Challenges Primary School Teachers Face in Relation to Challenging Behaviours of Children Who Have Not Been Assessed

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1.0 Chapter One: Introduction

1.1 Rationale for this research

This research study “The challenges primary school teachers face in relation to challenging behaviours of children who have not been assessed in DEIS and non-DEIS schools in senior classes” examines challenging behaviour, DEIS Band 1,2 and non-DEIS schools, the school’s role and responsibility for promotion of positive behaviours and the supports available to teachers and schools. The term challenging behaviour has generated a number of definitions in a school context which allows educators to attach labels to students who demonstrate unacceptable behaviours (Emerson, 2001). For this study, challenging behaviour will be defined as “behaviour of such intensity, frequency and duration that the physical safety of the person or others is likely to be placed in serious jeopardy or behaviour which is likely to seriously limit or delay access to, and use of ordinary facilities” (Emerson,1987 cited in INTO, 2004:3).

According to Weinstein (2002) most students respond positively to a well-organised classroom led by an enthusiastic teacher who is willing to understand their students and be flexible in their approach. Teachers who build a good repertoire with students in their class will have a more. In attempting to understand why some behaviours are classified as ‘challenging’ it is important also to have an understanding of how teachers perceive behaviours. Mitchem (2005) shows that building relationships can have a proactive impact on the make-up of a class. For a teacher to deal with challenging behaviour they must understand why the challenging behaviour is happening, building positive relationships with the family and the students can aid with managing challenging behaviour leading to a more open inclusive classroom.

This study aims to examine the challenges some of the primary school teachers in Ireland experience in relation to challenging behaviours and to make recommendations towards enhancing future experiences for all involved.

1.2 Research Aims and Question

In order to get a greater insight into the challenges primary school teachers face in relation to challenging behaviours of children who have not been assessed in DEIS and non-DEIS schools in senior classes, qualitative methodology will be used to investigate. Semi-structured interviews took place to obtain answers to the relevant questions. Six Irish primary school teachers volunteered to take part in the interviews. Teachers from different schools in senior classes were interviewed. This helped answer the research questions in depth. During the interview a smartphone was used to record the conversation and some notes were taken after the interview with the use of a research journal. These were used at a later date to help form clear themes for the results section.

Findings indicate that managing behaviour requires a whole school approach. Teachers need to have support in place to discuss any behavioural issues that arise. A whole school approach will help to minimise the occurrence of challenging behaviours in classrooms.

The limitations of the study were only six teachers were interviewed, which led to a smallscale study. This restricted the findings of the research to the opinions and experiences of the six interviewees. It is argued that findings from a qualitative investigation with a small number of participants is impossible to generalize the findings into other settings (Bryman, 2008).  The information gathered was taken from their perspective.

1.3 Outline of the chapters

Chapter One

The Introduction outlines the overview of the current research and the approach that was used to collect the data.

Chapter Two

The Literature Review will outline the literature relevant to Challenging behaviour. This chapter will investigate the research that has been carried out on challenging behaviour and its findings which will be critically analysed.

Chapter Three

The Methodology will examine what methodology was used and why it was used. This section focuses on the approach that the researcher has taken to collect the data. This section will describe the interviewee questions.

Chapter Four

The Results chapter outlines the findings from the interviews under themes. The key results and whether or not the results are significant will be set forth here. It will examine the challenges which primary school teachers have with challenging behaviours. The findings of the six interviewees will also be recorded and produced in this chapter.

Chapter Five

The Discussion is a critical analysis of the research problem. This chapter will discuss and analyse the data generated in relation to the research question outlined.

Chapter Six

The Conclusion of the research project. This chapter will draw together the main conclusions from the data analysis in the previous chapters. This chapter will also include recommendations for future research.

2.0 Chapter Two: Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

The fundamental aim of this thesis is to examine the challenges a selection of primary school teachers face in relation to challenging behaviours of children in senior classes who have not been assessed in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools(DEIS) Band 1,2 and non-DEIS schools. In order to place this study in context, relevant literature, documents and policies will be reviewed and analysed.

The literature review will critically review the definition of challenging behaviour, DEIS Band 1,2 and non-DEIS schools, the school’s role and responsibility for promotion of positive behaviours and the supports available to teachers and schools. From this review it will become evident how important this research is in the literature.

2.2 Defining challenging behaviours

The term challenging behaviour has generated a number of definitions in a school context which allows educators to attach labels to students who demonstrate unacceptable behaviours (Emerson, 2001).  Challenging behaviour is behaviour of such intensity, frequency and duration that the physical safety of the person or others is likely to be placed in serious jeopardy or behaviour which is likely to seriously limit or delay access to, and use of ordinary facilities” (Emerson,1987,cited in INTO, 2004:3). The definition of challenging behaviour can depend on how the behaviour is perceived by the teacher which will also impact on whether the challenging behaviour will be categorised as been of minor or major challenging behaviours. Hill & Hawk (2000) agrees that teacher perceptions impact on how the behaviour is labelled minor or major stating the definition of what constitutes challenging behaviour depends upon the context in which it occurs and how it is perceived by teachers. The definition of the challenging behaviour will depend on the setting that the behaviour is occurring in. Behaviour can be perceived as unacceptable in one setting and be quite acceptable in another setting (Watkins & Wagner, 20000). There are different expectations regarding behaviour in different settings (Arthur, Gordon, & Butterfield, 2003), and some may overlap, for example, a child might behave out on yard in a certain manner which may not be seen to be acceptable for classroom behaviour. A child might engage in an extracurricular activity where shouting and showing aggression is encouraged.

