should reflect teacher’s sensitivity to local norms and expectations. For example when a student disrupting the class, first the teacher should pay his/her attention. Use direct eye contact, or move closer to the student, or he can stand in the middle of the class and look directly at him or her. Otherwise, remind him that you will meet him after class because some students hate being humiliated and insulted in front of their peers. Moreover, when the teacher learns student’s names as quickly as possible, this fact can create a respectful relationship with students, it is somehow difficult, but later on and through learning by heart, the teacher will learn the names of students.
In addition, when the teacher makes a mistake in course work or cultural norms, he must admit the error, because students will learn that errors are one part of the learning process. Furthermore, he must know how to deal with students questions when he doesn’t know the answer. For example, not every teacher is qualified to discuss cancer illness or water sanitation procedures. If he doesn’t know the answer, he should think of the alternatives. One way is to allow the students to search for the answer. Students need to learn how to get and share information. The teacher should for instance encourage them to answer each other’s questions. Have his students memorize and explain for example the proverb:”Give me a fish and I can eat for a day. Teach me to fish and I can eat a life time.” (Mary Jo Larson 1992, p.17)
Meanwhile when students make mistakes, to encourage them, the teacher must clarify the idea that these mistakes are segments of their learning process. For example, as student says,” she like collecting stamps”; the teacher should model the correct form of the third person singular, present tense” ok, she likes collecting stamps and move on. Also to create everyday a new routine the teacher must start the lesson with a warm up and explain the instructions for the students, so as to refresh students’ minds and tell them at the end of the lesson what they are going to learn next time.
Students who are interested and enthusiastic do not generally exhibit discipline problem. When the teacher plans his classes, he needs to bear in mind the need for such qualities as flexibility, variety and coherence. For example, when planning a lesson, it’s vital to consider what kind of activity to offer students in the most general sense, teachers have a chance to balance the activities in their lessons in order to offer the best possible opportunity of engaging and motivating students. The best lessons offer a variety of activities within a class period. (Jeremy Harmer, 1991) p. 308-309 Most students respond positively to a well-organized course taught by an enthusiastic instructor who has a genuine interest in students and what they learn. Thus, activities the teacher undertakes to promote learning will also enhance student’s motivation.
Moreover, when teachers plan their lessons they have to select content, which has a good chance of provoking interest and involvement. Teacher should predict with some accuracy, which topics will work and which will not from a course book. (Mark,Atkins , 2008)p.48-50 The good teacher is that who takes time to think about how students can best work with subjects that are not fascinating. Teachers also need for example to think about how they select and use topics, and how they approach several reading and speaking skills. They should choose topics, which their students are interested in. Therefore, they should vary topics and genres by exposing them to a variety of different text types, from written instructions and taped announcements to stories in books and live and spontaneous conversation to attract students’ attention and motivate them.
A critical aspect in the prevention of behaviour problem is the rapport the teacher has with his students. Assessment of performance can be explicit when the teacher says for a student that was really good or implicit when a student was talking and the teacher pass on to another student without making any comment or correction. Due to the fact that the assessment, the teacher gives is either largely positive or negative, students are likely to receive it in terms of praise or criticism. When the teacher wishes to give a negative assessment, he might do so by indicating that something has gone wrong. If the teacher wants to give grades, therefore he needs to know on what bases he is going to do this and be able to describe this to the students.
To overcome to some extent behaviour problem, some measures that proved very effective should be taken:
- Many teachers make the mistake of starting the school year with a poor discipline plan. Once you set a precedent of allowing a lot of disruptions, it can be very hard to start better classroom management and discipline techniques.
- Friendly relationship between the teacher and students must be built on a respective friendship that is to say, on one hand, the student should acknowledge the teacher‘s authority, on the other hand, the teacher should know the range of behaviour that is right and acceptable for his position when he interacts with students. Also he must know the consequences of his decision before he decides what to do.
- Students should understand what is and what is not acceptable and your rules should be clear and known beforehand. When you begin the day, tell your students your expectations. For example, you may say that during the whole group session, you expect them to raise their hands and be recognized before they start speaking. You also expect them to respect each other's opinions and listen to what each person has to say.
