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Discipline lays the foundation for good behaviour in schools. In order to successfully achieve the objectives of a school, all members of the educational organization are required to strictly adhere to the various behaviour patterns. The study was carried out to investigate the influence of teachers disciplinary styles on pupils’ adherence to instruction. The study was guided by three research questions and two null hypotheses. The design of the study was ex-post-facto design. Purposive and simple random sampling techniques were respectively adopted to select 10 schools and draw sample of 400 primary six pupils. The instrument used for data collection was a questionnaire on disruptive behaviour and motivation to learn. Cronbach Alpha method was employed to ascertain the internal consistency coefficient of the instrument. Mean and standard deviation were used to answer the research questions and step-wise multiple regression analysis for testing the null hypothesis at 0.05 level of significance. The findings of the study showed that: the disciplinary styles have significant influence on pupils adherence to instructions, with the influence of democratic and laissez faire styles being dominant; and also the disciplinary styles have significant influence on students’ motivation to learn with the influence of autocratic style being dominant.



Chapter one: introduction

Background of the study.

Statement of the problems.

Purpose of the study.

Significance of the study.

Research question and hypothesis.

The theorical frame work.

Assumption of the study.

Scope of the study.

Operational definition of terms.

Chapter two.

Literature review.

Conceptual frame work.

Theorical frame work.

Review of empirical studies.

Summery of literature.

Chapter three

Research method and procedure.

The design of the study.

Area of study.

Population of study.

Sample and sampling technique.

Instrumentation for data collection.

Validation of the instrument.

Reliability of the instrument.

Method of data collection.

Method of data analysis.

Chapter four.


Overview of the chapters.

Demography of the respondents.

Answer to research.

Test of hypotheses.

Summary of findings.

Chapter five

Discussion, conclusion and recommendation.

Overview of chapter.

Discussion of finding.

Summary of the study.


Suggestions for further studies.

Limitations of the study.





Background of the study.

In child development, discipline refers to methods of modeling character and teaching self-control and acceptable behaviour both at home and school. Discipline is about changing behaviour, not about punishing children (Yang, 2009). Discipline allows children to develop self-discipline, and that affects a child’s moral and psychological development. Discipline strategies can be categorized into three main styles; preventive, supportive and corrective.

Preventive aspect of discipline involves establishment of expectations, guidelines and rules for behaviour change during the first schooling days of a pupil. The ultimate goal of preventive disciplining style is to provide proactive interventions to potential disruptive behaviors by clearly explaining to Pupils what good behaviors are. Supportive aspect of discipline provides a student with suggestions and options for correcting behaviour before a consequence is necessary such as verbal warning, suggestions for correcting behaviour, reminders, redirection and nonverbal communication. Corrective aspect of discipline may be the alternative when the student has failed to redirect his/her behaviour after repeated attempts. It refers to the set of consequences delivered to Pupils following an infraction (Wolfgang, 1999).

For one to make success in school, desirable or adaptive behaviours ought to be exhibited. However, where there is persistent disruptive behaviours amongst Pupils in the school system, a cog is constituted in the attainment of educational goals. A disruptive behaviour is that behaviour which does not enhance the attainment of instructional objectives. According to Des in Montgomery (1989) disruptive behaviour was defined as that which interferes with the learning and opportunities of other pupils and imposes undue stress upon the teacher. National Teachers’ Institute (2000) noted that disruptive behaviours are those behaviours of children which are against school or class routines, practices, and rules. The institute went further to indicate that the behaviours disturb lesson and cause discipline problems in the class. According to the institute, disruptive behaviours can be classified into two broad categories namely: minor disruptive behaviours and major disruptive behaviours. Under minor category include; inattention, lack of interest in class work, lateness to school, being suggestible. The major ones include physical aggression (pushing others, arguing and interrupting), moving or wandering around in class, challenging of authority, talking aloud in the class, disobedience to teachers and noise making. In their own perspective, Onyechi and Okere (2007) indicated some of the disruptive behaviours to include: calling teachers provocative nicknames, walking out on the teacher, noise making, sleeping in class, pinching, aggression, vandalism, pilfering, lies, truancy, lateness, irresponsibility, cheating, immorality, alcoholism, use of drugs, cultism, and examination malpractices.

