The relationship between normative-humanistic attitudes and discipline beliefs in a Turkish pre-school teachers' sample

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  • Teacher Development, Volume 8, Number 1, 2004


    The Relationship between NormativeHumanistic Attitudes and Discipline Beliefs in a Turkish Pre-school Teachers Sample

    ISIK GRSIMSEK Dokuz Eylul University, Buca-Izmir, Turkey MELEK GREGENLI Ege University, Bornova-Izmir, Turkey

    ABSTRACT The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between pre-school teachers discipline beliefs and normativehumanistic orientations. The sample consisted of 156 female pre-school teachers from public (89%) and private (12%) pre-schools in the western Anatolian region of Turkey. A Polarity Scale consisting of 45 items related to normativehumanistic orientation, a Beliefs on Discipline Inventory consisting of seven paired items related to lowhigh discipline orientation, and a general survey questionnaire were administered to participants. The results from comparisons of the total scores of the two scales show a positive and significant relationship between lowhigh discipline beliefs and normativehumanistic attitudes. The results and correlations between discipline beliefs, normativehumanistic attitudes of the teachers and background variables such as satisfaction level with occupation, beliefs about the prestige of teaching, age, seniority, type and the properties of the institution, age of students, and in-service training opportunities were discussed with reference to teachers personality characteristics and belief systems.

    Background to the Study

    Theories of discipline and their practice are value laden and reflect imbalances of political power between adults and children. It is postulated that teachers have strong beliefs about the role of education and about right and wrong in the classroom, which are determined by their world-views (Raths, 2001). The assumption is that teachers believe and act according to a range of models of discipline, but one usually predominates in beliefs and action (Wolfgang & Glickman, 1995). Therefore, the application of these theories emphasizes

  • Isik Grsimsek &Melek Gregenli


    teacher behaviors that reflect the corresponding degrees of power possessed by the teacher.

    Turkey is a country with problems establishing a democratic tradition. It is making efforts to transform the traditional sociocultural settings to enable democratic socialization and a democratic society. Furthermore, Turkeys national education program related to adaptation to the European Union requires amendments and innovations in the school system in many aspects. This necessity has brought into the agenda studies about teaching and discipline beliefs and personal ideologies of teachers more than ever before.

    The primary objective of this study is to investigate the relationship between pre-school teachers discipline beliefs and their normativehumanistic orientations. The results gathered from the data of this study are expected to guide educational programs. The second objective is to establish the reliability and the criterion validity of the Beliefs on Discipline Inventory for a sample of Turkish educators.

    Literature Review on Discipline Theories

    The basic definition of ideology is simply the system of ideas, beliefs, values, attitudes and categories through which a person, a group or a society perceives, comprehends and interprets the world. In this sense, ideologies are representations of who we are, what we stand for, what our values are and what our relationships with others are (Van Dijk, 1998).

    Tomkins (1978, 1987) has defined ideology as a comprehensive understanding of the political stance which an individual maintains toward belief-based and value-based components of human living. Individual, group, or cultural ideologies may be understood according to the two orthogonal dimensions of normativism and humanism. The humanistic ideological orientation views humankind as an end in itself, an active, creative, thinking, desiring, and loving force. The normative ideological orientation maintains that reality exists prior to and independent of humankind and that human beings must struggle toward this potential through conformity to norms and set rules. Tomkinss Polarity Theory explains the differences of ideology and personality based on humanistic and normative orientation, between left and right, and theological beliefs. Also, the recurrent Polarity Theory can be traced in the fields of metaphysics, the foundation of mathematics, the theory of aesthetics, political theory, epistemology, theory of perception, theory of value, theory of child rearing, theory of psychotherapy, and theory of personality and personality testing. This study is mainly concerned with the socialization process and value system of the Polarity Theory.

