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Teachers classroom discipline and Student Misbehavior in Australia, China

and Israel
Ramon Lewis.
Associate Professor, Institute for Education, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria,
Australia. 613 95258482.
Shlomo Romi.
Deputy Director, School of Education, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel. 972
Xing, Qui
Professor, Department of Psychology, Sichuan College of Education
Sichuan Province, Chengdu. 610041, PRC.
Yakov J. Katz.
Professor. Dean, School of Education, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel.
972 3 5418709

The research project reported in this paper was in part sponsored by the Institute for
Community Education and Research, School of Educatiion, Bar-Ilan University,

Teachers classroom discipline and Student Misbehavior in Australia, China

and Israel
This paper reports students perceptions of the classroom discipline strategies
utilized in Australia, China and Israel. It examines data from 748 teachers and 5521
students to identify how teachers use of various disciplinary strategies, and the
extent to which these relate to student misbehaviour differ in three national settings.
In general, Chinese teachers appear less punitive and aggressive than do those in
Israel or Australia and more inclusive and supportive of students voices. Australian
classrooms are perceived as having least discussion and recognition and most
punishment. In all settings greater student misbehaviour relates only to increased
use of aggressive strategies. Implications are discussed.

The issue of how best to discipline students in classrooms is of continuing interest
and concern to the community. For example, in 2002, as in nearly all preceding
years, students lack of discipline ranked within the first two most serious problems
confronting the public schools in the annual Phi Delta Kappa Polls of the publics
attitudes towards the public schools (Lowell and Gallup, 2002). In 2002, 43 percent
of respondents rated students lack of discipline as a very serious concern, with an
additional 33 percent suggesting it was somewhat serious. Of all the school-related
factors capable of influencing student responsibility in classrooms, teachers
discipline strategies, the focus of this paper, are among the most potent (Ingersoll,
1996; Lewis, 1997a).
Ensuring that students behave responsibly in classrooms is important for two
independent reasons. First, it serves as a means of preparing students to take their
place in society as responsible citizens, an aim of primary importance to schooling
(Rothstein, 2000). Secondly, without satisfactory levels of student responsibility, the
best planned and potentially most engaging lessons may fail to have the desired
impact. Often it may only require a small proportion of students to misbehave and
they become sufficiently distracting to students and frustrating to teachers that the
most carefully planned lesson fails to promote effective learning among the students
(Barton, Coley and Wenglinsky, 1998). This paper examines the relationship
between discipline processes and student misbehaviour in three different national
settings, namely Australia, China and Israel.
Interest in classroom discipline relates not only to the good it can do but also to the
damage inappropriate discipline can cause. For example, two recent publications
emphasize the potential negative impact of particular discipline strategies. The first
conjectures that
Unnecessarily harsh and punitive disciplinary practices against students create
a climate that contributes to school violence. This issue is little recognized and
scarcely researched. (Hyman and Snook, 2000: 489)
The second publication reports the perceptions of over 3500 school students in
Australia (Lewis, 2001). This study demonstrates empirically that, in the view of
these students, their teachers are characterized by 2 distinct discipline styles. The
first of these was called Coercive discipline and comprised punishment and
aggression (yelling in anger, sarcasm group punishments, etc). The second style,

comprising Discussion, Hints, Recognition, Involvement and Punishment, was called

Relationship based discipline. After presenting a thorough data analysis the report

Students who receive more Relationship based discipline are less disrupted
when teachers deal with misbehavior and generally act more responsibly in that
teachers class. In contrast, the impact of Coercive discipline appears to be
more student distraction from work and less responsibility. (p. 315)
These findings appear consistent with those of Miller et al (2000) who, after
examining students perceptions of what factors cause classroom misbehavior,
highlight the potential for teacher behavior such as shouting all the time, unfairly
blaming students, picking on kids, and being rude, to stimulate student resistance
and subsequent misbehavior.
The present study has shown pupils to attribute to teachers a significantly
greater responsibility for pupil misbehavior than that they attribute to parents.
(p. 93)
It is of interest to note that in an earlier Israeli study which also examined factors
seen to be causing student misbehavior, it was reported that although students
placed their teachers attitude the second most important cause of student
misbehavior, teachers ranked it as 20 out of 26 (Guttmann, 1982).

