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Chapter 17: Moving Up the Teaching Style Continuum from the 4-Style “Dominator” to a 2-Style or 1-Style Approach

From Transformative Classroom Management. By John Shindler. ©2009

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In this Chapter

  • Characterizing 4-Style Management
  • Assumptions behind the 4-Style Approach
  • Examining the Problems that the 4-Style Approach Creates
  • Making the Shift Up the Continuum
  • The Paradox of Power
  • Locating the Roots of the 4-Style within the “Failure Psychology”
  • Making a Transition in Practice








The purpose of this chapter is to examine the foundations and common practices of the 4-Style approach to classroom management. We will begin by exploring the fundamental nature as well as various manifestations of this approach. Next we will examine why it leads to problematic and dysfunctional results, and finally how one can move up the Teaching Style Continuum toward a more functional approach and a more effective set of practices.


A Case Study of Two Teachers Using a 4-Style:

Rory and Selena are veteran teachers. Rory teaches high school and Selena elementary. Each has their routine for teaching pretty well established. When they think about their students, they wish the students were more responsible and respectful but blame the parents of the students for their lack of motivation and bad attitudes. They have students they like, but they seems fewer every year.

Each teacher has some creative ideas, but tend to stick to the book, use a lot of worksheets, and “busy work.” In Roman’s class, lots of students are receiving poor grades. He wishes that they were more motivated and would listen during his lectures, but feels that if he adequately demonstrates that their work is inadequate, they will straighten up at some point. He complains that too few students do the homework and he is perpetually disappointed at the poor test scores. Selena watches as some of the students show little motivation, and assumes that they are just “low motivation” students. She sends students home with examples of their poor work and negative reports in the hopes that the parents will take some action to motivate their children. Both think they are doing a good job and the kids are dropping the ball. They take every opportunity to lecture the students on how their work is poor and they need to get motivated or, as they joke, “You will be working at McDonalds for the rest of your life.”

Rory and Selena want to shake their students out of their complacency, so they use a lot of public embarrassment and shaming. They feel that if they expose students publicly they will be more motivated to change. Classroom management includes many cases in which students push them over the line and therefore must be punished. They are not afraid to punish and regularly remind students of the penalties that await them if they misbehave.

Rory likes to use his “big personality” to help control his class. He talks loudly and is not afraid to speak angrily to a misbehaving student. He likes to motivate the group with general challenges. He jokingly refers to some of his classes as his “bad classes.” Selena is more passive and uses frequent disappointment messages to modify student behavior, mixed in with occasional personal praise for her “good students.” Each teacher assumes that if they consistently “chronicle student failure” and let them know how inadequate their behavior is they will someday get it. Phrases such as “quiet down,” and “get to work” are heard many times a day.

Rory sees other teachers treating students with more respect, but Rory feels that is just sugar-coating the truth. He insists that students will not get fun and exciting lessons in college, and in the real world no one is going to tolerate their laziness. He does not think all students should go to college anyway, so it does not bother him when students drop out. Selena knows that other teachers are more positive, but questions how they can get order without letting their students know what they are doing wrong. She recalls with longing a group of students she once had who showed her respect and did good work. Some day she hopes to have a class like that again, instead of these students who seem hopeless.



Classroom management characterized by a 4-Style approach exists at all grade levels in all types of schools (Good & Brophy, 2000). The stories of Rory and Selena demonstrate two types of 4-Style management. Like many teachers who take a 4-Style approach, Rory and Selena exemplify two individuals who are competent and up to the mark. On many days there is a reasonable amount of order in their classes and some of their students are performing well. However, Rory and Selena are representative of other teachers using a 4-Style approach in that they feel the need to be the “boss.” As a result there is always some antagonism and strain in the room. They relate being dominant with being in control. They are more concerned that their students adequately fear what might happen if they go “over the line” rather than the students gaining a clear sense of what constitutes that line. Rory and Susan, like other teachers who use a 4-Style, are comfortable being reactive and displaying anger and other forms of negativity when they feel students deserve it. The two teachers are comfortable raising their voices when they feel it is necessary. They believe if they give enough discomfort to their misbehaving students, the students will get the message that what they are doing is wrong. They likely have never considered the notion of “pain-based logic” but they do subscribe to the idea that pain in the form of punishments, shaming, public embarrassment, obvious disappointment, name calling, and put-downs are useful in teaching lessons to students when they misbehave. Many 4-Style teacher are like Rory in that they use their dominating personalities as a means of gaining control; others like Selena use more subtle and often passive-aggressive forms of control. A favorite practice of the 4-Style teacher is the use of praise and affection and withdrawal of that affection in the form of disappointment in an effort to modify student behavior—this is especially prevalent in elementary grades. The result is a class very sensitive to the moods of the teacher. Given that there is little that promotes intrinsic motivation in this approach, the teacher relying on a 4-Style usually feels dependent on extrinsic motivation strategies such as bribes, gimmicks, preferred activity time, rewards, names on the board, or colored cards to get students to perform. The result is a motivational climate that is predominantly extrinsic and defined by fear and desire (i.e., fear of punishment, fear of loss of love, desire for praise, desire for a reward).