A student may misbehave at one time or the other but this misbehavior cannot make such a student to be considered a disruptive student, if it is an isolated event. Montgomery (1989) noted that it is when Pupils’ misbehaviours create problems for teachers and themselves; and when they begin to occur frequently and pervade many areas of activity. Montgomery listed the following as disruptive behaviours: attention seeking, continuous talking and muttering, making annoying noises, lack of attention, poor concentration, distractibility, shouting out, wandering about, snatching other Pupils’ property, annoying and distracting other Pupils and teachers, provoking each other by name calling, unpleasant comments, lack of interest and motivation to work.

For this study, disruptive behaviours are those behaviours which when they are exhibited by Pupils can interfere with the teaching and learning process. Such behaviours include: noise making in class, lateness to school, hatred for teachers, distracting others, interrupting the teacher, drinking alcohol, being domineering, pushing, fighting others. Also included are use of hand set in class, lack of interest, stealing, not having a locker and seat, engaging in subject other than the one being discussed, attention seeking, staying outside the class as lessons go on, sleeping in class, and malpractices in assessments. These behaviours are obviously cases of indiscipline amongst Pupils, and when they are exhibited by pupils or Pupils especially in the classroom interfere with the instructional process. It takes the good observation of a teacher to know when a student has started exhibiting one or more of these behaviours.

When disruptive behaviours become sustained among Pupils they could manifest in drop out from schools, frictions between Pupils and authorities, examination malpractices or poor performance in school. Onyechi and Okere (2007) observed the existence of disruptive behaviours like calling teachers provocative nicknames, walking out on teachers, noise making in class, aggression, truancy, lateness and others among Primary school Pupils. Nwosu, (1997) and Okolo, (2003) equally observed the prevalence of disruptive behaviours in Nigerian Primary schools. Eze and Umaru (2007), noted that in Nigerian schools teachers believe they spend a disproportionate amount of time dealing with behaviour problems compared with time spent on instruction and academic activities. Montgomery (1992), noted clearly that disruption and other associated behaviour problems seem to be on the increase particularly in some schools. According to him this increase seems to be associated with a curriculum which emphasizes academic competition, places little value on non- academic pursuits or individual needs and aspirations, streams its Pupils in this setting, imposes a heavy and inflexible code of school rules, and fails to involve Pupils and staff in corporate development. In line with these observations, Bolarin (1996) indicated that the effects of such disruptive behaviours is remarkably felt in the adolescent academic achievement as it manifests in constant poor grades in class and repetition of classes. The situation affects both boys and girls.

Eliminating the disruptive behaviours helps in enhancing Pupils’ disposition to focus on their academic work. Montgomery (1989) noted that because Pupils come to be regarded by teachers or the school as being disruptive, it is usual for such Pupils to be regarded as owners of such problems and for discipline and correction to be directed towards such Pupils with disruptive behaviours. Such instrument is not only directed at Pupils  with disruptive behaviours but generally to maintain an orderly, purposeful and stable system.

In order to facilitate the attainment of educational objectives, discipline amongst student is very necessary. School discipline is the system of rules, punishments, and behaviour strategies appropriate to the regulation of children and maintenance of order in schools (Arum, 2003). Jordan in Nkomo (2010) simply puts discipline to mean teaching a child those behaviours that are acceptable and what behaviours are not acceptable.

For this study, school discipline entails the externally imposed and self- generated conducts that produce orderliness in behaviour and enhance the attainment of educational goals. Hall in Myers (2007) made it clear that unrestrained freedom for Pupils should never be tolerated. He was of the opinion that Pupils must be ever mindful that reasonable measures of control have been established by the school to preserve both the freedom of the individual and that of the group.

The school is always concerned with appropriate adolescent behaviours that will protect the rights of the group as well as those of the individual (William, 1984). Large proportion of failure results from a teacher’s inability to maintain good class discipline. Children’s Aid Society in Nkomo (2010) made it clear that discipline involves the following; the process of education, guidance and learning to help children develop self control; is characterized by mutual respect and trust; and aims at development of internal controls that helps the child relate to others in a positive and responsible way. The teacher has the primary responsibility of maintaining school discipline and the principal has the obligation to support the teacher and assist him in maintaining order in the school.

