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The Dreikurs' Model of

Confronting Mistaken Goal
The Skinner Model of Shaping Desired

All students want recognition. Most
misbehavior results from their
attempts to get it. When frustrated in
their attempts to gain the recognition
they desire, their behavior turns
toward four "mistaken goals".
Teachers must recognize and deal
effectively with these.
Dreikurs' Key Ideas.
1. Discipline is not punishment.
It is teaching students to impose
limits on themselves.
2. Democratic teachers provide
firm guidance and leadership.
They allow students to have a
say in establishing rules and
3. All students want to "belong".
They want status and
recognition. Most of their
behavior is directed by their
desire to belong.
4. Misbehavior reflects the
mistaken belief that it will lead to
the recognition they want.
Human behavior can be shaped along
desired lines by means of the systematic
application of reinforcement.
Skinner's Key Ideas
This model includes new applications of
Skinner's basic ideas. Skinner himself
never proposed a model of school
discipline. Other writers have taken his
ideas on learning and adapted them to
controlling the behavior of students in
schools. The following ideas reveal the
essence of Skinner's model:
1. Behavior is shaped by its
consequences, by what happens to
the individual immediately afterward.
2. Systematic use of reinforcement
(rewards) can shape students'
behavior in desired directions.
3. Behavior becomes weaker if not
followed by reinforcement.
4. Behavior is also weakened by
5. In the early stages of learning,
constant reinforcement produces the
best result.
Marlene and Lee Canter have developed
a discipline model based on thousands of
observing teachers in the classroom.
What they have included in their model is
based on what the
successful teachers do. Assertive
Discipline is a direct and positive
approach to make it possible
for the teacher to teach and the students
to learn. It is based on several principles:
1. Teachers should insist on responsible
2. When teachers fail, it is typically due to
poor class control. They can't teach and
the kids
are denied the opportunity to learn.
3. Many teachers believe that firm control
is stifling and inhumane. False. Firm
maintained humanely is liberating.
4. Teachers have basic rights as
o The right to maintain an optimal setting
for learning.
o The right to expect appropriate
5. Misbehavior is associated
with four mistaken goals:
seeking attention , gaining
power , taking revenge , and
displaying inadequacy. The goal
in each case is to elicit certain
responses from teachers.
6. Teachers should quickly
identify the mistaken goals and
act to avoid their reinforcement.
7. Teachers should encourage
student's efforts while avoiding
praise of either their work or
8. Teachers should teach
students that unpleasant
consequences always follow
inappropriate behavior.
Dreikurs believed that teachers who
teach in a mostly democratic fashion
are those who most effectively
establish discipline. Dreikurs'
categorization of teachers is based
on the predominant behavior they
display in the classroom.
He identifies three types of teachers:
1. Autocratic.
6. Once learning has reached the
desired level, it is best maintained
through intermittent reinforcement,
provided only occasionally.
7. Behavior modification is applied in
these two main ways:
o The teacher observes the
student perform an undesired
act; the teacher rewards the
student; the student tends to
repeat the act.
o The teacher observes the
student perform an undesired
act; the teacher either ignores
the act or punishes the student,
then praises a student who is
behaving correctly; the
misbehaving student becomes
less likely than before to repeat
the act.
8. Behavior modification successfully
uses various kinds of reinforcers.
They include social reinforcers such
as verbal comments, facial
expressions, and gestures; graphic
reinforcers such as marks and stars;
activity reinforcers such as free time
and collaborating with a friend; and
o The right to expect help from
administration and parents when
5. Students have basic rights as learners:
o The right to have teachers who help
them develop by helping them limit
and inappropriate
o The right to have appropriate support
from their teachers for their appropriate
o The right to choose how to behave with
advance knowledge of the consequences
that will logically and certainly follow.
6. These needs/rights and conditions are
met by a discipline plan by which the
clearly states the expectations,
consistently applies the consequences,
and never violates
the best interests of the pupils. Assertive
discipline consists of:
o Stating and teaching expectations early.
o Persistence in stating expectations and
wishes such as, "I need you to ..." and "I
like that." ["I messages don't interfere with
the pupil's positive self-esteem."You
Autocratic teachers force their will on
students in order to control the class.
