Search form

Preventing Classroom Discipline Problems: A Classroom Management Handbook

In the latest edition of his book, Howard Seeman offers the kind of common-sense approach to classroom discipline that beleaguered teachers are seeking. Today, Education World examines in detail Seeman's Preventing Classroom Discipline Problems: A Classroom Management Handbook.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Education World editor Linda Starr interviewed discipline expert Howard Seeman for a story that appears on today's CURRICULUM page. Don't miss that e-interview, Know When to Discipline.

If you're a teacher about to have a nervous breakdown and need immediate help, skip the first few chapters [of this book] and read Chapter 4 first. -- Howard Seeman, Preventing Classroom Discipline Problems: A Classroom Management Handbook

Book Cover Image In a crisis, as Howard Seeman clearly recognizes, no one wants to know "why." People wonder "What do I do now?" and they want to know right now! In Preventing Classroom Discipline Problems: A Classroom Management Handbook, Seeman offers a common-sense approach to classroom discipline that provides the kind of practical help beleaguered teachers need.

Even better, the just-in-time techniques in this book are geared toward preventing discipline problems rather than reacting to them.

Seeman's book is not completely free of educational rhetoric, of course. You're sure to find plenty of information you'll never need to know in the book's more than 400 pages of (very!) dense print. The information is so well organized, however, and the table of contents so complete, that finding exactly what you're looking for is easy. Sooner or later, you'll probably want to read it all!


The first part of Preventing Classroom Discipline Problems is devoted to helping teachers understand the essence of the problem Seeman calls "the number-one deterrent to our educational process." He offers theories for why previous attempts at solving classroom discipline problems have failed and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of existing literature on the subject.

This section includes lots of first-person student accounts about why kids act out in class. At first, the complaints, excuses, and explanations are merely interesting -- if somewhat irritating. After a while, the reader realizes that they're crucial to a teacher's understanding of what might be going wrong in his or her classroom.

This section also includes Seeman's responses to what is arguably the most important question for teachers to ask: When is a discipline problem not a discipline problem?

"A discipline problem," Seeman says, "is a behavior that disrupts the learning of the rest of the class or the role responsibilities of the teacher." The following are not discipline problems:

  • guidance problems, which require individual psychological intervention;
  • educational problems, which should be handled through grading or better motivational techniques;
  • personal disruptions that annoy the teacher but are not disruptive to teaching.

Seeman calls situations that become discipline problems because of the way they're handled "miscalls." Teachers, he says, must be able to identify discipline problems, deal with them, and avoid miscalls.


This section of the book briefly but thoroughly discusses the four general sources of disruptive student behavior, which include factors

  • outside the classroom -- such as family situations, peer relationships, and even adolescent physical development.
  • within the classroom environment -- such as the general physical environment, seating arrangements, and routines and procedures.
  • that involve student-teacher interaction -- including miscalls, phoniness, inconsistency, inappropriateness, and unfairness.
  • related to lesson-plan delivery -- such as content that is not "affective," experiential, inductive, or interactive.


Part 3 of the book tackles the nitty-gritty of classroom discipline. In this section, Seeman discusses specific strategies for preventing discipline problems by addressing the sources of those problems. Some causative factors, he points out, cannot be changed. "You cannot prevent the kindling of those problems that happen from just growing up or from home or from relationships with peers. However, you can prevent their ripple effect onto the rest of your class ... and you can work on handling those upset students better." Seeman offers examples of typical classroom situations caused by factors outside the control of teacher and offers suggestions for dealing with them.

More important, however, Seeman explains how teachers can address the sources of disruptive behaviors that arise from problems with student-teacher interactions. He provides discussion and examples designed to help teachers

  • avoid miscalls
  • be authentic, or congruent
  • be consistent
  • be appropriate
  • be fair.

This section also includes specific information on establishing and enforcing class rules, meting out punishments and offering rewards, and learning to resolve conflicts. It provides very specific information on how to deal with a number of classroom discipline problems -- from students who "call out" to students who carry weapons. Although geared for teachers in middle and high school, each chapter also includes a brief section for elementary school teachers.

What Is a Discipline Problem?

Howard Seeman says that teachers frequently make "miscalls" by misidentifying what are and are not discipline problems.

According to Seeman, "A discipline problem is a behavior (not merely the expression of a feeling) that disrupts (or is potentially disruptive to) the learning of the rest of the class (not just the learning of the disrupter) or the role responsibilities of the teacher (not just the personal feelings of the teacher)."

The final section of the book provides a number of useful tools for teachers and schools. It includes a sample discipline policy statement, techniques for improving lesson delivery, a questionnaire for assessing school discipline problems, a pretest teachers can use to assess their ability to diagnose and prevent discipline problems, and an entire section spelling out the legal parameters of many discipline issues.


Because Preventing Classroom Discipline Problems can also be used as a training handbook, every chapter ends with a set of exercises and checklists designed to help teachers improve their skills and prevent discipline problems in their classrooms. In addition, the book features a companion training video, cued to the chapters in the book, that demonstrates examples of effective and ineffective discipline techniques.

Preventing Classroom Discipline Problems provides a thorough discussion of common discipline issues and demonstrates a deep understanding of what is -- and what isn't -- within the power of the classroom teacher. Chock-full of detailed examples of the kinds of problems that occur every day in real classrooms, the book also provides explicit techniques and strategies for dealing with those problems.

If the author left anything out, it's hard to imagine what it might be!

Preventing Classroom Discipline Problems: A Classroom Management Handbook, written by Howard Seeman, Ph.D, is published by Scarecrow Education. For additional information about the handbook, video, or CD, go to

Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2000 Education World


Related Articles from Education World