Chapter Reflection 17-a: Bring to mind any teachers you would characterize as using 4-Style. If one or more were your teachers, revisit how you felt in their class as a student. If you observed your example teacher(s) as a peer, student teacher, or volunteer, recall the looks on the students’ faces. How did they seem to feel? As you reflect on these teachers as a group, what did they have in common?



The Assumptions behind 4-Style Management Thinking

Typically, a 4-Style approach is built on a series of strongly-held beliefs and assumptions (Fries & Cochran-Smith, 2006). As a result, most 4-Style teachers are convinced that what they are doing is “working” and what they are not doing would not “work” (Appendix D)). These assumptions tend to override concrete evidence to the contrary. The 4-Style teacher tends to hold to their view of the “real world” (Appendix I) in the face of evidence that things could be better or that there are other paths that would lead to less stress and strain and more effectiveness. The problem is not that the 4-Style teacher does not learn, but that they are relearning a set of faulty principles that are rooted in mistaken assumptions (Larrivee, 2006). We know that habits are difficult to break, and behaviors that seem to “work” or work occasionally are especially difficult to change (Larrivee, 2006). Figure 17.1 contrasts some of the most common 4-Style management assumptions and the conflicting evidence that refutes those assumptions.


Figure 17.1 Contrasting Common 4-Style Management Assumptions with Conflicting Evidence

4-Style Management Assumption

Conflicting Evidence

If I do not show strength and dominance, students will see areas of weakness and take advantage of the situation.

This assumption sounds logical, but under examination we find that this assumption is based on a false choice, dominance or weakness. Being clear and consistent does not require any level of dominance, but does result in gaining respect and legitimacy. Moreover, students act to meet basic needs. Observe a class where basic needs are being met. There are clear behavioral expectations and students have genuine respect for their teacher. You will see almost nothing that resembles students’ taking advantage of the situation. When basic needs are met, there are few problems; if not there will be many problems. This has little to do with the demeanor of the teacher.


If I am supportive and positive, students will assume that anything that they do is fine, and as a result will not work as hard.

This statement is certainly logical, but in human terms it almost entirely untrue. To test this assumption it requires only a little common sense and self-reflection. Recall learning situations in which encouragement was withheld from you. Was it motivational? Recall the social frames discussed in Chapter Three. When students act responsibly and make an effort the adult in the equation must display a corresponding degree of recognition and awarding of an increased level of responsibility or the frame becomes broken.


If I get upset and give students enough pain, they will see that their behavior was unacceptable and change it.

As we discussed, this assumption is based in a “pain-based logic.” This can take the form of shaming, humiliation, put-downs, threats, victimizing humor, and most notably punishments. In Chapter 10, a clear distinction was made between punishments and logical consequences. Using pain to change behavior is like using Draino to cure the hiccups. It may stop in the short term, but you have created worse maladies as a result. Punishments are more likely to create hostility, a desire for revenge, and a depressed motivation than any behavior change. Consequences change behavior because they are logically related and teach meaningful lessons.




Chapter Reflection 17-b: Reflect on the assumptions above. Why do you think that they are so prevalent? Why do so many of us want to hold on to them so fiercely in the face of the evidence that they lead to dysfunction and a perpetuation of our problem condition?



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Examining the Fundamentally Problematic Nature of the 4-Style Management Approach

While teaching style is something of a relative matter and no particular one is right for every teacher, our style choice makes a difference. Different styles can produce vastly different results in practice (Good & Brophy, 2000). The practices that characterize the 3- and 4-Styles depicted in the teaching style continuum are inherently problematic and lead to a dysfunctional climate. The problems with the 4-Style approach are varied, and many are rather significant. Five of the most noteworthy problems are described below.