They motivate students with outside
pressures rather than stimulate
motivation from within. This attitude
and approach tends to perpetuate
problem behavior. Authoritarian
figures are increasingly being
rejected by students. Students seek
a democratic atmosphere in which
they are treated as equal human
beings and react with hostility to the
autocratic teacher.
2. Permissive.
Permissive teachers generate
problem behavior because the
atmosphere they allow is not based
on everyday reality. Students in a
permissive classroom fail to learn
that successful living in general
society requires them to follow rules.
They do not learn that failure to
follow rules results in adverse
consequences. They do not learn
that acceptable behavior requires
Students are confused because they
tangible reinforcers such as prizes
and printed awards.
The Skinner model can be a powerful
model for classroom teachers, one that
can be easily modified and implemented
with students of all ages and
Types of Reinforcers
Types of reinforcers commonly used in
schools fall into four categories:
1. Social.
Social reinforcers consist of words,
gestures, and facial expressions. Many
students work diligently just to get a
smile, pat, or a kind word from the
teacher. Some examples are:
 Verbal * OK. Wow! Excellent. Nice
going. Exactly. Right. Thank you. I
like that. Would you share that.
 Nonverbal * Smiles, winks, eye
contact, nods, thumbs up, touches,
pats. walk beside, stand near, shake
2. Graphic.
Graphic reinforcers include marks of
various kinds such as numerals, checks,
are no good, why won't you behave,"
does interfere.]
o Use of a clear, calm, firm voice and eye
o Use of non-verbal gestures that support
the verbal statements.
o Influencing student behavior without
threats or shouting.
o Practicing the broken record technique
[calmly repeating the message every time
pupil tries to argue] rather than escalating
into an argument.
7. The assertive teacher is more
effective than the nonassertive or the
hostile teacher. It
is hostility and wishy-washiness of the
teacher that causes confusion and
trauma in students, not calm, firm,
consistent assertiveness. The assertive
teacher is able
to maintain a positive, caring, and
productive climate in the classroom. A
climate of care
and support produces the climate for
According to the Canters, the climate of
positive support and care is best provided
by the careful
believe that they are free from
restraint and can do whatever they
want. However they discover that
things do not go smoothly for them.
Discipline and control must be
present in classrooms if learning is
to occur. Students want guidance
and leadership. They are willing to
accept guidance if it is not forced on
them and if they believe they are
being heard. This does not mean
that they want control of the
3. Democratic.
Democratic teachers are neither
permissive nor autocratic. They
provide firm guidance and leadership
by establishing rules and
consequences. Freedom grows from
discipline. To the extent that
students understand that
consequences follow behavior, they
are then free to choose behavior that
will attain their legitimate needs.
Discipline involves teaching students
how to establish an inner control that
permits them to choose behavior
compatible with their best interests.
happy faces, and special symbols.
Teachers make these marks with felt
pens and rubber stamps. They may enter
them on charts or use a paper punch to
make holes in cards kept by the students.
They may attach stars or stickers that are
commercially available in large quantities
and varieties.
3. Activity.
Activity reinforcers include those activities
that students prefer in school. Any activity
can be used as a reinforcer if students
prefer it to another. Examples of activities
that usually reinforce academic learning
 For younger students:
o Being a monitor, sitting near
the teacher, choosing the song,
caring for the pet, sharing a pet
or toy.
 For middle students:
o Playing a game, free
reading, decorating the
classroom, having extra recess
time, going to an assembly.
 For older students:
o Working with a friend, being
application of assertive discipline. It
replaces teacher inertia and hostile
behavior with firm,
positive insistence.

1. Recognize and remove roadblocks
to assertive discipline. Most of the
roadblocks have
to do with negative expectations about
students: they have poor health, home,
personality, genes, and/or environment
and, therefore, they are expected to
Problems or no problems, no child should
be permitted to behave in a manner that
is self destructive
or violates the rights of peers or of the
teacher. Recognize that the teacher can
influence in a positive way the behavior of
all students
in the class no matter what the problems.
To do this, remember
o All students need limits, and teachers
have the right to set them. Teachers are
admired who have high expectations, set
high standards, and stick to them.
