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Kounin Teaching Principles

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Jacob Kounin, an educational psychologist, became best known for his research of the effects of classroom management on student behaviour. In 1970, he published his book, Discipline and Group Management in Classrooms, after realising that teaching and discipline were closely related. He produced a model for teachers to effectively reduce student misbehaviour. There are many benefits for teachers who follow his model.

In his book Discipline and Group Management, Jacob Kounin introduced a model for teachers to assist in classroom management. His principles would dramatically reduce misbehaviour of students in classrooms, if teachers were to follow them. Kounin came about these principles after realising that teaching and discipline were closely related. Previously teaching was thought of as helping students to obtain knowledge and skills, whereas discipline was what teachers did to keep the students on task and paying attention (Charles, 2002). Charles (2002; Kounin 1970) points out that Kounins model included several important teaching principles.

The first, withitness, requires a teacher to be with it and be entirely aware of everything that is happening in the classroom. For example, a teacher should be aware that little Johnny in the back row is making paper aeroplanes. Whilst still interacting with the rest of the class she should walk around the classroom and take the paper from Johnny, and give him a look to let him know that he was in the wrong. By this action the teacher has not stopped the lesson to tell Johnny off, because she has not made it obvious of her actions. If the lesson was stopped, the class attention would have been taken off the topic to look at Johnny, and class would have been disrupted. I strongly believe that this is Kounins strongest principle, as it is most important for teachers to always know of students whereabouts and actions.

The second, momentum, keeps students on track, by teachers continuing lesson movement, and making good transitions between classes. For teachers to have good momentum they should be able to start lessons with a strong message, keep the lesson going, make effective transitions between lessons, and bring lessons to an adequate closure. This is important for students so they stay attentive and know when a topic begins and ends.

The third, smoothness, is the steady development of lessons, without sudden changes or disturbing events. A teacher needs to keep lessons progressing without any sudden disturbances, such as a student misbehaving. A teacher could deal with this in the same way as the example in the withitness paragraph. Smoothness is somewhat similar to momentum, and it could be said that they interconnect, as they both work towards lesson progression. Again it is important for teachers to use this method to attain the students attention and keep them actively involved.

The fourth, group altering, refers to teachers having their own effective way for gaining student attention and clarifying to the students their expectations. Each teacher will have their own way of gaining the students attention and advising the students of their expectations. However, it must be effective for the classroom at hand, and it must also be effective to the students, so they can understand the teachers expectations. It is no use for a teacher to use the same method of gaining the students attention, for example using a bell, in a year two class and in a year seven class, as these age groups would respond differently. A teacher needs to use different strategies until they find the right one that suits the class, and the students.

The fifth, student accountability, is important in keeping students effectively attentive and actively involved. Effective teachers will prompt students, by calling on them to answer questions, demonstrate or explain, rather than waiting for them to volunteer answers. This is an important method for classrooms where students are easily distracted as it makes the students aware that they may be prompted so they should listen and pay attention.

The sixth, overlapping, refers to the teachers ability to be able to multitask. An effective teacher should be able to attend to two or more activities or events at the same time. This means, a teacher should be able to attend to or instruct the whole class while still attending to little
Johnny. It is important for teachers to be able to multitask, as they should be able to write on the board and answer a students question at the same time. It is also important for teachers to use this method, as to not let any students fall behind.

And finally the seventh, satiation, is the overexposure of a topic. This could be through too much information being presented at once, or too much time being spent on the particular topic. When students reach satiation they will show boredom, resistance and misbehaviour. Effective teachers will ensure that, students are not subjected to overexposure. Teachers can do many things to reduce satiation within their lessons, for example, providing a feeling of progress, offering achievable challenges, being enthusiastic, and adding variety to the lesson. It is important that satiation is avoided, as this is when students may block out any further information being presented. Kounin went on to describe that fun and challenging activities could reduce satiation, and keep children actively involved.

There are several fundamental principles for classroom management. Kounin believed that the teacher needed to address these principles before the class started, even before his model could be used. Effective classroom management is achieved through lesson plans, positive classroom environments, founding routines and effective communications, verbal and non verbal (Marsh 2004). Kounins principles, when applied with these prerequisites, provide a teacher with ultimate classroom management skills.

Kounin (1970) found that effective teachers were no different from ineffective teachers in responding to, or dealing with students misbehaviour after the behaviour had occurred. His aim, through his principle module, was to prevent misbehaviour, before it occurred. His module encourages teacher to keep momentum and smoothness in lessons to avoid satiation, to therefore keep students actively involved and on task. If a student is actively involved in a lesson or activity, they should have no reason to misbehave. An effective teacher, is superior to an ineffective teacher, as they will look into ways, such as Kounins teaching principles, to prevent the misbehaviour, where as an ineffective teacher will await the misbehaviour to discipline the child.

The ripple effect is one way that Kounin described how bad behaviour can get out of hand. The ripple effect is just as the name says, the act of bad behaviour spreading from one child to another to another, and so on. For example, if one student is talking when they are not supposed to, and is not noted by the teacher, the behavior will spread like a ripple through water, as the rest of the class becomes increasingly more likely to talk at inappropriate times (California State University, Chico, accessed march 15 2006). The ripple effect can be prevented. This is where Kounins withitness principle applies, as the teacher who is aware of the classrooms activities, should be able to see and prevent this misbehavior of students.

Jacob Kounin made outstanding contributions with regard to how classroom management can not only reduce but also prevent misbehaviour. His connections between ways of teaching and control of behaviour led to prove that teaching, in fact, influences discipline, which were once thought of as separate. Teaching was helping students to obtain knowledge and skills, whereas discipline is what teachers did to keep the students on task and paying attention (Charles, 2002). The best way to maintain good behaviour is to keep the students actively engaged in whole class activities, while still paying attention to the individuals.


Barry, K., and King, L. (1998). Beginning Teaching and Beyond, 3rd ed. Katoomba, NSW.: Social Science PressCatey, A. University of Illinios (n.d.). Limit Setting. Retrieved March 15, 2006 from http://students.ed.uiuc.edu/catey/limits.htmlCalifornia State University, Chico (n.d.) Retrieved March 15, 2006, http://web.csuchico.edu/~ah24/kounin.htmCharles, S.M. (2002) Building Classroom Discipline, 7th ed. Massachusetts.: Addison Wesley Longman.

Kounin, J. (1970). Discipline and Management in Classrooms. Riehart and Winston, inc.

Marsh, C. (2004). Becoming a Teacher, 3rd ed. Australia.: Pearson Education

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