Discipline with Dignity

Course Outline

Course Description

Discipline With Dignity is a flexible program for effective school and classroom management that teaches responsible thinking, cooperation, mutual respect and shared decision-making. This approach was developed by Dr. Richard Curwin and Dr. Allen Mendler, internationally acclaimed authors of the book Discipline With Dignity.

Discipline With Dignity equips educators with classroom skills, techniques and structure that enables them to spend less time dealing with behavioral problems and more time on positive interactions with students and on instruction. It presents educators with the framework, tools and skills for being effective within their own style of classroom management, and furnishes administrators, teachers, parents and management teams with information and a basis for setting school-wide policy. This approach helps children develop their self-esteem, while giving them the tools and encouragement necessary for making responsible decisions in their lives, both within and outside the classroom. The underlying belief of this discipline approach is that all students' dignity must be enhanced and preserved, regardless of their behavior.

Discipline with Dignity provides the tools, structure, skills and understanding required by educators so that they are best prepared to deal effectively with a variety of disciplinary situations they will encounter. The approach is predicated on the fact that students can learn to be responsible for their own behavior and for their own learning, but these skills must be taught. The skills and methods of Discipline with Dignity show educators how they can prevent many discipline problems from occurring. It also teaches how to successfully handle challenging, "button-pressing" behaviors presented by individuals or groups in school/classroom situations while maintaining personal and professional dignity. Finally, rational methods are provided in helping educators deal effectively with chronic problem children who frequently misbehave. Discipline with Dignity is therefore a "three-dimensional" approach to behavior management: prevention, action and resolution. Course participants become knowledgeable and skilled in the use of strategies connected to these three dimensions.


  • Assess in-school causes of misbehavior
  • Create school-based methods that will address in-school causes of misbehavior
  • Develop methods of welcoming students
  • Explain how to teach students methods of self-control
  • Determine how to establish substitute outlets within the school or classroom so that students express their feelings and frustrations in acceptable ways
  • Design instructional methods associated with student engagement
  • Develop a framework of values and principles
  • Develop effective rules
  • Create options for student involvement
  • Explain the difference between consequences and punishments
  • Explain the concept of fair and not equal
  • Develop basic diagnostic methods
  • Assess strategies for defusing power struggles
  • Use P.E.P., the Action Dimension
  • Participants will understand how the hostility cycle works
  • Describe the mediation process
  • Determine non-aggressive methods of effectively dealing with difficult student behavior
  • Analyze the five basic psychological needs that are at the core of a child's decision to either behave or misbehave
  • Assess the need behind the misbehavior
  • Analyze how the basic need for belonging affects behavior in the classroom
  • Identify several strategies you can use in the school/classroom to enhance a sense or feeling of belonging among students
  • Analyze the relationship between classroom behavior and academic performance
  • Identify specific motivational classroom practices for building hope in discouraged learners
  • Analyze the relationship between motivation and discipline
  • Explain the ten conditions for motivated students
  • Explain how the needs for power and independence influence behavior
  • Generate ideas about how to enhance the need for virtue/generosity in an educational setting
  • Identify specific methods of fun that can be integrated within the curriculum
  • Identify specific school principles that guide decision-making
  • Identify community resources that can assist in working with students
  • Complete the final integration project

Curriculum Design & Time Requirements

The Discipline with Dignity course was developed by the creators of the approach, Dr. Richard Curwin and Dr. Allen Mendler, assisted by a team of course designers, writers and practitioners associated with the National Educational Service who have had experience in this specialized area. The ten course modules provide a comprehensive synthesis of the highly effective method. Participants are provided with a sound theoretical basis followed by an exploration of personal values, attitudes and beliefs so that participants understand their beliefs and biases pertaining to behavior management. Practical application with an emphasis on specific strategies followed by participant practice is a frequent sequence of instruction. Special emphasis is placed on the role of educator belief and attitude as essential in working effectively with challenging students. Methods of instruction include lecture, role-play, demonstration, class discussion, experiential activities, case study and participant practice. Assignments require participants to do outside reading and to apply material to their real situations on a regular basis. They are encouraged to bring real situations into the course. Participants will be expected to develop a comprehensive Discipline with Dignity plan that they will apply to their actual classroom/school situation. Discipline with Dignity is a 3 credit graduate level or forty-five hour professional development course taught on weekends or over five full days.

Course Materials

The required textbook for this course is What do I do when...? How to Achieve Discipline With Dignity in the Classroom by Allen Mendler. Several related articles and resource materials will be provided.

