The Problem with Group Punishment In Schools

Updated: Jun 17, 2021

In schools in the UK, a method is normally used to allow a message or warning resonate with a group of students so certain students do not commit the act again.

It's called group punishment.

Here's why there's a problem with it.

Take this scenario for example, you are in a line waiting to get inside a clothing store. At the front of this line an argument stars between two people. The security guards then close off the line and refuse anyone entry to the building because of the incident. Not only is it unjust and unfair to the majority of the people that were in the line and complying with the rules, but it is also a major inconvenience to these people that only wanted to buy the clothes they wanted. This sort of situation happens in schools all the time. And there are a number of cons to this technique:

The first being the toll it takes on the student who caused the group to be punished. It's more likely that the group are going to blame the one that started the incident for their misfortune and this could easily lead to exclusion or even bullying if he is the result of multiple incidents. Of course he deserves to be punished if he had done something wrong but if you punish a whole group this could take a toll socially on the student who is at the centre of it all.

Another con is that the student might not learn from their mistakes if they are not singled out for their wrongdoing. This has been seen multiple times in schools. If a teacher punishes a whole group for one person's mistake then it is more likely that this mistake will be repeated because the student feels the blame is not only on them because their peers have also been punished. This is an inconvenience for everyone involved. The teacher who has to repeatedly punish the group, the student who never learns and the group who are essentially on the short end of the stick every time it happens.

Of course it would be ignorant to not acknowledge the pros that come with this behaviour modification technique which have caused schools to use it for over 60 years. Teachers have the opportunity to not be the villain in these situations and transfer power to the group who punish the student socially which is an effective use of behaviour modification as the student will probably not do it again. Cohesion in the classroom can also be achieved by this technique as students taking responsibility for other students' actions may bring them closer together.

But ultimately, students will just grow more resentful of school every time this occurs. They will more likely not want to be in the school setting in general if they are being punished for something they have no part in. This is obviously the main and most influential con on this list as a buildup of resent for the school setting leads to more misbehaviour as the students subconsciously feel they are taking it out on the school itself.

In conclusion, behaviour modification by social exclusion has not aged well in the 21st century and other alternatives need to be created to reengage students into the school environment.

So remember, when you hear a child walking down the street or talking to his classmates in school about how much he 'hates' school, you probably know why now.

Kind Regards,

Hastings Grey.

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