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What are the Implications for Whole Class Learning and Teaching when Faced with Challenging Behaviour?

Introduction and Context

The main focus of this small-scale assignment is to examine the strategies in place for supporting and improving students challenging behaviour that will help raise individuals' achievements, such as Teaching Assistants support (TA), training, number of behaviour students in class and how this affects whole class learning and teaching. The focus will evaluate the provisions and initiatives that are in place.

To determine whether the initiatives and support strategies that are in place are both successful and consistent, it will identify these based on six students that present challenging behaviour and are in receipt of Additional Adult Support provided by the school, Statements, Exceptional Resource Provision (ERP) funding, which provides full time one to one support and other students within the school that also present challenging behaviour.

To identify and evaluate the findings the assignment will draw upon and analyse the schools behaviour policy, reports, observations, practice, adult provision and research undertaken. These findings will be brought together in the conclusion.

Ethical Concerns

It was essential to gain permission from the Head teacher (HT) before any research could be undertaken. A written request had been considered, as this would have provided evidence of permission. It was deemed unnecessary of the Head Teacher as she was in full support of the research and the need of it being kept confidential.

Context

The Local Authority (LA) promotes inclusion and has devised a thorough inclusive policy, which the school is fully committed to (see appendix 1). OFSTED (2009) report findings identified the community school as a "good school with some out standing features" (see appendix 2), for the care and well being of the students placed within the school environment. The secondary community school is a 7-form entry located in a 'deprived area' within the LA supported by McDonald, I.T.V. (2005). It is a multicultural school with many students coming from a wide variety of social backgrounds. The students in the school, that are in receipt of free school meals, and Special Educational Needs (SEN), are a fairly high proportion, and an 80% proportion of English as an Additional Language (EAL) learner. There are fifty two languages spoken in the school. The school has been designed and set up to provide all Students with a fully Inclusive Education that will aid individual students to reach their full potential.

The assignment will draw upon and analyse research undertaken and relate this to policy and practice implemented within the East London primary school.

Although I am not the school Special educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) I am responsible for a vast and varied part of the SENCO role including challenging behaviour, TA support, home school family interventions and working along side outside agencies. A major part of my role is providing and supporting students, teachers and TAs with strategies and intervention techniques that can be applied within the classroom to support learning and teaching The Code of Practice states that,

"When children are not making progress teachers need to consult the SENCO to consider what else might be done. A starting point may be a review of strategies currently being used."

The above statement is supported by the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, (2001 pg 67).

Identifying Key Implications

Once a student or a large number of students have been identified as a cause for concern in relation to challenging behaviour it is important as a member of the social inclusion team to take a closer look at the learning, teaching and provisions that are in place within the classroom.

In order to gain a deeper understanding of why the students' present challenging behaviour and the impact upon their learning the strategies and support systems used were explored.

Implications and Barriers to Learning

It was necessary to investigate why the students presented challenging behaviour and how it could be supported. The areas focused on were the various types of teacher interaction, differentiation, TA support and deployment this provided both the students and adults in the class with successful strategies that they could implement.

The students found it difficult to stay focused on entering the classroom when the teacher was not quite ready to teach them. They needed to be given an independent practical task that they could do while the teacher was setting up the room.

In addition to this it was necessary to suggest a seating plan for the students as this would help to provide fewer interruptions and allow improvement for whole class learning and teaching in the environment. The classroom environment is where students experience the main part of their learning. It was appropriate to create a calm and safe learning environment for the whole class.

Supporting the teachers

A key part of the role was to provide strategies for teachers that had highlighted difficulties in teaching such students and communicate changes that would support their practice. There was a wide range of various teacher experiences including experienced and Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT), and part of my role is to provide them with appropriate and effective strategies for students with Exceptional Needs (EN) or challenging behaviour. "Being able to enter productive dialogues with colleagues is the skill the SENCO will need to develop most" supported by Cowne, (2008 pg 78).

Learning and Teaching

In order to engage these students and to improve their behaviour there was a need to address the different teaching styles and whether these support the needs of the learners. "So called 'quality first' teaching seeks to engage and support the learning of all young people" supported by the DCSF, (2008 pg 9).

It is important that all students are focused and engaged in their learning, including those whom have EN and challenging behaviour. As mentioned earlier it is part of the role to work alongside teachers to enable lessons to be effective and accessible for all students within their classroom.