Session Outline

Session 1: Discipline With Dignity Framework
Objective: Participants will become more aware of in-school factors and identify or create school-based methods that will address each one.
  1. In-School Causes of Misbehavior
  2. Times Have Changed (Obedience - Responsibility)
  3. Discipline With Dignity Goals
  4. Criteria for an Effective Discipline Method
  5. Ineffective Methods of Discipline
  6. Building Blocks of Responsibility

Session 2: Three-Dimensional Discipline: Prevention Dimension
Objective: Participants will learn several methods of discipline prevention other than rules and consequences.
  1. Methods of Welcoming Students
  2. Teaching Students Methods of Self-Control
  3. Acceptable Substitute Outlets in the Classroom
  4. Instructional Methods that Engage Students

Session 3: Developing Classroom and Schoolwide Social Contracts
Objective: Participants understand the social contract process.
  1. Developing a Framework of Values and Principles
  2. Developing Effective Rules
  3. Options for Student Involvement
  4. Developing Effective Consequences
  5. Ensuring Knowledge of the Social Contract
  6. Practice in Creating a Social Contract

Session 4: Three-Dimensional Discipline: The Action Dimension
Objective: Participants learn how to defuse problem situations in a manner that protects the offending student's dignity, the educator's authority and the class' integrity.
  1. Choosing the Best Consequence
  2. Developing an Attitude of Professionalism When Provoked
  3. Avoiding Power Struggles
  4. Handling Confrontation
  5. Using Privacy, Eye Contact, Proximity
  6. Using the Insubordination Clause

Session 5: Three-Dimensional Discipline: Resolution - Dimension Methods
Objective: Participants learn strategies for working with difficult students.
  1. Attitudes and Beliefs for Working with Difficult to Reach Youth
  2. Developing an Attitude of Professionalism When Provoked
  3. Negotiating Methods
  4. Behavior Modification
  5. Unconventional Methods of Discipline

Session 6: Basic Needs and Behavior
Objective: Participants will identify the five basic psychological needs and see how they are related to the child's behavior.
  1. Identifying Basic Needs

Session 7: Basic-Needs Strategies Part One: Resolution - Dimension Methods
Objective: Participants will understand school and classroom practices that make students feel welcome and important in class.
  1. Belonging/Significance Strategies
  2. Student Survey

Session 8: Basic-Needs Strategies Part Two: Competence/Mastery
Objective: Participants will understand how acting-out behavior is a cover for feelings of intellectual and academic inadequacy.
  1. Competence/Mastery Strategies
  2. The Relationship Between Discipline and Motivation
  3. The Relationship Between Discipline and Instruction

Session 9: Basic-Needs Strategies Part Three: Power/Autonomy; Virtue/Generosity; Fun/Enjoyment
Objective: Participants will understand three basic needs and identify school/classroom activities that address each one.
  1. Power/Autonomy
  2. Virtue/Generosity
  3. Fun/Enjoyment

Session 10: Schoolwide Discipline
Objective: Participants will understand issues as networking with community resources, involving parents meaningfully in the discipline program, and guidelines for developing a school-based Discipline with Dignity plan.
  1. Developing a School-Based Discipline with Dignity Plan
  2. Networking with Community Resources
  3. Meaningful Involvement of Parents


The quality of the participant's work products as well as attendance and participation will be evaluated by the course instructor in determining a grade. In addition to the above, course instructors have discretion to either add or substitute expectations. For example, they may ask for a paper which requires participants to compare and contrast Discipline With Dignity with other programs of behavior management. They may opt for a final examination that tests both conceptual understanding and application skills.

Student Requirements

1. Attend all class sessions for the requisite number of hours (45) and actively participate in all class activities.
2. Complete all reading assignments.
3. Develop a personal discipline plan that includes key elements of Discipline With Dignity. Each participant will present a detailed plan to the course instructor.
4. Successfully complete all case-study materials that demonstrate an integrated understanding of relevant course concepts.
5. Maintain a learning journal that specifies an actual or anticipated discipline situation that is classroom or school-based. The participant will record a weekly summary of course material that is being applied to the identified situation along with a personal evaluation of how things are going. Each participant is expected to provide a final summary of his/her weekly experiences to the course instructor.

Student Academic Integrity

Participants guarantee that all academic class work is original. Any academic dishonesty or plagiarism (to take ideas, writings, etc. from another and offer them as one's own), is a violation of student academic behavior standards as outlined by our partnering colleges and universities and is subject to academic disciplinary action.


To register to take TEI's Discipline with Dignity course, go to the Course Registration page.