Identifying and addressing productive and unproductive
student behaviours in South Australian schools
January - December 2013
This phase of the study will draw on Ball, Braun and Maguire’s (2009) recent study of the processes used by four English secondary schools to construct and enact student behaviour policies at the local level. It will build on Ball, et al.’s (p. 1) findings that student behaviour policies:
are ‘enacted in particular and distinct institutional contexts with their own histories’;
at the school level, are ‘an ensemble of issues/fragments, principles, directives/imperatives, procedures/practices which are messy and complex’;
‘are very much a collective enterprise’; and
are developed through ‘sophisticated interpretations and translations of policy texts into action’ at the local level.
These policy development and enactment processes will be investigated using in-depth case study methods within the South Australian context. Ten schools will be selected from the 160 that will participate in Phase 2 of the research, using the following criteria (based on Johnson, 2004, p. 271):
evidence of success in developing and implementing policies, programs and initiatives that create a school environment in which ‘students can engage in meaningful academic learning and … enhance student social and moral growth’ (Wubbels, 2007, p. 267);
openness of members of the school’s leadership team to discuss their thinking and decision making about the development of student behaviour policies;
diversity and representativeness across the schools – care will be taken to include schools at different levels and with different organisational arrangements.
We will draw on our experience working with schools (Johnson, 2004, 2008; Johnson, Peters, & Williams, 1999) to identify the local micropolitical work of individuals and groups involved in the development and enactment of local student behaviour policies. This will involve collecting four kinds of data (based on Ball, et al., 2009, p. 2):
contextual information about schools;
policy texts – State, District, and school-developed;
observations of meetings, staff training and development activities, and informal discussions; and
semi-structured and focus-group interviews with school leaders, teachers, Governing Council members, parents and groups of students who have an interest in local student behaviour policies.
As most of the data will be qualitative, we will use the innovative qualitative data management and analysis program NVivo 9 to code and analyse what will be a large amount of textual data. Analysis, theorisation and writing will be on-going and fed back into our work with schools to inform new data gathering activities and the identification of new themes and issues.
Project management: Roundtable approach
This project will be managed, over three years, by a Roundtable jointly hosted by the University of South Australia and Flinders University. This organisational structure draws on the highly successful ‘Innovative Links Between Universities and Schools for Teacher Professional Development’ project (A National Professional Development Project, 1994-1996) and is consistent with the collaborative agenda set by the CoAG National Partnerships (South Australian National Partnerships Council-Schooling, 2009). Intellectually, the Roundtable seeks to create and sustain ‘professional collaborative research enterprises between groups of educators across educational sites’ (Grundy, 1996, p.3). Yeatman and Sachs (1995) argued that these kinds of collaborative research approaches enable the generation of ‘new, more powerful kinds of knowledge to inform teaching and schooling’ (p. 45; see also Stirotnik & Goodlad, 1988). In this case, the purpose is to enable collaborating institutions, in association with other stakeholders, to better understand and respond to the issues associated with managing student behaviour in schools.
The Roundtable will be comprised of researchers from the University of South Australia and Flinders University, employer representatives from the Government, Catholic and Independent sectors, and delegates from the principals’ associations. Roundtable meetings will be held four times per year, once per school term. The purpose of the Roundtables will be to:
Facilitate the work of the research project team;
Provide support for the development of ongoing dialogue;
Promote and provide a vehicle for the exchange of information and ideas among participating educational systems, schools, professional associations and universities;
Provide a forum for reporting and publicising the outcomes of the research; and
Provide for additional professional learning through organising, and/or promoting appropriate seminars.