2.3 Causes of challenging behaviour

Challenging behaviour occurs for many reasons such as communication difficulties, environmental factors, attention-seeking, socio-economic disadvantage and underlying medical reasons (INTO,2004). Research has been carried out by the INTO to establish which behaviours were perceived to be minor and major challenging behaviours. “The kinds of misbehaviour considered minor related to children’s general behaviour in the school, and tended to concern a child’s observation of simple rules regarding school and class management, such as punctuality and completion of work.”(INTO, 2002,p.10)  “The behaviours rated as most serious by teachers were assault, vandalism, extortion, theft and bullying.”(INTO,2004,p.8) The minor behaviours were noted as causing more frustration for teachers as they were the behaviours that were occurring more frequently.

2.4 Definition of DEIS and non-DEIS schools

As pointed out in the Education Act(1998) all schools should promote equality and provide children with an equal opportunity in schools. The DEIS programme was set up so that children from disadvantaged backgrounds will be provided with an equal opportunity in education. Eivers et al (2004) explains that a child attending a low income school and living in a low income community are at far greater risk of literacy difficulties than a child attending and living in a high income school and community. Eivers et al (2004) states that recent reports in Ireland present clear findings of serious underachievement in literacy among children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Findings such as that of Eivers et al(2004), encouraged DEIS schools to be set up by the Department of Education and Skills(DES) to support those who were recognized as being of an educational disadvantage aiming to ensure that each child receives equality of opportunity in schools regardless of their locality or background. The Department of Education set up a survey in 2005 to identify schools that would participate in the DEIS programme. As pointed out by the DES (2005) there were various factors that were considered to be associated with educational disadvantage or those at risk of educational disadvantage were poverty, ethnic status, family circumstances, language, types of school, geography and community. As noted by DES (2012), the classification for DEIS schools are dependent on the level of disadvantage in the school community. For example, Band 1 of DEIS is usually urban/town where the level of disadvantage is at the greatest, and Band 2 of DEIS is usually the remaining urban/town schools participating in the programme. The DEIS programme also runs in rural areas, however, the majority would be in urban areas. This classification is of importance as each school will be allocated resources and supports depending on the level of disadvantage. The DEIS programme provides DEIS schools with the extra resources and supports hoping that it will maximise the learning of the students, focusing on their educational needs therefore aiming to give each child an equal opportunity in education. DES(2011) has noted there is clear evidence that the DEIS programme is having a positive effect on tackling educational disadvantage. It is continuously required to be monitored and assessed.

DEIS schools focus on promoting a positive outlook on education, encouraging positive behaviours in all its teaching and learning. “Reflecting the legislative and policy framework, DEIS (DES, 2005) is exclusively concerned with changing the student and the school, rather than challenging inequalities that are rooted in the social structures of society.” (Burns,2015, p.3).

2.5 Additional Supports available to DEIS schools

DEIS band 1 and 2 schools receive grants to fund for extra supports to ensure that those at a higher risk of educational disadvantage will receive an equal opportunity to education. As

DEIS band 1 is of a higher level of disadvantaged, these schools would require more support. Supports available for DEIS band 1 and 2 schools would include literacy and numeracy supports, Home School Community Liaison, School completion programme, school meals programme, book grants and professional development support. The difference between the support of DEIS band 1 and DEIS band 2 would be in relation to the lower levels of teacher pupil ratio for DEIS band 1 and the amount of the DEIS grant received. This would be based on the level of pupils residing from disadvantaged areas on enrolment (DES,2012). The Board of Management and principal must create and monitor a DEIS Action plan outlining the use of the DEIS grant. In this action plan it is required to have targets and goals set up, monitored and reviewed to assist the staff in achieving their targets and attainment.

The in school support groups and community based support groups assist schools in creating a positive experience for the children and parents of the school. It has been noted that family role is important in the child’s life, this can be seen in Stevenson and Baker (1987) where it states how parents require knowledge of the children’s schooling and access of resources to help their children. The DEIS programme upholds this view as a Home school community liaison(HSCL) is an available support to the DEIS schools. The HSCL is a community based support programme available to DEIS schools to develop positive relationships with the parents. The HSCL role also focuses on developing the teacher-parent relationship. The HSCL focus is building positive connections with the parents and the teachers as they affect the lives of the child. The HSCL coordinator role provides parents with relevant courses available in the community. They aim to get parents involved in the school and create a positive outlook on education.

A School completion programme(SCP) is also a support available to the DEIS schools. It is targeted for young children of school going age. It uses an integrated approach involving the schools, parents and the community. The SCP aim is to keep young people in primary school and completing their senior cycle. Ruttledge (2014) pointed out that children require a sense of belonging in school otherwise they will begin to disengage, similarly to Maslow’s (1943) explanation of basic and safety need.

2.6 Schools role and responsibility for promotion of positive behaviours

Both the teacher and the school are responsible for promoting positive behaviours. The Board of Management is set up by the school to ensure the ‘is managed in a spirit of partnership’(Education Act,1998). This partnership is made up of a community patron, the principal of the school, a teacher and two parents of children enrolled. The Board of Management create the schools code of behaviour based on the NEWB (2008) guidelines. It is then the Board of Managements responsibility to ensure that the code of behaviour is been adhered to throughout the school. The code of behaviour is to be dealt with by a whole school approach.

