Pedagogy for the galaxy



Thomas Gordon

Thomas Gordon, a psychologist who studied under Carl Rogers, developed a program to implement a Rogerian philosophy to the classroom.  This Teaching Effectiveness Training (TET) program provides teachers with a model for class management and improving teacher-student communication and relationships.

TET promotes allowing the student to develop sefl-discipline and to become the people they are able to become, not moulding them into our perception of what they should become.  It has Roger's key tenets at its core, and provides teachers with a framework with which to practically apply to their classrooms. 

TET teaches seven specific behavioral skills and how to apply them in classroom:

    1. Behavioral Observation
    2. Identifying Problem Ownership
    3. Demonstrating Understanding
    4. Being Understood
    5. Expressing Recognition
    6. Confrontation
    7. Win/Win Problem Solving

A guide to Gordon and T.E.T. 

The following is a powerpoint presentation giving an overview of Thomas Gordon and the Teaching Effectiveness Training program that he created.  It provides an introduction to the elements of T.E.T. and the applications of this program in classrooms.

Thomas Gordon.ppsx (672,4 kB)



Gordon’s T.E.T. Graphic Organiser – The Rectangle

Gordon has devised a graphic organiser in the form of a rectangle to help delineate who owns the problem and the step that should be taken as a result. His Effectiveness Training Rectangle separates the behaviour/problem into acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Acceptable behaviour is behaviour that does not impede your needs and ability to teach, where as unacceptable behaviour does interfere. 


(Figure taken from Tauber, 2007, p. 201)


As seen in the figure above, when the behaviour is acceptable, then there is either no problem, or the problem is owned by the student. If there is no problem, then no special action or response is needed by the teacher. If the student does have a problem which is being exhibited in such a way that the teacher is being made aware of it, then the teacher does need to respond by actively listening to the student. This means listening to and discussing the problem with the student in such a way that the ownership of the problem remains with the student in question and that no communication roadblocks are used. (Tauber, 2007).

(For more information regarding dealing with problems owned by the student, see the Active Listening section of the above powerpoint presentation).

If however, the students behaviour is impacting upon your needs or teaching, then a range of strategies are used depending upon the issue and on the degree of conflict. If we own the problem, Gordon recommends a relationship-based discipline approach which does not blame the student, and which attempts to allow the student to change their behaviour by choice, rather than by coercion. The first method is by using an I-message.  The I-message does not blame the student and usually does not make the student respond defensively. An I-message describes:

  • ·         The students unacceptable behaviour
  • ·         The effect this is having on you
  • ·         The feeling this is causing in you

(For more information regarding dealing with teacher owned problems, see the I-Messages section of the above powerpoint presentation).

If the student’s behaviour is unacceptable and their needs and your needs are in conflict, then Gordon’s model recommends a win/win conflict resolution approach. The approach, also known as Method 3, attempts to find a solution in which both parties can win through brainstorming of solutions, discussing and choosing a solution and then trying it out & evaluating its success for both parties. (Edwards, 2008).

(For more information regarding dealing with mutually owned conflicts, see the Conflict Resolution section of the above powerpoint presentation).


Gordon’s Approach as a Whole School Approach

Peer Mediation

Peer mediation offers a preventative approach to discipline and conflict problems at the school level. Year 7 students are typically selected to become peer mediators. This way students can seek out the peer mediators at school rather than telling a teacher about their particular issue.

The mediators learn communication skills in order to solve problems. More specifically, students learn to help people in a conflict by enabling them to discuss issues rationally and by expressing their needs without blaming others.

For more information visit:



Tauber, R. (2007). Classroom Management: Sound theory and effective practice (4th ed.). Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers.

Edwards, C. H., & Watts, V. J. (2008). Classroom discipline & management (2nd Australasian ed.). Milton, Qld.: John Wiley & Sons.


Webmaster’s note: Robert Tauber’s book provides an excellent overview of not only humanistic classroom management theories, but also very good overviews of the other major classroom management theories. It provides an excellent complementary text to the textbook (Edwards, 2008).


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