The assertive discipline approach to classroom management

Keys ideas:

  • a teacher must insist and expect responsible behaviour from the students
  • maintain adequate classroom discipline
  • both students and teachers have rights

The Assertive Discipline Model:

  • a clear indication of the rules
  • reminders of the rules
  • indication of consequences
  • establishment of a positive discipline system
  • use of positive consequences as opposed to negative
  • negative consequences are to be graded in severity

Implementation of the Model

  • Step One – recognise and remove roadblocks
  • Step Two – practice use of assertive response styles
  • Step Three – learn to set limits
  • Step Four – learn to follow-through on limits
  • Step Five – implement a system of positive consequences

This approach, developed by the Canter’s, is a program aimed at “corrective” control. It is hinged on positive behavioural management. The canter’s define assertiveness as “business like communication” of reasonable teacher expectations and disapproval followed by a clear indication of what the student is to do.

The assertive teacher reminds students of the rules, and indicates what should be done. This may include the assertive use of questions to convey limits.

Th main focus of Canter’s model is on assertively insisting on proper behaviour from students, with well organised procedures for following through when they do not. the model provides a very strong system of corrective discipline.

This method aims to establish a positive discipline system that reinforces the teacher’s authority to teach and control in order to ensure an environment that is optimal for learning. This entails using rewards and punishments in the behavioural sense. Positive consequences are believed to be more powerful in shaping student behaviour than negative ones. If students violate rules deliberately, it is recommended that the negative consequences that result, should be graded in severity according to the number of times the offence is repeated during the lesson.

Benefits of the Assertive Discipline Approach:

  • it enables teachers to use class time more productively for teaching
  • it serves to prevent discipline problems from occurring as students have a clear understanding of the consequences of keeping and breaking the rules
  • it can provide supportive control when a warning is all that is required

Teachers have basic educational rights in their classrooms including:

  • the right to establish optimal learning environments
  • the right to request and express appropriate behaviour
  • the right to receive help from administrators and parents as needed

· Students also have basic rights in the classroom, including:

  • the right to have teachers who help limit self-destructing behaviour
  • the right to choose how to behave, with full understanding of the consequences that automatically follow their choices

The needs, rights, and conditions are best met through the assertive discipline approach in which the teacher clearly communicates the expectations to the students and consistently follows-up with appropriate actions, but never violates, the best interests of the students.


McInerney, D.M. and McInerney, V., Educational Psychology: Constructed Learning (Australia: Prentice Hall, 1998)

Woolfolk, A., Educational Psychology (Englewood Cliffs, USA: Prentice Hall, 1990)

Richards, Platt & Platt, Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. (Longman, 1992)

Stern, H. H., Issues and Options in Language Teaching (OUP1992)


Silent Way1: a method of foreign language learning developed by Carlos Gattegno which makes use of gesture, mime, visual aids, wall charts and in particular Cuisière rods that the teacher uses to help the students to talk. The method takes its name from the relative silence of the teacher using these techniques.

Further reading: Gattegno 1976

Richards and Rogers 1986

Community Language Learning2: a method of foreign language learning developed by Charles Curran . Community Language Learning (CLL) is an application of Counselling Learning to foreign language learning and teaching. It uses techniques developed in group counselling to help people with psychological and emotional problems. The method makes use of group learning in small or large groups. These groups are the “community”. The method places emphasis on the learners’ personal feelings and their reactions to language learning. Learners say what they want to talk about, in their native language. The teacher (known as “counsellor”) translates the students’ sentences into L2 and the learner then repeats this to other members of the group.

Further reading: Curran 1976

Richards and Rogers 1986

Symbolic function:



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