TA Role

Another factor that needed to be considered was to measure the variation of TA status implemented throughout the school and their impact when supporting the individual students identified with challenging behaviour or EN, and the strategies provided to improve their quality of support. Support and training is also part of the role.

Research relating to TA effectiveness carried out by OFSTED, (2002 pg ?) agued that, "TAs can have an effective role in improving learning, especially with appropriate training." More recently, Blatchford (2009 pg ) also states that, ...... both support that training makes a significant difference and impact to students learning when they have received appropriate training.

Literature Review

To ascertain the importance of students learning, the implications of challenging behaviour or EN and to look at TA impact there is a need to determine what the thinking is of experts in these particular areas.

Scaffolding Learning

Vygotsky (1978) believed that children learn during social interaction. Children/students learn best with people who are important to them. It is important that we as educators are aware of the importance to communicate and talk to aid and progress their learning, including outside agencies and their peers. One other theory is "scaffolding" and its impact on students with EN. Bruner (...) used this term so as for adults to help support students learning. The term "scaffolding" is widely used within the educational system which provides interactive child and adult conversation. In addition to this the recent research undertaken by Morris & Pullen (2007 pg 12), relate learning to "disengagement and re-engagement" and discuss issues relating to "student motivation and self-regulated learning." This may occur during transition between primary and secondary school.

Underpinning Behaviour

The research carried out by various behaviourists for instance, Skinner (1996), his 'Social Learning Theory' Skinners techniques involved the term 'reinforcement.' He identified that there was 'positive' and 'negative' rein forcers that he suggests are 'primary' or 'secondary,' (cited in Davenport, 2000 pg 104-5). And that of Weiner, (1974), Weiner's research looks at motivation from an intrinsic reinforcement view which relates to 'beliefs and attributions' for 'success, failure and expectations.' His research focuses on four areas these are 'ability, effort, task difficulty and luck,' (cited in Davis et al 1997). Schaffer, (2001), would define moral development as an 'individual who can distinguish right from wrong' he goes on to suggest that when a child is able to do this if they have 'acquired a sense of morality.' The emphasis on a child's moral development needs to be credited to the research undertaken by Piaget (1932 cited in Shaffer 2001), as he provided the foundations for how a child develops and thinks about 'moral issues' Piaget (2001). Piaget's research relates to the cognitive aspects to moral development and he states that there are three levels these being 'Pre-Moral, Moral Realism and Moral Subjectivism' Piaget (2001). Although Piaget's work is greatly recognised it has been further developed by Kohlberg, (1969-1976 cited in Shaffer 2001). There are many other behaviourists such as Maslow, (1970), Fruad & Bandura, (cited in Davenport 1994), Ayers, Clarke & Murray (2000), Canter & Canter (1992), Rogers (1998), Dreikurs (1998) and many others.

TA and Effective Support

Finally research relating to the effectiveness of TA's carried out by OFSTED (2002) and more recently that of Blathforth (2008-9). Both discuss the "significant impacts" that TA's do or do not make to learning and teaching in relation to appropriate and sufficient training. It is not the intention to discuss the above documents in full but to provide the foundations and underpinning theory for learning, behaviour and finally adult support and how these impact on students learning. Although these documents and theorists will not be discussed in full they may be referred to later in the assignment.

Methodology

In order to present a balanced view of the research studied various methods were selected. The methods chosen were a questionnaire and, semi structured interviews, with further interview with the inclusion manager. Choosing various methods enabled me to analyse and compare the findings, which have been collated. The method being demonstrated allows Triangulation to take place, which provides reliability of data and information that is collated. Triangulation combines each of the research methods used in order to provide a variety of perspectives. Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2000 pg 112), raised this issue for using just one method which suggests that,

'Exclusive reliance of just one method, therefore, may bias or distort the researcher's picture of the particular slice of reality she is investigating.'

Qualitative Data Collection

Interviews

Interviews were selected to gain an understanding of how senior members of staff and Teacher's reflected upon the T.A. support and implications that a large number of challenging behaviour students with EN's would have if placed in one class and how this affects whole class teaching and learning. The use of a questionnaire was considered to gather the required information. However it was more of an advantage to proceed with the interviews to allow the interviewee to clarify any misunderstandings or views immediately. The interviews were first conducted with members of SMT who were responsible for reviewing and placing students being admitted into the school environment. A further interview was then conducted with the Head of Inclusion due to holding reviews and placing students with exceptional needs to other local schools in which they had selected when arranging a managed move. Personal interviews were chosen as they facilitate the following method of which...