  1. Does Not Lead to Better Behavior

The first problem with the 4-Style approach is that it does not work very well to produce function and/or efficiency. The myth is that with a stern “boss” approach, students will be more likely to fall in line and/or be on task. The reality is that a strict or stern affect has little effect on how well-managed a class is (Konner, 1990; Stoughton, 2007). The interest in being orderly may lead to strategies that create some degree of order, but a stern affect is counterproductive. You might test this assumption by doing your own survey and observing the effects of a variety of management approaches. What you will likely find is that in classes with the fewest management problems there is little-to-no yelling or angry displays by the teacher (Skiba & Rausch, 2006). In the 4-Style class you will find a lot of energy put into a form of management in which the teacher makes threats and chronicles unwanted behavior, but you will not see improvement in behavior from day to day.



Chapter Reflection 17-c: If you have the opportunity, survey classrooms. Listen to the noise level. When you hear a class in which the teacher uses a loud or abrasive voice, observe the quality of the classroom management. What is the relationship?



  1. Depresses the Motivational Level in the Class

The second problem with the 4-Style of management is that inherently undermines the motivation level of the students (Kauffman, 2005). In chapter 7, the pathway to a “success psychology” was laid out. There we identified that at the heart of building a sustainable foundation for motivation the teacher needs to foster an internal locus of control in the students. The 4-Style of “boss management” maintains the focus of the control on the teacher as the external agent. The implicit message to students is that, “good things happen when you do what the teacher says.” The misguided assumption is that “staying on” the students helps them get more done. In the immediate short term, this may be true on occasion, but in the long term, students are robbed of their sense of agency and become more passive and dependent on external prodding each day (Covington, 2000). With the inclusion of extrinsic rewards which are popular in the 4-Style classroom, there is a further erosion of the students’ intrinsic motivation. The combined effect of a hostile environment, the promotion of an external locus of control, and the undermining of intrinsic motivation is to create a perfect storm that depresses the motivational level of each student (Covington, 2000).


  1. Decreases True Discipline.

In the short term, there is may be a sense that the shaming, humiliation, anger and reactive punishments are resulting in improved behavior. But what is more likely is that students are learning to avoid being caught (Skiba & Rausch, 2006). The motivation to not misbehave is fear of the annoyance of having to listen to the lecture or to be the object of ridicule; the motivation to behave well is absent altogether. In most cases it is most likely that the climate in the class simply becomes progressively worse as the negative energy reflects back and forth between the teacher and the students, becoming magnified over time (Fink, 1988; Fries & Cochran-Smith, 2006). The only true discipline is “self-discipline.” The 4-Style approach leads to a deterioration of self-discipline. The idea that being a “no-nonsense,” hard-nosed teacher will lead to discipline through obedience does not work. This approach leaves only two choices for students: submission or rebellion (Skiba & Rausch, 2006). Neither of these options leads to healthy growth or a climate of genuine discipline (Robibnson & Ricord Griesemer, 2006).


  1. Limits What Can Be Achieved.

Promoting such qualities as a democratic classroom, community, self-direction, intrinsic motivation, and/or a safe emotional climate within the class is impossible within a 4-Style management environment. Democracy requires a shared voice, but in the authoritarian 4-Style approach the voice of the teacher overrides everything. There may be a pretense of democracy in a 4-Style class, but in the end the students learn where the real power lies: solely with the teacher. Community requires a sense of collective vision. In the 4-Style classroom the vision is absent or maintained silently within the teacher’s mind. In the 4-Style classroom students cannot develop the skills of self-direction, since the teacher directs and the students learn only to do as they are told. And while many 4-Style teachers lament that the students in their classes do not feel confident enough to share, express, or challenge themselves, they only need look at the structure of their class to find the cause. When the students do not feel emotionally safe in their relationship with the teacher, it is nearly impossible for them to muster it in other areas. As a result there is a marked climate of fear and shaky confidence in the 4-Style classroom.


  1. Produces a Dysfunctional Ripple throughout the School.

One of the significant problems of a 4-Style approach is that it puts a strain on the efforts of the 1- and 2-Style teachers in the school. The dysfunctional effects of 4-Style teaching will be felt school-wide (Good & Brophy, 2000). To better understand these effects we would want to ask the third grade teacher who receives the students of last year’s second grade teacher who used a 4-Style. Or ask teachers in the in a high school whose students just came from the class of a 4-Style teacher the period before. If one is attempting to promote a clear sense of logical consequences, intrinsic motivation, an internal locus of control and/or a sense of self-direction, the influence of previous or concurrent 4-Style training will be counterproductive. The 1- and 2-Style teachers will find themselves working not only to help students overcome their personal dysfunctional habits, but also to overcome the 4-Style training that is taking place in the other classrooms. A handful of teachers using the 4-Style can hamstring the growth of an entire school.



