Phase 2: Study of the Ecology of Student Behaviour

January-December 2012

This phase will provide specific information about what teachers actually do in schools in response to both specific productive and unproductive student behaviours. In this way, the data collected in Phase 1 will be assessed in terms of the actual behaviour issues in the school, using specific information on the ecological factors and their interactions associated with both productive and unproductive behaviours. In learning spaces such as classrooms, this will include a specific behaviour descriptor, the format and academic content of the lesson, the room layout, time of day and student learning conditions (see Methodology below). In the yard/playground this will include the type of activity, area of the playground (free space/quiet area). Phase 2 will enable the researchers to analyse the factors in the classroom and playground that relate to particular productive and unproductive behaviours given the underlying principle that learning, teaching, and behaviour are inextricably linked.

Sampling procedures

A sample of staff from across the state will be asked to participate in this phase. Stratified random sampling will be used to reflect the diversity of schools in South Australia. One in five schools across the State will be sampled (approximately 160 schools) and within those schools, one in five teachers (approximately 1,000 teachers) will be asked to maintain an electronic diary of classroom behaviours. Sampling will address the range of urban and rural locations; Government, Catholic and Independent schools; primary, secondary and area schools; and category of disadvantage. Within each school, staff will be selected based on stratified random sampling to ensure that all areas of the school are included. In secondary schools this will ensure that data are collected across subject departments and in primary schools, both junior primary and primary classes. Data on teacher variables such as age, years of teaching experience, and pre-service and in-service professional development in classroom management will also be collected.

Methodology for Phase 2

Staff will be asked to maintain an electronic diary for two one-week blocks. The format of the diary will be developed by the research team but will be informed by the earlier work of Conway, Schofield and Tierney (1991) in a related study in N.S.W. secondary schools. Teachers will use the electronic diary to record data about key productive and unproductive behaviours in a designated time period during each day. For secondary teachers, this will be based on lessons (periods), while for primary teachers this will be based on time blocks such as the first session, second session and third session of the day. In this way the methodology uses a scatterplot data collection method (Crone & Horner, 2003). Data sheets will be pre-populated with common variables such as types of lessons (e.g. practical, demonstration), curriculum areas (e.g. English, Maths, Science), and teaching format (e.g. explanation, group work, individual tasks). Yard and playground behaviour will also be sampled where the teacher is involved in supervision on the data collection days. Participants will be able to add responses where the pre-populated options are not appropriate. The diary will then be uploaded onto a central database for analysis.

Data analysis

From the descriptions of student behaviours and teachers’ responses, each unproductive behaviour will be recorded using a code indicating the significance of the behaviour and the response by the teacher. The ecological conditions for each incident will also be recorded along with the demographic data. In the case of the productive behaviour responses, the ecological factors and the nature and level of teacher response will be recorded.

The data will allow the analysis of responses across the categories of school outlined in the sampling procedures above (e.g. rural and urban schools). Importantly, it will enable the analysis of the ecological features associated with both productive and unproductive behaviours and identify the learning and teaching conditions associated with the behaviours. This will also provide a link between the reports of student behaviours provided by teachers in Phase 1, the in-school evidence of the antecedents of student behaviour gathered in Phase 2, and the policies that reinforce productive behaviours and address unproductive behaviours identified in Phase 3 of the project.

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