Teaching students how to attain self
discipline eliminates the need for
constant corrective action by the
It is Dreikurs's assertion that the
following 8 conditions foster a
democratic classroom:
1. The establishment of order.
2. The setting of limits.
3. The use of firmness and kindness:
Firmness from teachers shows that
they respect themselves.
Kindness shows their respect for
4. Invoving student when
establishing and maintaining rules.
5. Leadership from the teacher.
6. Inviting cooperation and
eliminating destructive competition.
7. Promoting a sense of belonging
within a group.
8. Encouraging an atmosphere of
freedom to explore, discover, and
choose acceptable behavior through
understanding the responsibilities
and consequences associated with
excused from a test, working on
a special project, being excused
from homework.
4. Tangible.
Tangible reinforcers are real objects that
students can earn as rewards for desired
behavior and are more powerful for some
students than other types of reinforcers.
They are widely used with students who
have special behavior problems. Many
primary teachers use tangible reinforcers
regularly. Examples of inexpensive
reinforcers are: popcorn, raisins, chalk,
crayons, felt pens, pencils, badges, etc.
Comments on Skinner's Model
Teachers who once begin using behavior
modification in a systematic way tend to
stick with it, appreciating its powerful
effects. They come to see it not as
manipulating students, but as freeing
them to behave in ways that bring
success and positive recognition.
Systematic attention and reinforcing
become natural parts of the teaching act,
occurring automatically. After a while,
teachers do not even have to think of
them. That natural spontaneity makes
o Teachers have the right to ask for and
receive back-up help from parents,
principals, and other school personnel.

o We can't always treat all students
exactly alike. Some students may have to
given special incentive programs or
behavior modification programs before
can live up to the standards expected.
2. Practice the use of assertive
response styles. The Canters
differentiate among three
response styles: nonassertive, hostile,
and assertive.
o Nonassertive teachers typically feel it is
wrong to place demands on students, fail
to establish clear standards of behavior,
and if they do, they fail to back up their
words with appropriate actions. They are
o Hostile teachers typically use an
aversive approach characterized by
threats and sarcasm. Both hostile and
nonassertive teachers are in violation of
Dreikers' do's and don'ts.
Effective discipline requires the
teacher to provide continuing
guidance in helping students
develop inner control. Discipline
should not consist soley of limits
imposed at times of stress and
conflict from the outside . It should
be built up and continually renewed
and refreshed by consistent
guidance that promotes a feeling of
cooperation and team effort.
To achieve successful discipline
Dreikurs suggests:
Teachers should:
1. Give clear-cut directions for
the actions expected of
students. Wait until you have
the attention of all class
members before giving
2. Establish a relationship with
each individual based on trust
and mutual respect.
3. Use logical consequences
instead of traditional
reinforcement even more effective.
Students feel that the teacher is simply
kind, considerate, and friendly, not
designing or manipulative.
But do teachers see behavior
modification for what it really is? And if
they do, are its inherent dangers evident
to them? Considerable controversy over
these questions began decades ago and
continues to the present time.
One of the most perplexing questions has
to do with whether, and to what extent,
behavior modification amounts to blatant
teacher control of students' thoughts and
actions. Related to that question is the
concern over free will, which most people
believe to be the essential quality that
sets mankind apart from other organisms.
Skinner rejected the concept of free will,
which he considered to be a formidable
road block to understanding human
In recent years, research has cast doubt
on whether rewards, the keystone of
behavior modification, actually serve to
strengthen desired learning and behavior
Some contend that rewards serve to
student rights cited above. Both styles
should be eliminated.
o Assertive teachers make their
expectations clearly known to students,
parents, and
administrators. They calmly insist that
students comply with those expectations.
They back up their words with reasonable
actions. When students choose to
comply with teacher guidance, they
receive positive benefits. When they
to behave in unacceptable ways, the
teacher follows through with
that reasonably accompany the
Example: Nonassertive: "Please try to
stop fighting." Hostile: "You are acting
like disgusting savages again!"
Assertive: "We do not fight. Sit down
until you
cool off." [and then we will discuss the
consequence (if appropriate).]
o The assertive teacher calmly, firmly,
and clearly communicates the teacher's
disapproval of the behavior, followed by a
statement of what the student is to do.
