Classroom Management Theorists and Theories/Rudolf Dreikurs

INTRODUCTION

Social psychologist Rudolf Dreikurs was born in Vienna, Austria on February 8, 1897. He graduated from the medical school of the University of Vienna before spending five years as an intern and resident in psychiatry. His research in the field of social psychiatry led him to organize the first Mental Hygiene Committee in Austria and to become interested in the teachings of social psychologist Alfred Adler. As a director of one of the child guidance centers in Vienna, he employed Adler's methods with families and classrooms (http://wik.ed.uiuc.edu/index.php/Dreikurs%2C_Rudolf) .

In 1937, Dreikurs left Austria to avoid Nazi persecution and arrived in the U.S. He eventually moved to Chicago in 1939 and became a student and colleague of Adler, who believed that the main purpose of all humans was belonging and acceptance by others. The Encyclopædia Britannica describes Dreikurs as an "American psychiatrist and educator who developed the Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler's system of individual psychology into a pragmatic method for understanding the purposes of reprehensible behavior in children and for stimulating cooperative behavior without punishment or reward." Dreikurs was Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the Chicago Medical School and the Director of the Alfred Adler Institute of Chicago. He also was editor of the Journal of Individual Psychology. He died in Chicago on May 25, 1972.

The following is a list of books written by Dreikurs and one written about Dreikurs: (Rudolf Dreikurs, n.d.)

A Parent's Guide to Child Discipline by Rudolf Dreikurs and Loren Grey

The Challenge of Marriage

The Challenge of Parenthood

Children: The Challenge -- by Rudolf Dreikurs, Vicki Soltz

Coping With Children's Misbehavior, a Parent's Guide

Discipline Without Tears -- by Rudolf Dreikurs, et al.

Encouraging Children to Learn by Rudolf Dreikurs, Don, Sr. Dinkmeyer

Family council: the Dreikurs technique for putting an end to war between parents and children (and between children and children)

Fundamentals of Adlerian Psychology

Maintaining Sanity in the Classroom: Classroom Management Techniques -- by Rudolf Dreikurs, et al.

New Approach to Discipline: Logical Consequences

Psychology in the Classroom: A Manual for Teachers

Social Equality the Challenge of Today

(Biography) Courage to Be Imperfect: The Life and Work of Rudolf Dreikurs by Janet Terner, W.L. Pew

FUNDEMENTALS OF DREIKURS' SOCIAL DISCIPLINE MODEL

Dreikurs' Social Discipline model is based on the four basic premises of Adler's social theory. These premises are (http://wik.ed.uiuc.edu/index.php/Dreikurs%2C_Rudolf):

1. Humans are social beings and their basic motivation is to belong

2. All behavior has a purpose

3. Humans are decision-making organisms

4. Humans only perceive reality and this perception may be mistaken or biased

Dreikurs' educational philosophy is "based on the philosophy of democracy, with its implied principle of human equality, and on the socio-teleological approach of the psychology of Alfred Adler. In this frame of reference, man is recognized as a social being, his actions as purposive and directed toward a goal, his personality as a unique and indivisible entity" (Dreikurs, 1968, p. x). A socio-teleological approach implies the existence of God, a higher purpose, and a natural order of things. Dreikurs believed it was possible to understand children's misbehaviors by recognizing the four main purposes or goals of the child. The four goals of misbehavior are attention getting, the contest for power, seeking revenge, and displaying inadequacy. Dreikurs promoted the use of encouragement and logical (and natural) consequences rather than reward and punishment.

Essentially, every action of the child is grounded in the idea that he is seeking his place in the group. A well-adjusted child will conform to the requirements of the group by making valuable contributions. A child who misbehaves, on the other hand, will defy the needs of the group situation in order to maintain social status. Whichever of the aforementioned goals he chooses to employ, the child believes that this is the only way he can function within the group dynamic successfully. Dreikurs states that "his goal may occasionally vary with the circumstances: he may act to attract attention at one moment, and assert his power or seek revenge at another" (Dreikurs, 1968, p.27). Regardless if the child is well-adjusted or is misbehaving, his main purpose will be social acceptance.

