Engagement not punishment is key to good behaviour in schools

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Engagement not punishment is key to good behaviour in schools

Corporal punishment, detention, suspension and expulsion are bywords associated with traditional and historic ways of maintaining discipline in schools in a bid to promote good student behaviour.

But a UniSA partnered study has found when it comes to classroom discipline, schools enacting philosophies and practices that place child wellbeing and engagement at the centre of their work are achieving strong outcomes, without recourse to traditional punitive responses to “bad” behaviour.

The Behaviour at School Study, which has investigated how schools are enacting behaviour policies in a humane and educative way, has resulted in the development of a framework outlining key themes associated with this practice, which could become a more established way for more schools to encourage good behaviour.

These themes include: establishing a philosophy for enacting humane behaviour policies, staffing to enact a collective philosophy, prioritising place and space, fostering an engaged and supportive school community, and creating humane behaviour policies and practices.

From designing new learning spaces to enable students to work collaboratively in groups, to recruiting staff that demonstrate genuine ethic of care for students and families, the research identified practical measures that five schools in South Australia are adopting to encourage good student behaviour.

Dr Anna Sullivan says it is important for teachers to learn how to prevent low level disruptive and disengaged behaviours from occurring in the first place.  

“The Behaviour at School Study findings show that teachers should shift their attention away from focusing on trying to “fix” student behaviour by using rewards and consequences,” Dr Sullivan says.

“Instead, they should seek a greater understanding of how other factors such as the teaching method and curriculum influence engagement and therefore student behaviour.

“Teacher education courses need to teach approaches, skills and strategies for handling unproductive student behaviour in ways that are educative and caring, but, most importantly, that focus on how to prevent such behaviour occurring in the first place.”

This research will be presented at a UniSA seminar: “Doing Behaviour well in schools: Insights from a South Australian study” at the Amy Wheaton building, Magill Campus, on August 21, in which Dr Anna Sullivan, Professor Bruce Johnson, Mr Bill Lucas and Dr Mel Baak will discuss findings.

(Source: University of South Australia)

Date Created: August 27, 2015 Date Modified: August 28, 2015

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