Minimizing Coercion

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Minimizing Coercion from Bob Sullo’sThe Motivated Student

  1. Because coercion will always be a part of the educational landscape, balance it with as much choice as possible. Choice in the classroom can be as simple as giving your students the option of doing two equally valid assignments. Remember that every choice you offer acts as a counterweight to the requirements and nonnegotiable that exist in every classroom.
  2. There is a fine line between being structured and organized and being coercive. Effective teachers are organized and provide sufficient structure for their students to be successful in an environment that minimizes coercion and allows for student choice.
  3. Give your students as much freedom as they can responsibly manage. Be honest with your students, telling them that you will give them as many choices and as much freedom as you can while maintaining the educational integrity of the classroom. Let them know that there will be times when there will be no options provided and you will ask them to do it “your way.” Students who have sufficient freedom and choice rarely grumble when they are occasionally unavailable.
  4. Engage students when developing class rules and routines. Giving them a sense of control over this part of their school day will result in fewer discipline problems and greater acceptance of the rules you develop.
  5. Provide as much choice as you can without sacrificing your authority or the educational objective of your lesson. In one school I know, students can create their own alternative to any assignment as long as the alternative they create addresses the same educational objective as the assignment created by the teacher. The teachers in this school report to me that the vast majority of students complete the teacher-created assignments. The simple fact that the students have an option removes the coercion from the situation. Those few divergent thinkers who create alternative assignments simply help teachers expand their repertoires for subsequent classes.
  6. Be certain that your students are conscious of the choices you offer. When students perceive the classroom as providing adequate freedom, it immediately feels less coercive. The result will be fewer power struggles and more on-task behavior.


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