Challenges Related to Student Discipline and Motivation in the Classroom


Student discipline and motivation significantly impact academic performance and teacher job satisfaction. One can argue that the issues of classroom discipline and student motivation are multifaceted, and the teacher’s professionalism should be combined with administrative support in order to create a healthy educational environment. This paper examines key challenges stemming from poor discipline and motivation in the classroom and attempts to explain their nature. In addition, the paper offers potential solutions for solving the discipline and motivation-related challenges affecting K-12 or higher education teachers.

Main Discipline and Motivation-Related Challenges in K-12 and Higher Education

One can outline four main challenges related to student discipline issues and low motivation in K-12 and higher education settings. Firstly, the students may start dominating class discussions, thus challenging the teacher’s authority and potentially disrupting their lesson plans. Secondly, unmotivated students may show signs of insufficient participation in classroom activities. Thirdly, poor classroom discipline may endanger students’ safety if left unaddressed. Lastly, a teacher may face difficulties in solving student discipline and motivation issues due to insufficient support and cooperation from the administration. In this regard, low student discipline and motivation reduce the overall quality of education.

Students Dominating Class Discussion

Teachers who use class discussions as an educational practice may encounter situations where certain students attempt to dominate a discussion. As a result, a teacher’s lesson plan may become disrupted since the students may derail the discussion into an uncontrollable argument. Such a problem may emerge due to the teacher’s failure to establish a respected interpersonal perception. According to Sun et al. (2020), interpersonal perceptions are based on two dimensions — agency (dominance and power) and communion (warmth and friendliness). Whereas an excessive application of agency may make a teacher look harsh and controlling, the lack of agency may disrupt classroom discipline, tempting the students into taking control. In this regard, Nilson (2010) suggested establishing a mutually accepted code of classroom regulations since students generally accept and respect clear and fair rules. Once such a code of conduct is established, the students will likely understand what behavior is acceptable in classroom discussions.

Students’ Lack of Participation

Most importantly, a teacher should not automatically treat a student’s silence as a sign of low learning motivation and insufficient participation. Moreover, silent but engaged students may lose interest in learning if a teacher disregards their learning style and pushes them into speaking (Shi & Tan, 2020). However, in some instances, quietness may indicate students’ disengagement and discomfort with the classroom environment. In such situations, Medaille and Usinger (2019) suggest using various forms of response, giving the quiet students time to think before speaking or asking questions that do not have a right or wrong answer. Overall, students’ lack of participation frequently stems from the fear of mistakes and associated psychological distress. As such, a teacher should consider giving inclusive learning instructions and letting the quiet students participate in classroom activities in comfortable ways.

Student Safety

The lack of discipline may have more severe consequences than students’ incivility or dominant behavior in class discussions. In extreme cases, discipline issues may threaten students’ safety by serving as a cause of school violence. Furthermore, threats and violence may be aimed at both students and teachers. According to Maeng et al. (2020), 84.5% of threats in school settings were directed against students, and 15.5% were targeted against teachers (as cited in Cohen, 2021, p. 253). One should realize that even empty threats of violence have a significant harmful impact on the classroom atmosphere. Cohen (2021) suggests four pathways to addressing the issue of safety — prosocial preventive interventions, targeted interventions for “at-risk” groups, comprehensive weapon policies, and regular threat assessments. In this regard, teachers act as the first line of defense by creating an enjoyable educational environment that prevents aggression and discipline violations.

Reduced Support and Cooperation from Administration

Finally, a teacher may recognize the discipline and student motivation issues but be unable to solve them due to inadequate support from the school’s administration. Such a scenario presents a significant problem for employee retention since teacher cooperation and student discipline are among the significant factors affecting teachers’ job satisfaction (Toropova et al., 2020). Torres (2018) offered a solution in distributed leadership model, which supports teachers by giving them greater freedom in decision-making. With distributed leadership in place, a teacher receives an opportunity to implement the methods that increase student motivation and discipline, which may positively contribute to their job satisfaction and prevent professional burnout.


In conclusion, one can claim that student discipline and motivation issues present teachers with significant professional challenges in K-12 and higher education. In particular, undisciplined students may disrupt the learning process and threaten fellow students’ and teachers’ safety. Additionally, an atmosphere of psychological discomfort may lead to students’ disengagement from education and job dissatisfaction among teachers. Insufficient support and cooperation from the school’s administration may result in further deterioration of the educational environment’s quality. Given these challenges, school administrations should consider applying a distributive leadership model to empower the teachers in terms of decision-making influence. Consequently, the teachers would receive the necessary freedom to adjust their methods and personality in order to increase discipline and improve the participation of the quiet students in classroom activities. Overall, teachers and school administrations should not underestimate the harmful impact of discipline and motivation-related challenges and promptly undertake corrective actions once these issues emerge.


Cohen, J. (2021). School safety and violence: Research and clinical understandings, trends, and improvement strategies. International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 18(3), 252-263. Web.

Medaille, A., & Usinger, J. (2019). Engaging quiet students in the college classroom. College Teaching, 67(2), 130-137. Web.

Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Shi, M., & Tan, C. Y. (2020). Beyond oral participation: A typology of student engagement in classroom discussions. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 55(1), 247-265. Web.

Sun, X., Hendrickx, M. M., Goetz, T., Wubbels, T., & Mainhard, T. (2022). Classroom social environment as student emotions’ antecedent: Mediating role of achievement goals. The Journal of Experimental Education, 90(1), 146-157. Web.

Toropova, A., Myrberg, E., & Johansson, S. (2021). Teacher job satisfaction: The importance of school working conditions and teacher characteristics. Educational Review, 73(1), 71-97. Web.

Torres, D. G. (2019). Distributed leadership, professional collaboration, and teachers’ job satisfaction in US schools. Teaching and Teacher Education, 79, 111-123. Web.

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"Challenges Related to Student Discipline and Motivation in the Classroom." ChalkyPapers, 26 Sept. 2023,


ChalkyPapers. (2023) 'Challenges Related to Student Discipline and Motivation in the Classroom'. 26 September.


ChalkyPapers. 2023. "Challenges Related to Student Discipline and Motivation in the Classroom." September 26, 2023.

1. ChalkyPapers. "Challenges Related to Student Discipline and Motivation in the Classroom." September 26, 2023.


ChalkyPapers. "Challenges Related to Student Discipline and Motivation in the Classroom." September 26, 2023.