Chapter Reflection 17-d: Imagine that it is the beginning of the year, and you are attempting to help your students develop a cause-and-effect relationship between their choices and the consequences that have been developed for the class. You notice one of the students talking while he is supposed to be doing a task independently. You walk over to the student and gently remind him of the expectation and the consequence for inappropriate talking. He gets very alarmed and says to you, “Why are you getting me in trouble, I am not doing anything wrong. Why are you always on my back?” How do you explain this student’s reaction?



 “But I’ve Seen the 4-Style Work”

There may be readers who at this point are thinking, “Hold on. I had a hard-nosed strict teacher, and he/she got a lot out of me and my classmates.” This may have been the case. There are teachers who use a 4-Style and do get results. Think about your experience in that teacher’s class while you reflect on a couple of ideas. First, recall how many of your fellow students were frequently engaged in power struggles with the teacher. Were most students motivated from a love of learning, or out of fear of the teacher? As the year went on, did the fear of punishments and shaming maintain effectiveness or did students begin to challenge and/or “tune out” the teacher’s threats? Moreover, reflect on the problems listed above. Were these problems present in this class? If so, would you say that the means that this teacher used to gain control were worth the ends?


Second, in recalling our strict teachers we often mistakenly attribute the causes of their effectiveness. Many times the teachers seemed effective because they were strict, when in fact they were effective despite their strictness. It was co-incidental. An example of this can be seen in the portrayal of Jaime Escalante, a math teacher of Los Angeles, in the film Stand and Deliver. He was depicted using a 4-Style approach. He used a lot of public shaming and was a very dominating presence in the class. It is easy to assign the cause of his success to his strict style. However, there were other teachers in the same building using the 4-Style techniques but were nowhere near as effective with the same population of students. In closer examination, the heart of Mr. Escalente’s success was the steadfast belief in the potential of his students, not his management techniques. In fact, he would have been even more effective had he used a healthier brand of management strategies.


It is very likely that the teachers you brought to mind who used a 4-Style were effective for reasons other than their management strategies. It is likely that they had high expectations and did not accept poor behavior or work. It is also likely that they projected respect for you as a student and as a person. Any teacher can choose to have high expectations and demand a lot from his/her students; it is not necessary to use a domineering style, resort to public shaming, or use angry outbursts.



Chapter Reflection 17-e: Think of the “effective” teachers who used a 4-Style. Aside from showing dominance and intolerance, what else might they have done? What other qualities did they have? Is it possible that these other qualities were responsible for the success they had getting students to learn?



What If It Is the Only Thing That Works with “These Students?” As a result of context outside of school and constant 4-Style learning environments, some students become acculturated to pain-based logic and the use of punishments (Kauffman, 2005; Robinson & Ricord Griesemer, 2006; also, Chapter 9). These students can catch a new teacher by surprise. Teachers may enter a situation expecting students to respond to their 1-or 2-Style approach but instead find students responding only to pain and punishments. Occasionally an entire class has been conditioned to respond to 4-Style and pain-based logic. In these instances it will appear as though the only thing the students respond to is pain. When we give in and use such strategies as yelling, threatening or personal attacks, the students may seem to respond. While it is true that in a situation such as this it will be difficult to introduce a more functional and healthy discipline logic, step back and look at the big picture. Do you really want to use what is in effect “abuse” to lead a group who have become used to these methods?


It is understandable that in these situations we tend to take action in the short-term to get a sense of order. While being in survival mode is understandable, susceptibility to that mindset will keep us just enduring all year (Fink, 1988; Konner, 1990). Keep in mind that all students who have become accustomed to a pain-based context are really longing for a safe and sane environment. It is not their fault that they do not yet know how to function in one. It is part of our job to help them adjust to a more functional set of patterns. In Chapter 14 we discussed how to succeed with the student with a “negative identity” pattern. At the heart of this pattern is a deep-seated attachment to a pain-based logic and a past that was defined by a co-mingling of pain and love so that they seem indistinguishable. We discussed how to lead a student to a more functional self-image. The process outlined is effective for both individuals as well as whole classes.


The 4-Style approach at its core is a crime-and-punishment model. Behavior is discussed in terms of “good” and “bad” rather than functional and dysfunctional. It is no coincidence that we find the quantity of use of 4-Style management and the quantity of students involved in the criminal justice system strongly related (Robinson & Ricord Griesemer, 2006). In fact, in students who present comfort with a criminal identity we discover a past deeply involved with pain-based logic in each case. Do we want our teaching to contribute to this problem or to be the threshold of change?