Sequel to the need for discipline in Primary schools, one ought to be bothered about the kind of discipline existing in a school and the results that emanate from the approach adopted, in terms of whether it enhances Pupils’ motivation to learn or not, and also if it helps to reduce or increase Pupils’ disruptive behaviours. The importance becomes immense considering the fact that motivation and emotion are related concepts. According to Zurbriggen and Sturwan (2002) emotion and motivation are often intertwined as  motivation can cause emotion, while emotion can cause motivation. Both motivation and emotion are expressed in behaviour. Unpleasant emotions such as fear and anger are usually powerful, and they exert a lot of influence on behaviour. If for example, a student is severely punished, it can cause the generation of a negative emotion in the child such as fear which in-turn will affect the behaviour, and probably the motivation to learn. It is clear that emotions, whether pleasant or not can trigger off certain types of behaviours in Pupils. When Pupils probably as a result of certain negative emotions or some other factors, develop and adopt behaviours which are capable of impeding their learning, such behaviour can be termed disruptives behaviour. Apparently, there are different approaches to put discipline in place in a school.

Shankar (2006) summarized the approaches as the authoritarian, the democratic, and the Laissez-faire types. The authority of a school normally adopts the approach which they deem suitable for achieving discipline in the school. By the disciplinary style, the researcher means the approach which the school authority deems suitable and adopts to maintain discipline in the school. The critical issue here is how the Pupils perceive the disciplinary style with regard to whether they see it as being the autocratic type, the democratic type, or the Laissez-faire type. The need arises considering the nature or character of Pupils in the area of study who are disposed to indiscipline. If parents do not devote time to inculcate the spirit of discipline in their children, disciplinary problems develop right from homes. Where parents spend most hours of the day carrying on their businesses or other activities as observed in the area under study, there cannot be adequate time to stay with the children, which would enhance the imparting of discipline. The situation is not helped by the seeming financial autonomy which many Pupils do have. A good number of the Pupils make little incomes through some means e.g barrow pushing. Consequently, such Pupils develop feeling of independence. The feeling of independence arises from parents’ failure to impart discipline on their children at home, coupled with the seeming financial autonomy such children or adolescents have. When Pupils feel that they are independent, imparting discipline on them always poses problems with regards to their behaviours and motivation to learn

Observation and interviews made by the researcher in some Primary schools indicate that the use of punishment especially the corporal type to impart discipline has continued to be the practice. The use of cane is a very common phenomenon, often with the intent to get the Pupils change undesirable behaviours. For the Pupils who feel they are independent starting from home, the fact remains whether the approach has been able to achieve the desired results in them or whether the approach has been resulting in disruptive behaviours and lack of motivation to learn. It is worthy to note that the disciplinary style of a school is a product of whichever of the different approaches adopted to maintain discipline. The subtle matter of concern is then, the influence Pupils’ perception of each of these approaches in place (disciplinary style) can have on the pupils’ adherence to instructions and their motivation to learn.

Statement of the problems.

The rate of disruptive behaviours exhibited by primary school pupils has continued to be on the increase with the attendant negative consequences. Coupled with this phenomenon is Pupils’ lack of commitment to academic work or display of lack of motivation to learn. The aims of education cannot be attained under conditions where Pupils persistently exhibit disruptive behaviours and do not show commitment to their academic activities. The high rate of examination malpractices and poor performances of Pupils could be largely attributed to lack of motivation to learn on the part of Pupils.

On another note, many parents do not have time to impart discipline in their children. To worsen the matter, such children have one way or the other to make little incomes that make them have a feeling of independence. Such feeling results in Pupils’ display of undisciplined behaviours at school. Discipline ought to be maintained in the school, as a state of indiscipline can never allow for the attainment of educational objectives. However, the style of discipline must be such that encourages Pupils’ display of desirable behaviours and motivation to learn. In line with Pupils’ predisposition to indiscipline and a feeling of independence, the salient issue is the Pupils’ perception of the style of discipline in the school, with regard to whether the style is perceived as being autocratic, democratic, or laissez-faire. There is paucity of work on the influence of the style of discipline in a Primary school on Pupils’ disruptive behaviours and also Pupils’ motivation to learn especially in Rivers East senatorial district of Rivers State. The problem of this study posed as question therefore is. “What influence does the Pupils’ perception of the disciplinary style in their school have on their exhibition and pupils adherence to instructions and also their motivation to learn”?

Purpose of the study.

The general purpose of this study is to ascertain the influence which the disciplinary style in a primary school has on pupils adherence to instructions and their motivation to learn. Specifically, the researcher is interested in:

To find out the disciplining styles used by teachers in primary schools

Ascertaining the influence which the styles discipline have on pupils adherence to instructions.

Ascertaining the influence which the styles of discipline have on students’ motivation to learn.

Significance of the study.