- The major difficulty in teaching is the combination of the student’s uneven levels of English and teaching schedule. Therefore, the first thing that the teacher should do is to know the level of the students in the first period of the course. Consequently, the teacher can determine the level of the class as a whole, as well as each individual’s proficiency. Then the teacher can decide on a teaching plan, and can apply a method suitable to the level of the students.
- Prepare and plan your lesson and begin your class with a positive attitude and high expectations so as to maintain discipline in your classroom.
- If two students are talking in the back of the room, don't stop your instruction and start yelling at the students. Instead, call the student's name to get back on task. Another technique is to ask one of them a question.
- If you ask your students a question and they do not immediately answer, do not shout at them. Instead, smile, and ask them kindly if they do not understand and clarify it for them. This will help them to answer appropriately and be more motivated.
- If a student becomes verbally confrontational with you, remain calm and remove the class from the situation as quickly as possible. Do not get into yelling matches with your students. Try to avoid struggle that could continue throughout the year.
- Teachers should avoid free time. It’s advisable not to allow students time just to talk each day, but enhance them to work together and learn from each other.
- You must act fairly for all students if you expect to be respected. Treat all students equitably and make sure that if your best student does something wrong, they too get punished for it. If one day you ignore misbehaviours and the next day you jump on someone for the smallest infraction, your students will quickly lose respect for you. Once you lose your student's respect, you also lose their attention and their desire to please you.
- You should start teaching your class each day with the expectation that students will behave. Don't assume that because for instance, Wassim has disrupted your class everyday for a week, he will disrupt it today. By doing this, you will give him a chance to disrupt you and all the class again.
- During exams and tests for example, get your students ready psychologically, do not disturb them by standing in front of their sitting or reading their answers; if a problem occurs do not shout at him or her and try your best to solve the problem wisely.
- Before starting another day of your teaching task, it is advisable that classroom management and disruption issues should be left in class in order to be able to have some down time to recharge.
Certainly the role of the teacher cannot be written in mere words. It’s his duty to play the role of an organizer and controller, and he should also be someone who guides students rather than someone who is totalitarian in the classroom. The teacher needs to show respect towards students, on the other hand the students also should respect him. The teacher must bear in mind that he teaches various students who bring different traditions and customs because they come from different backgrounds. One of the keys that are convenient and useful for teachers is to understand and accept the way students are acting. Sometimes the student’s behaviour demonstrates that something is going wrong, therefore teachers must pay attention to any suspicious sign that could bother the student.
THE PRACTICAL FRAMEWORK
The practical side aims at analyzing the data attained from the research methods using graphs. It attempts to interpret the obtained results. Subsequently, it provides a discussion of the data gathered from the teachers’ interview and questionnaire.
The interview with English teachers targeted to elicit their perspectives on discipline problem occurring within the classroom and its causes. However, the purpose of the questionnaire is to assess students and teachers’ relationship and know the obstacles that teachers encountered while teaching disruptive students, and how they manage to find remedies to behaviour problem in the classroom. To collect data relevant to this issue, I investigated the views of teachers of English about discipline problem within the classroom at Tahri Mohammed university. Data collected will be presented in the form of figures, where percentage of respondents will be provided.
4.1 Data Analysis
The study addressed the following questionnaire:
- Specify your gender?
- For how long have you been teaching English?
- Which kind of relation do you have with your students?
- Do you have time to give advice to your students so as to behave properly?
- How do you deal with their misbehaviors?
- What strategies and techniques do you use to maintain order in your classrooms?
- What do you suggest to make your students stop behaving in bad manners?
- Are you satisfied with the results?
The percentage of the most common reasons of this big problem is presented in the figures below as follows:
Q 1: Specify your gender: a- Male b- Female
Figure 1: Teachers’ Gender
As indicated in the graph above, the majority of participants are males 95 % and only 05 % are females.
Q 2: For how long have you been teaching English at the university?
Figure 2: Teaching Experience
Although experience is important for each teacher, generally more than 10 teachers have more than one year teaching experience.
Q3: Which kind of relationship do you have with your students?
a- Friendly b- Neutral c- Bad
Figure 3: Teachers-Students’ Relationship
Most teachers have chosen neutral answer (50%) an average percentage; this shows that teachers’ opinion about the relationship in classroom is reasonable and habitual. While other teachers have opted friendly relationship (08%) and the rest (41.7%) bad relationship. According to this result, it is advisable for teachers to build a logical ambiance with their students in order to enrich the professional task and have a suitable climate for teaching.