Chapter Reflection 17-f: Put yourself in the role of a new teacher who has the goal of creating a 1-Style Classroom. What would you do if you were given a class of students who were used to a 4-Style management approach? This scenario is depicted with verisimilitude in the film Freedom Writers.












Transitioning from a 4-Style to a 1- or 2-Style management approach requires a shift in both thinking and practice. Many teachers who currently use a 4-Style approach can use the process of action and reflection to uncover a set of more effective practices. This transition is depicted in the story of Therese.


Story of Therese

Therese is a middle school teacher who works in a large public school. She began her teaching career using the typical 4-Style Approach. Most of her teachers during her student years took a 4-Style approach and she assumed that style was required to teach in public school. Her teacher preparation reinforced her assumptions in many ways. It emphasized control and encouraged extrinsic reinforcement strategies. When she began teaching she took on what she called her “drill sergeant” persona. She was demanding. She showed little genuine emotion. She was critical and spent a lot of time chronicling student failures. At first she felt successful in so much that she continued to believe in this approach. But as the months went on her recognition grew that she was not getting the most out of her students. Her approach was not motivating. Her students did not really respect her. Some of them feared her, but she did not inspire them. So Therese began to open her mind to other ways to improve and better accomplish her goals of high student motivation and achievement. She began to allow students more freedom and trusted them to make choices. She demonstrated respect. She gave them more responsibility and expected more accountability rather than obedience. She also began to use more logical consequences and positive recognitions rather than punishments and negative recognitions. To her joy, she found she got more out of the students. They achieved at a higher level. They worked harder and enjoyed her class more. Part of this, she realized, was because they respected her more now. The more respect she gave, the more she got.


Something else surprised her, too. She found that when she gave the students more power, she actually felt more powerful. She felt that her power was rooted in a collective effort toward shared goals rather than in the students’ fear of retribution. She also found that teaching was less stressful and less of a grind. She struggled with students less, fought against them less. In her early years, she had felt a level of antipathy and resistance in the room. Now she feels little of that. Students are appreciative that her organized but empowering style helps them get results.


Paradox of Power

What Therese recognized was when it comes to trying to achieve power there is a paradox -- the more we want the less we get, and the more we give away the more we get (Fitzclarence, & Giroux, 1984). Real power is the force that brings us closer to our goals. A leader is only as powerful as their ability to get results. What usually passes for power in the 4-Style classroom is a desire for control at the cost of everything else. As we discussed in the previous chapter, control is rooted in an attachment to a mental concept of what we want for ourselves, and for the most part it is an illusion. When we have clear expectations and a shared vision, the students will be on the same page; as a result, thing will be more predictable. Upon examination, there is evidence that predictability is not so much our having control as our providing an environment that is producing controllable outcomes. If we lose our students’ respect or they no longer feel any reason to meet our expectations, our “control” would evaporate. The most powerful teacher has empowered students by promoting a high level of intrinsic motivation and the skills of self-direction. In Therese’s classroom there was powerful movement toward the shared goal regardless of her direct efforts.



Chapter Reflection 17-g: If this paradox seems a bit abstract imagine the following two situations.

1.     Your class is out of control and you are threatening them with failing grades, detentions and the worst punishments that you can deliver.

2.     You are peeking in the door of your class and observe your students working hard, acting in a manner consistent with your social contract, and intrinsically motivated to produce high quality.


In which situation would you feel more “powerful?” Why?



Respect and Revisiting the Social Frames

Another phenomenon that Therese learned was that social frames (Chapter 3) operate in a very noticeable way. Students did not respect her until she learned to give them respect. They did not like her until she showed she liked them. When she expected more responsible behavior, she got more responsible behavior. At the same time, she began to recognize the power of giving students responsibility for their own learning. She gave more choices, put students in more situations in which they were the authority, and her students responded with a greater sense of ownership and motivation.


Shed the Pain-Based Logic and End the Struggle

Therese also found out firsthand that she did not need to use punishments as she had assumed for the first few years of her teaching. What she found was that pain did not change misbehavior; it was changed by the certainty of logical consequences. In her classroom there is now little if any of the sense of antagonism or struggle that she first experienced. She always assumed that it was necessary to use punishments and that the stress that it caused was normal. When former 4-Style teachers look back at their early years they cannot understand why they believed punishments were so necessary and now appreciate how much stress they experienced as a result of the hostile climate they created.


Why Am I So Attached to My 4-Style Approach?

Some teachers begin their careers working from a set of 4-Style assumptions, but experience, evidence, intuition and reflection lead to growing out of the dysfunctional practice (Stoughton, 2007). However, many 4-Style teachers remain attached to their approach regardless of evidence that things are problematic. For their principals and colleagues this is often troubling and puzzling. Insight to why some teachers remain oblivious and attached to a dysfunctional approach can be had by employing the lens of “success versus failure psychology” as outlined in Chapter 7.


