The Kounin Theory

Of Classroom Management

The Kounin Theory of Classroom Management focuses on techniques and strategies to prevent the occurrence of discipline problems before they begin.

The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect is the correcting of the misbehavior of one student, which will then influence the behavior of the other students in the classroom.

  • The teacher must name the unacceptable behavior.
  • The teacher needs to be firm.
  • The teacher needs to be clear about what is expected.


"Wittiness" is the teacher's ability to know what is going on in all parts of the classroom at all times.
  • Also known as having eyes in the back of your head.
  • Keep your back to the wall as you move through the classroom.
  • The teacher must identify the correct instigator in order for the class to believe the teacher is "withit."
  • Deal with the most serious incident first.
  • Intervene early and quickly


Transitions are important in the Kounin Theory.

  • The teacher must provide smooth transitions because behavior is influenced by the smoothness and effectiveness of transitions between tasks.
  • Smooth and effective transitions are important in maintaining student involvement and class control.

Group Focus

Keep the class focused on the task at hand. This is essential to reducing misbehavior.
  • Keep students involved through active supervision.
  • Keep students engaged in learning.
  • Hold students accountable for the task and misbehavior will decrease.

Focus the group's attention

  • Cues in demonstration
  • Questions to check for understanding
  • Vary who is called upon to speak

Maintaining Interest and Involvement

Satiation is the student's progressive loss of interest in a task. Behavior emerges when satiation is experienced.

How to reduce satiation

  • Provide the students with a feeling of progress
  • Offer challenges throughout the lesson.
  • Be enthusiastic about the lesson
  • Provide variety in a lesson.

Why is this still important today?

Kounin developed his theory in the 1970's, but it is still relevant today. The Ripple Effect is especially important. Teacher's who are firm, clear, and concise with their discipline of one student will have an effect on the rest of the students. Students will also respond to a teacher who is "withit" and know what is happening throughout the class.


Kounin, J.S. & Gump, P.V .(1958). The ripple effect in discipline. The Elementary School Journal, 59(3), 158-162.

Pressman, B. (2011). Withitness in the classroom. Retrieved from

Wuest, D. (1999). Are you with it? PE Central. Retrieved from