The Discipline Puzzle

Educators who  approach discipline as a process of creating and maintaining effective learning environments and positive climates are more successful than those who emphasize a role of authority or disciplinarian.

–Good & Brophy


With thirty years of practical experience and the refinement of decades of research on behavior and learning, the essential elements of well-disciplined schools are clear. The Discipline Puzzle below is Ms. Wells’ framework for understanding, assessing, planing, and implementing best practices. There are five pieces of the Discipline Puzzle:

  1. 1.Clear expectations

  2. 2.Strategies to teach those expectations to all students

  3. 3.High visibility of staff–supervision and watching for expected behaviors

  4. 4.Frequent feedback–both positive and corrective

  5. 5.Positive relationships between adults and students

All pieces of the puzzle must be in place for social behavior and learning to flourish; if any piece is weak or absent, outcomes are diminished. The puzzle applies not only to school-wide discipline, but also classroom discipline and individual student behavior. Click each piece of the puzzle below or links above to learn more.

The School Profile offers a quick self-assessment of discipline in your school.file://localhost/School%20Profile-Self%20Assessment.pdf

With these five puzzle pieces, most students will meet our behavioral expectations. While these pieces readily guide our work with mild, moderate, or severe behavior, working with challenging students requires additional supports:

Support for Classroom Disruptions (ODRs)–Discipline is a shared responsibility with teachers accountable for using strategies to promote responsible behavior in their classrooms and administrators providing support when behavior disrupts a student’s learning or the learning of others. Administrative Intervention is a highly effective protocol that changes office discipline referrals into prime learning opportunities. All schools need a well thought out approach to ODRs.

Team-based Planning and Problem-solving–A problem solving team offers the security and comfort of timely assistance when faced with difficult students. Comprised of teachers, administrators, and support staff, the team works collaboratively with teachers to analyze the problem and design behavioral strategies, building the skills to work with challenging student within the ranks of the building staff.

“With this simple framework, teacher understanding and commitment to positive and instructional approaches to discipline was easily achieved.”

–Jefferson Elementary

Ask a Question