In the Chapter 7 discussion of “success psychology” we identified three key components: an internal locus of control (LOC), a sense of acceptance and belonging, and a mastery orientation. The practices that lead to the development of these qualities are listed on one side of the table for each area. On the other side of the table are those practices that lead to the undermining of the three components. These practices promote a failure psychology defined by: fear of failure, a sense of worthlessness and/or inadequacy, and an external LOC. When the teacher unable to give up the attachment to a 4-Style of teaching examines each list, they usually find that they struggle to accept the idea that the practices produced by the success psychology are actually preferable. This resistance to giving up attachment to the 4-Style of teaching entails giving up one’s “failure psychology,” which can be the most difficult concept to shed.



Chapter Reflection 17-h: To test the assumption above, survey each list of practices in Chapter 7. As you scan down the practices that are characterized as leading to a “failure psychology,” locate those you currently use in your teaching (or were planning to use). Does the thought of having to give them up feel as though you are giving up part of yourself or losing something that is fundamental and familiar? If so, try to investigate the roots of that feeling.



Resistance to giving up a dysfunctional practice is usually more on the level of the psychological than the practical. To explore this idea, let’s examine how views of clarity, consistency, and pain vary depending on our psychology.


On a practical level, most of us would accept the notion that creating clarity and clear expectations is a desirable goal. The evidence suggests that it leads to better behavior and more achievement. But if we have been conditioned to a “failure psychology,” we may very well resist the creation of clarity in our classes. As discussed in the previous chapter, the more we are arbitrary and random, the more students are dependent upon us. This dependency makes us feel powerful and necessary. At the root of the need to keep others dependent is a sense of insecurity. Likewise, when we resist the idea of being consistent it is a reflection of wanting the class to be “about us” rather than effectiveness. When we create an inconsistent and subjective environment we sacrifice the capacity for democratic qualities in the class to our egotistic needs instead.


If we have trouble giving up attachment to pain-based logic, the likely culprit again is failure psychology or reverence toward someone in our past who was an aficionado of pain-based logic. The thought of pain-giving to create distance between us and our students may seem strange at first glance. To explore, let’s ask ourselves whether we are committed to accepting our students and caring about their welfare, or privately enjoying some hostility toward them. An unconscious reason for distancing oneself is that it is easier to deal with failure by the other party. In little investment there is little risk.


If we find it difficult to give up using pain to modify behavior, we might look for clues in relationships we have had with adults in our past. Did you have a loved parent or guardian who used a heavy dose of pain-based discipline with you? The aliases are many: tough love, strictness, teaching you a lesson, etc. Ask yourself, “Do I feel that I am disrespecting my parent and/or being irreverent if I acknowledge that even if it was done with love, their punishing behavior was unhealthy for me?” This trap keeps many of us from progress and freedom.


As we examine the various ego-based “personae” of the 4-Style approach, there is evident attachment to at least one element of failure psychology as well as resistance to success psychology. Figure 17.2 outlines some of the most common personae manifested from a “failure psychology.” These “personae” often keep many of us deeply attached to the 4-Style approach to management, therefore limiting our ability to move up the continuum to more effective practices.


Figure 17.2  Possible Personae in which Failure Psychology is Manifested

A failure psychology can take many forms. While at its core it has common roots, it will appear in the form of a variety of personae. Some of these are depicted below:


Drama Addict. This failure psychology persona likes things to be unpredictable. It likes having to react to external conditions. At the center is desire to externalize LOC. Given that this persona thrives on drama, it is using the others in its environment. It lacks a sense of self-acceptance; as a result it wants others to feel that they need to be exciting or lose the drama addict’s love.


Victim. The victim persona wears its external LOC on its sleeve. Its message to students is “I don’t deserve this!” Its operating thought process is defined by a fear of failure. It is always ready with an excuse to avoid the pain of feeling guilty or inadequate.


Harsh Reality. The failure psychology can also take the form of a harsh world view. Instead of admitting a deep desire for acceptance and belonging it projects a perspective that the “real world’ is cold, harsh, competitive, and unforgiving. It then sets out to create conditions that mirror the survival of the fittest in the classroom. It sends the message, “there is no support or comfort in the real world, so you will find none here.” (See also Chapter 20 related to competition). It is rooted in a fixed ability view (Chapter 8).