The impetus for the research discussed in this paper came after the publication of a
study of the relationship between classroom discipline and student responsibility and
misbehavior in Australia (Lewis,2001). As a result of that publication, academics in a
number of countries contacted the author with requests to replicate the study in their
respective national settings. Two additional settings were ultimately selected. These
were China and Israel. Australia is a typically western country, China is a typically
oriental country and Israel is approximately half western and half oriental.
Consequently the use of these three cultural settings provided the opportunity for
some robust comparisons. Further, since the academics from these settings who
expressed interest in undertaking the research were senior, very experienced, and
involved in teacher training for many years, the issue of classroom discipline, and the
research design of the previous research appeared to have valency in both countries

In summary, there were two main foci for the research. First it permitted a
comparison of the extent of usage of various discipline strategies in three
significantly different national settings. Secondly, the relationship between student
misbehavior and classroom discipline could be examined in each setting. In
conducting this research it was acknowledged that there are likely to be cultural
differences associated with styles of discipline. For example, differences of opinion
between Chinese and other Americans (Mitchel, 2001) appear to focus on the
relative virtues of submission to authority versus the childs right to be assertive and
The significance of classroom discipline rests not only on its impact on students
behavior and learning, as outlined above. The ability of teachers to effectively
discipline students is, according to McCormick and Shi (1999) integrally related to
teachers sense of professional adequacy. This finding appears consistent with the
work of Goddard (2000), who reports the results of a study of 233 teachers views of
their role. He notes that disciplinarian was the third most commonly cited metaphor
provided by teachers for their work, ranking only behind leader and knowledge
dispenser. It is not surprising therefore that any failure on teachers part to
satisfactorily manage students classroom misbehavior can result in stress, and in
the extreme case, burnout. Overall, classroom discipline is a well-documented
source of teacher stress (Kyriacou, 1987; Borg et al, 1991; Blase,1986; DeRobbio
and Iwanicki, 1996; Friedman, 1995; Keiper and Busselle, 1996). Some results
however may be tenuous as teachers experiencing stress as a result of other factors
(for example excessive workload) may perceive student behavior more negatively
(Whiteman, Young and Fisher, 1985) and therefore inflate its significance as a
stressor. Nevertheless, discipline issues rate consistently among the strongest of
teacher stressors.
Chan (1998), reporting on the stressors of over 400 teachers in Hong Kong, notes
that student behavior management rates as the second most significant factor
stressing teachers. More significantly, perhaps, Ingersoll (2001) studied
approximately 6700 teachers in the US and states that approximately 30 percent of
the 400 or so who chose to leave the profession identify student discipline as one of
the reasons that causes them to give up teaching. It needs to be noted that for some
teachers, the stress associated with classroom discipline relates as much to how
they are treated by other teachers and members of the school administration as it
does to their treatment at the hands of students (Martin,1994).
Related research shows that it is not only the stress arising from ineffective discipline
that is a cause for concern. The way teachers attempt to cope with their concerns
may add to their stress levels rather than lower them. For example, a recent study

demonstrates that teachers who are more worried about discipline and student
misbehavior report greater use of 6 maladaptive coping strategies, namely, wishful
thinking, dont tell anyone, self-blame, worry, disruption to sleeping or eating patterns
and getting sick (Lewis, 1999). These strategies are among those recently shown to
be predictive of a range of non-productive outcomes ranging from low self concept to
depression (Frydenberg and Lewis 2000). Clearly, the issue of classroom discipline
is of as much significance to teachers as it is to students.
Classroom misbehavior and discipline is a topic that has been studied in Australia
(for example, Lewis and Lovegrove, 1987: Lewis, 2001;Oswald, 1995), China (for
example, Goa, 1998; Peng, 1993; Goa and Watkins, 2001, Jin and Cortazzi, 1998)
and Israel (for example, Romi and Freund, 1999; Kaplan, Gheen, and Midgley,
2002; Friedman, 1994) However, this is the first attempt to systematically examine
students perceptions of their teachers disciplinary strategies and their misbehavior
in these three national settings.

