Managing and Handling Indiscipline in Schools.

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MANAGING AND HANDLING INDISCIPLINE IN SCHOOLS
A RESEARCH PROJECT
ISABEL FREIRE, UNIVERSIDADE DE LISBOA JOÃO AMADO, UNIVERSIDADE DE COIMBRA

ABSTRACT
The research project we present here in (entitled GERLINDES, in Portuguese) is set out with the assumption that there is a link among the representations and the actions within the members of the interstitial groups of schools, the practices in action and social and disciplinary environment at schools. This research project is focused on eight case studies held in schools of different grades, located in the centre of Portugal. Both qualitative (interviews and ethnographic observation) and quantitative methodologies (pupils’ questionnaires) have been used.

KEYWORDS
Indiscipline ; School ethos ; Violence ; Case studies

Managing and handling indiscipline in schools

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INDISCIPLINE GLANCED THROUGH A PEDAGOGICAL
AND ORGANISATIONAL SCOPE
School indiscipline has been, over time, an issue of concern for educators and we can even state that it has become a huge concern among educators, policy-makers and the public opinion in general, owing to the outbreak of aggressiveness among peers, violence within teacher-student relationship and vandalism, as well. Indiscipline is a multifaceted phenomenon, regarding its displays and causes, as well as its “meanings” and “functions” in the social, psychosocial and pedagogical fields. Concerning the displays, we believe that major situations are framed in what Amado and Freire (2009) points out as the “first level of indiscipline”: those incidents of “disruptive” nature whose “disturbance” affects the “good classroom functioning”. The incidents that might be framed in the second and third levels, are “conflicts among peers” and “conflicts within teacher-student relationship”, which might be taken on proportions of violence and even delinquency, the latter presents a minor frequency than the former (Amado, 2005). Concerning the causes, we can distinguish, among others, those related to student’s idiosyncrasies, his/her social and family context, external influences and of social, economic, cultural, generational nature, etc., those related to the personality and professionality of the teacher, and those associated with school as an organisation or the educational system as a whole. The social, psychosocial and pedagogical “meanings” and “functions” of these actions should take, primarily, in account the “level” within their displays are situated. The contextual analysis of the actions of indiscipline, in a broader meaning, conferred herein, reveals that such behaviours are not always “offensive” (as general opinion does believe), but also “defensive” as a student’s shield to protect his/her image and “dignity”, or as a strategy of “maintenance” and “survival” towards physical, psychic and moral rhythms and constraints of school and of the classroom (Amado, 2001). There are already many national and international scientific studies about this issue, approaching the pedagogical dimension and considering variables attached to the classroom; in Portugal, empirical researches considering school as whole are lacking. Since the pioneer study of Rutter et al. (1979), a lot of authors have emphasised the link between the display of disciplinary problems (including violence) and the ethos which is being lived inside schools.

International Journal of Violence and School – 8 – Juin 2009

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This ethos or school environment (Blaya, 2002) linked to cumulative effects of a set of variables is translated into attitudes, values, behaviours and practices that become a distinctive mark of the school as a whole and is closely rooted in interpersonal relationships that are made between the various protagonists of a school, individually and collectively is (Freire, 2001). In the present project, we intend to emphasise, the factors connected with school as organisation and the relational climate within it. We will also be attentive to the fact...
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