Dissatisfied. This persona hides behind a façade of dissatisfaction. It communicates to students the message that “you will never be good enough” in order to be protected from a sense of inadequacy. It is rooted in a fear of failure and a fixed-ability view of the world.


Self-Centered. The failure psychology can also take the form of a self-centered orientation that holds tight to its own set of beliefs, attitudes, conclusions, and concepts. When its views are challenged it takes great pride in telling others that they are wrong. It maintains the delusion that given its vast experience in life, it knows it all. This persona is rooted in a fixed-ability view and a helpless pattern. It holds tight to a fixed view because it is threatened by a world it does not understand or control. The ability to come out of the shell to show acceptance is difficult and rare.




Chapter Reflection 17-i: Reflect on teachers you have observed who used a 4-Style approach. Did you see evidence of any of the personae described here in their management? Save your ideas for Chapter Exercise 2.




For teachers currently using a 4-Style approach but intending to transition up the continuum, change can come through a variety of avenues. Gaining a new awareness of the ineffectiveness of the 4-Style approach or why one was unconsciously drawn to it can be the catalyst for change in many cases (Larrivee, 2006). However, changing practice alone often leads to an appreciation of the new practice; as a result a new set of working assumptions will guide you. In other words, change can be spurred by either the practical or the psychological incentives offered by moving your practice up the continuum. This chapter should have helped raise your level of awareness (i.e., why we were attracted to the 4-Style, the assumptions from which we have been working, and the harm that the 4-Style can unknowingly produce) and highlight the value and practical benefits of more effective and intentional practices. Read on to other chapters in the book for a more detailed road map toward practical change.


Making a Change in Attitude

If you discover that long-standing attitudes and old assumptions are holding you back or undermining what you are doing, it may be useful to listen to the resistance in your thinking. What keeps you attached to the 4-Style? Periodic reflection on the concepts of Chapters 7 and 16 can be useful. Becoming familiar with the practices that promote a “success psychology” will be the key to moving up the continuum. As you review the chapter, make note of any mental resistance. If you realize some defensiveness, ask yourself, “What is keeping me attached to a ‘failure psychology’?” When you read Chapter 16, identify those areas in which you find yourself locked in negativity and/or a habitual “no” mindset. A mental “no” keeps us anchored in the 4-Style quadrant. As you consider the more effective management practices outlined in the next section, recognize the “yes” mindset which is the foundation of each.


Making a Transition in Practice

Once you recognize your desire to move from a 4-Style to a 1- or 2-Style orientation you will be ready to exchange practices that have kept you mired in an unhealthy and ineffective situation for those that will be both healthier and effective. Figure 17.3 outlines a series of practices that are foundational to the ineffective 4-Style approach and contrasts them to those practices that will lead to a shift up the classroom management continuum to a greater level of intentionality and function.


Figure 17.3  4-Style Practices Contrasted to More Effective 1-/ 2-Style Practices.

4-Style Practice

Practices that lead to management dysfunction and a hostile and unhealthy classroom climate


1- /2-Style Practice

Practices that promote the shift toward a more effective and healthy classroom climate and increased function.


Accidental Practices

  • Reactivity
  • Use of subjective criteria
  • Social Darwinism


Decrease the vagueness in your expectations and the use of reactive and personal responses to students which creates an accidental quality to the class resulting in an absence of vision and clarity.

Intentional Practices

  • Genuine structure
  • Social contract (Chs. 8, 9, 10)
  • Clear expectations (Ch. 4)


Increase the amount of clarity and shared sense of purpose in the class. A collectively owned social contract is a great place to start. Exchange a shared understanding for the need to act on a whim.


Attempting to Promote Obedience

·         Obedience


Reduce the amount you ask students to perform from obedience, fear of disappointing you, being “bad,” or being shamed.


Attempting to Promote Responsibility

  • Promoting self-discipline (Ch. 10)
  • Promote accountability (Ch. 8)


Increase students’ recognition of the cause-and-effect in their world and that their thoughts and actions direct their lives. As students succeed in being responsible, allow them a greater level of autonomy, freedom, and choice. If they violate the social contract, hold them accountable for their choices.


Pain-Based Logic

·         Punishments, threats, fear

·         Shame, guilt

  • Victimizing humor, teasing
  • Putdowns, negative recognitions


Reduce the amount of pain that you mete out in an effort to modify behavior. Take action rather than passive-aggressively giving pain or taking revenge. Consider the destructive power of words.



Logical Consequences (Ch. 9)

  • Proactivity automatic
  • Student owned
  • Activity a reward; inactivity a logical consequence
  • Consequences intended to teach


Increase the amount of shared understanding in the class of the rules, expectations, and social contract. Help students learn how to change dysfunctional behavior rather than simply giving them pain that you feel they deserve. Ask how this consequence promotes the growth of the student.