The following are techniques that can be used to address the four goals of misbehavior:

A. Attention Getting

    1. Minimize the Attention - Ignore the behavior, stand close by, write a note
    2. Legitimize the Behavior - Create a lesson out of the behavior, have the class join in the behaviors
    3. Do the Unexpected - Turn out the lights, play a musical instrument, talk to the wall
    4. Distract the Student - Ask a question or a favor, change the activity
    5. Recognize Appropriate Behavior - Thanks students, give the a written note of congratulations
    6. Move the Student - Ask the student to sit at another seat, send the student to a "thinking chair"

B. Seeking Power and Control

    1. Make a Graceful Exit - Acknowledge student's power, remove audience, table matter for later discussion,
    2. Use a Time-Out
    3. Apply the Consequence

C. Seeking Revenge

    1. Same as for "Contest for Power"

D. Displaying Inadequacy

    1. Modify Instructional Methods
    2. Use Concrete Learning Materials and Computer-Enhanced Instruction
    3. Teach One Step at a Time (or break instruction into smaller parts)
    4. Provide Tutoring
    5. Teach Positive Self-Talk and Speech
    6. Teach that Mistakes are Okay
    7. Build Student's Confidence
    8. Focus on Past Successes
    9. Make Learning Tangible
    10. Recognize Achievement

CASE STUDIES FOR PRACTICAL CLASSROOM IMPLEMENTATION

We have summarized some actual case studies from Dreikurs' book entitled Psychology in the Classroom: A Manual for Teachers in hopes that these examples will be inspirational for use in your own classroom. These studies provide methods and strategies for dealing with the four goals of misbehavior: Attention Getting, Revenge, Power and Control, and Helplessness and Inadequacy. While each strategy may be modified for the secondary classroom, Dreikurs primary focus was behavior management at the elementary level. The authors have given examples for elementary, junior high or middle school, and high school levels. These case studies come from the school system of Gary, Indiana in the 1950's.

Elementary Case Study

Bessie is repeating the third grade. Her learning rate is probably low. In math she will put anything down for an answer or she might put down no answer at all. She seems afraid to recite. Dreikurs concludes that the child is functioning on a lower level than her ability allows. Bessie's teacher has spoken with the class about the importance of being good listeners. It was decided and agreed upon that while one student was reading aloud other students would wait to raise their hands until the teacher asked for input. This would encourage students like Bessie to recite without feeling nervous or interrupted. Dreikurs notes how this strategy was effective in inducing the whole class to give Bessie support and encouragement. The teacher also began giving Bessie more time to finish her work. By the next week, Bessie had improved a great deal. The teacher remarked that she was proud of Bessie, drew a smiling picture on her paper, and solicited encouragement from the principal as well. Bessie's teacher, by identifying Bessie's fear of failure during recital and removing pressure, allowed Bessie to discover that she could solve the problems. After this realization, Bessie was soon able to work at a faster pace. Furthermore, by encouraging Bessie, the teacher nurtured Bessie's pride in her accomplishments (Dreikurs, 1968, p.178).

This case study focuses on the fourth goal of misbehavior, or Helplessness and Inadequacy. Bessie was refusing to try most educational demands because she was unaware of her capabilities and therefore refused to comply with classroom expectations. Bessie's problems are rooted in feeling discouraged. Strategies that assist helpless students include modifying instructional methods, teaching in a step-by-step fashion, allowing for mistakes, building confidence by recognizing achievement, and teaching positive self-talk. By modifying instruction based on Bessie's individual needs, her teacher was successful. It is important to note the significance of the teacher's responsibilities when considering Dreikur's behavior management techniques. These strategies require an openness and caring for the student in order to achieve success.

Middle School Case Study

Charles is fifteen years old and in the seventh grade. Although he is three years older than the other students, he is small and slight. He comes from a large family with many older married siblings. There is a new baby at home. His sister, one year younger than him, is also in the class. The teacher was assigned the class four months prior following a substitute. He found Charles to be disruptive and uncooperative. Charles would wander around the classroom and speak out of turn regularly. Although there were other disruptive students in the class, Charles had a more malicious and arrogant demeanor. Dreikurs theorized that Charles sought power and control and was perhaps exhibiting elements of revenge. The teacher sought to diffuse the situation by being friendly and courteous, yet was at a loss for an effective strategy. A paddle was supplied by the administration, but the teacher declined this approach. Dreikurs felt that the paddle more than likely contributed to the disruptive situation in the classroom and appreciated the teacher's approach. The teacher found it difficult to maintain group discussions on discipline in the classroom due to disruptions. He observed that Charles migrated to the larger, more rugged boys in the class, often trading punches. Charles once displayed a switchblade, which the teacher firmly asked him to leave at home. Dreikurs observed that the teacher did the right thing in not confiscating the knife because Charles respected the teacher's instructions and did not display the knife again.

One day when the teacher observed Charles out of his seat again, he asked Charles why he was not seated. Charles responded that he needed to find his book. It had been fifteen minutes since the assignment requiring the book had begun, so the teacher replied that perhaps Charles better sit down before he lost his seat. This was greeted with laughter by the class. Driekurs explained the successful strategy of using humor to win the class over to his side. "Solitation of group pressure is by and large a powerful and effective method" (Dreikurs, 1968, p.155). Charles no longer held power and as a result conformed to the classroom expectation of remaining seated.

