The discipline model of Assertive Discipline was developed following the 1969 Gallup Poll on Education, which revealed that teachers were having significant issues with classroom management which was severely affecting student learning and achievement. In response to the public outcry that something be done to address these concerns, several discipline models were developed, including Lee and Marlene Canter's Assertive Discipline Model (Ellis & Karr-Kidwell, 1995).

Dr. Canter conducted an observational study of teachers who were viewed as having effective classroom management strategies and included his own observations and conclusions based on the work he and his wife had done previously while working with children with behavior problems. The main finding was that effective teachers were assertive in their interactions with students, clearly expressed their expectations and were fully prepared to back up their words with predictable actions. The model they subsequently developed was based on the overall premise that the teacher has the right to teach in an orderly classoom and to expect the students to obey (Baron, 1992). Similarly, students have the right to learn in a calm, orderly classroom. (Charles, 2008) In the Assertive Discipline classroom, the teacher is in full charge of the class and no student has the right to either disrupt it in any way. It is assumed that students are capable of proper behavior, and choose to break rules and misbehave. (Charles, 2008) The Assertive Discipline model stresses positive reinforcement for good behavior and consequences for misbehavior. The model is not meant to serve as a tool to punish misbehavior, but rather as a tool to prevent to prevent it from occurring in the first place (Ellis & Karr-Kidwell, 1995).

At the time of it's inception, assertive discipline was attractive to both teachers and administrators because it provided a straightforward approach to discipline and gave clear directions as to rule setting, rewards and consequences. It was easy to use and understand and appeared, in theory, to hold the key to restoring classroom order and minimizing disruption. (Curwin, 1989)

Elements of Assertive Discipline

The Assertive Discipline model recognizes a three step process for promoting positive and appropriate student behavior:

  1. Create and teach a discipline plan with 4-5 rules and specific consequences: The teacher must first identify rules and expectations, and present them to the students, ensuring that they are understood.

  2. Use positive repetition to reinforce the rules: The teacher should focus on reinforcing positive behaviors rather than punishing the negative ones. Examples of positive reinforcement would be to provide verbal praise, rewards, priveledges, games or prizes.

  3. Assertively address negative behavior: Negative behavior should be addressed quickly, assertively, and consistently. Punishment should never be psychologically or physically harmful to the student. (Baron, 1992)

The Canters also suggest a five-step "discipline hierarchy" of escalating consequences when rules are broken:

First Infraction: Warning

Second: Student is given a ten-minute time out.

Third: Student is given a fifteen-minute time out.

Fourth: Student's parents are called.

Fifth: Student is sent to the principal's office.

To address serious rule infractions (e.g., fighting), the Canters recommend including a "severity clause" in the classroom discipline plan. The severity clause would allow the teacher to send the student directly to the principal's office. (Wolfgang, 2009)

The following video is an example of Assertive Discipline's discipline hierarchy in action: