Pupil aggressiveness, teacher authority, and disruptive classroom behaviour
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Background: Pupil behaviour is important for academic and social learning in school. Disruptive behaviour conflicts with learning and may cause teachers to experience stress and even burnout. Although some knowledge is available about factors that influence problem behaviour, we need to know more about what induces and maintains such behaviour in classrooms. Limited research focuses on factors affecting disobedience to teacher. Moreover, pupil behaviour is a complex product of factors related to each individual pupil and the classroom context, such as teacher authority. In addition to considering each factor, prevention and intervention targeting behavioural problems in school must take into account the interplay between all the factors impacting pupils' classroom behaviour. Given this complexity, this thesis attempts to shed light on some relevant elements and connections. Aims: The general aim of this study was to increase the knowledge and understanding of pupil aggressiveness, discipline problems, some aspects of their relationships and their relationship with teacher authority. The first aim was to conceptualize pupil disobedience to teachers within the field of antisocial behaviour, to develop a scale measuring this concept and to reveal whether reactive and proactive aggressiveness can predict such behaviour. As this disruptive behaviour interferes with the role of the formal leader and the teacher-pupil relationship, it was labelled as disobedience. Next, we studied possible relationships between pupil aggressiveness and perceptual orientation towards weakness in a teacher who is new to them. The aim was to explore whether reactive and/or proactive aggressiveness were related to pupils' perceptual tendency that could make teachers especially vulnerable in the start-up period of new classes. Finally, the third paper aimed to investigate approaches that experienced practitioners presented as effective to turn around highly disruptive school classes that were out of the teachers' control. Because this field is rarely described, we built on practical experience to try to reveal concepts and frameworks that could be useful to describe, analyse and discuss approaches to addressing highly disruptive school classes. In these classes, the teacher(s) had lost control and needed external help to re-establish authority. Based on the cases, we explored the similarities and differences in approaches to turning around hard classes. Methods: Quantitative and qualitative approaches were followed. Papers 1 and 2 built on data from questionnaires that were part of the nationwide regular School environment studies conducted by the Centre for Behavioural Research1 (CBR). These data were cross-sectional and collected by use of pupil-reported questionnaires. Data were analysed using structural equation modelling with confirmatory factor analyses and structural models. Multi-group analyses were used to test whether gender moderated the structural relationships. Paper 3 presents a qualitative study based on seven cases comprising models for approaches addressing highly disruptive classes. Data came from presentations and discussions during workshops arranged partly for this purpose. The instrumental multi-case study included within-case and cross-case analyses. Informants were experienced practitioners who had worked with turnarounds in highly disruptive classes, and the cases contained the practitioners' accumulated experience in the role as external experts assisting schools. Results: We identified a statistically and theoretically robust concept, i.e., pupil disobedience. It refers to behaviour that the pupil knows interferes with instructions or standards set by the teacher. As hypothesized, the structural models confirmed relationships between all three independent variables, reactive aggressiveness, proactive power-related aggressiveness and proactive affiliation-related aggressiveness, and the dependent variable, disobedience, in both boys and girls. Gender moderated the relationships between aggressiveness and disobedience. In sum, the aggressiveness variables predicted nearly equal amounts of disobedience in boys and girls. However, differences were found when types and subtypes of aggressiveness were considered. Perceptual orientation towards weakness in a new teacher was measured by statements regarding what pupils look for when they are scheduled to meet a new teacher. Both reactive and proactive aggressiveness were related to a perceptual orientation towards weakness. For reactive aggressiveness, the beta values were small, although significant for girls. The more alarming finding was the substantial and significant relationship between proactive aggressiveness and a perceptual orientation towards weakness in a new teacher. Gender did not moderate the relationships between the aggressiveness variables and perceptual orientation. Chronic disruptions, poor learning and teachers who have lost control characterize some school classes. This implies continued ignorance of teachers' instructions and standards. Cases reflecting seven experienced practitioners' approaches to such classes revealed broad homogeneity regarding the issues emphasized. Although this led to a set of common concepts for describing turnarounds, cross-case analyses revealed different ways to handle the common issues. The results showed two main strategies in approaches to highly disruptive classes: One was a cognitive strategy with learning as a powerful tool. The other was a systems strategy with a power take-over on the part of the teacher. These strategies draw a tentative conceptual framework for approaches to highly disruptive school classes. Conclusion: Both proactive and reactive aggressiveness are connected to the likelihood of disruptive pupil behaviour in terms of behaviour that the pupil is aware of conflicts with the standards or instructions given by the teacher. Such behaviour interferes with teacher-pupil relationships and may threaten teacher authority. Another threat to teacher authority may stem from the fact that some pupils are prone to signs of weaknesses when they expect to meet a new teacher. Pupils who score highly on proactive aggressiveness report a perceptual orientation towards signs of weakness in new teachers. Reactive aggressiveness is weakly connected to the same perceptual orientation in girls. Turnarounds in highly disruptive classes imply that the teacher re-establishes authority. A framework of two strategies to approaching such classes include a cognitive strategy focusing on learning and training new behaviour, and a systems strategy focusing on redistributing social power in the classroom.
Doktorgradsavhandling i Spesialpedagogikk
Has partsVaaland, G. S., Idsoe, T. ; Roland, E. (2011). Aggressiveness and disobedience. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 55(1), 1-22. URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00313831.2011.539850
Vaaland, G. S., & Roland, E. (2013). Pupil Aggressiveness and perceptual orientation towards weakness in a teacher who is new to the class. Teaching and Teacher Education, 29, 177-187.
Vaaland, G. S. (Submitted). Back on track; Approaches to managing highly disruptive school classes.