It turns out that punishing the whole class for the actions of a few kids is not effective. Teachers use this discipline tactic to take advantage of peer pressure. Unfortunately, it does not improve behavior, and it just makes everyone miserable.
Teachers have used collective punishment as part of standard discipline forever. Here is how it works: one of a few students break a rule in some way. In response, the teacher holds the whole class from recess or otherwise punishes the group.
Sometimes, teachers turn to collective punishment when they do not know who the guilty party is, and no one will come forward. But they also use it when they do know the culprit. The adults’ hope that those misbehaving will not want to deal with their peers’ anger. The idea is that they will change their behavior to avoid being disliked by the other children. However, it does not play out like that in the kid world.
In the first place, the latest research points to the ineffectiveness of punishment. Positive discipline strategies are now recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Poor behavior is connected to feelings of isolation and disconnectedness. The driving purpose of collective punishment is peer pressure via isolation, so it follows that this strategy is not ideal.
Let’s not forget the fact that this simply is not fair. Adults may be the leaders, but they do not have the right to act unjustly, just because it is easier for them.
So why are teachers using still using collective punishment? Simply put, it works in the moment. Plus, it takes the pressure off of the teacher when she transfers it to the students, allowing their negative feedback to do the work. Lastly, teachers are overwhelmed with large class sizes and they cannot always cope easily with disruptions.
Instead of using punishments in an attempt to manipulate students’ behavior, teachers would do better to focus on building a strong community and engaging instruction.