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Discipline with Dignity: Strategies for Building and not Destroying Students

There is often a difference in perceptions of professional behavior between students and those in authority.1 Professionalism and professional responsibility that were once assumed must now be defined and taught. Many professions require appropriate professional behaviors in addition to didactic knowledge and physical skills. Classroom efforts often focus on skills, knowledge and other profession-specific aptitudes, but professional behaviors are frequently learned through role modeling which may lead to behaviors that compromise ones character, integrity, and ethics. In addition, demands for time may lead to over-commitment2 which can cause stress and, in turn, contribute to moral quandaries, such as cheating, when the student is pressed for time. Unprofessional behavior often leads to disciplinary action. Discipline is typically equated with force, manipulation or subjugation and can lead to further detrimental responses.3,4 Discipline, however, does not have to be destructive or punitive, but rather, can be remediating and formative if done correctly. Including students in the design of their own discipline plan allows them to maintain some control,5 and can provide a sense of opportunity for growth and renewal. This presentation offers strategies for making discipline positive even if the ultimate outcome is harsh. Models of discipline and methods of implementation will be explored. Factors regarding the seriousness of the infraction, repeat offenses versus temporary expressions of misbehavior, and mitigating circumstances that have influenced poor decisions will be discussed and considered. Discipline methods that maintain the students dignity and spirit and foster professional and personal growth will be presented.

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