Yes, Virginia, there are no rules in a Results Only Learning Environment

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Before its release in early 2013, reviewers of, ROLE Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom, posed a variety of questions and statements about ROLE strategies. One said: “It’s almost unbelievable that there are no rules and no discipline issues.”

So, I thought about this for some time, wondering how I might substantiate the assertion that in spite of having no rules and no consequences in my results-only classroom, there are very few behavior problems.


First, let me clarify what I mean by “no behavior problems.” I mean “problems” in the traditional sense of word. In other words, I do not have major disruption — students being disrespectful to me or peers, throwing objects across the room or fighting.

I get plenty of what some teachers consider discipline problems, however. My students are often out of their seats, chatting, chewing gum and even using electronic gadgets that may be banned in most classrooms. 

Behavior issues are a matter of opinion 

One thing that separates ROLE teachers from traditional teachers is how behavior is categorized. Teachers in favor of control will say that use of mobile devices or students talking and moving without permission are major discipline problems. The ROLE teacher embraces these behaviors, because the results-only classroom is a workshop setting that encourages autonomy and constant collaboration.

So, when someone is shocked to hear that I have no behavior issues, my first response is to suggest that my view of discipline is different from that of traditional teachers, who might argue that I have many problems, due to what they may perceive to be chaos.

Most disciplinary issues begin with bad teaching 

In the past, I punished students for talking to peers, because I saw this as disruptive to the constant lecturing I was doing. When students refused to complete a task, I removed them from my room. What I didn’t realize then was that the problem wasn’t a disrespectful or disruptive student; it was a boring worksheet or textbook assignment, which did not offer autonomy or ignite a thirst for learning.

A couple of years ago, I polled students at the end of the school year about result-only learning strategies. One question was about behavior. I asked them why they believed there were never any discipline issues in class. Eighty-four percent reported that the ROLE encouraged a desire to learn over a desire to be disruptive.

Imagine how much learning would take place, if all of what you consider to be discipline problems vanished forever.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series -- books and other series that provide right-now solutions for teachers and learners. Mark is the author or publisher of dozens of books, including Bestseller Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Join more than 150,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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