Measuring Classroom Discipline

To measure classroom discipline in 3 national settings was problematic.
Conceptualisation of classroom discipline strategies in one setting could not
necessarily be assumed equivalent to those in the other two. It would have been
possible to utilize exploratory factor analysis on data sets from respective nations to
obtain assessments of discipline most appropriate to each setting. It would even
have been possible to utilize confirmatory factor analyses and compare goodness of
fit measures to examine the extent to which one particular measure applied equally
to all three national settings. However, had students views of classroom discipline
provided different measures, comparisons would have been prohibited.
Consequently, since as stated above it was the aim of this research to undertake a
replication, care was taken to ensure that the same measures were utilized in each
national setting.
To examine the relationship between discipline strategies and student misbehavior
two steps were taken. First, the 35 items on the questionnaire used in the earlier
Australian study were studied by the colleagues in China and Israel to assess their
relevance to their respective students. As a result, 11 items were omitted and 24
were retained. These 24 items were agreed by the researchers in each country to
assess the 6 discipline strategies reported in the previous Australian study and to be
of cultural relevance, albeit to differing degrees, in their respective national settings.
The strategies measured were Punishing, Rewarding, Involvement in decisionmaking, Hinting, Discussion and Aggression. Examination of a number of discipline

texts (Charles, 2004; Tauber, 1999; Wolfgang, 1995; Lewis, 1997b ) indicated that
one or more of these strategies were seen as underlying most of the available
approaches to classroom discipline. For example, Reward and Punishment related to
Interventionist approaches, Involvement to Interactional approaches and Hinting and
Discussion to Non-Interventional Approaches. Although Aggression was not
recommended in any text, it was seen as potentially possible in classrooms in all
settings and necessary to include given its significance in previous research (Lewis,
The following 4 items were designed to assess Punishment.
Gives out consequences to students who misbehave (e.g. move their seats,
Increases the level of consequence if students will not do as they are told (e.g.
move seats, detention).
Increases the level of consequence if a misbehaving student argues.
Increases the level of consequence if a misbehaving student stops when told, but
then does it again.
The four items developed to assess Recognition and rewards were as follows.
Rewards individual students who behave properly.
Praises the class for good behavior.
Praises individual students for good behavior.
Rewards the class when students behave well.
The following two sets of items were included to determine the extent to which
teachers attempted to include students voice in the decision-making related to
The first four relate to an emphasis on the class as the determiner of the discipline
Organizes the class to work out the rules for good behavior.
Decides with the class what should happen to students who misbehave.
Makes students leave the room until they decide to behave properly.
Lets students know that the way they are behaving is not how the class expects
them to.
The next four items provide for the voice of individual students.
Discusses students behavior with them to allow them to figure out a better way to
behave in future.
Lets students talk about their side of things so that it can be clearly understood.

Gets students to understand why their behavior is a problem for others by

discussing it with them.
Gets students to change the way they behave by helping them understand how
their behavior affects others.

The next set of four items relates to a strategy that usually precedes more formal
intervention by the teacher, and provides students with awareness that in the
teachers eyes, all is not as it should be. It probably also communicates some level of
trust that students will self-regulate their behavior. The following four items were
designed to assess this process which was called Hinting.
Describes what students are doing wrong, and expect them to stop.
Asks students questions like "What are you doing?" to get them to think about
how to behave better.
Reminds misbehaving students about the class rules.
Describes how students are misbehaving to make them decide whether to stop or
The final four items were written to permit measurement of teacher Aggression. This
strategy was defined as the use of strategies which, while legal, may in some
settings negate the students sense of well-being and possession of natural rights.
Yells angrily at students who misbehave.
Deliberately embarrasses students who misbehave
Keeps the class in because some students misbehave
Makes sarcastic comments to students who misbehave
In summary therefore, the six classroom discipline strategies examined in the
previous study (Lewis, 2001) were assessed by a total of 24 questionnaire items.
To enable the collection of data without identifying any individual teacher by name,
questionnaires specified one of six subject areas taught (for example Science,
Mathematics, English (Chinese, Hebrew), Social Studies ). Students were then
requested to concentrate on that one class and the teacher who teaches it when
completing the questionnaire.
To measure the extent of student misbehavior students were asked to indicate How
often do you misbehave in this teachers class?. To respond they chose from the
alternatives, Almost never, Only a little, Sometimes and Often, which were coded 1
to 4 respectively.
The questionnaire was translated into both Chinese and Hebrew and in each case
back-translated into English to ensure accuracy. To respond to the discipline items,

