As Willert & Willert suggest, ‘positive behaviour supports developed through the implementation of simple reinforcement strategies…can have a significant influence on the social climate of an entire school. ’ (As cited in Zirpoli, 2012, p. 257). With this in mind, this paper aims to analyse and compare the School’s management, welfare, and discipline policies with positive behaviour support models, specifically Mayer’s (1999) constructive discipline approach. The School reflects the view that the world is multifaceted and ever changing.
If you only have one way for your classroom to ‘be right’ you are setting yourself up for continued frustration and failure. Skilled teachers understand that the classroom is a complex, unpredictable, messy, and non-linear, working environment. They’ve realised, long ago, that control –especially over others is an illusion. (Gordon, as cited in School Policy, 2012, p. 2). As this is the foundation of the School’s policies it indicates that the strategies enforced have reference to ideas held within various positive behaviour support models.
The School, situated in Queensland, has a student enrolment of approximately 800, catering for students from Preparatory Year to Year 7. As schools are important environments for all members to learn, teach, and grow, the School is ‘based on the belief that all students can learn and the staff accepts the responsibility to teach all students, regardless of differences, the fundamental skills required for success in the 21st Century. ’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 4).
The purpose of the policy is to foster a school culture that assists its students in the development of social and emotional skills, including the ability to exercise self management and responsibility for their behavioural choices. Mayer (1999) suggests that basic student welfare policies, particularly behvaiour management, list ‘the behavioural standards required of students. ’ (p. 37). Furthermore, Mayer aptly states ‘the better ones specify the consequences for violating and following the rules [affecting and influencing] how students behave and how educators respond when students violate or follow rules. ’ (1999, p. 37).
Furthermore, Turnbull & Smith-Bird explain that effective schools ‘focus on building a culture of positive reinforcement. ’ (As cited in Zirpoli, 2012, p. 327). Drawing on research, this discussion will reflect the School’s policies in regards to the development of effective school wide rules and strategies, and their consistency among all staff in the school context. (Zirpoli, 2012, p. 329). The policy starts with a brief introductory letter signed from the principal stating that ‘this document has been endorsed and developed in collaboration with all stakeholders of [the School], particularly the school’s Behaviour Management Committee. (School, 2012, p. 3). Through a general acknowledgment, the principal displays appreciation for staff and members of the school community. This introductory letters sets an inclusive tone, which is present throughout the document. The policies are ultimately aimed at the welfare of the students, and have been written as guidelines for staff and teachers. They are indicators for the parents, and general public, of the expectations placed on all members of the school community.
A major factor for a supportive learning environment is communication and relationship building between parents/caregivers and the school. Cavaretta (states that ‘there is widespread support among educators and the community for the view that parents have a major role to play in education. ’ (As cited in Marsh, 2010, p. 293). There appears to be no parental voice within the document although the School documents that the philosophy is ‘to build relationships among staff, students, parents, and the community in order to maintain [the] goal of creating a peaceful environment. (School Policy, 2012, p. 6). However, the student voice is represented in the document through a Student Representative Council elected by the student body and teachers each year, ‘students who form the council will present meetings with teachers, deputies and the principal in order to voice the opinion of the student body. ’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 7).
Education Queensland’s Code of School Behvaiour (Queensland Government, n. d. has provided the framework on which the School’s Responsible Behvaiour Plan (RBP) is based, defining ‘responsibilities that all members of the school community are expected to uphold and recognises the significance of appropriate and meaningful relationships. ’ (Queensland Government, n. d. ). Eclectic in composition, combining theories, strategies and practices of several educational professionals, the aim of the RBP is to ‘develop a comprehensive policy and practice that meets the holistic and varied needs of all those in the school community. ’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 8).
Effective whole school rules and strategies are developed and practiced by all staff. These are universal strategies, referred to in tier one of the three-tier model of School-Wide Positive Behaviour Support (SWPBS). (Zirpoli, 2012, p. 329). The policy, in line with SWPBS states that ‘it is important that rather than follow a reactive approach to behaviour [the staff will] be proactive in dealing with inappropriate classroom and playground behaviours. ’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 8). To ensure that this criterion is met, the School has incorporated desirable behaviours into their own hierarchy of social development.
To create a common language and way of discussing behaviour, the School ‘displays this hierarchy through a level ladder from A to E. Where A represents excellent behaviour, B represents good behaviour, C represents satisfactory behvaiour, D represents behaviour that needs attention and E represent unacceptable behaviour. ’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 8). While some schools adhere exclusively to one particular model, the School, using effective school wide behaviour support programs, draws its content from various dominant models.
These include Glasser’s Choice Theory; in which people are responsible for their own behaviour, Restorative Justice; to bring resolution, restitution, and restoration of relationships damaged by behaviour, Ford’s Responsible Thinking Process; where students are responsible for their behaviour and need to find ways to achieve goals without disrupting others, and Roger’s Positive Behaviour Leadership; which includes the establishment of clear rules, rights, and responsibilities. (School Policy, 2012, p. 9).