The findings of this study will be beneficial to the students, parents, the society at large and the educational system. This is based on the various contributions the findings will make.

Theoretically, the findings will help to lay credence to and strengthen Maslow’s theory of motivation in his hierarchy of needs. Students’ perception of the tone of discipline as being friendly would create a feeling of safety in the students which in turn could propel them into more efforts to learn. The same thing is applicable to the theory of behaviour modification as is applicable in correcting disruptive behaviour problems. The influence of teachers’ orientation to Douglas McGregor’s theory X or theory Y in their approach to discipline is also highlighted.

The findings will assist schools to know what type of disciplinary approach to put in place for the good running of the school. When the school authorities know and adopt good disciplinary measures, it is hoped that meaningful results are definite to be achieved in terms of better students’ behaviours. A properly disciplined and well behaved student is of course an asset to the parents and the society.

The findings will be helpful to students. If the right style of discipline is put in place, students will feel happy and safe in the school. Most students as a consequence would see the school as a friendly and purposeful place and be ready to show interest and commitment to the educational activities which go on in the school, including of course the teaching and learning. There will be improved students’ behaviours and also they will be willing to show more commitment to their school or academic works.

The findings will equally help schools to eliminate those disciplinary approaches that could lead to disruptive behaviours in students, and total lack of interest in the educational activities of the school. Teachers will therefore experience less stress in the instructional process the likelihood of the attainment of the instructional objective will be very high. Also clashes between the school authorities which often emanate from students disruptive behaviours will be reduced to a minimal level.

On another note, the findings will assist educational planners in making decisions regarding the disciplinary practices in Primary schools that would enhance good students’ conduct and academic performance. Further researchers will equally find the work useful in studying the probable critical relationship between disruptive behaviours amongst students and poor academic performance in schools.

Research question and hypothesis.

The study will attempt to answer the following research questions

What are the disciplining styles used by teachers in primary schools in River state ?

What influence do the disciplinary styles in Primary schools namely autocratic, democratic, and laissez faire styles have on pupils adherence to instructions?

What influence do the disciplinary styles in Primary schools have on pupils’ motivation to learn?


Four Null hypotheses were formulated which will serve as a guide to this study. These were tested at P 0.05 level of significance.

HO1: The influence of school disciplinary styles on pupils adherence to instructions will not be significant.

HO2: The influence of school disciplinary styles namely autocratic, democratic, and laissez faire styles on pupils adherence to instructions will not differ significantly.

The theorical frame work.

Maslow’s theory of Motivation (1908 – 1970):

Abraham Maslow identified five potent needs of man. These needs are rated in their order of urgency starting from the lowest and upwards. According to him, the needs are physiological needs, safety needs, love and affection needs, self-esteem and self-actualization needs. These are grouped into deficiency needs and higher level or being needs. The needs that are mostly significant in this study are the safety needs, love and affection needs, and self- esteem needs.

Douglas McGregor’s theory X and theory Y (1906 – 1964):

McGregor perceives of the managers leadership style as being closely associated with his/her fundamental beliefs about human beings. Cunningham and cordiro in Nwankwo (2007) highlighted two contradictory views of human behaviour – theory X and theory Y as postulated by McGregor.

Assumption of the study.

The study makes the following assumptions

The pupils are exhibiting disruptive behaviours

The teachers employ autocratic, democratic, and laissez faire disciplinary styles

Scope of the study.

The study is focused on ascertaining the disciplinary styles in schools. In other words, whether it is perceived by the students as being democratic, autocratic, or laissez faire.

The study then went on investigate the influence the disciplinary styles have on pupils adherence to instructions and their motivation to learn. The study covered only public Primary schools in Rivers East senatorial district of Rivers State. Pupils of primary six who are deemed to have gathered substantial experience of activities in the school were used for the study.

Operational definition of terms.


Discipline is action or inaction that is regulated to be in accordance with a particular system of governance. Discipline is commonly applied to regulating human and animal behavior to its society or environment it belongs

Disciplinary styles

Disciplinary style is the method adopted in a school to maintain discipline among students

Disruptive behaviours

The behaviour of students in the school especially in the classroom is one of the determinants of success in the school. Inappropriate behaviours can mar the purpose of education especially when such behaviours become sustained.

Motivation to learn

Motivation to learn is an important factor in any students’ success. Hermine in Brophy (1986) defined the term motivation to learn as “the meaningfulness, value, and benefits of academic tasks to the learner – regardless of whether or not they are intrinsically interesting”


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