students indicated on a 6 point scale how frequently the teacher acted as described
in the statement when trying to deal with misbehavior. The response alternatives
provided, namely, Nearly always, Most of the time, A lot of the time, Some of the
time, Hardly ever and Never were coded 6 to 1 respectively. Students at grade levels
7 to 12 completed these items documenting their perception of their teachers use of
each classroom discipline strategy. The introduction to the questionnaire was brief
and indicated that the questions to follow focused on classroom discipline and how
you feel about it. There was no indication as to the research questions being
addressed. Written explanation of response formats were provided as required.
The three purposive samples utilized in this study, and described below, were
restricted to students attending years 7 to 12 at coeducational schools.
Although representative sampling was not attempted, care was taken when
selecting participating schools to ensure that the sample included both larger
and smaller schools, situated in a range of socioeconomic and geographic
areas. In addition, schools which appeared atypical were not included, for
example extremely large, small or isolated schools, or schools which were
selective in intake. In Australia, all secondary schools (years 7 to 12) in the
North Eastern region of Victoria and a small number in the Melbourne
metropolitan region were invited to participate in the study. The response
rate of 70 percent reflects the importance attributed to the topic of classroom
discipline in Secondary schools.
In Israel, a sample of 4 high schools (years 10 to12) and 8 Junior high Schools
(years 7 to 9) in the geographic center of Israel were invited to participate in
the study. All accepted.
In China, the sample of teachers and students was drawn from 8 schools in
Chengdu region, Sichuan Province. Two of these were lower Secondary
schools (years 7 to 9) and the remainder comprised years 7 to 12. In each
Chinese and Israeli school a random sample of classes at all year levels
were selected. As a research assistant administered questionnaires to these
classes their teachers completed their questionnaires.
Table 1 below records the number of teachers, and students at year levels 7-8, 9-10
and 11-12 for Australia, Israel and China respectively.



Of the total of 5521 students, 48% are males, although the percentage of males
varies from 38 to 60 percent depending on year level within country. The gender
distribution of the 748 teachers is less evenly divided. There were 11, 42 and 46
percent of males respectively in Israel, Australia and china. It is of interest to note the
small proportion of men in the Israeli sample. This is not atypical however, as noted
in previous research (Romi and Katz, 2002), and reflects the predominance of
women in the teaching force in non-religious schools in Israel.

Prior to comparing the extent to which the various discipline strategies are utilised in
different national settings and examining the relationship between various types of
discipline perceived by students and classroom misbehaviour, it was considered
helpful to document how significant an issue classroom discipline is for the teachers
of the students responding to the survey. To gain such information, a 10 percent
sample of the teachers at the selected schools answered 2 questions as part of the
survey. The first required them to state How many students misbehave in the first
class you would normally be teaching next Monday? Five alternative responses
were provided, namely Nearly all, Most, Some, Hardly any and None. These
responses were coded 5 to 1 respectively. Since what constituted misbehavior was
not defined or exemplified, it was acknowledged that the data could only provide a
general indication of the extent of the issue.
The second question asked To what extent is the issue of classroom discipline and
student misbehavior an issue of concern to you? To answer, teachers selected
either Of major concern, Of moderate concern, Of minor concern, Of almost no
concern or Of no concern. These alternatives were coded 5 to 1 respectively. Tables
2 and 3 report the relevant data for teachers from the three national settings.
Inspection of the Chi-Square figures for table 2 (Chi Square (16)=20.191, p= .212)
shows there are no statistically significant differences in the perceived levels of
classroom misbehavior in Australia, Israel and China.
In contrast, initial inspection of the data in Table 3 would seem to show that teachers
in Israel report significantly more concern about classroom misbehavior than do