    According to Tomkins, normative socialization is oriented toward teaching and directing the child along predetermined pathways. The objective is to have the child become obedient to these external standards, and to ignore or defer pleasure deriving from his or her own feelings. Thus, normative



    socialization teaches denial of the validity of ones own affects (Stone & Schaffner, 1988).

    Humanistic socialization could be thought of as child-centered parenting. According to the humanistic parenting orientation, the childs feelings and desires are central, and growth is seen as springing almost spontaneously from the childs inner self. Feelings and sensitivity are to be savored and relished, not denied. One of the basic guides for the childs decisions is his/her own feelings (Stone & Schaffner, 1988). According to this theory, these ideological orientations are multiply determined, but it is clear that ones preferences are developed early in childhood emotional life; this occurs through the acquisition of personal scripts, a term that refers to affectively charged memories of social situations involving the self and important others (Carlson & Brincka, 1987; Tomkins, 1987). For example, childhood experiences arising from a parental focus on the child and his or her inner self are expected to reinforce feelings of excitement, joy, surprise, distress, and shame, in turn leading the child to gravitate toward the humanistic orientation, or left-wing perspective. In contrast, more structured, punitive parenting engenders emotions such as anger and contempt, which reflect the normative orientation, or right-wing perspective (Jost & Hunyady, 2002).

    Schools teachinglearning practices as well as families child-rearing orientations are the basic sources of childrens cognitive, psychosocial, and moral development. It is well known that teaching behaviors, teaching styles, and students perceptions of the learning environment are related to student learning and development of beliefs about self and others (Brophy & Good, 1986; Fraser, 1986). Fraser mentions that better achievement is found in classes perceived by students as having greater cohesiveness, satisfaction, goal direction, and less disorganization and friction (Haertel et al, 1981). Teachers discipline beliefs and application of classroom management strategies are related to different aspects of student development.

    Discipline typically refers to the structures and rules for student behavior and efforts to ensure that students comply with these rules. A model of discipline is a set of coherent approaches to deal with establishing, maintaining, and restoring order, which represent a certain philosophical perspective on a continuum of low to high teacher control (Wolfgang & Glickman, 1995).

    Low-control approaches are based on the philosophical belief that students have primary responsibility for controlling their own behavior and that they have the capability to make these decisions. Children are seen to have an inner potential, and opportunities to make decisions enable personal growth (Burden, 1995). The main aim of discipline is to socialize young children and help them to construct their own values (Kohn, 1996; Rodd, 1996), to teach students to cooperate with others and to develop integrity to make ethical choices and the confidence to act on their values (Ginott, 1972; Gordon, 1974; Gartrell, 1998; Glasser, 1998). The childs thoughts, feelings, ideas, and preferences are taken into account when dealing with instruction,

  • Isik Grsimsek &Melek Gregenli


    management, and discipline. With this philosophical belief, students have a high degree of autonomy while the teacher is expected to exert a low degree of control. Eric Bernes (1964) and Thomas Harriss (1967) transactional analysis approach and Haim Ginotts (1972) view of building childrens self-concept by congruent communication are examples of strategies that could be used by educators in classroom settings.

    High-control approaches are based on the philosophical belief that students growth and development are the results of external conditions. Children are seen to be molded and shaped by the influences from their environment; they are not seen to have innate potential. Little attention is given to the thoughts, feelings, and preferences of the students since adults are more experienced in instructional matters and have the responsibility for choosing what is best for student development and behavior control. Teachers using high-control approaches believe that student behavior must be controlled because the students themselves are not able to effectively monitor and control their own behavior (Burden, 1995).

    Models developed on the high-control approach (Jones, 1987; Dobson, 1992) offer ideas for properly structuring the learning environment, using limit setting techniques, and using appropriate procedures in the event of misbehavior, simply to maintain healthy and happy children with a balance between love and control. Behavior modification, as proposed by Skinner and others, is a technique for shaping behavior by reinforcement and punishment that works best when practiced in an organized, systematic, and consistent way (Charles, 1992). This study will examine the humanistic-ideological orientation versus the normative-ideological orientation in discipline and their correlation with age, seniority, type and properties of the institution, age group of students, in-service training opportunities, satisfaction level, and beliefs about prestige of the teaching profession. The instruments to be used will measure whether there is any significant relationship between participants ideological orientation and their discipline beliefs.


