Will this approach facilitate the cognitive, affective, and social and moral development of children and adolescents?
How do we know if Assertive Discipline facilitates learning and social and moral development? What evidence is there? I was surprised to find that the resources I have referred to in order to research this question did not really address this excellent question. They mainly focused on stating that teachers have a basic rights as educators and students have a basic rights as learners, and they focused on how Assertive Discipline should be implemented.

Assertive Discipline encourages teachers to reprimand disruptive behaviour and to reward desired behaviour "in a clam but forceful manner" (Charles, 2005, p.104) . The Canter method recommends this dual approach in order to attain an effective learning environment.

Some examples of rewards/reinforcement:
  • Material rewards eg sticker or pencil (Charles, 2005, p.114)
  • Home Rewards eg TV privileges - teachers can collaborate with parents to achieve this (2005, p. 114)
  • Group rewards eg class gets to choose the next activity such as time to work on personal projects (2005, p 114)
  • Special privileges eg bell monitor, team captain or visit to the library (2005, p. 114)
  • Personal attention from the teacher - eye contact or praise (2005, p 113)
  • Physical touch - eg pat on the shoulder (2005, p. 111). You may not be comfortable with this or the school might have strict 'no contact' rules in place
  • Praiseworthy note sent home or phone call to parents (2005, p. 114)
  • Modeling - teacher modeling the desired behaviour reinforces the rules (Edwards and Watts, 2004, p.91)
  • Repetition or Broken Record technique - involves insistent repetition of an instruction or message. Sometimes students do not hear the instruction the first time or sometimes they have forgotten the rule the next day. This is especially an especially effective reinforcement tool to use when a student seeks to divert the teacher's attention (Charles, 2005, p 111.)

Some examples of consequences/punishment:

  • Time-out or isolation (Edwards and Watts, 2004, p.97)
  • Withdraw privileges (2004, p.97)
  • Send student to another classroom (2004, p.98)
  • Send student to the Principal's office (2004, p.97)
  • Detention (recess or after school) (2004, p.97)
  • Note sent home to parents/meeting with parents (2004, p. 97)
  • Name and shame - name placed on the blackboard to montior bad behaviour.

Facilitating Cognitive Development

Research indicates that a lot of teaching time is lost due to disruptive behaviour. Jones states that "typcial classroomss spend 50% of instructional time managing students who are off-task"(Konza, Grainger and Bradshaw, 2001, p. 83). Using Assertive Discipline helps the the teacher to manage behaviour in 'real' time; they can manage the behaviour quickly and get back to teaching.

With less time spent on managing disruptive behaviour and feeling less stressed, the teacher is able to:

  • spend more time on the curriculum
  • spend more one on one time with students and provides an opportunity to identify students who are struggling and may need some addtional support
  • focus more on 'how' to create a richer learning environment - more stimulating and engaging learning to facilitate deep learning.

Facilitating Affective, Social and Moral Development

As the teacher uses Assertive Discipline they are modeling the following moral and social skills to students:
  • interdisciplinary skills
  • conflict resolution skills
  • self-respect
  • respect for others
  • respect for property.

By providing a classroom environment with clear rules and consequences, teachers are:

  • Preparing students for life - there are always consequences to your actions
  • Encouraging students to take ownership of their behaviour - by providing them a choice to obey the rules or accept the concequences (Charles, 2005, p. 105)
  • Demonstrating that everyone is responsible for their own behaviour - same rules for all, at all times
  • Helping students to develop their social and moral skills by understanding their rights and the rights of others
  • Helping students to recognise and limit self-destructive behaviour (Charles, 2005, p.105)
  • Highlighting that discipline is not to be feared or abhorred and can be liberating - a tool to help you be the best person you can be (Charles, 2005, p.104).

Of course as with many theories and strategies, there are strengths and limitations with this method. Some of these have been listed below.


  • Increases teaching time (Charles, 2005, p. 115)
  • Increases quality of teaching - teachers can spend more 1/1 time students and focus on creatiing a richer learning environment
  • Provides a practical approach - it is not an idealistic/unrealistic method
  • Operates in 'real time' - teachers can achieve what Konza et al. refer to as "withitness" (2001, p. 85)
  • Teacher is seen to be consistent and fair - decisions not based on their mood or bias
  • Teacher models good social skills - use of 'I' statements
  • Uses a non-judgemental approach - no blame, its about the behaviour and not the person so students feel valued and respected
  • Rules and consequences provide reassurance and guidance, or what Charles refers to as "psychological security" (2005, p.107) - students can feel liberated by making a choice and be the best they can be
  • Protects teacher's right to teach
  • Protects student's right to learn


  • Too simplisitic - not appropriate for all schools, age groups etc
  • Reduces cognitive performance - focus is on reward, not learning (Larrivee, 2005, p.185.)
  • Treats the symptoms, not the causes - assumes teacher has no time or issues are too complex for teacher to manage (Palardy, n.d. p. 67)
  • Consistency does not equate with fairness - does not cater for special or unique circumstances
  • Can damage student-teacher relationship - student can come to resent teacher and potentially retaliate
  • Assumes student's misbehaviour stems from external issues - a lot can be school related and/or induced (Palardy, n.d. p. 68)
  • Reminds students of their negative behavour instead of their success - eg name and shame on board
  • Low levels of moral development - does not provide the skills to show them how to own their behaviour and make choices
  • Produced short-term results that are not transferable - eg home and playground (Larrivee, 2005, p. 187.)
  • Unintentional mis-use - eg time-out plays into student's hands to get out of difficult work (Larrivee, 2005, p. 185.)
  • Students learn to 'play the game' - muck up twice before getting three strikes
  • Dampens student's creativity (Larrivee, 2005, p185.)
  • Inhibits valuable teacher feedback - students fear to say they are bored (Larrivee, 2005, p.185.)

There is no doubt that Assertive Discipline can facilitate cognitive, affective, and social and moral development of students but perhaps this question is too simplistic? Perhaps the questions we need to be asking include how well does it facilitate the learning, is it appropriate in all classrooms, for all students and in every situation , and should it be our first and only choice for classroom management? Many teacher testimonials state that Assertive Discipline was a helpful method for them when they were pre-service and graduating teachers, as it allowed them time to acquire and embed skills to manage multiple tasks concurrently. However, after a few years teaching and with more experience, they found that they needed to review their choice of classroom management style. Many teacher testimonials stated that Assertive Discipline did not suit all schools, classrooms or situations, and many have since changed to using a different management style, or have expanded their repertoire to include multiple management styles (CTER WikEd, n.d.pp. 6 -10).

Edwards, H. & Watts, V. (2004). Classroom Management: An Australasian perspective. John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.

Charles, C.M. (2005). Building Classroom Discipline. (8th.ed.). Boston: Pearson Education.

Konza, D.,Grainer, J., & Bradshaw, K. (2001). Clasroom Management: A survival guide. NSW: Social Sciences Press.

Larrivee, B. (2005). Authentic classroom management: Creating a learning community and building reflective practice. (2nd. ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

CTER WikEd [n.d.]: "Assertive Discipline". Retrieved 11th August 2009, from website:


Palardy, M. 1996: Taking another look at Behaviour Modification and Assertive Discipline: NASSP Bulletin. Retrieved 11th August 2009, from website:

Stone, S. 1993: Taking time to teach social skills:Questia Trusted Online Research. Retrieved 11th August 2009, from website: