The use of Adlerian methods to develop democracy in the classroom



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Dreikurs, Grunwald, and pepper (1971) discussed the dilemma of many educators today. A part of the instructional time in class was spent struggling for some semblance of order in the classroom. Teachers who effectively used autocratic techniques in the past discovered that many students were no longer obedient to such an approach to classroom management. The Adlerian approach to classroom management, as refined and expanded by Rudolph Dreikurs, stressed the employment of the principles of democracy in the classroom. Such an approach emphasizes freedom and order. The goal of the current study was to demonstrate the effectiveness of Adlerian techniques in developing democracy in the classroom. Democracy was operationally defined, and instruments were selected to measure the extent to which democracy was present in the experimental and control classes. Two schools were selected in similar socioeconomic settings in a large city. Each school had four fifth-grade classes; four classes in one school comprised the experimental group, the four in the other school comprised the no-treatment control group. At pretest time, all eight classes were administered the California Test of Personality (CTP) and the Coopersmith Self-esteem Inventory (SEI). During the same week, the classes were videotaped while engaged in a 30-minute predetermined activity. The experimental treatment involved the teachers of the experimental group in bi-weekly meetings for approximately ten weeks. A consultant discussed Adlerian methods during these meetings, and the experimental teachers were encouraged to apply these techniques in their classrooms. At the end of the treatment period, the experimental and control groups again were videotaped and were tested with the CTP and the SEI. Statistical analysis of the experimental data showed that the experimental treatment had no measurable effect on the personal and social adjustment of the experimental group, as measured by the CTP. Similar results were found with the SEI. Findings more in line with the research predictions were associated with the teacher-student interaction. The experimental group demonstrated an increase in democratic behavior, as reflected by the frequency of behavior observed in the modified Flanders Interaction Analysis Categories (FIAC). A statistically significant difference was observed in seven out of ten categories statistically analyzed, six in the direction predicted. Even stronger positive findings in the direction hypothesized were obtained in the statistical analysis of the atmosphere data. At pretest time, a statistically significant difference was observed on only one of the eleven scales of the semantic differential instrument. At posttest time, statistically significant differences were found on all eleven scales in the direction predicted. Many of the findings supported the hypothesis that Adlerian methods contribute to the development of democracy in the classroom. The consultant model was effective in bringing about changes in teacher-student Interaction and the classroom atmosphere. The question remained regarding whether a more extensive intervention would have brought about all the changes hypothesized. Regular, systematic observations of teacher-student interaction with subsequent feedback sessions appeared to be an important step to be considered in future research in this area.



Student government, Classroom management