Deviance is something teachers and administrators deal with every day when managing students. Deviance is simply a fancy word for the breaking of social norms and rules. In other words, in the context of classroom management, deviance is the everyday misbehavior of students.
There are two types of deviance. Primary deviance is misbehavior that does not have a long-term effect in terms of the perception or reputation of the person. For example, a student talking out of turn may be primary deviance if it is not too common. Secondary deviance is misbehavior that can give a student a label that strongly harms how others perceive him. For example, getting into fights, drug use, and academic dishonesty often give a student a poor reputation that is hard to overcome. When this happens, the student’s status is linked to deviant behavior.
Schools work to maintain social control of their campus by enforcing rules and norms. Doing this helps to maintain the social order and stability of the organization. Common tools used to achieve this include the use of sanctions, both positive and negative.
Positive sanctions are rewards; those familiar with behaviorism may be more familiar with positive/negative reinforcement. Negative sanction is the giving of consequences in behaviorism. Another term for this is positive/negative punishment. Another type of sanction is a formal sanction which is an official way of giving rewards or punishments. For example, citizenship awards might be a formal positive sanction, while suspension would be a formal negative sanction.
Theories of Deviance
Theories are several theories that attempt to explain deviance. Strain theory states that having a way to achieve a goal influences deviance. For example, no money for college may turn a student towards a life of crime as they see no other options. However, this is not the only potential response. Students may confirm and set aside their goal until an opportunity arises, if ever. Students may innovate, such as our example of turning to a life of crime. Students may lower their goal to achieve whatever they can, such as finishing high school and learning a trade. Students may also simply give up. Lastly, students may rebel with a desire to tear down the system. This last action partially explains the protesting in many places.
Strain theory does not have to deal with weighty issues such as going to college. Students can simply deviate because they are not allowed to go outside and play. As such, a teacher can anticipate certain behaviors from students through being familiar with strain theory.
Cultural deviance theory states that students may deviate if they conform to lower-class society norms. This implies a difference in class being a primary means of deviance. For example, students who grow up in gang culture will probably learn behaviors that are considered deviant by middle-class teachers. This will lead to problems in the classroom.
Cultural deviance theory is supported by at least two other theories. Differential association theory states that students learn deviant behaviors from others, and labeling theory states that those with power (teachers) determine acceptable behavior. Gang culture is considered deviant by most teachers, but whether this is considered deviant by gang members?
Lastly, control theory states that the strength of social bonds influences a student’s desire to perform deviant behaviors. In other words, students do not like to submit to strangers but will respond to people they know and respect.
Control theory proposes several ways to curtail deviant behavior. Attachment, if students are close to you, they will not want to deviate. Commitment, if you as the teacher are invested in the students, they will not want to deviate. Involvement, if you participate in activities with the students, they will not want to deviate. Belief, if students agree with what you want or think, they will not want to deviate.
Deviance is to be expected. Students want to push the limits, and it is the teacher’s job to deal with this. However, students need to learn from their mistakes so that their deviance does not become a major problem for them or the learning experience of others.