Managing and Responding to Behaviours in a Learning Environment

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Case Study


Case Brief

The case I would like to address in this assignment is based on one of my 2009/2010 NC classes in the afternoon. Despite the initial group discussion on expected behaviour, this group was demonstrating a whole host of disruptive behaviours. This group also included a special needs student, who was being supported by a Learning Support Assistant, whom I assumed had been briefed on the needs. The observed disruptive behaviour included the following:

• Arriving late

• Listening to iPoD

• Persistent talking

• Throwing objects

• Derogatory remarks

• Withdrawn attitude of a few

The most disruptive of these, selected for analysis, was the derogatory behaviour of a specific group of learners who arrived late, kept talking loudly among themselves and when questioned became derogatory. They also displayed domineering characteristics. The fact that this was an afternoon session was not helping either. The only option in the first couple of sessions was to contain the situation and keep order.

Identified Reasons for the Chosen Disruptive Behaviour

To identify the reasons, one needs a comparative-diagnostic reference framework. Here, reference is made to following frameworks:

• Huxley (1987) based on MISMATCH, where disruptive behaviour is associated with incompatibility in levels of knowledge, know-how, skills and abilities, social/communicational/family disorder traits and emotional composition of learners.

• Ausubel (1978) based on MOTIVATION, where roots of disruptive behaviour can be traced to levels of understanding (cognition), self-esteem/pride (ego) and being influenced by sense of belonging (either

intentionally or as a support mechanism) to a group/gang (affiliation). These factors also agree with Deikurs’s (1968) four motives behind bad behaviour.

A close examination of the above two frameworks reveals that disruptive behaviour is a ‘game-play’ between mismatch and motivational drives. The need for a learner to adopt a strategy to pass the time in an environment that does not match his/her needs, abilities and expectations, together with negative motivational cues and attitude problems inadvertently results in disruptive behaviour.

At a deeper exploratory level, the proposed frameworks reveal the factors that affect the choice of behaviour due to mismatch-motivation entanglement. These factors originate from sources that are outside the classroom and include:

• Home and social experiences that can have a profound effect of attitude [ McManus (1995) ]

• Struggle for attention

• Struggle to achieve self-worth and acceptance

• Ability to change things and subsequent reprisal for not being able to do so

• Copying/instigating/participating in bad behaviour:- to do onto others what someone else has done to you

• Bullying and/or choosing a soft, innocent target for reprisal

A third framework ( perhaps a clearer and more pragmatic one) put forward by Petty (2009) suggests, that unsuitable work, teacher’s authority posture and control aesthetics, learner’s capacity for disruptive behaviour due to whatever reason (including attitude issues), are the common causes of such behaviour.

On reflection, and with reference to comparative/diagnostic frameworks presented above, I believe that the following issues were the major reasons behind the onset of disruptive behaviour in the first few sessions with this group:

• I did not have the results of diagnostic tests (student profiles) as they were not compiled at the time – catastrophic latent mismatch

• Although I was authoritative and in control, the outcome was not an environment conducive to learning. I was using brute authority and not ‘smart’ authority to control the environment (zero motivation)

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