I was a presenter at a conference titled the “Discipline Initiative Institute” yesterday. Doesn’t that title bring to mind swatting sticks and pulling kids to the office by their ear?
I though that we had come a long way from using the term Discipline and were supposed to be using research-based strategies and evidence-based practices in school? Does discipline and punishment work? The research record (meta-analysis studies) shows that punishment has a low effect size of about .4, so technically it does work. But we’ve come a long way from the paddle (or so I thought) and now know that there are a lot of interventions and behavior supports that are much more effective then punishment. You want proof? OK. Off the top of my head I can name 5 strategies for dealing with disruptive behavior in the classroom that have an effect size of over .7 including: positive reinforcement, token economies, differential reinforcement, self-monitoring, and group contingency. These practices are at least twice as effective as punishment.
So I disagree with the premise of this conference, and after looking at the program and session descriptions I can see very little evidence of the presentation of evidence-based practices (my opinion). So why was I there? To spread the good new about bad behavior of course! I may not be able to change the world all at once, but my session introduced people to the concept and framework of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and spent time building awareness about looking at the function of behavior as opposed to just the form of the behavior. My colleague and I introduced some of the components necessary in a Functional Behavior Assessment. This was a new concept to most of the people who attended the session. This in itself is shocking since FBA’s have been a part of the IDEA law for many years. But, through this session, I hope that people left with an understanding that we have more to offer students with behavior problems then just more discipline and consequences. We know for a fact that we can significantly (and measurably) decrease office discipline referrals and suspension and increase school climate through the implementation of School-Wide PBIS systems. This is not just talk, but backed by rigorous research in actual schools.
My Question to You
Do you still see Old Skool discipline practices in the schools or states where you live? Are there still people promoting practices that we know are not effective? What solution do you recommend?