teachers from either Australia or China. However, the substantial differences were
due to another cause. Although great care was taken to ensure that translation of all
terms on the questionnaire were accurate, an error occurred for this question. In the
Hebrew version of the questionnaire the word concern was translated as
Importance. This discrepancy was not noted after back-translation to English.
Therefore, rather than reporting to what extent the issues of classroom discipline and
student misbehavior was an issue of concern to them, the Israeli teachers indicated
the extent it was an issue of importance. The comparison of the Australian and
equivalent Chinese data showed no significant differences (Chi square (4)= 2.774,
It is of interest to note that in a recent study 294 Australian teachers were asked to
indicate their levels of concern related to any inability to discipline classrooms as
they would prefer. In reporting these data Lewis (1999: 162) states it can be argued
that the gap between best and current discipline practice was, on average, of only
moderate concern to these teachers. It would appear therefore that the 2 sets of
data, collected over 3 years apart, from independent samples of teachers, are very
As stated above, the data in Tables 2 and 3, which provide a general framework for
the subsequent discussion on classroom discipline strategies used in classrooms,
show that a substantial group of teachers in 2 independent national settings report at
least moderate levels of concern over student misbehavior in class. In addition, the
Israeli teachers sampled clearly highlight the significance of the topic. It is likely that
part of the teachers interest in classroom discipline is based on their perception that,
on average, a little fewer than some but more than hardly any students in the
classes they expect to teach are likely to misbehave.
To document the reliability of the measures of teachers discipline strategies, the
students responses to the sets of 4 items were considered for internal consistency in
each national setting, Cronbach alpha coefficients were computed for each set. If the
deletion of any item from a set increased the magnitude of the respective alpha, that
item was to be removed. The reliance on Alpha did not reflect a belief that high
values for internal consistency of responses within a set of items was essential to
justify the value of a scale. It was assumed, given the diversity of ways in which
some strategies may be operationalized in different national settings, that increased
likelihood of one behavior in a set of 4 may only be a weak predictor of the utilization
of those comprising the remainder of the set. Nevertheless, items would be treated
as a scale only if each item added shared explanatory variance to the measure.


The only scale for which any items were excluded was Involvement. In both Australia
and Israel, the removal of the item Makes students leave the room until they decide
to behave properly improved the magnitude of the respective alpha coefficient. On
this basis it was removed from the scale. Consequently there were only 3 items
remaining in the Involvement scale.
Table 4 reports the scale means (M), average item means for the irems comprising
respective scales (AIM), standard deviations (SD) and Cronbach alpha coefficients
for each of the six scales measuring classroom discipline strategies.
Inspection of the alpha coefficients in Table 4 shows that most alphas are moderate.
Some are clearly low and reflect a loose (although statistically significant)
association between the behaviors related to one strategy. For example, the
Involvement scales alpha of approximately .5 reflects correlations of .17, .26 and .40
between the three respective pairs of items. The likelihood of teachers letting
students know that the way they are behaving is not how the class expects them to
is not highly associated with the likelihood of them organizing the class to work out
the rules for good behavior and what should happen to students who misbehave,
even though the latter two behaviors are more likely to co-occur. Another explanation
for the low alpha coefficients is the difficulty inherent in transferring strategies
conceptualized in one culture to another. Nevertheless, despite some concern about
the low internal consistency of responses to items in the Involvement and Hinting
scales, it was determined to use all six scales for purposes of replication,
acknowledging the tenuousness of finding relating to the less reliable measures.
Classroom discipline strategies in Australia, Israel and China
Before examining the relationship between classroom discipline and misbehavior,
consideration was given to the comparison of the frequency of usage of different
strategies in differing national settings and the corelatons between strategies. .
Inspection of the average item means, also reported in Table 4, indicates that the
pattern of usage of the various classroom discipline strategies appears relatively
similar in Australia and Israel. In both countries, teachers commonly react to
misbehavior by letting students know that there is a problem in the hope that they will
improve their behavior. In addition they are more than sometimes likely to Punish
misbehaving students and discuss with them the impact their misbehavior has on
others in a bid to have them determine a better way to behave. They recognize
appropriate behavior more than sometimes, to increase the likelihood of its reoccurrence, The two strategies utilized less frequently than sometimes are

aggression and involvement of the class in setting rules and consequences. The
pattern in China is a little different in that students report greater use of all strategies
except Aggression and Punishment. Although the relative usage of strategies also
varies by Country the only strategy to vary rank within a country by more than 2
ranks is Punishment, which ranks as the most common strategy in Australia, and the
fourth and fifth most commonly used strategy in Israel and China respectively.

In interpreting these data, it is of value to note that there are a number of substantial
correlations between strategies. In each national setting, when correlations greater
than .4 are considered, four strategies intercorrelate. These are discussion, reward,
hint and involve. All appear to demonstrate a positive attitude towards students. In
addition, in each setting, aggression correlates with punishment, forming a
potentially more negative response to misbehavior, although in Australia punishment
also correlates with hint. These patterns of relationships are very similar in different
national settings, suggesting that teachers may be seen by students in terms of
discipline styles comprising a number of strategies.