Q4: What is the role of teacher according to you?
- Knowledge provider and a source of information.
- -Giving advice for students so as to behave properly.
Figure 4: Teacher’s Role
As shown in the graph above (50%) of the respondents affirmed that the role of the teacher is considered as knowledge provider and as a source of information, while for the other (50%) of teachers, their role is to give advice to facilitate teaching process. Consequently they could have a disciplined class, where students gain useful knowledge from their teachers.
Q5: How do you see your students?
- Active learners who are eager to learn and gain knowledge.
- Disruptive learners.
Figure 5: Teachers’ Impression about their Students.
Here we notice that (50%) of teachers consider their learners as active and eager to learn and gain knowledge, that is to say students are enthusiastic and like learning. However other teachers (50%) opted that their students are disruptive learners who make teaching environment boring.
Q6: How do you deal with their misbehaviour?
- Give learners opportunities to correct themselves.
- Directly punish them when making a disruptive behaviour.
Figure 6: Teachers Perspective about Learners’ disruptive behaviour.
(83.33)% of the respondents indicated that are satisfied when mistakes are corrected by the learners, whereas (16.67) of the results show that teachers directly punish their students when making a disruptive behaviour.
Q7: Do you try to make different strategies and techniques in the classroom to motivate your students and avoid disruptive problem?
a- Yes b- No
Figure 7: Teachers’ strategies to avoid disruptive problem
The graph shows that all teachers opted yes as the whole percentage (100%). So, this indicates that teachers are seriously aware about their students’ needs, that is to say students are always in challenge and teachers are always providers of suitable strategies and techniques as well as good atmosphere.
V. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
5.1 Results Interpretation
-For the first question, the percentage of males 95 % is higher than that of females 05 %.
- Concerning the second question, there are some teachers who have been teaching English for ages, and there are others who are new in the teaching field. The result indicates that teachers are aware of how to manage the classroom, and are able to appreciate their students’ necessities, regarding various procedures and skills.
- As regards the third question, there are some teachers who are suffering, mainly the new ones. They feel that their students hate them and they cannot support their disruptive behaviour. Other teachers feel at ease and that their students like them.
- For the fourth question, some teachers’ view is that their task is to provide knowledge and it is the duty of parents to give advice to their kids. They claimed that to control disruptive behaviours cost considerable time at the expense of academic instructions in the class. School discipline issues such as disruptive behaviour and violence also have an increased effect on teacher stress and burnout. Others perspectives were that it is the task of the teacher to guide his students, show them the right way and advise them to behave properly.
- For question five, teachers claimed that sometimes it becomes extremely hard to organize classrooms and deal with the disruptive behaviour simultaneously, which is indispensable for the academic outcomes. According to some teachers, psychological knowledge is indispensable to be aware of how to behave with their students. They should also know the reasons that are behind discipline problem. While asking them about the causes, all the following causes of the students’ disruptive behaviour were reported significantly by the respondents.
- Divorce of parents.
- Poverty and bad conditions of life.
- Uncaring parents and problems in the family circle.
- Poor quality of teaching and teachers’ negative attitude towards students.
- Lack of motivation from teachers.
- Classroom environment (lack of Lighting, ventilation, sounds etc.)
- Students’ psychological problems.
- Respect between the teacher and the student.
- Timing and the new curriculum.
- The number of students in the classroom.
- The educational institution and its stuff.
- Teachers’ answers for question six was the suggestion of a range of strategies and techniques that they use to maintain order in the classroom. Sometimes a single student disturbs the whole classroom so much that neither the student who creates disruption, nor the other students sitting beside him/her can learn. Disruptive behaviour directly puts teachers, students and parents in embarrassing situations. Therefore it has become a matter of great concern for the educators, and a disciplinary problem that must be dealt with technically. Some of the suggested strategies and techniques used are as follows :
- Provide special seating arrangements for students who are prone to behavioral difficulties.
- Avoid language that is overly authoritative or condescending.
- Use eye contact.
- Encourage students to monitor and correct their own behaviour.
- Avoid power struggles in the classroom.
- Provide advice and guidance based on the teachers’ own personal experiences.
- Use humour to reduce tension.
- Provide opportunities to listen to students and try to understand them.
- Treat students as persons capable of dealing with their own problems.