  • Offered mutually convenient times.
  • Enabled the interviewer to pursue lines of interest if they should arise.
  • Allowed the interviewee to speak freely if they wished to do so.

The interviews provided background information to gather guidelines to the number of children with exceptional needs that could be placed in one class and to determine their views on the implications it may cause. The questions were devised to extract the following:

  • Implications for large numbers of challenging behaviour in one class
  • Impacts to learning
  • Affects on whole class learning and teaching
  • Difficulties in teaching
  • Policy and practice
  • TA impact and training

The questions were devised to extract information relating to learning and teaching. The gathered information will be used to underpin the findings of the devised questionnaire. For full view of the questions asked (see appendix 3).

Formal interviews were deemed unsuitable as it was necessary to provide a relaxed environment where the interviewees would feel at ease and able to express their opinions and responses about their practice in an honest and free environment. The semi structured interviews were selected so the organised questions could be devised to guide the flow of their responses, therefore encouraging a clear focus to be maintained from both parties enabling important points to be recorded. (Bell, 1999 pg 35), highlights that,

'The advantage of a focused interview is that a framework is established beforehand and so analysis is greatly simplified. This is important for any research, but particularly so for limited-time studies.'

Having considered using two methods for recording the interviewee's responses, which were tape recording and note taking. The tape recording method was declined as this was a time consuming and intrusive method and there was no need to provide a full account. For all notes recorded (see appendix 4).

It is important to remain objective when gathering, analysing and interpreting information. To record only a view of the responses and not all may reflect some bias; therefore, it is important to remain impartial.

Before the interview took place, piloting the questions with various members of teaching staff was necessary. This had been beneficial; as it highlighted that one question referred to TA's and not various adult support staff. The questions, which were asked, were limited and needed rectifying. For piloted questions (see appendix 3a).

Quantitative data Collection

Questionnaire

The questionnaire was chosen to gain information on the learning that had taken place during each lesson, but would also draw out information about the practicalities this had on classroom practice from a different perspective. Observations were considered for this but it would only provide a personal view. Interviews were used to follow up responses identified in the questionnaire. Due to the limited time span it was only practical to interview a cross section of teaching staff as it would have been impractical to interview all 108 members of staff. Questionnaires were selected because it,

  • Enabled staff to take time answering the questions raised.
  • Provided suitable time for completion.
  • Was a quick and efficient way to collect required information.
  • Established any differences between the school and Inclusion Team.

The questionnaire was devised to gather information from a different perspective this being a practical view. To draw out the following:

  • Student, subject and date.
  • Student focus.
  • Lesson objective met/not met.
  • Identifying type of support if any.

Follow up interviews were devised to gather information relating to questionnaire responses and clarify the following.

  • Difficulties in teaching, if any
  • Additional meetings with staff and outside agencies
  • Classroom practicalities and support
  • Learning and student behaviour
  • Policy and practice

All gathered information will then be collated and compared. For the full range of questions (see appendix 5).

It was important to provide a range of questions that enabled all staff to put forward their views on issues being raised to gather a balanced viewpoint. The questionnaire enabled staff members to voice their opinions about their own experiences and classroom practice which would be taken into account and kept confidential. "The more structured a question, the easier it will be to analyse," (Youngman 1986 pg 119-120). He lists a wide variety of question types however the following were chosen

  • Verbal or open.
  • Category.
  • Scale.
  • Quantity.

Selections of the above types were applied, which could be analysed using two different methods. To view the various question types (see also appendix 5).

The quantitative data from the questionnaire was converted and then represented by graphs. This was done to show the differences in responses between Teaching, and senior members of staff within the Inclusion Team. This will ease the comparisons to their responses to the questions asked. By analysing the data it provides factual evidence to support the qualitative research undertaken. This deemed necessary, as the qualitative research would be open to bias.

Two outside agency members of staff, linked to the school, undertook piloting the questionnaire. This was beneficial to the research, as it highlighted not all staff were Computer Trained (ICT) and needed another approach. In order for all staff to take part in the research it was necessary format. It was also pointed out that the questionnaire may benefit from a deadline to obtain a quick response. For a view of the piloted questionnaire (see appendix 6). The questionnaire was accompanied by an email, providing information about the study, time span and the intention for the gathered information. To view the covering email (see appendix 7).