3. Learning to set limits. No matter what
punishment. The consequence
must bear a direct relationship
to the behavior and must be
understood by the students.
4. See each behavior in its
proper perspective. In this way,
you will avoid making serious
issues out of trivial incidents.
5. Let students assume greater
responsibility for their own
behavior and learning.
6. Treat students as your social
7. Combine kindness and
firmness. The student must
always sense and respect that
while you are a friend, you will
not accept certain kinds of
8. At all times distinguish
between the deed and the doer.
This allows you to retain respect
for the student while not
accepting their behaviour.
9. Set limits from the beginning
but work toward mutual
understanding, a sense of
mutual responsibility and mutual
consideration for others.
reduce intrinsic motivation, supplanting it
with a control-system of compliance and
external modification (Hill, 1990).
In truth, not all teachers like behavior
modification, but those who do, say it
makes teaching easier and more
enjoyable. With regard to discipline, they
find behavior modification especially
effective in preventive and supportive
control, though they admit it is slow and
cumbersome (and often ineffective) when
it comes to correcting misbehavior.
Application of the Model
(Jack will not work)
Jack, in Mr. Jones' class, is quite docile.
He never disrupts class and does little
socializing with other students. But
despite Mr. Jones' best efforts, he can
hardly get Jack to participate in class
activities. He rarely completes an
assignment. He doesn't seem to care. He
is simply there, like a bump on a log,
putting forth virtually no effort. How would
Skinner deal with Jack? Skinner would
suggest that Mr. Jones try the following
approaches with Jack.
the activity, in order to be assertive, you
need to be
aware of what behaviors you want and
need from the students. Think in terms of
you want students to do, e.g., take turns,
not shouting out, starting to work on time,
listening to another who is speaking.
Instruct the students about what behavior
is desired
at the beginning of an activity. Specify
what is desired. "Be nice" and "work hard"
are not
specific. The expectations should be so
clear that any student can instruct a
newcomer as to how they are to behave
at any time.
o Be sure to praise good behavior more
frequently than you apply negative
consequences to bad behavior.
o Teacher responses need to be
appropriate--for most students, verbal
acknowledgement is enough, for some
situations tangible rewards or special
privileges may be necessary to motivate
the continuance of desired behavior.
Secondary students usually don't like to
be singled out for praise--for them, the
teacher will need to find more appropriate
10. Mean what you say,
keep your demands simple and
ensure that they are carried out.
11. Deal with incidents
quickly and effectively, bring
them swiftly to closure and work
to repair damaged relationships.
Let students know that mistakes
are corrected, forgiven and then
Teachers should not:
1. Nag and scold as this is likely
to strengthen a student's
regrettable concept on how to
get attention.
2. Work to obtain a promise from
a student. Most students will
promise to change in order to
free themselves from an
uncomfortable situation.
Requiring a student to give you
a promise is a sheer waste of
3. Find fault with students. It
may hurt their self-esteem and
discourage them.
4. Adopt double standards - we
are all familiar with these.
1. Catch Jack being good (doing
anything that is appropriate). Reward
him whenever he participates or
2. Reiterate the class rules regarding
work. Praise Jack whenever he
follows the rule.
3. Consider stronger reinforcers. If
praise is ineffective, use points,
tokens, or other tangible objects to
reinforce and shape Jack's
4. Set up a contract with Jack.
Identify a reward that is exceptionally
attractive to him. Outline what he
must do in order to earn the reward.
Share the contract with Jack's
parents to enlist their support.
Reinforce every improvement Jack

ways such as knowing looks,
comments on papers, private
conferences, etc.
o Teachers should not ignore
inappropriate behavior. They should stop
it with a
firm reminder of what is expected. They
should decide in advance how they will
handle a given situation.
Eye contact is essential if the message is
to have full impact--but don't
insist that the student continue to meet
your eyes since that is contrary to
custom in some cultures.
Use of the student's name is effective--
especially if the message is being
directed across the room.
The broken record ploy is effective [when
the student makes excuses,
argues, etc., calmly restate the original
direction as many times as
necessary--used only when students
refuse to listen, persist in responding

inappropriately, or refuse to take
responsibility for their own behavior.
