Saturday, December 11, 2010

How do you "control" your students?

My last post referenced Diane Gossen's pamphlet "5 positions of Control."  Gossen notes there are 5 methods people attempt to control each other. Do any of these methods look familiar in your teaching practices. Which one do you use most? Are you being the teacher you want to be?

In no particular order:

1. Punisher: This person may use anger (shouting) , criticism, humiliation, or corporal punishment. Ex. Adult says, "Do this or else!"

2. Guilter: This person uses silence, withdrawal of approval, or guilting remarks. Adult says. "You should have known better."

3. Buddy:  Adult says, "Do it for me."

4. Monitor: This person uses stimulus-response discipline meting out consequences, positive and negative. The person disciplined does learn by the approach. He/she learns that society does have rules and limits. Eventually the recipient will find ways to get around the system or will decide to be unreceptive to the rewards or consequences. Monitor says, "You have earned 10 check marks," or "You have lost 15 minutes of free time."

5. Manager: This person knows how to do everything the monitor does and will use that approach as a fall back position.  However, the recipient of this approach is asked to work to figure out a solution. The emphasis is not on designing a consequence.  The manager says, "What's your plan to fix it. When can you have it done?" The recipient is also asked to think about the kind of person they want to be. More manager questions include, "What do we believe? Do you believe it? If you believe it, do you want to fix it? If you do, then what does that say about you?" Every time one fixes a problem and ties it to the person one wants to be, there is less chance the person will reoffend.  This approach is the Restitution approach.

It should be noted that the first 4 approaches to control are based on extrinsic motivation. The last one, manager, is an intrinsic approach because the person is motivated to fix his or her problems to become the person they want to be.

For further reading check out the Restitution website.


  1. How about the Dr. Phil approach? As you may recall he is noted for saying "how's that working for you." I prefer the what did you do and what happened approach. I was an elementary principal for 13 years in a school with 90% free/reduced lunch and 25% refugees. I worked very hard to get the child to own their behavior so they could see how it was in their best interests (not mine) to behave in a different manner. It wasn't about me and my ego wasn't in the game. I got paid no matter how bad a given child behaved. For more self-development content, check my blog at DrDougGreen.Com. Keep up the good work.
    Douglas W. Green. EdD

  2. Good post, Nunavut_teacher. I think this is something that all good teachers develop naturally. However, it would help to share these types of control with new teachers. They need to become aware of how they are trying to control the students.

  3. Thanks for the comments. Mr. Kent, indeed, I believe new teachers would benefit from knowing this. For me this is a reminder to work with students to solve their own problems.

  4. In the U.S., or at least in California, all new teachers learn this in the credential program...

  5. Are you presenting these as the only 5 options for working with students, or the 5 main ways to control students?

    Is it possible to teach without controlling your students?

  6. The pure role of manager is a way of control. However, it is an intrinsic way for students to control themselves, not the teacher telling them how to behave by guilting, etc. So, I see the way of manager as a way for students to control themselves.

  7. So, you see the "manager" role (in the context in which you presented it) to be a facilitator of learning. For many people the term "manager" is closely associated with "boss."

    My question remains: Is it possible to teach without controlling your students?

  8. The manager term is not my own. I see the manager as a facilitator. The answer to your question is yes. The only one that can control my students is themselves.

  9. Hear, hear!

    Definitely a thought-provoking post.

  10. I "control" my kids by making sure they have the tools, time, and materials they need to be successful and explore. When they are "out-of-control" it is usually a sign of boredom, and I need to re-tweak what I make available to them.

    In the end, they usually simply want to be "in-control" because what they can do is simply more interesting than when they are not

  11. Paul, exactly. They are intrinsically motivated to to control themselves if I am reading you correctly.

  12. I enjoyed the post. As I reflect, I know what bothers me, this *need* to control. 36 kids grant you leadership; a teacher (person) *never* controls another. Follow my thoughts with Foucault on power relations and Willis' research on resistance.

  13. @Douglas Green: The Doctor Phil approach seems managerial. In fact, the tone of the wording is almost congruent with that of the manager. On the other hand, Dr. Phil is rather arrogant about it, which shows that approach adds another layer to these five types of control. I can imagine a multi-dimensional continuum of approaches from shoving it down their throats to befriending to seducing (in the follow me way) to ...

    The managerial type of control is obviously the strongest for creating students who can control, think and decide for themselves, but it is also the most vulnerable to mutiny or rebellion. Some students, many of whom I know, take a mile!

  14. Hi Shawn,

    Thanks for your comments. My experience has been that when I tried to "control" students through the first 4, especially the punisher, that is where I had the highest incidence of rebellion. That is why I stopped and created a class based more on student input; One based on students solving their problems has worked best for me.