In order to more systematically compare national differences in the extent of usage

of different discipline strategies, a5wayMANOVAwas performed where Country,
level of student misbehavior in class, gender of the student, the gender of the
teacher and year level (year 7/8, 9/10 or 11/12) were utilized as independent
variables and the 6 discipline strategies were the dependent variables. This enabled
the consideration of the students age and sex and the sex of the teacher to be
considered in the analysis in addition to national setting and level of misbehavior.
Since level of student misbehavior was one of the independent variables, the
analyse also permitted the relationship between discipline and misbehavior to be
examined in the different settings.
The analysis indicated a total of 7 statistically significant effects. Since the analysis
investigated 31 predictors, a conservative probability level of .01 was utilized for
statistical significance. Table 5 reports the Mutivariate F values (Pillais trace) for the
significant effects.
Inspection of the data in Table 5 shows that 3 main effects and 4 interaction effects
were statistically significant. Consideration of the relevant univariate tests and Sheffe
tests for post hoc comparisons (p<.05) for year level indicate that there is
significantly more Discussion (F= 7.04, .001), Recognition (F=5.96, p=.003) and

Involvement (F=6.72, p=.001) in year 7 and 8 than in years 9 and 10, and 11 and 12
(which did not differ significantly). In addition, there is more Hinting perceived in
years 7 and 8, and 9 and 19, than in years 11 and 12. These data may reflect a
greater need for intervention with younger students who are new to Secondary
schooling and in the process of adaption. However, if that were the case it is
surprising that there in not significantly more Punishment at this level also. In
summary however, it may be argued that teachers are willing to use more positive
strategiiess, ones which imply trust, with younger students.

The main effect for Country applied to all 6 classroom discipline techniques and
showed that students in China, compared to those in Australia or Israel, report less
usage of Punishment (F=15.71, p=.000) and Aggression (F=11.92, p-.000), and
greater use of Recognition (F=56.65, p=.000), Discussion (F=71.92, p=.000), Hinting
(F=14.66, p=.000) and Involvement (F=100.15, p=.000). Whereas students in
Australia and Israel dont differ in reported levels of Involvement, Aggression and
Hinting, Australian students report less use of Discussion, Recognition and more
Punishment than do those in Israel.
The final main effect indicated that students who reported greater levels of
misbehavior were more likely to perceive Aggression by teachers (F=7.87, p=.000),
although no other strategy produced statistically significant univariate results.
Some elaboration of these main effects comes about when interaction effects are
considered. The only interaction effect which failed to produce a statistically
significant univariate effect (p<.01) was Country by Year by Misbehavior. The other 4
therefore required explanation.
Firstly, the Country by Teacher Sex interaction showed that even though, as reported
above, there is less Aggression reported in China, it is primarily due to it being seen
as used less by men (F=7.69, p=.000). Secondly, the Country by year level
interaction indicated that there were 3 strategies with statistically significant
differences, namely Punishment (F=6.38, p=.000), Aggression (F=5.73, p=.000) and
Discussion (F=6.60, p=.000). The first two of these show that whereas year 11 and
12 students in Australia and Israel are least likely to report the use of Punishment
and Aggression, those in China report such strategies more frequently than do
younger students. The last Country by Year level interaction effect, for Discussion,
shows that in Israel the variation in usage by year level is four times that found in
either China or Australia.


The final significant interaction (Country by Teacher sex by Year level) sheds a little
more light on some of the earlier findings. Four univariate effects were noted as
significant, namely for Punishment (F= 5.54, p=.000), Aggression (F=3.68, p=.005),
Involvement (F=7.05, p=.000) and Hinting (F=3.55, p=.007). The first two results
indicate that the main reason older students in China report more Punishment and
Aggression (see above) is because it is seen as coming primarily from women
teachers (as is Punishment in Israel). In Australia male and female teachers display
similar, low levels of Aggression and Punishment with older students.
The level of involvement of students in classroom management decision-making and
the amount of hinting at the inappropriateness of student behavior by women
teachers in both Australia and China decreases with increasing student age. For
women teachers in Israel, most student involvement occurs with students at years
11 and 12, although the differences between year levels are very small. For men the
picture is similar in that most Hinting and Involvement occurs for students in years 7
and 8. The least is offered to years 9 and 10 in both Israel and China, and 11 and 12
in Australia. In China the differences are very small for Hinting.