    Measures and Research Instruments

    This is a quantitative study. Three instruments will be used in the data collection: Polarity Scale. The first instrument used in this study is the Polarity Scale, developed by Tomkins (1964) and revised by Stone & Schaffner (1988). The revised scale consists of 59 paired items, and the subjects give their response by making a choice between the paired items. The adaptation of the scale to the Turkish context was conducted by Gregenli (1997) with a sample of 522 adults. The 14 items with negative item-total correlations and below 0.10 were eliminated and the last format with 45 items and the alpha coefficient for the Polarity Scale was obtained as 0.69. In this present study the Polarity Scale is



    used as developed by Gregenli (1997) and the alpha coefficient for all items is 0.65.

    The respondents are to determine the statement that best reflects their belief from the paired items, with 1.00 indicating normative and 2.00 indicating humanistic orientation. The total scores of the participants are computed by the total item scores, lower scores indicating normative orientation and higher scores indicating humanistic orientation.

    Beliefs on Discipline Inventory. The second instrument used was the Beliefs on Discipline Inventory. All respondents also completed this originally 12-item inventory. The questions based on low, medium and high control orientation related to classroom discipline (Wolfgang & Glickman, 1995) were paired in the scale. In this present study, the inventory is used with seven paired items directly related to lowhigh control orientation and five items related to medium-control discipline orientation were eliminated based on the low item-total correlations. Reliability analysis of the Inventory revealed an alpha coefficient of 0.61 when all seven items were included in the scale.

    The respondents were asked to determine the statement that best reflected their beliefs from the paired items with 1.00 indicating high-control and 2.00 indicating low-control orientation. The respondents are evaluated as high control (Rules-Rewards-Punishment Approach Orientation) and low control (Confronting-Contracting Approach Orientation), based on the total score on seven items.

    General Survey Questionnaire. This questionnaire consists of 10 items related to socio-demographic variables of the participants. Age, seniority, type and properties of the institution, age group of students, in-service training opportunities, satisfaction level, and beliefs about prestige of the teaching profession are the variables measured. A two-point agree/disagree statement measured the last two variables estimated to be related to normativehumanistic orientation and discipline beliefs.


    The questionnaires were administered in September 2001, during the in-service training seminars carried out by schools at the beginning of the academic year. The participants schools were visited, and pre-school teachers were informed that their beliefs about different topics were to be measured and they should complete all questionnaires if they were willing to participate in the study. A total of 156 teachers agreed to participate.


    The study was carried out during the 2001-2002 academic year at Izmir a city in the western Anatolian region of Turkey. The participants of this study were

  • Isik Grsimsek &Melek Gregenli


    156 Turkish female pre-school teachers from randomly selected public (88%) and private (12%) pre-schools in Izmir. Pre-school teachers were informed about the aim of the study. The age distribution of the participants was 20-45 (35% aged between 20-30; 45% aged between 30-40; and 20% older than 40), and most were married (81%). Most of the participants had experience in teaching (22% less than five years; 58% 5 to 15 years; 17% 15 to 25 years; and 2% more than 25 years) and had been working with children aged 4-6 years (92%).

    Results and Discussion

    The mean of the total scores was 82.44 (SD = 3.81; min. = 70.00, max. = 89.00) in the Polarity Scale and 10.60 (SD = 1.53; min. = 7.00, max. = 14.00) in the Beliefs on Discipline Inventory. The results obtained from comparison of the total scores of the two scales show a positive and significant relation between lowhigh discipline beliefs and normativehumanistic attitudes (r = .38; p < .01). The participants with a more humanistic orientation are seen to have a low-control approach...