Responsible Thinking Process (RTP)

“What all this means is that we are responsible for what we do. It is not our parents, not drugs or alcohol, not the pressure of our friends, not our feelings, not the seductive advances of others, not the product we bought, not the hot weather, or the freezing temperature, not the Good Lord, not the media, not our job, not our spouse or children, not the other driver, and certainly not a thing called stress. The bottom line is that we are the captains of our own ships”.– Edward E Ford

Marian College Ararat introduced the Responsible Thinking Process in 2016. The Responsible Thinking Process was developed by Edward E Ford in 1994. It is a program designed to teach young people how to control themselves.

Ford maintains that when we tell young people what to do, we are doing the thinking. On the other hand, when we genuinely ask them about what they are doing, they are doing the thinking. RTP therefore focuses on the way young people think, rather than on the way they behave. Ford believes that if you want young people to behave responsibly, you must first teach them to think responsibly. This program focuses on the fact that all students are responsible for their own actions and must be taught to respect the rights of others. Teachers have a right to teach and students have a right to learn in safety. None of the students have the right to disrupt at school, regardless of where they are, especially if they are preventing other students from learning or threatening the safety and rights of others. The Responsible Thinking Process is used to ensure that all students are able to continue with their education, and to do so in a safe environment.

How does it work?

If a student disrupts, the teacher asks the following questions in a calm, respectful manner;

- What are you doing?

- What are the rules?

- What happens when you break the rules?

- Is that what you want?

- What will happen if you disrupt again?

If the student disrupts a second time, they must be questioned and then referred to the Responsible Thinking Classroom (RTC) with the statement “I see you need to go to the RTC”. The student’s behavior has indicated that they need to leave the class, not because the teacher has ‘sent’ them - students need to see the consequences of their actions.

The Plan

The plan is the most important part of the Responsible Thinking Process. The RTC teacher will work with the students once they have had a reasonable attempt at writing a Plan to return to the classroom. They will ask very specific and reflective questions in order to get the student to think about their actions and most importantly, what they intend to do once they return in order to act differently next time they are faced with a similar situation. By the time the student visits the classroom to teacher to negotiate their Plan, their Plan will contain very specific and achievable goals that the student has indicated they are willing to commit to.


This in an important time for relationship building between teacher and student. It is vital that time is allowed for a student who approaches a teacher with their Plan. This is not a time for the teacher to “lecture” the student about ways to behave. It is, however, a time for the teacher to see if the student is serious about working towards an achievable goal with regard to their education.

The student should have addressed “how” they are going to operate in the classroom/playground in the future, rather than vague explanations about “being good from now on”. The student might do this by asking if they can sit in a specific seat so as not to be tempted by another student to speak out of turn or to ensure that they will bring all of the equipment so that they do not have to share books and therefore disrupt other students. When they student’s Plan has been negotiated they can return to class.

Ongoing Disruptive behaviour

When a student continues to behave in ways that are disruptive, unsafe or against societal norms, then parents/caregivers will be contacted and an Intervention Meeting will discuss ways that the College can support the student to achieve success at school.

Similarly, if a student disrupts in the RTC, then the parent/caregiver will be contacted, and in some cases, the student will be required to go home to reflect on their behavior. When they are ready to return to school, they, and their parents/caregivers, will be required to attend an interview with a member of the Leadership team. During this interview, expectations will be discussed. The student will then return to the RTC and write a plan indicating how they intend to achieve success at school.