In Israel, there is more Hinting at, and Involving of, students in years 7 and 8 by men
teachers than by women. At years 9 and 10 the opposite is the case. In contrast, in
Australia, women teachers are more likely than men to Involve and Hint at students
in all year levels, although at years 9 and 10 the difference is very small. In China,
men teachers are more likely to hint at, and involve, students in years 11 and 12. At
years 7 and 8, women are more likely than men to Hint at their students.

The broad pattern of results indicates that teachers sampled from China appear
more inclusive and supportive of students voices when it comes to classroom
discipline, and are less authoritarian (punitive and aggressive) than those in Israel or
Australia. In contrast, the Australian classrooms are perceived as having least
discussion and recognition and most punishment. Israeli teachers are situated
between these two positions, even though they exhibit the most aggression.
(Inspection of relevant means shows that their aggression is primarily in the form of
yelling in anger at their students).
Cultural factors may be posited as part of the reason for these patterns. In China,
teachers are held in very high esteem (Li et al, 1998) and as argued by Jin and
Cortazzi (1998), Chinese students would follow what teachers say out of respect. In

a recent study for example, which compared Chinese and American students
perceptions of the aims of schooling, Lau et al note that the former were more likely
to report that learning to respect authority was a significant outcome of education.
Consequently, even though Chinese teachers report as much misbehavior in class
as do Australian and Israeli teachers, the nature of the misbehavior in Chinese
classrooms may be less extreme. These assumptions are supported by the work of
Aldridge, Fraser and Huang (1999) in Taiwan. After visiting classrooms in both
countries they report
Classroom observations and interviews suggest that there could be differences
in the ways in which students regard their teachers; students in Taiwan had
more respect for teachers than did students in Australia.
Although the teachers in both countries complained about discipline problems
with students, we noted that there was more evidence of disruptive behavior in
science classes in Australia (described in the first story as answering back and
chatting between friends) than in Taiwan. (p.58)
An assumption of less provocative forms of misbehavior in Chinese classrooms
could explain the lesser likelihood of the more stringent forms of disciplinary
interventions such as Punishment and Aggression. The Chinese teachers greater
usage of hinting, discussion and inclusion may reflect confidence on their part that
the children will listen to them and to their peers, as argued by Jin and Cortazzi
(1998). Chinese teachers can also rely on parents to support them in their attempts
to make students self-disciplined (Peng, 1993; Goa, 1998). With regard to the
reported greater use of Aggression and Punishment by women teachers in China (in
higher year levels), and greater involvement of older students by male teachers, it
may be that more traditional respect is accorded to males within the Chinese culture,
particularly by older students. Consequently male teachers are less likely than
females to need to resort to coercive strategies to reorient misbehaving students.
This explanation could also account for why women teachers in China are also less
likely to try and involve older students in determining rules, and consequences for
misbehavior. An alternative explanation may be related to the reported greater stress
levels experienced by female teachers in China (Dong, 2001: Zhou et al, 1998).
Such stress is likely to be more pronounced in higher year levels because of the
college entrance examination, and the low entrance rate of students to universities.
It may be argued that the Australian and Israeli teachers relative unwillingness to
empower students in the decision-making surrounding classroom discipline is related
to the lower levels of unconditional respect they are likely to receive from students,
and the reduced levels of support parents provide. The fact that the Australian

teachers report less use of discussion and more punishment than do those in Israel
may signify that the former have relatively less Legitimate power, and need to rely
on more Coercive power (Tauber, 1999) to manage their classrooms. The greater
likelihood for women teachers of years 8 and 9 in Australia and Israel to be inclusive
could signify a lesser concern about their legitimate power, although as reported, in
Israel men teachers were more inclusive for years 7 and 8.
This explanation based on power may also account for the greater inclusion of
younger students in all three countries, (although the effect is most pronounced in
Israel). That is, students in year 7 and 8 are more likely to accord teachers
unconditional respect than are those in later years.
The results for teachers usage of recognition and reward for good behavior is
difficult to interpret in a way consistent with the above analysis. One might have
assumed that teachers who have less legitimate power may try to use more
Reward power (Tauber, 1999) to compensate. The data however show greatest use
of recognition and reward by the Chinese teachers, followed by those in Israel, with
the Australian sample of teachers using least. These finding suggest an additional
explanation for some of the findings that is consistent with the reported associations
between students self-reported misbehavior and teacher aggression.
As stated earlier, in all three settings, students more prone to misbehavior report
greater levels of aggressive teacher disciplinary behavior. It may be assumed that
the more provocative students stimulate more anger in teachers and consequently
more aggression. Angry or upset teachers, as argued by Glasser (1997), may not be
interested in being reasonable towards unreasonable and disrespectful students.
They therefore will find it unpalatable to recognize very difficult students when they
act appropriately. Rewarding Neanderthals for being normal may not come
naturally. Similarly they may find it unpleasant and unproductive to spend time letting
such students tell their side of events, trying to get them to acknowledge that their
behavior is unfair and needs to change.
Having argued why it is understandable for teachers to react to provocative and
possibly confronting student behavior by becoming more aggressive, this does not
excuse such a response. It is recognised that
children who have significant emotional and behavioral problems respond less
positively to others and this elicits fewer positive responses and more negative
responses from others (Pace et al, 1999: 151)


