Identifying and addressing productive and unproductive
student behaviours in South Australian schools
An overview of Australian and international research on student behaviour reveals several recurring themes:
Orderly schools and, in particular, orderly classrooms are associated with high student engagement and achievement (Angus, et al., 2009; Creemers, 1994; Fraser, 1998; Hattie, 2003; R. Lewis, Romi, Qui, & Katz, 2005; Overton & Sullivan, 2008; Sullivan, 2009).
Ineffective classroom management leads to detrimental effects including student resistance and disengagement, general misbehaviour and, in some cases, school violence (Angus, et al., 2009; R. Lewis, et al., 2005).
Classroom management is reported by teachers as being the greatest concern in their teaching, often leading to teacher burnout, job dissatisfaction and early exit from the profession (Australian Education Union, 2008; Blase, 1986; Friedman, 1995; Ingersoll, 2001).
Student misbehaviour can impact negatively on the professional resilience of beginning teachers (Day, et al., 2006; Department of Education Science and Training, 2002; Johnson, et al., 2010; Johnson, Sullivan, & Williams, 2009; Jones, 2006).
Violence is reportedly occurring frequently in Australian schools (Chilcott, 2009; Hood, 2010) yet there is a dearth of research into the extent of such student behaviour.
Troublesome student behaviour and disengagement from school is linked with truancy (Kelton, 2010).
Media reports claim widespread public and political concern over allegedly negative and deteriorating student behaviour in the nation’s public schools (Barr, 2009; Cameron, 2010; Donnelly, 2009).
These and other studies clearly establish student behaviour at school as a problematic and contested field of inquiry in which many interest groups have a stake. Not surprisingly, discourse about student behaviour frequently moves beyond this research base to reflect deep ideological differences about, for example, the status of children in society, the role of schools and families in teaching children to be sociable and cooperative, and what actions are seen as appropriate and legitimate when ‘disciplining’ children and adolescents (Johnson, Oswald, & Whitington, 1994). Despite the intrusion of overtly ideological protagonists into the field of student behaviour, there is still a need for evidence-based approaches to policy development and school level interventions; the need for this evidence is demonstrated by the level of commitment by principals’ associations and education authorities associated with this research application. It provides us with the fundamental rationale to embark on a new round of research initiatives to pursue the four aims outlined above.