2.6.1 Whole School Responsibilities

The child needs to know where and when certain behaviours are acceptable. To minimise any confusion for both the teacher and the students, the school must have guidelines set up in which the teachers and the students are aware of as mentioned in the Education Welfare Act(2000) Section 23. This documentation is known as the code of behaviour. The NEWB document states “The code of behaviour helps the school community to promote the school ethos, relationships, policies, procedures and practices that encourage good behaviour and prevent unacceptable behaviour. The code of behaviour helps teachers, other members of staff, students and parents to work together for a happy, effective and safe school” (NEWB,2008,p.2).

2.6.2 Teacher Responsibilities

Rogers(1998) explains that the positive teacher student interaction can be provided by the 3R’s: rights, rules and responsibilities. A teacher will need to share these 3R’s with the children so that they know what is to be expected of them.  A child will need to know the consequences for inappropriate behaviour, giving the children that information may inhibit children from acting out. A teacher can be prepared for challenging behaviour by planning in advance, having classroom strategies in place. It is important to remember that some children may not have this type of role model or support at home and may find it difficult to place this trust in someone else. Teachers must be aware of this in dealing with behaviour. By building this trust one is setting the boundaries for how the class interacts with one another and if anyone does not abide by the boundaries it is important to clearly articulate the repercussions that will result. A school has used mindfulness as a mode of sanctioning. The children have responded well to the meditation. Reports have shown an incredible result of zero suspensions in the last year in comparison to 2013–2014 school year had four suspensions(Khorsandi,2016). This school has shown how schools can use and promote positive behaviours to manage challenging behaviours.

2.6.3 Impact of Positive Relationships

Behaviourist approaches are fundamental in dealing with behaviour in a positive manner as mentioned early. Mitchem (2005) shows that building relationships can have a proactive impact on the make-up of a class. “The role of parents in an approach to positive behaviour is extremely important.” (INTO,2004,P.7) By creating this level of respect and trust between teacher, students and parents, pupils are more likely to engage in lessons and interact accordingly. “Good behaviour is an outcome of effective learning and good relationships, as well as an influence on how students learn”(NEWB, 2008,p.27).  Acknowledging good behaviour and creating an atmosphere and an environment to instil good behaviour is also important as it will more than likely result in the same behaviour being repeated again. As McLeod(2007) states we are more likely to repeat behaviours that are encouraged and celebrated known as the law of affect. As pointed out by Mc Leod(2015), Skinner’s operant conditioning suggests, it is the environment around pupils and children that has a major influence on their behaviour. Teachers can respond to challenging behaviour through motivation. As mentioned earlier students will respond well to teachers who they have built a good relationship with.  The teachers can then use motivational feedback as a method to of promoting positive behaviours. Pintrich and Schunk(2002) argued that motivation can be divided into  two broad categories, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation will come from within the child where they will work to benefit themselves.

Extrinsic motivation is where the children will carry out a task looking for a reward or praise. Stipek (1993) pointed out that extrinsic rewards are often useful in getting students started in a learning activity but may be phased out when students come to enjoy the activity and succeed at it. Teachers should use this strategy however they should not overuse it as students may become reliant on the reward.

2.7 Responding to challenging behaviours

The principal must document a whole school plan to support positive behaviour and provide individual student behaviour support where required. The Education Welfare Act (2000) states that very school should have a code of behaviour which will require a whole school approach. Rogers (2002 cited Rogers,2004) states that the whole school approach is key in developing positive behaviour management. By having specific behavioural approaches in place this will only greater strengthen the creativity of an interactive, learning environment. It is important to put into place the organisation, structures and procedures to create an engaging learning environment. This is where we need to examine the relationship between the behaviour issues that we have in class and the level of consistency and application of known and agreed classroom rules and routines. Effective classroom management occurs when students are aware of rules and routines and clearly understand the rationale behind them. As stated earlier, the whole school approach is necessary in developing positive behaviour management. The principal, board of management, teachers, parents and students are all involved in the whole school approach and promote a positive climate in the school.

Without one link in that chain, the whole school approach will lose its impact.

2.7.1 Code of behaviour

For a school to manage behaviour of any description there must be strategies set in place. The schools code of behaviour will outline the expected behaviour of students attending a school. This code of behaviour is in place to manage behaviour and allow for each student to have an equal education. The board of management, teachers and parents work collaboratively to establish the code of behaviour. Within the code of behaviour the positive rewards and sanctions are outlined. Both positive rewards and sanctions are required to be consistent to ensure the management of challenging behaviour. The code of behaviour will outline the sanctions to be carried out by the school.

2.7.2 Section 29 Appeal

However, children who continually exhaust the code of behaviour may have suspension or expulsion carried out as detailed in the National Education Welfare Board (2008) Guidelines for Developing a Code of Behaviour in accordance with the Education Welfare Act (2000) section 23. The board will factor in the context of the behaviour, age and cognitive ability of the student, the impact of the behaviour and the interventions used to date in dealing with the student and behaviour in reaching a decision. Section 29 of the Education Act (1998) is put in place so that parents of pupils who have been suspended or expelled can make an appeal on the decision. This appeal can create a challenge for teachers as the school will have carried out the correct procedure in relation to the school’s code of behaviour, granting this appeal will allow the child return to the school. This act makes expulsion very difficult to carry out.

