Counselors’ Lived Experiences Relative to In-School Suspension

Literature Review

Constructivism Theory

According to Dovidio et al. (2011), places of social gathering such as family groups, friends, or schools are places that leads to various assimilations to a dominant culture. Lillard et al. (2011) also agree with the authors that any communal setting, including schools, provided an insight into the societal behavior of the area. Lillard et al. (2011) realized that in a school setting, understanding these aspects of culture is vital for the success of the institution and the students themselves. The authors also noted that previously such responsibility befell the teachers, but over time, counselors have become more vital for the management of this area.  Duffy & Jonassen (2013) had analyzed the learning practices in the United States of America and noted significant changes had taken place in the system. The authors first agree with Dovidio et al. (2011) and Lillard et al. (2011) that the social environment of schools plays a vital role in the management of the student’s academic performance and other needs. Duffy & Jonassen (2013) went further to showcase that previously, the United States of America’s education system was marred by authoritarian teaching styles. Thereafter, several changes occurred, and the introduction of the constructivist theory was done in an attempt to improve student performance. Harber (2015) agrees with Duffy & Jonassen (2013) that the authoritarian education system had little impact on student performance. The author had analyzed the school management styles and student performance and noted that when institutions used authoritarian leadership, the rate of subject failure increased. Therefore, there was a need for a change in leadership styles in schools, and the constructivist theory offered the best solution.

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According to O’Donnell and Tobbell (2007), constructivism theory relies on human experiences and similar interactions that causes people to learn and gain knowledge about the topic at hand. In an educational setting, the constructivism theory has been shown as a pivotal role in the learning process of students as they physically interact with the materials and this generates an experience allowing them to gain an effective understanding of the topic. Eriksen & McAuliffe (2001) agreed with the scholars when they also noted that the constructivism theory was based on experience acting as a learning tool. Eriksen & McAuliffe (2001) went further to showcase that the constructivism theory was highly integrated into counselors’ role in schools. As such, the counselors greatly contributed to the spread of the use of constructivism theory in schools. Wilson & Rozzelle (2005) also realized that the use of constructivism theory in schools was enhanced and counselors played a huge role in this.

Harber (2015) however, disagrees with Eriksen & McAuliffe (2001) and Wilson & Rozzelle (2005) when they noted that the use of constructivism theory in schools was not fully implemented in all sectors. The author noted that when it came to the discipline of the students, there was a sudden shift from constructivism theory to authoritarian approaches. Thornberg (2008) also agrees with the scholar that in disciplinary actions, teachers take up an authoritarian approach. Thornberg (2008) also noted that decision was common in public schools. Skiba & Knesting (2001) noted that in public schools, the common disciplinary measures was the removal of the pupil from the classroom or denying them their recess periods to learn about something. The approach is commonly referred to as in-school suspension. Morrison et al. (2001) also noted that the same issue of in-school suspension in public schools that Skiba & Knesting (2001) had identified. The authors went further to showcase that after the in-school suspension failed to discipline the students, they called their parents, then suspended them from school and eventually expelled them. Morrison et al. (2001), however, noted that the approach failed to address the challenges that the student was causing. Counselors have been in contention with teachers with this method of discipline as it only escalates the student’s unruly behaviors. Moreover, counselors attest to the fact that the disciplined approach is not constructivism theory but rather authoritarian. The students realize the experience of rejection and hate that only causes them to learn from them and express them which further increases their violent nature.

Osher et al. (2010) also analyzed the in-school suspension disciplinary option and noted that it was an approach that went against the constructivism theory specifications. The author reiterated that counselors are now turning their attention from dealing with the unruly students to the teachers. The teachers need to be educated on proper constructivism theory of disciplining the students in a way that allows the student to change and progress both academically and socially. Osher et al. (2010) gave examples of how the constructivism theory can be used by teachers in a classroom to discipline disruptive students. First is the use of drawing assignments, where the student that has disrupted a class is given a task of creating several images as a form of punishment before the class begins. The approach still retains the student’s learning hours and uses a creative method of disciplining the student that does not spread hate and rejection in their mind. Second is the use of lyrics writing; the approach is best used when students are not focused in class. The teacher on noticing this asks the students to think and write down lyrics that they like in the process the students are isolated into their thoughts and after completing the tasks, they easily assimilate into the lesson being taught. The approach greatly avoids the use of harm and fear, experiences that have no positive outcome on the students. The third is the use of motor tasks; the approach is best used when the student shows signs of emotional discomfort of being in class as they are dealing with some issues. As such, the teacher can deal with the problem by giving them a motor task such as drawing a map outside of the class. The student gets some time alone to calm their emotions and distress, but they are also kept busy to avoid increasing the emotional and distress state.

The above approaches are case examples of the constructivism theory being used effectively by teachers. Counselors have been pushing teachers to be creative in their disciplinary measures by using the materials in the classrooms and the state of the student to create a punishment that evokes an experience of positive education (Hargreaves, 2017). The counselors have noted that the in-school suspension method has detrimental impacts on the student and only progresses their unruly behavior to the point that the child is expelled (Sutton & Wheatley, 2003). However, Hargreaves (2017) realized that currently, there is no framework towards the implementation of the constructivism theory in schools’ disciplinary methods. Moreover, counselors are finding it difficult to fight the in-school suspension system as nearly all public schools have standardized the method. The teachers thus cannot be held accountable when their in-school suspension contributes to student lose and reduced performance as they are following standardized procedure.

Reigeluth (2016) identified that the counselors are leading the forefront in the implementation of constructivism theory in public schools. However, the author recommends that they need to work in collaboration with other key stakeholders like the teachers, managers, politicians, and others to create the awareness that the in-school suspension system was ineffective. Reigeluth (2016) also realized that there is a need for counselors to advocate for the use of technology in the implementation of the constructivism theory. Tomlinson (2014) agrees with Reigeluth (2016) statement that the constructivism theory needs to be implemented into public school disciplinary options, and the in-school system should be avoided. The author noted that counselors under the constructivism theory require disciplinary options to be easy for the child, evoke development in their positive behaviors, be progressive during the student’s period in school, based on the student’s needs and lastly allows the teacher to remain in command and enhance creativity in the class.

Therefore, it is clear that the constructivism theory advocates for positive learning processes in class through the use of proper experiences. The use of the in-school suspension system in public schools does generate experiences, but they are negative, and counselors have rejected the approach as it only lowers the student’s performance and development. Counselors and other stakeholders are now advocating for the use of constructivism theory in disciplinary measures that are beneficial to the student rather than punishing them for the mistake.



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Lillard, A. S., Pinkham, A. M., & Smith, E. (2011). Pretend play and cognitive development. In Usha Goswami (Ed.), The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of childhood cognitive development, 32, (pp. 285-311). Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from

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Harber, C. (2015). Violence in schools: The role of authoritarian learning. In David Scott & Eleanore Hargreaves (Eds.), The Sage handbook of learning, (pp. 243-253). Los Angeles, CA, USA: Sage.

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Eriksen, K., & McAuliffe, G. (2001). Teaching counselors and therapists: Constructivist and developmental course design. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.

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