Extrinsic Rewards and Bribes

  • Stickers
  • Preferred activity time
  • Behavior charts
  • Prizes for good behavior


Reduce the extrinsic rewards that you use. It robs your students of intrinsic motivation and will quickly lose its impact. What you are left with is a group of students who are addicted to the reward and increasingly act for the purpose of attaining the reward, rather than learning.


Meeting Basic Needs (Ch. 6)

  • Power
  • Belonging
  • Fun
  • Freedom
  • Competence


Increase the degree to which basic needs are met in the class, and the need for extrinsic motivators diminishes. When students work in a needs-satisfying environment, they grow in their level of intrinsic motivation.


  • Colored cards (Ch.19)
  • Names on the board (Ch. 19)
  • Detention cards


Reduce the use of shame-based systems. They create a shadow of hostility in the room and are more likely to promote negative behavior rather than desired behavior. Most of these systems exchange a symbolic and passive act for meaningful action. They are lose-lose in that they do not work and will destroy your relationship with your students.



Motivational Systems

  • Assessing process (Ch. 20)
  • Increased responsibility (Ch.10)
  • Service learning (Ch. 16)


Increase the use of systematic means to promoting high quality behavior. The use of a system to assess the quality of process, participation, or behavior can promote a dramatic step out of the 4-Style quadrant. Being very intentional about promoting student responsibility and giving students an ever-increasing amount of ownership can have a powerful effect as well. The use of an effective system makes the need for a deficit model unnecessary.


Failure Psychology (Ch. 7)

  • External locus of control
  • Sense of isolation and/or lack of worth
  • Helpless orientation


Reduce the focus on you as the dominant force in the room. Reduce the elements in the class that force students to fend for themselves in a hostile environment without support or structure. Reduce the focus on end products and fixed ability.



Success Psychology (Ch. 7)

·         Internal locus of control

·         A sense of acceptance and belonging

·         Mastery orientation


Increase the amount of choice and ownership that you foster in the class. Promote bonds among students and project and unconditional regard for them. Focus on the process and foster the belief that it is not what you have it is what you put into something that will best determine your level of success.


Personalization and Negativity

  • Praise
  • Disappointment
  • Making it “about you”


Reduce the degree that students work under the yoke of pleasing you. Take the personal element out of all performance and behavior related outcomes. Understand that giving and withdrawing affection is manipulative and counterproductive.


Clear Expectations (Ch. 4)

  • Use of positive recognitions
  • Use of clear directions
  • Use of rubrics


Increase the degree to which your student know what is expected. Show personal care and interest in students, but avoid using it to motivate. Increase the intentionality and deliberateness in your use of clarifying statements, positive recognitions, and mantras.


Teacher-Directed Pedagogy

  • Lecture and test
  • Perpetual direct instruction
  • Worksheets


Reduce your dependence of direct instruction, lecture, and test teaching formats.


Learner-Centered Pedagogy (Ch.11)

  • Inquiry
  • Cooperative learning
  • Projects


Increase the amount of work that requires students to think inductively, make connections, put it all together into products, and work in teams.


Figure 17.3 rules out practices common to the 4-Style approach and offers a series of more effective practices. The table may provide a useful synthesis of this contrasting set of practices. The practices in right hand column are explained in detail in previous and subsequent chapters in the book.



While common, the use of 4-Style management practices produces harm. It is hoped that this chapter helped bring to light some of the problems and destructive effects of a 4-Style practice. In addition, it is hoped that the reader will recognize more positive alternative practices.


In the next chapter we examine the area of competition. Competition is a powerful tool. Used intentionally, it can bring energy and life to a class. However, the most common forms of competition found in the classroom often lead to unhealthy and even harmful outcomes. The process for creating healthy competitive contexts is covered next.




Journal Reflections

1.    Why do you think that a 4-Style management approach has been so prevalent over the years?

2.    Examine the list of practices characterizing the 4-Style in Figure 17-3. Do you find yourself feeling any attachment to them? If so, where do you think it comes from?






Chapter Activities

1.    In groups or individually, reflect on teachers who have incorporated a 4-Style approach. Did they adopt any of the personae described in Figure 17.2? What is your guess on why they feel the need to do so?

2.    In groups or individually, recall a teacher who has used or is currently using a 4-Style management. Identify three of the practices they use that you feel are unhealthy and/or ineffective. Offer three alternative practices that you feel would make them more successful.





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