2.8 Inclusive programmes for challenging behaviour in the classroom

There are many programmes Irish schools can avail of to support teachers in preventing challenging behaviour along with responding to challenging behaviour through the teaching of the curriculum.  For example, The ‘Friends for Life’ an Australian programme which is recognised by the World Health Organisation, is based on cognitive behaviour theory and early intervention aims for children to deal with their feeling through correct social and emotional actions. Durlak et al.(2011) highlights that social and emotional learning programmes improve social functioning, behaviour and academic performance.  In relation to the ‘Friends for Life’ programme, Ruttledge(2014) states that findings of research carried out showed that DEIS in particular was largely effected by the programme as there was a bigger impact on the reduction of anxiety within the pupils after completing the programme. This shows that these supports are affective. Ruttledge(2014) states that Nobel Laureate Economist Dr. James Heckman (2000) has posited that early intervention for children and young people is optimum as later intervention in adulthood is economically inefficient. This programme can be integrated across the curriculum with subjects such as SPHE, PE, and Drama. All children are included in the learning, whilst also addressing the needs of children with challenging behaviours. Although this programme is recognised by the DES, it is not mandatory and therefore it is the discretion of the school to which programme is implemented. The programme currently offers training to teachers.

2.9 Conclusion

Chapter two reviewed and critically examined the definition of challenging behaviours, DEIS schools, the support available to DEIS schools and the school’s role and responsibility for promotion of positive behaviours. Also discussed was how schools respond to challenging behaviour. Having critically reviewed the above, attention now moves towards primary school teachers in relation to how able they feel to deal with the challenging behaviour. To conclude on the above review, it is evident that teachers are faced with challenges in relation to challenging behaviour in schools both DEIS and non-DEIS. Challenging behaviour has an impact on the whole school and a whole school approach is required in behaviour management. In order to extend the existing literature, the current research will apply qualitative research design, interviewing primary teachers in the senior class from a DEIS Band 1,2 and non-DEIS school. The research will compare the schools to establish if there is more behaviour issues or challenges for teachers in DEIS schools than non-DEIS schools. The research will compare various classroom strategies and managing of challenging behaviour.

3.0 Chapter Three: Methodology

3.1 Introduction

The purpose of this study was to examine and investigate challenges a selection of primary school teachers face in relation to challenging behaviours of children who have to date not been assessed in DEIS Band 1,2 and non-DEIS schools in senior classes. Primary school teachers have been interviewed to develop a detailed account of the challenges and supports provided within their schools and by the Department of Education and Skills. This chapter describes the qualitative methodological approach which has been used during this study, the data gathering process using semi-structured interviews and why it was chosen. The implications of the ethical considerations are outlined. The limitations, validity and reliability of this research are also discussed.

3.2. Aim of Study

The purpose of this study was to find out the perceptions about what teachers experiences are in relation to the challenges they face with the behaviours of children who have not been assessed in senior classes in DEIS Band 1, 2 and non-DEIS schools. Ultimately, the aim here was to find out if a selection of primary school teachers in Ireland are enabled to prevent and respond to challenging behaviours. During the interviews, various questions were asked about behaviours, how well the teachers are trained in dealing with situations, if they feel capable to deal with students who have behavioural issues, and what strategies teachers use to manage challenging behaviour. The interviews were conducted in a professional, accurate and systematic manner. The selection of a research approach was influenced by the study being undertaken. Both quantitative and qualitative approaches can be used to research educational issues. According to Bryman (2004) a qualitative approach has become a very popular choice for researchers working within schools. “All educational research needs to be grounded in people’s experience” (Coleman & Briggs, 2002, p.18).

3.3 Ethical Considerations

The study was approved by Hibernia’s ethics committee. Prior to the research be carried out the principals of each school and the interviewees received a letter requesting their consent to participate in the research. A sample copy of the letter seeking consent is included in the appendix in order to protect the anonymity of the school. Interviewees were informed that their name would not appear in the research project and no information that could identify them or their school.  This was done to reassure them that the interviews were strictly anonymous and confidential and that they could speak openly so the integrity of the information obtained would be genuine. They were made aware that all data will be stored in a secure place.  Participants were given information about the purpose of the study prior to their interview such as the background of the researcher and the reason the researcher choose this topic. Participants were given the opportunity to ask questions and withdraw if they so wished at any time during the interview.  The interviewees were made aware that their information will help produce the results and discussion in this research project.

3.4 Research Design and Procedure

Qualitative research allows the researcher to find out the quality of something rather than the quantity. Qualitative research suited this research as it allows the researcher to understand the experiences of the teachers dealing with the challenging behaviour within the senior classes. The researcher chose this method as it allowed for a deeper insight into the experiences of the interviewees. The researcher felt that qualitative data was a more natural approach. “Quantitative research is typically highly structured” (Bryman,2008, p.394). This approach would not have suited this research as the interviews were to be unstructured, enabling the researcher to question the interviewee accordingly rather than systematically.

Lofland and Lofland(1995) state that the two main tenets of qualitative research are face to face interaction and to see through the eyes of others to acquire social knowledge. The researcher carried out face to face interviews on a one to one basis allowing for the interviewer to see the interviewees experiences through their eyes offering a more personal experience. The researcher gathered qualitative research in form of semi-structured interviews. Semi-structured and unstructured interviews are the two main types of interview in qualitative research (Bryman, 2008).  Bryman (2008) stated that semi-structured interviews suit the research where there is a clear focus and a specific issue to be addressed which was challenging behaviour in senior classes in this research.