This example illustrates the Power and Control and Revenge goals for motivating misbehavior. Removing the ability to gain power is an effective strategy for dealing with these issues. Dreikurs suggests doing the unexpected, removing the audience, and using time-outs. Once again the emphasis is on logical consequences. Effectiveness is increased when these consequences are set in advance. Furthermore, this case study illustrated the goal of Attention Getting. Some suggestions Dreikurs gives are reducing attention in favor of distracting the student and emphasizing appropriate behavior.

High School Case Study

Hal is the eldest of two children and a student in the teacher's eleventh grade English class. Hal's parents were divorced when he was eleven years old. His mother usually worked in the evenings leaving Hal and his brother on their own. Hal seldom did the assignments, rarely participated in class discussions, and was often absent. Hal and two classmates were caught robbing a home and had succeeded in robberies before. Hal was the ring-leader. All three were put on probation. When at school, Hal appeared nervous and assumed everyone was out to get him. For example, if the teacher happened to look his way, Hal would respond, "What are you watching me for?" Dreikurs explains that Hal's defensive attitude is a result of being pushed around and that because Hal expects this treatment, he unintentionally provokes it. Hal is seeking revenge against a society in which he has no place (Dreikurs, 1968, p.172).

When studying drama, the teacher asked Hal to read for a part in a play. Hal did very well and was awarded a leading role on the condition that he keep up with classwork and attend all rehearsals. Dreikurs noted that Hal was ambitious and capable, as evidenced by his criminal activities. By incorporating Hal into the framework of productive society, Hal could now use his talents appropriately. By taking a chance on Hal, the teacher facilitated a situation in which Hal gained confidence and cooperated throughout the remainder of the school year. Dreikurs felt that it probably was not solely the play that was responsible for the changes in Hal. Dreikurs adds the teacher must have employed a great deal of encouragement and understanding as well.

This example of the Revenge goal illustrates how the strategy of acknowledging the student's power can be extremely effective. Hal sought status through his criminal activity. By achieving this recognition through more socially appropriate activities, such as starring in the school play, Hal's goals were met and the misbehavior was no longer necessary.

PROFESSIONAL CRITIQUE

Articles in Support of Dreikurs' Theory

It was difficult to find scholarly articles that were supportive of Dreikurs's work and his educational theory. However, a search on the Internet quickly showed that "Dreikursian" and "Alderian/Dreikursian" principles are used in different therapy and guidance situations throughout the country. For example, these principles are used and taught in "child guidance", "parent education", and family therapy" situations at various centers. The following example of how these Dreikursian" and "Alderian/Dreikursian" principles are used is from the Positive Discipline Association.

The Positive Discipline Association is a program that teaches young people to be "responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their communities(Positive Discipline Association)." Their "Positive Discipline Parenting and Classroom Management Model" is based on Adler' and Dreikurs's work, particularly their democratic approach to teaching and parenting. This Association provided one example of this approach working in a school setting. There was a 4-year study of classroom meetings, one technique promoted by Dreikurs, in a lower-income Sacramento elementary school. The study showed that during the four-year period, suspensions decreased (from 64 per year to 4 per year), vandalism decreased (from 24 occurrences to 2) and teachers reported an improvement in the classroom climate, behavior, and academic performance

Articles That Do Not Support Dreikurs' Theory

It was difficult to find scholarly articles that were critical of Dreikurs's work and his educational theory. Alfie Kohn is very critical of his work and theory, and Charles Wolfgang has some issues with the ability of teachers to determine a student's goal of misbehavior and use logical consequences, but little else, especially from psychologists, was found that did not support Dreikurs's theory.

Alfie Kohn, an author and lecturer who speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting, in an article entitled "Beyond Discipline" in Education Week (1996), is skeptical of Dreikur's ideas of logical consequences. Kohn believes Dreikurs simply repackages punishment as logical consequences. As Kohn notes, "The student is still forced to do something undesirable (or prevented from doing something desirable), but the tone of the interaction is supposed to be more reasonable and friendly, and the consequence itself must have some conceptual connection to the child's act." Kohn goes on to describe a situation Dreikurs wrote about in his Logical Consequences: A New Approach to Discipline. A 2nd grade male student who talked out of turn, squirmed a lot, and so on was given the "logical consequence" of being taken from the classroom and told to spend some time back in kindergarten. According to Dreikurs, this is a logical or appropriate consequence as long as the teacher prefaces it with telling the student that she wonders if the student is ready to continue in the 2nd grade and suggesting that it might be better for him to go back to kindergarten.

Kohn also has an issue with Dreikurs's idea of democracy in the classroom. Kohn suspects that Dreikurs used classroom meetings and other "modern" techniques to get students to conform or do what they were told. Kohn quotes Dreikurs as writing, "It is autocratic to force, but democratic to induce compliance." (R. Dreikurs et al., Maintaining Sanity in the Classroom, 2d ed. [New York: HarperCollins, 1982], page 67.) Obviously Kohn does not see Dreikurs's use of classroom meetings and other techniques as democratic because teachers still hold much of the power and students have no choice but to conform to what the teacher wants and thinks is best for the group.