Preface your repetitions with, "That's not
the point...," or "I understand,
5. Use threats as a method to
discipline students. Although
some students may become
intimidated and conform for the
moment, threats have no lasting
value. They do not lead to a
change in a student's basic
Comments on Dreikurs' views
Dreikurs' model has the potential to
bring about genuine attitudinal
changes in students. If an attitudinal
change occurs then behave
improves or changes because
students consider it the proper thing
to do. Dreikurs considers his
approach to be democratic as
teachers and students together
decide on rules and consequences.
They take joint responsibility for
maintaining a classroom climate that
is conducive to learning. For all its
strengths, Dreikers' system does
require steady and continual effort
for valuable results to become
evident. Additionally, a word of
warning, there exists in the model a
possible defect or lack that causes
but ...." Use broken record a maximum of
three times. After the third time,
follow through with an appropriate
consequence if necessary].
4. Learning to follow through on limits.
Limits are the positive demands you have
made on
students. Take the appropriate action
when students either refuse to meet the
demands or
act in compliance with the demands.
Either response requires follow-through.
In the first
case, the natural, undesirable
consequences would be invoked. In the
second, the natural
desirable consequences should be
invoked. Make promises, not threats.
Establish the
criteria for consequences in advance.
Select appropriate consequences in
Practice verbal responses.
5. Implementing a system of positive
assertions. Much of what has gone
before is
negative. Rules and limits. This is only
one side of the discipline picture. The
other side
serious concern to teachers of hard-
to-manage classes. We may raise
the issue in the form of a question:
"What do you do when students defy
Experienced teachers know that
defiant behavior is often strongly
reinforced by other class members
and that it is likely to spread. They
believe such behavior must be
stopped at once. Dreikurs is silent
Regardless of this very significant
limitation, Dreikur's emphasis on
mutual respect and encouragement
of student effort and general
responsibility takes its rightful place
amongst the most powerful
techniques for building desirable
human character. In summary,
Dreikurs' greatest contribution lies,
not in how to suppress undesired
behavior in the short term but in how
to build in students an inner sense of
responsibility and respect for
themselves and others.
Application of the Model
is the positive one. When systematic
attention is given to pupils who behave
o Your influence with students increases.
o The amount of problem behavior
o The classroom environment becomes
more positive.
What are some of the positive
consequences that so motivate students?
1. Personal attention from the teacher--
greetings, short talks, compliments,
acknowledgements, smiles, and friendly
eye contact.
2. Positive notes/phone calls to parents.
3. Special awards--from comments on
papers to certificates.
4. Special privileges--five extra minutes of
a desired activity for the whole class,
choosing a
friend with whom to work.
5. Material rewards--posters, school
pencils, popcorn.
6. Home rewards--in collaboration with
parents, privileges can be extended at
Completing homework can earn extra TV
time. Reading a book can earn a favorite
Nathan will not work
Nathan is quite docile in Mr. Smith's
class. He never disrupts the class
and has little contact with other
students. Regardless of Mr. Smith's
best efforts Nathan rarely completes
an assignment. Nathan doesn't
seem to care. He makes little effort.
He is simply there - a mere physical
presence in the classroom!
How would Dreikurs deal with
1. Identify Nathan's mistaken
goal. (Mr. Smith can do this by
checking his own reaction to
Nathan's lethargy and by noting
the reactions of other students
when he attempts to correct
2. If Nathan's mistaken goal is
attention seeking, ignore him.
3. If Nathan's mistaken goal is
gaining power, admit that
Nathan has power: "I can't make
you do your work. What do you
think I should do?"
4. If Nathan's goal is taking
7. Group rewards--Preferred Activity

The Canter model emphasizes
• Stating rules/expectations clearly,
• Applying positive consequences when
expectations are met and negative
when they are not met, and
• Being assertive rather than passive or
revenge, ask other members of
the class to be especially
encouraging to him when he
displays any pleasing
5. If Nathan's goal is to appear
inadequate, encourage any
favourable behaviour and give
him continual support for it.
6. Gently confront Nathan with
his mistaken goal and draw him
into discussion about it and his
related behavior.