Interviews are aimed at generating qualitative data.  A qualitative research allows for a very detailed and more meaningful understanding of the situation in primary schools across Ireland today. The interviewee used questions to analysis the field of study. Questions during the interview were open ended questions rather than closed questions. Open ended questions suited this research as it allowed the interviewees to elaborate on their answers and provide in-depth answers. “In qualitative interviewing, the researcher wants rich, detailed answers; in structured interviewing, the interview is supposed to generate answers that can be coded and processed quickly” (Bryman, 2008, p.437). Closed questions would not allow for in-depth answers. There was flexibility in how and when the questions were asked according to each interview.

3.4.1 Interviews

Informal interviews took place and participants were made feel comfortable. Interviews took place within primary schools across Ireland with the selected primary school teachers. There were two teachers from a DEIS band 1 school, two teachers from DEIS band 2 and two from a non-DEIS school. The conversations were between two people only. The teachers were asked a selection of questions and what they know about the policies within their school at present. The purpose of the interview was to gather as much relevant information on this topic as possible. All interviews were recorded and transcribed. All interviews were then analysed and studied in order to obtain coherent data. The results identified recurring themes.

These themes are then coded.

3.4.2 Limitations of the interview

It was important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of using interviews as a data gathering method. Interviews can provide very good information if they are conducted correctly (Coleman & Briggs, 2002) and are useful for gathering in-depth information. However, interviews can also have disadvantages as interviewees may present false information as they do not want to speak ill of their school. They may be very timeconsuming for both the researcher and the interviewee. To minimize these disadvantages I focused on limiting the interviewees to six, and also kept the time commitment to 30 mins and ensuring the interviewee felt comfortable and I emphasized the interviewees identity was strictly anonymous. However, within interviews the participant is unable to remain anonymous to the interviewer (Creswell, 2002). Due to the interviews been carried out face to face, the interviewees may not have given the correct data as their anonymity is disclosed to the interviewer.

3.4.3 Procedure

The teachers were given a set time and date for their interview. Interviews were informal and teachers were made feel comfortable from the start of the interview. The tone of the interviewer’s voice was kept low and soft to make the interviewee feel at ease. Each interview was approximately 30 mins in length. The only equipment that was used is an iPhone to record and an A4 sheet with the prepared questions on it. The interviews were conducted on a strict one-to-one basis. The student teacher was the interviewer and the teachers were the interviewees.

3.4.4 Pilot Study

It was very important to ‘pilot’ the research before conducting it. This demonstrated whether the interview questions were suitable for the teachers taking part in the study. This preparatory research will allow the discovery of possible weaknesses, inadequacies, ambiguities, and problems in all aspects of the research so that they can be corrected before the actual data collection takes place (Sarantakos, 2012). This includes any issues that may occur prior to the official interview and determine if the structure of the interview is effective.

While conducting the qualitative research, the researcher must have good interviewing skills.

After doing the pilot study, it was important to ask the interviewee about how they felt. Consent forms were distributed prior to the interviews and a cover letter outlining this study were given to the principal of each school.

3.4.5 Sample for Study

All participants were primary school teachers from Ireland and teaching in schools around Ireland. Two teachers were working in a DEIS Band 1 school, two were teaching in a DEIS band 2 and two teachers were teaching in a non-DEIS school. Six interviews took place with 26 questions prepared for each interview. Interviews were carried out on a one to one basis with teachers. The interviewees in my sample were from four various schools. Two teachers work in a DEIS band 1 school, two work in a DEIS Band 2 and two teachers work in a nonDEIS school. All of the teachers worked in a senior class with five or more years’ experience within the senior classes. Throughout the results chapter the researcher will refer to the teachers as T1, T2, T3, T4, T5 and T6.

Gathering data from a variety of interviewees depending on the school status will provide a relatively balanced set of viewpoints and variety of perceptions to analyse.

Table 1: Data of Interviewees

School type Years’ experience College of Education
Teacher 1 DEIS band 1 5 years Marino College, Dublin
Teacher 2 DEIS band 1 10 years Hibernia College,

Dublin

Teacher 3 DEIS band 2 6 years Mary Immaculate

College,

Dublin

Teacher 4 DEIS band 2 6 years Hibernia College,

Dublin

Teacher 5 Non – DEIS 10 years Hibernia College,

Dublin

Teacher 6 Non – DEIS 7 years Mary Immaculate

College,

Limerick

3.5 Validity and Reliability

Reliability relates to being consistent over time with methods and treating all groups the same when gathering data.  Validity is achieved when the researcher’s data gathering relates to the concept being studied so it is in line with the actual research aim (Cohen et al., 2007) In order to establish reliability within my research I checked interview questions against the aim of the study and conducted a pilot study to supported validity.

3.6 Conclusion

The best way to explore and understand the challenges teachers face in relation to challenging behaviours of children who have not been assessed with the senior classes is to hear the experiences of those who were the most involved, the classroom teachers themselves, senior teachers. Outlined in this chapter was the qualitative methodological approach which was used during this study, the research method of semi-structured interviews and why it was chosen. The implications of the ethical considerations were outlined. The limitations, validity and reliability of this research were also discussed.

