Academic journal article Middle School Journal

A Choice Theory Counseling Group Succeeds with Middle School Students Who Displayed Disciplinary Problems

Academic journal article Middle School Journal

A Choice Theory Counseling Group Succeeds with Middle School Students Who Displayed Disciplinary Problems

Article excerpt

Middle school students are in a stage of transition to young adolescence that is characterized by unique developmental needs. While the majority of middle school students are able to manage this transition without problems, a significant number of students experience distress and disengagement during this time (Kruczek, Alexander, & Harris, 2005). This distress may be manifested in students' behavior in the form of disciplinary misconduct. According to teachers, misconduct in schools (e.g., cursing, grabbing, verbally abusing teachers, breaking school rules, and general disorder in the classroom) was more common than violent incidents involving weapons, drugs, or extreme, delinquent acts (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2004). Passaro, Moon, Wiest, and Wong (2004) noted that traditional discipline methods used by educators, such as time-out away from the classroom, have not been found to be effective in reducing problem behaviors. These authors stressed the need for a more "therapeutic intervention" (p. 504) for these students. In addition, the common practice of school suspension in response to school disciplinary problems also has not been found to be an effective means of addressing these students' needs (Christie, Jolivette, & Nelson, 2005). For the concerned middle level educator, it is necessary to understand the prevalence and potential impact of school misconduct on a student's academic, career, and social development. Furthermore, by analyzing how schools are responding to students who present with discipline problems, implications may be drawn for educators as to how to effectively support these students.

Improvements have occurred in school safety over the last decade. The violent crime victimization rate in United States public schools declined from 48 per 1,000 students in 1992 to 28 per 1,000 in 2003 (NCES, 2004). However, the same NCES data indicated that 87% of middle schools reported at least one incidence of violence, and 29% reported at least one incidence of serious violence. Schools with higher reports of student misconduct and discipline problems were also more likely than schools that report fewer problems to experience violent and seriously violent incidents (NCES, 2004). The majority of public schools (54%) reported taking serious disciplinary action for classroom disorder (Miller, 2003). Middle schools were more likely to experience fighting incidents among students, bullying, verbal abuse of teachers, and widespread disorder in the classroom than high schools or elementary schools (NCES, 2004). These findings emphasized the importance of seeking effective and empirically-based approaches and interventions to assist these young adolescents.

The purpose of this article is to provide middle level educators with an orientation to the theoretical constructs and tenets of Choice Theory (Glasser, 1998) as both a preventive and remedial framework for supporting the development of students exhibiting school disciplinary behavioral problems. The following three topics are addressed: (a) issues relating to school disciplinary problems, (b) the theoretical constructs and tenets of Choice Theory as a guide for group counseling or other educational interventions in school, and (c) a case example illustrating the application of this approach by a middle school counselor. This article is aligned with This We Believe: Successful Schools for Young Adolescents (National Middle School Association, 2003), which states that effective middle schools facilitate a learning environment that is supportive and safe for all young adolescents. This We Believe (2003) goes on to advocate that "successful schools for young adolescents provide multifaceted guidance and support services" (p. 32).

Issues relating to school disciplinary problems

Students who exhibit behavioral patterns that result in frequent disciplinary actions at school are at risk for a host of additional problems involving their peer groups and future behaviors. …

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