However teachers are professionals who need to respond in the best interests of
their clients, the students. As argued by Roeser et al (2000) Teachers need to
protect adolescents from situations they perceive as threatening to their self or
threatening to their social image (p.454). If not, then adolescents will feel less
motivated to learn and more unhappy and will be more likely to manifest academic or
social problems(p.454). In summary, teachers can not allow themselves and difficult
students to be locked into a vicious cycle of reciprocal causation (Pace et al,
In making a recommendation that teachers need to work harder to foster quality
relationships with difficult students, we are aware how difficult that may be. However
a clear starting point would be to minimize the usage of aggressive disciplinary
strategies while increasing the frequency with which they recognize responsible
behavior, however rare it may be. Secondly they need to make the opportunity let
students talk about their side of things so that it can be clearly understood, to get
them to understand why their behavior is a problem for others and to obtain a plan
for a better future. In many schools in Australia, Israel and China, this conversation is
conducted by someone other than the classroom teacher, as a result of a referral. It
is the year level coordinator (class teacher), school counselor or a senior teacher
who gets the advantage of the relationship power that arises from such
conversations (Tauber, 1999), whereas it is the classroom teacher who needs it.
Encouraging teachers to build rather than destroy good-will with students who are
more provocative is a challenging request. It will not be easy. In the experience of
one of the authors who is working in schools to achieve this aim it can take many
years of persistent effort accompanied by considerable support (Lewis, In press). If
teachers are to act in the best interests of students in an area as emotive as
classroom discipline, then
"creating professional work environments where teachers feel supported by
other professionals and school leaders in relation to their own needs for
competence, autonomy, and quality relationships is essential(Roeser et al,



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Teachers classroom discipline and Student Misbehavior in Australia, China

and Israel

Table 1. Study sample




year 7-8

year 9-10

year 11-12




















Teachers classroom discipline and Student Misbehavior in Australia, China

and Israel

Table 2. Level of Perceived classroom misbehavior by setting


Level of perceived misbehavior

Nearly all



Hardly any













Teachers classroom discipline and Student Misbehavior in Australia, China

and Israel

Table 3. Level of concern by Setting


Level of Concern



Almost None
















Teachers classroom discipline and Student Misbehavior in Australia, China

and Israel


Table 4. Discipline strategy usage by country




X(Ave X) SD Alpha
Punishment 11.98 (3.00) 3.94 .62
Discussion 17.45 (4.35) 4.30 .72
Recognition 16.32 (4.08) 4.36 .66
Aggression 9.22 (2.30) 4.03 .69
Involvement 11.80 (3.93) 3.37 .49
16.04 (4.01) 3.91 .58


X(Ave X) SD Alpha
13.02 (3.26) 4.28 .75

X(Ave X)
SD Alpha
14.54 (3.64) 4.75 .79

13.45 (3.36) 4.77 .77

13.10 (3.28) 4.46


13.16 (3.29) 4.92 .79

12.51 (3.13) 5.32


11.65 (2.92) 4.22

11.02 (2.76) 4.88



8.49 (2..83) 3.11 .48

14.62 (3.65) 4.03


8.49 (2.83) 3.14


14.48 (3.62) 4.04


Teachers classroom discipline and Student Misbehavior in Australia, China

and Israel

Table 5. Significant predictors of Classroom Discipline strategies.

Independent variable

F value

Year level
Country X Year level
Country X Teacher Sex
Country X Year X Misbr
Country X Tchr sex X Year 3.65

Hyp df

Error df

Significance level