4.0 Chapter Four: Results

4.1 Introduction

At the outset, the aim of this thesis was to examine challenges teachers face with challenging behaviour of children who have not being assessed in a selection of senior classes. Six semistructured interviews took place. The interviewees came from four different primary schools located in Galway and Dublin. Two of these schools were DEIS band 1, two of the interviewees work in a DEIS band 2 school and two work in a non-DEIS school. This chapter presents the findings from the interviews, along with the teacher’s personal experiences. These findings are integrated under these sub-themes: teacher perceptions and issues related to challenging behaviour, strategies teachers employ to manage such behaviours and support for the teachers.

4.2 Theme One: Perceptions and issues related to challenging behaviours

This theme relates to the interviewees perception of what behaviours they perceive as being challenging and why. The teachers I interviewed perceived challenging behaviour in terms of disruption to their lessons, defiant behaviour and aggression.  Throughout the interview the most challenging behaviour that emerged from the findings was disruption of the class.

“I find the constant talking out if turn and talking over me the most frustrating” (T1).

“Minor behaviours such as disruption, acting out and answering back would be the challenging behaviours in my classroom” (T2).

The teachers found that they were already working against time with the overcrowded curriculum that they expressed that they don’t have time for challenging behaviour as it takes from their teaching time. The most common reasons for this disruptive behaviour were attention seeking, defiant behaviour and aggression. One teacher expressed how she was challenged by behaviour that was disruptive by saying:

“The children continually talk out of turn and over the teacher. I find it so stressful to constantly remind them of the rules and routines of the class. The irritating part is that when I ask them to do the right thing they would nod along and still carry on chatting with each other.”(T1)

All six of the interviewees expressed that at some point challenging behaviour occurs due to attention seeking.  Four teachers spoke about attention seeking as being a very challenging behaviour to manage in the classroom on daily basis. As one teacher said:

“This child constantly does things to get your attention and it can become quite annoying.

Much of what they do is done to get attention.” (T3)    Another teacher expressed it this way:

“I find the constant dishonesty the most draining- some students you can catch them doing something wrong and they will agree and say yes I did it but some children will lie to your face and answer you back inappropriately.” (T1)

Defiance was commonly perceived as challenging behaviour by the teachers I interviewed. All teachers working in a DEIS school both DEIS band 1 and DEIS band 2 had experienced defiant behaviour.  Both teachers within the DEIS band 1 school shared the same opinion in relation to the children’s emotional development affecting their behaviour.

“They need emotional investment and only then you can manage the defiant behaviour successful.” (T1)

“Children attending the school are coming to school from a disadvantaged area with different cultures and beliefs. Many of which do not get the emotional support that is required at home. Home issues do affect a child and I think if there is something happening in the home the child is not going to be interested in completing their work, it’s not high on their list of priorities and are likely to portray challenging behaviours like being defiant and nonattentive in the class.” (T2)

Three of the participants had spoken about their experience of aggression. Only 2 teachers mentioned that aggression was occurring as a challenging behaviour in their classroom. In fact, T1 said that she is leaving her job to look for another one as she found the verbal aggression to be very challenging to manage and also she felt she had no or poor support  from the school management. Her experience is as follows: “Pupils have threatened to get their parents into show me who’s the boss.”(T1)

T2 commented that: “Having worked in a DEIS school for ten years I have encountered many children carrying out aggressive behaviour such as verbal and physical assault.”

T(3) had mentioned: “I have not experienced aggression myself, however, I did witness violent aggression towards colleagues which included cutting, biting and throwing items.”  4.3 Theme two: Strategies teachers employ to manage challenging behaviours

One of the strategies that all the six teachers used in their classrooms to manage challenging behaviours is promoting and encouraging positive behaviour.

T(2) has observed “by focusing on the positive you will create a productive happy environment.” He also shared “I use class dojo as a reward for good behaviour, along with

Golden time.” T(1) also implemented strategies to encourage positive behaviour such as “class dojo, raffle tickets, rewarding all type of positive behaviour such as completing homework, putting in an extra effort, being kind and working well together.”

T(4) uses “awards on a daily  and weekly basis to reward positive behaviour”. T(5) shared “We begin our day with a positive comment about everyone in the class, this provides us with a positive starting point to the day”.

Another strategy that was mentioned from all six teachers was ensuring the children were active and kept on task. All teachers agreed that if the work load is over or under their capabilities this may lead to unwanted behaviour.

T(4) explains, “the pitch of lesson is so important  as the children will become disengaged if they become bored or find the content too difficult.”

T(5) states, “If they are engaged in their learning they won’t have time to misbehave.”

T(6) recognises, “teachers need to have strategies in place so when children are getting bored with a topic, the teacher can adapt the lesson before any children begin to disrupt the class, keeping the children interested is the key, I try to use up to date resources that the children will find exciting for example Minecraft is a big interest in my class at the moment.”

Another common strategy was to build a good rapport with all the students especially those engaging in challenging behaviours. All teachers mentioned that this was a constructive way of approaching the problem of challenging behaviours.

T(1) explained “There is little if any involvement with the parents within my school. We are a DEIS band 1 school which has a HSCL officer onsite, however, the link between parents and teachers is non-existent in the senior classes anyway.

T(2) mentioned “I believe that the parents do need to be involved in the children’s learning. I write notes home and give feedback in their homework journal.

T(3) agrues “If you have not built a rapport with the children then most behavioural strategies will fail.”

