Understanding Behavioral Problems

Before you start to formulate a discipline plan, it is important to consider that each classroom situation may be different from one another, each day may present different problems, a strategy that worked yesterday might not work today. It is a matter of developing a series of strategies that you can draw from. Nine models of discipline are included in this module to help you formulate your own discipline plan.

However, before you proceed to develop your own discipline plan, it is necessary to distinguish between acceptable classroom behavior and unacceptable behavior – what is referred to as misbehavior.

Behavior and Misbehavior.

Behavior may be defined as all the physical and mental acts that humans perform. Thus behavior is whatever one does, whether good or bad, right or wrong, helpful or useless, productive or wasteful. In contrast, misbehavior is a label applied to any behavior that is considered to be inappropriate to the setting or situation in which it occurs. Most classroom behavior is considered to be done intentionally by students, when they know they should not do it (Charles, 1989).

Five Types of Misbehavior

Teachers contend with five broad types of misbehavior. In order of seriousness, as judged by social scientists, they are:

  1. Aggression, physical and verbal attacks by students on the teacher or other students.
  2. Immorality, acts such as cheating, lying and stealing.
  3. Defiance of authority, where students refuse, sometimes hostilely, to do what the teachers tells them to do.
  4. Class disruptions, such as talking loudly, calling out, walking about the room, clowning, tossing objects, and so forth. (Most class behavior rules focus on this category of misbehavior).
  5. Goofing off, fooling around, not doing the assigned tasks, daydreaming, etc.

Teachers agree with the levels of seriousness shown here for the five categories of misbehavior. Indeed they are very concerned input aggression, immorality and defiance and dread having to deal with them. But in practice, the amount of time and energy expended on dealing with misbehavior, even in the urban classrooms typically seen as more problematic, is heavily weighted toward the less serious actions such as goofing off and disrupting.


Charles, C.M., 1989, Building Classroom Discipline: From Models to Practice, Longman Inc, New York.