Reflections on Cooperative Discipline in the Classroom

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I recently took a course on cooperative discipline and found that many of my own beliefs and practices involving discipline in the classroom were validated and reinforced throughout the class. Students do choose how they will behave and the best way (maybe even the easiest way) to get them to make the right choices in the classroom is to foster a feeling of mutual respect and to give them a sense of responsibility or classroom ownership. Kids want discipline, or maybe to put it differently they want structure and predictability. And the nice thing about Linda Albert’s cooperative discipline model is that it gives the students exactly what they need. But what are our responsibilities? Linda Albert tells us that “the ultimate goal of student behavior is to fulfill a need to belong”, so it is our job to fill that need by helping the student to feel capable, connected, and able to contribute (in a positive way) to the group.

To help students to feel capable, connected and contributing (or the three C’s) Linda Albert asks us to make five fundamental changes to our classrooms, or what she calls “Paradigm Shifts in Cooperative Discipline” (see figure 2). Firstly, we need to move away from a “hands-on” or “hands-clenched” approach to discipline, which is an authoritarian style of classroom discipline, to a “hands-joined” or democratic style of classroom management. Secondly, we need to recognize that student behavior is a choice, and not caused by some outside force, though these forces may influence student behavior it is ultimately the student’s decision on how they will act in your classroom. Thirdly, she asks us to abandon our long list of classroom rules and replace it with a concise code of conduct; shifting the classroom atmosph...

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...ple teachers and school personnel. “Like all of us, these students need to believe in themselves and to feel successful in their daily lives” (Albert, 2003).

The job of a teacher is never easy but we have seen how cooperative discipline and enabling students to feel capable, connected and contributing can improve classroom management and maybe even our own moods. If we create an environment of mutual respect and give our students legitimate power of voice and choice in the classroom we will see positive results in improved student behavior and student achievement. Because when our students believe that they can succeed, they will.


Albert, L. (2003). Cooperative discipline. Circle Pines, MN: AGS Publishing.

Albert, L., Kyle, P., & Gilbert, J. (Ed.). (2010). Cooperative discipline graduate course workbook. Randolph, NJ: Regional Training Center.

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