Stress Management for Living, Teaching, & Parenting

Are the level letters confusing to students?


I was wondering if the behavior standards listed by Marshall (A = anarchy, etc.) are confusing 
to students. When we give them behavior grades, we say “A” is the best. I want to put up 
the Hierarchy chart as described in the book, but I wondered if it was going to confuse the kids.


The symbols “ABCD” have no particular meaning in and of themselves, it’s only in context that these symbols hold particular meanings.

For example, in a multiple choice question, A,B,C,D identify four possible answers.

In First Aid situations, ABC refers to Check AIRWAYS, Check BREATHING, Check CIRCULATION.

When discussing “patterning” as a concept in math, ABCD might refer to a pattern of four repeating shapes (ie, circle, square, triangle, oval.)

In the context of assessing academic achievement, A,B,C,D has another meaning. For example, the letter grade A often means “exceptional achievement.”

In the context of discussing the DwSTRESS Hierarchy, students are simply taught that the symbols A,B,C,D each have their own very particular meaning . Each letter refers to a level of behavior. Level A refers to behavior that causes anarchy. Level C is the level of cooperation brought about by external motivation , and so on.

Even young students can learn that the same set of symbols have different meanings in different situations.

For instance, a set of four numbers, can be used to identify the first four questions on a math worksheet (1. 2. 3. 4.) while the same four numbers might be used within the questions themselves as parts of equations. (1+1 = __ , 3 – 2 = __ ). Through direct teaching, students learn that in each case the numbers are being used in different ways.

Again, in another context — a phone book– very young people can easily be taught to understand that number symbols are used in particular sequences to contact family and friends by telephone (232-1143 or 344-1422) Kindergarten children are routinely taught to learn their street addresses as well: I live at 322 Elm St.

After having been taught to determine the difference, 5 year olds don’t typically confuse phone numbers with addresses or addresses with math equations–yet all three may very well contain the same symbols.

It’s the same with the teaching of the DwSTRESS Hierarchy. Once students are taught the Hierarchy, they relate the letter symbols ABCD to the words, Anarchy, Bullying/Bossing, Cooperation/Conformity, Democracy in their minds.

It is important to note that the DwSTRESS Hierarchy is a tool that students use to assess themselves. It is not a tool that teachers use when assessing students for the purpose of assigning behavior grades. The reason for this is that Level D of the Hierarchy is characterized by INternal motivation. No person can judge the internal motivation of ANOTHER person. It’s impossible–we don’t have access to the internal thoughts of others! A teacher can only assess behavior from the outside–that is, EXternally. Therefore, a teacher would assign a behavior grade based on what can be observed–the student’s external behavior.

Because the Hierarchy isn’t intended as a marking tool, there is no need to discuss it in conjunction with report card grades. Teachers using the system simply tell the students (and their parents) that letter grades, and the levels of the Hierarchy, are two different things. That’s why they each go in a different order.

Dr. Marvin Marshall
P.O. Box 2227
Los Alamitos, CA 90720
Phone: 714.220.1882
Piper Press
P.O. Box 2227
Los Alamitos, CA 90720
Phone: 559.805.1389