T(4) mentions “It is so important to build a strong working relationship with the parents and I see a lot of benefits in this. I have class dojo set up so the parents can see what their children were learning about and see how their children are behaving. This allows the parents to be able to talk to their child about their learning along with any behaviour that has been rewarded or behaviour that required discipline.”

T(5) explains: “Each child should feel as important as their peers. A good teacher pupil relationship will ensure open lines of communication should there be any difficulties for the pupil. More importantly is the teacher parent relationship as the parents are expected to educate their children on the behaviour policy and support the teacher is implementing a just behaviour program.”

T(6) stated “Children are more than likely going to adhere to the rules if they have a good relationship with the teacher. The parents are welcomed with open arms in this school. We have regular events that the parents can get involved in.

4.4 Theme three: School Support

All the participants recognised that the support from the school and from other teachers in the school was of great importance in the process of behaviour management of challenging behaviours.

“If challenging behaviour is identified as a whole school approach it means that the implementation of the policy becomes more consistent and teachers and SNA’s can find support in each other.” (T5)

T(3) agrues, “All schools should promote positive behaviour using programmes such as the Incredible years programme. It is implemented un the junior classes of our schools. I believe that if there is structure and support put in place for the children at a young age, the children will understand how to express themselves correctly without having to act out. Children learn best in a positive environment. A whole school approach ensures continuity in the life of the pupil while creating a positive environment in the school.”

Similarly to T(3), T(1) relates to the importance of a whole school approach in relation to managing challenging behaviour:

If everyone is on board and made aware of the whole school policy and policies for promoting and managing challenging behaviour than I would imagine it would work very well. If the same thing is implemented by all staff especially on yard. Once children know what is expected of them or what is acceptable, it is an easier life for all. T(1).

T(2) shared “The school has trained staff in the Incredible years programme to promote positive behaviour.”

T(6) explains “A problem shared is a problem halved. This is our motto in relation to all issues that arise. I know I have full support of my colleagues and principal on any arising issue. We have regular meetings in which we discuss any issues we feel we need to discuss. We are all working as a team rather than individuals.”

4.5 Conclusion

This chapter identified and discuss the key findings collected using a qualitative method approach. The type of behaviours recognised as challenging by all the interviewees were disruption to lessons, attention seeking and aggression. The interviewees discussed how the importance of a good relationship between teachers and students and their families can impact on behaviours. It discussed the importance of encouraging and promoting positive behaviour as a preventive of challenging behaviour. Also discussed was how the school working as a whole in relation can impact on behaviour management. The next chapter will link these findings with the literature review chapter.

5.0 Chapter Five: Discussion Section

5.1 Introduction

This chapter will present discussion of findings presented in the previous chapter in the context of literature. By identifying issues and linking them to the themes identified in the literature, it is hoped that the challenges primary school teachers face in relation to challenging behaviours of children who have not been assessed in senior classes will become more knowledgeable. The themes have emerged from the data of the research.

5.2 Main Findings

This research study aimed to examine the challenges a selection of teachers face in relation to challenging behaviours of children who have not been assessed within senior classes in DEIS band 1,2 and non-DEIS primary schools. The findings indicate that positive relationships are crucial to both teacher and student working in the classroom, promotion of positive behaviour as a whole school approach is required in dealing with challenging behaviours. The teachers shared their views on how they manage challenging behaviours, the strategies they find successful in managing challenging behaviours and the school support they require in dealing with such behaviours at their school.  Within this chapter I will discuss the findings of the teacher views and issues related to challenging behaviours, strategies implemented as a preventive of challenging behaviour, and support for the teachers faced with challenging behaviours.

5.3 Teacher views and issues related to challenging behaviours

In the interview stage of the research, teachers were asked to describe what behaviours they considered to being challenging and why. The teachers described the most challenging behaviour as disruption in lessons, talking out over the teacher, being off task and not adhering to classroom rules and routines. This description the teachers described links with the description of challenging behaviour stated by Emerson (1987,cited in INTO, 2004:3). All the teachers commented on how challenging behaviour takes from the teaching time which is already a crowded curriculum. The teachers explained that along with time, a lot of energy is given to managing those with challenging behaviours. It was pointed out how it is unfair to the other children in the class. The types of behaviour most frequently cited as challenging was disruption to lessons in forms of attention seeking, defiant behaviour and refusal to take responsibility. The two teachers from the DEIS band 1 schools had personally experienced challenging behaviours such as aggression. All the interviewees indicated the importance of their own views on why challenging behaviour happens. Literature suggests that understanding “why” the behaviour is present in the first place is as equally important as to dealing with the behaviour (Walker et al., 2004).

The interviewees all discussed how influences from the home environment are a major factor affecting children’s behaviour at school. All of the interviewees teaching in a DEIS school mentioned that it is quite common for children to come to school upset, angry and unable to communicate in appropriate ways with their teachers and other classmates due to an incident that occurred at home. This links with the literature as noted challenging behaviour occurs for many reasons such as communication difficulties, environmental factors, attention-seeking, socio-economic disadvantage and underlying medical reasons (INTO,2004).