Charles Wolfgang, the author of Solving Discipline and Classroom Management Problems: Methods and Models for Today's Teachers, notes that it may be difficult to determine which of the four goals of misbehavior a student is exhibiting. Wolfgang also mentions that it may be difficult for a teacher to determine what sort of logical consequences are appropriate to use. In essence, Wolfgang is not necessarily criticizing Dreikurs's philosophy but is questioning the ease with which teachers and other adults can determine the particular goal of a misbehavior and use logical consequences.

The Authors' Personal Reflections

Angela Curry

One point I found particularly interesting relates back to the second case study above involving Charles. During the time of writing these studies, corporal punishment was a prevalent and acceptable means of behavior management. Dreikurs, however, felt that this type of punishment probably contributed to disruptive behavior. Even today, spanking, while debatable, is still quite present in our society. Many agree with "spare the rod, spoil the child". In reference to Dreikurs' view of logical consequences, spanking does seem a bit absurd. How is hitting a child a logical consequence of, for example, not making her bed? Or saying a bad word? In adulthood, we have logical consequences mandated by law. These consequences make our society function somewhat rationally. If I am speeding, I might get a speeding ticket, and this seems logical. What if the consequence for speeding required that I spend a year in prison? Would I passively accept these consequences, or might I tend toward disruption?

A recurring theme I have noticed in Dreikursian theory is the respect for the child as a member of society. There are many examples throughout history of what happens when a people do not feel respected. If we model our classrooms on societies and communities, we must realize that mutual respect is of the utmost necessity. By setting logical consequences in advance and encouraging the student, we are setting good examples and modeling good citizenship. -A.C.

Chris Adams

I find Angela's reflection on corporal punishment particularly cogent because I grew up during a time when corporal punishment in schools was still practiced and an often used consequence for misbehavior. Though it was not a logical consequence according to Dreikurs, it sure did prevent me from misbehaving in Mr. Baker's class.

I find Dreikurs's emphasis on democracy in the classroom intriguing and appropriate, even though Kohn believes it is more autocratic than democratic. It is intriguing in light of the history of education prior to the 20th century. For example, education in the post-Revolutionary War period emphasized promoting patriotism, teachings about the new republic and what it meant to be a citizen in America. I just find the juxtaposition of this pre-20th century idea of education with Dreikurs's methods for bringing democracy into the classroom, such as classroom meetings and discussions, interesting.

Dreikurs's methods of bringing a democratic approach into the classroom are in line with my desire to make my classroom more democratic. His methods of addressing misbehaviors in the classroom are appropriate and adaptable to my 9th grade science classroom. By employing these methods, I hope to take my teacher-centered classroom with inconsistent classroom management and re-create it into a student-centered classroom with more effective classroom management. I believe I can do this in three ways: (1) learn to recognize why students are misbehaving (Dreikurs's four goals); (2) use some of the techniques (discussed above) to deal with these behaviors; and (3) incorporate more classroom discussion (maybe using the Touchstones Discussion method) and meetings into lessons. Dreikurs's methods seem to parallel my belief that your have to be a teacher that is kind and fair with students, aware of their behaviors and the reasons behind those behaviors, and open to discussing with students how to deal with particular positive and negative behaviors in the classroom.

QUESTIONS

    1. What are the four goals of misbehavior according to Dreikurs and what are two techniques you can use to address each misbehavior?
    2. Compare your approach to classroom management with Dreikurs's approach and determine which of Dreikurs's approaches you could incorporate into yours. How would you incorporate them?

REFERENCES

Dreikurs, R. and Grey,L. (1968/1993). Logical Consequences: A New Approach to Discipline . New York: Plume, pp. 143-44.

Dreikurs, R. (1968). Psychology in the classroom (2nd ed.). New York: Harper & Row.

Dreikurs, R. Grunwald, B. B., and Pepper, F. C. (1982) Maintaining Sanity in the Classroom (2nd ed.). New York: HarperCollins, p. 67.

Rudolf Dreikurs. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2007, from http://wik.ed.uiuc.edu/index.php/Dreikurs%2C_Rudolf

Kohn, A. (1996). Beyond Discipline [Electronic version]. Education Week, Nov. 20 Retrieved June 15, 2007, from http://www.alfiekohn.org

Positive Discipline Association (n.d.).What is Positive Discipline?Retrieved June 8, 2007, from http://www.positivediscipline.com/What_is_PD_Article.pdf

Wolfgang, C.H. (2001). Solving Discipline and Classroom Management Problems: Methods and Models for Today's Teachers. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Last modified on 3 June 2013, at 18:49