The theoretical basis of the policies are consistent with Mayer’s (1999) Constructive Discipline approach of which the ‘emphasis is on prevention and teaching desirable behaviour rather than punishing, reducing or eliminating undesirable behaviour. ’ (p. 38). The School policy states that ‘values and rules have prominence when students are faced with making decisions and judgments about how they should behave and relate to others. ’ (2012, p. 10). Based on the National Goals for Schooling in Australia, the School values are acceptance, self-discipline, honesty, manners, opportunity, respect, and excellence.
This reinforces the constructive discipline approach, as ‘the list should be kept simple and to the point. ’ (Mayer, 1999, p. 39). These values coincide with the rules of each year level. However, the policy did not detail the student input in classroom rules, contradicting the constructive approach where ‘all relevant parties should be…involved in the development of rules’ (Mayer, 1999, p. 39). The documents provide a program of rules in relation to each of the values, for all year levels. In accordance with Rademacher, Callhan and Pederson-Seelye (1998, p. 86) rules are positively stated, with a verb at the beginning. For example, the rule applied to the value ‘opportunity’ for a Year 1 student is stated as ‘allow others to learn by listening and not interrupting,’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 68), while that of a Year 7 student is ‘display initiative. ’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 74).
The School Rules include ‘respect, safety, learning, communication, and problem solving’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 13). The document goes on to explain ‘there are no rights without responsibilities,’ (2012, p. 4), stating the rights and responsibilities in accordance to the rule. The policy takes in to account the constructive discipline approach that conveys the need for rules to be to the point and positive. Mayer states ‘a positive list will guide students in how to behave in reference to how not to behave –a more instructive and less suppressive approach. ’ (1999, p. 39). The behvaiour management coalition, in conjunction with the school community, recognises that ‘one of the keys to a harmonious environment is being able to identify when and how relationships need repair. ’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 6 ). In the policy is a flow chart of the SWPBS, the three tiered model, incorporating whole school behaviour support, targeted behaviour support and intensive behaviour support. Under each of these tiers the policy lists ‘proactive school processes and proactive classroom processes. ’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 17).
In the School, typically, each classroom develops individual plans that incorporate a series of steps that responds to positive and rule abiding behaviours. This can include ‘verbal praise, acknowledgement, positive reinforcement, or a gold slip. ’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 9). This is in accordance with the constructive discipline approach where ‘the school environment becomes more reinforcing and less punitive. ’ (Mayer, 1999, p. 38). On the other hand, students who exhibit unacceptable behaviours move through steps of responses that may include ‘warning and rule reminder, time out in the classroom, time out in another behaviour time out classroom, or an incident behaviour slip. ’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 20). This contradicts the constructive discipline approach as parental support is not brought in until an incident behaviour slip is given.
Whereas Mayer believes ‘continued parental support is helpful for classroom and schoolwide rules to be effective. ’ (1999, p. 40). Behaviour feedback sheets are used to ‘make students accountable for their behaviour choices’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 24). Similarly, the peacemakers program ‘is a preventative approach to encourage responsible behaviour in the playground. ’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 26). Students who are in need of intensive behaviour support, tier three of the SWPBS, will have imminent action where teachers liaise with parents, chaplian, guidance officers and outside agencies.
The Policy provides an intervention flow chart where ‘appropriate intervention is implemented’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 38) once the student has been sent to ‘time out in another classroom’ a minimum of five times. Studies have shown that ‘removal from instruction constitutes negative reinforcement for both student and teacher. ’ (Scott, Nelson, Liaupsin, 2001, p. 314). This is reinforced as Zirpoli states ‘students are frequently sent to timeout for periods of time that are too long and serve only to provide teachers with a break from the student. (2012, p. 374). As a reactive approach to behaviour management, removal from the classroom contradicts the constructive discipline.
The School Policy does, however provide cnsideration of individual circumstances stating that ‘the academic, social, behavioural, emotional, physical, and cultural needs of students are considered when structuring and delivering all learning experiences’ which consists with Pacchiano (2000) teachers ‘have to be willing to look at comprehensive instructional variable and their relationship with the students problem behaviour. The policy concludes that responses to inappropriate behaviour are also flexible in that ‘consideration is given to the particular situation, context, preceding events, a student’s individual circumstances, the actions of the student and the needs and rights of the school community members. ’ (School Policy, 2012, p. 38). This is evident in practice as consequential responses are decided upon after discussion, case conferencing and by utilizing a restorative practice framework rather than just implementing a punitive measure.
Drawn from data collection, including frequency, duration, rate and the intensity of the behaviour (School Policy, 2012, p. 13) provided by teachers, members of staff, and outside agencies Furthermore the School’s welfare, management and discipline policy includes policies for the appropriate use of own electronic medium, SunSmart, acceptable usage of information technology, lockdown, homework, dress code, cyber safety, and anti-bullying, all of which must be signed by both the student and parent/caregiver upon enrolment of the School.
Along with this the school offers a variety of student services and support programs including chaplaincy, guidance officer, learning enrichment team, special education programs, speech language pathologist, and the workshop (a hands on manual arts experience). In conclusion, evidence has been provided to display both contradictory and consistent elements of the School’s policy in accordance with the constructive discipline approach.