5.4 Strategies for managing challenging behaviours

A good relationship between children and staff, staff and parents and between staff and staff creates a positive environment for effective learning and helps in managing challenging behaviours successfully. All interviewees commented on the importance of teachers building a relationship with the children and parents. T(3) claimed that positive relationships between home and school made the children feel safe and secure. This claim is supported in literature regarding Maslow’s (1943) explanation of basic and safety needs and Rutttledge(2014) explanation of children requiring a sense of belonging in school. According to Mitchem (2005) teachers who care about students and build relationships will have a proactive impact on the class. This is also highlighted in the literature as mentioned “the role of parents in an approach to positive behaviour is extremely important.” (INTO,2004,P.7). The NEWB also upholds this view as stated in the literature, “Good behaviour is an outcome of effective learning and good relationships, as well as an influence on how students learn”(NEWB, 2008,p.27)

All teachers shared that having strategies such as class dojo in place to involve the parents in their child’s school life can be used to control behaviour along with promoting positive behaviours. All the interviewees shared the same opinion on the role of positive feedback and rewarding children in order to manage challenging behaviours and as a preventive of challenging behaviours. Each interviewee had a reward system set up in their class using praise an awards on an individual basis and a group basis. Five teacher participants out of the six mentioned that from experience they believe children respond better to receive rewards for good efforts than face consequences for poor effort. These comments relate to literature which suggests that people are more likely to repeat behaviour that are encouraged and celebrated (Mc Leod, 2015). This is also evident as Stipek (1993) pointed out that extrinsic rewards are often useful in getting students started in a learning activity but may be phased out when students come to enjoy the activity and succeed at it.

5.5 School support

All the interviewees recognised that the support from the Board of Management in the school and from other teachers in the school was of great importance in the process of behaviour management of challenging behaviours. This is evident in the literature as Rogers (2002 cited Rogers,2004) states that the whole school approach is key in developing positive behaviour management. Each one of the participating schools have a code of behaviour policy that the children are required to abide by. Five of the schools had a support system in place that the teachers were aware of, however, there was one school that the teacher felt there was no support in place. All of the teachers mentioned the programmes that were in place in the schools to manage challenging behaviour, however, the programmes were all mainly focused on the junior end of the schools. In all the participating schools the principal was the main support which did appear to be an issue for the teacher who felt there was no support in place. The teacher felt that although there was documentation in place for the school in relation to the code of behaviour, it wasn’t followed from the top down so therefor it was presenting itself as challenging for her to implement it from a bottom up approach. She shared that due to the children not being aware of any boundaries and having no rules or routines in a class for the children to follow is causing challenging behaviour. Kroeger & Bauer (2004) suggest that behaviour is governed by rules and expectations and that by not working within these boundaries of teacher’s expectations, students will not “fit in”. The other five teachers spoke about the importance of setting boundaries for children presenting challenging behaviours, teachers also spoke of being firm but fair, they stressed on knowing about the home background of a student. Again focusing on the importance of relationships between the child and the teacher and the teacher and the parents. The schools that I carried out the interviews in have a lot of commonalities in the execution and implementation of their code of behaviour. For example, in all of the schools I interviewed, the code of behaviour encouraged promoting and rewarding positive behaviours.

5.6 Conclusion

In conclusion, it is apparent the home life has a huge influence on the children’s learning and behaviour. The teachers teaching in DEIS school both Band 1 and 2 noted that unstable home environments is a reason for children engaging in challenging behaviour. Findings indicate that positive relationships are crucial to both teacher and student working in the classroom, and are governed by the mutual respect that the two parties have for each other. Teachers reported that consistency in managing challenging behaviours and in setting boundaries, along with reward and positive feedback are important factors in successful management of challenging behaviours.  All interviewees spoke about the importance of a whole school approach when dealing with issues such as challenging behaviour. However, one teacher has mentioned how lonely and stressed they are feeling in their job. She is expected to manage these challenging behaviours on her own, she is finding the situation so difficult she is resigning from her post.

6.0 Chapter Six: Conclusion and Recommendations

This research study presents and discusses the findings of a small-scale study which aimed to elicit the challenges teachers face with challenging behaviour in senior class in DEIS band 1,2 and non-DEIS schools. Interviewees were asked about their experiences in dealing with children in senior classes with challenging behaviour. They discussed what aspects of challenging behaviour concerned them, what strategies they found effective and what school supports were available.

Results indicate that teachers are approaching challenging behaviour by developing positive relationships with students and teachers and promotion of positive behaviour as a whole school approach is required in dealing with challenging behaviours. The interviewees described minor challenging behaviours such as attention seeking and defiant behaviour as the most frequent type of challenging behaviour. Aggressive behaviour was found to be the most challenging. The interviewees all discussed their personal strategies they implemented to act as a preventive to challenging behaviour. Each interviewee shared the same opinion about building good positive relationships with their class and their parents to manage challenging behaviours successfully. Reward systems of some description and positive feedback were mentioned by each interviewee as a key strategy to deal with challenging behaviour. Five out of the six teachers felt that their school dealt with challenging behaviour with a whole school approach. The five teachers felt there was adequate and effective support for the teachers from the school. However, one teacher did share that although the school provided a code of behaviour, there was no consistency or support as a whole school. Some schools are losing good teachers due to stress relating to lack of support in dealing with challenging behaviour. The researcher recommends that the Board of Management should not only set up the policies and procedures but implement and review any issues occurring regularly. The researcher also recommends that more regular unannounced visits from members of the DES to school sites would ensure the policies are being implemented.

Research could further investigate how the learning of the other students is affected by a student who presents challenging behaviours, more research could also be carried out on mindfulness programmes in the senior end of the school for managing challenging behaviours. All interviewees in this research have said that challenging behaviour interrupts learning.

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