- For the next question, teachers proposed the following suggestions:
- Teaching strategies may be revised in the context of student’s disruptive behaviour so as to prevent it and reduce the impact of disruptive behaviour.
- Seminars for parents, teachers as well as students should be scheduled on the subject of disruptive behaviour to highlight effects, remedies and repercussions of student’s disruptive behaviour.
- A ranking system may be introduced for behaviour as marking bad, good, better and excellent behaviour for students, which may escalate or deescalate admissions and scholarships in order to minimize the student’s disruptive behaviour.
- The heads of schools may set some sorts of rules and regulations for disruptive behaviour, which may assist the teachers as rigid supports and guide lines.
- Teaching methods and techniques should be selected in a suitable manner and be more motivational in order to attract students’ attention to their studies, the more they get involved in their studies the more they behave appropriately and wisely.
- Eventually for the last question, some are satisfied because they succeed to manage their classes. Furthermore, they feel that they reach their target because most of their students have got good marks in exams. Moreover, learning environment is suitable and the students have the intention to study and there is a competition between them. However, there are others who reported that whatever they do, they could not attain good results. They are always in quarrel with their students, consequently, they are fed up of teaching career.
The interview with English teachers agreed upon several reasons of students’ disruptive behaviour, which are almost the same. We noticed that the highest percentage was for respect between the teacher and the student (34 %) and the poor quality of teaching and teachers’ negative attitude towards students (26 %). This percentage dominates all the results I obtained. This can be considered as a justification for teacher’s responsibility of the social environment in the classroom. Also the issue of timing emerged as an important factor (15 %) for discipline problem because it gets students bored and reduces both their enthusiasm and tendency to learning. As regards, the other percentages were approximately the same.
However, the result of students’ questionnaire revealed that the very well experienced teachers have great impact on students learning and they make them more motivated, but when we met inexperienced teachers, we remarked that students displayed low interest in English, boredom in lessons, disorderly, repeated activities, and teachers themselves felt confused and nervous. Briefly, what was obtained from the data collection revealed that many of EFL teachers at Tahri Mohammed University faced behaviour problem. In fact, teacher’s way of conduct and method of teaching have a great impact on students’ behaviour and interest within the classroom and during teacher’s performance to the teaching task. Therefore, teachers should give a great importance to the psychological side and their relation with their students and know how to react during the occurrence of a discipline problem as reflected in the data collected. Overall, it seems that more experienced teachers have more abilities and strategies to deal with behaviour problem than the less experienced, and for the achievement of effective results and to create faster collaboration between students, good atmosphere and disciplined students are needed and can help teachers in the management of the classroom and the explanation of the lesson.
Disruptive behaviour has become a big dilemma whose proper solution has become indispensable for teachers and administrators. Effectively, disruptive behaviour of a student does not harm him or her, but disturbs the whole class, and in severe cases it jeopardizes the whole system. It concerns teachers, students as well as parents. In fact, behaviour problem involves more than simply reacting to misbehaviour and punishing recalcitrant students; disruptive behaviour is proactive and educational. The purpose of discipline is to teach students social skills they need for success both in and out of school. However, the purpose of education is to teach students to be responsible citizens. In this context, the teacher task is to engage students in learning and make them sinking deeper in the environment of active construction of knowledge. In addition the teacher shouldn’t emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge, but also how he can make them active learners. The aim of teaching as it is commonly known, is not just a transmission of information from the teacher to students, but also how to convert a student from a recipient of information into a constructor for himself and other learners, as the Chinese proverb says:“Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.”
Indeed, it is up to the teacher and his style of instructing to make his teaching method much more enjoyable, by giving a large interest to the psychological side of students. So, teacher’s behaviour reflects his personality and students behave according to it. If he is strong they respect him, and if he is weak they disrespect him. It’s advisable that teachers must find ways to enhance cooperation among themselves, the administration, and students. If each group pulls in a different direction, problems that could be solved will seem intractable. Therefore, it is vital for educators to be flexible in their behaviour. Overall, it’s noteworthy to say that the role of the teacher is of great importance, ‘the teacher is like an oil lamp, if its flame is steady and bright hundred can be lit by it, without in any way diminishing its brightness. For ensuring the brightness of the lamp, it is necessary that the wick be in good order and the oil supply be sufficient.’ So, we must always keep the “flame” alight and the lamp always fueled.
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