After permission had been obtained an overview of the questionnaire and a summary of what was required from staff during the morning briefing. All staff was assured that gathered information would be kept confidential.

Methodology and the Considerations

In order to create a picture, reliability and validity of all methods have issues with bias. These issues have been recognised and will be given consideration in both the findings and conclusion.

To provide a holistic perspective and to abolish any bias and limitations that one method of research would provide it was necessary to apply the method of Triangulation. Triangulation allows for various perspectives of the research to be ratified or rejected when cross-referencing the various methods used, which involve qualitative and quantitative data. The Open University (course E811 1988: 54 cited in Bell, 1999 pg 102) states that,

'Cross-checking the existence of certain phenomena and the veracity of individual accounts of gathering data from a number of information and a number of sources and subsequently comparing and contrasting one account with another in order to produce as full and balanced a study as possible.'

The elements relating to the questionnaires and interview responses identified above may need further investigation before they are acted upon or put into effect within the school policies, as the researcher has close connections to the school qualitative data it may be considered personal. The assignment is small-scale so further research on a larger scale may provide different findings.

The literature review helped to organise the questions that needed to be asked in finding out individual views on Challenging Behaviour in mainstream schools, implications to learning, classroom practicalities and to find out if school documentation addressed these issues. Further questions devised were to investigate whether teachers found it difficult to teach effectively, what learning was occurring and what impact support staff had when working with challenging students. The following section will focus on students with EN's, challenging behaviour, and the impact TA's have on learning from both the perspectives of the school and the Inclusion Team.

Findings

The findings will analyse the interviews undertaken within the school. Along with the responses to set the scene of the impact that TA's have on learning and teaching when dealing with a large number of challenging behaviour students or exceptional needs have when placed in one class. Next, the Inclusion Manager interview will be analysed and compared to determine the overall views from all involved. The data collated from the questionnaires and follow up interviews with teaching staff will be analysed and compared to determine the view across the school. Finally the analysis of the interviews and evidence will be drawn upon to support the findings and draw conclusion.

School Interviews

The Head Teacher (HT) at the school is highly experienced and has a varied and wide range of teaching and has also been a SENCO. She expressed no more than two Exceptional Needs/Challenging Behaviour students should be placed per class to provide quality teaching to meet their needs.

The HT revealed although the inclusion policy did not state a limited number at present it was a question currently being deliberated which would be raised with the schools Behaviour Working Party due to the request from a Director of Study (DOS). The request was to review the number of challenging behaviour students and students in receipt of ERP funding placed in the school, as there is a high proportion of students receiving alternative provisions from outside agencies e.g. Community links/Eleanor Smith.

The HT expressed concerns about the manageability of staff, students, Pastoral Support Programmes (PSP) and Behaviour Report Books (BRB). A PSP or BRB is written for students with Challenging Behaviour, which may affect other students within the class. She also indicated this would depend on the students individual needs, behaviour, classroom structure and curriculum differentiation. The HT expressed that teachers had voiced that they could not teach effectively and do the job they had been employed for.

The Deputy Head Teacher (DH) of the school is also highly experienced. She also teaches French and was previously head of inclusion. When I put forward the opening question relating to large numbers of challenging students her response was 'lots!' (see appendix 5). Her view was similar to that of the HT but focused more on the environment and how it can easily become over crowded in terms of adults and equipment which can affect the layout of classroom practicalities. Practicality issues such as additional time for meetings, managing adults, PSP and BRB reviews, classroom planning and day to day classroom management. She identified that when a student comes into the school an assessment is carried out to address their needs, whether that may be SEN or additional support. This information is shared with the L.A. to highlight numbers of students with exceptional needs already placed at the school. The L.A. would then decide whether or not the school environment can best suit their needs. Commenting on the nature of the process she stated,

'Guidelines suggest that the L.A. will consult with schools before placing a child with a statement and also ERP funding but this does not always happen especially with mid-term admissions.'

She identified this as being a concern.

Once again similar to the previous interview responses the school SENCO voiced that, 'some teachers will find it challenging or at times extremely challenging and with limited resources available difficulties with teaching can arise.' By resources he was referring to outside agencies identified as 'experts.' The SENCO in agreement with the DH had voiced that the flexibility within the L.A. guidelines were alleged and did not always apply, and that the school is hoping to develop a clear policy on this issue. As a member of the Social Inclusion Team (SIT) at the school I am aware that the L.A. guidelines raised earlier within the Literature review may need adjusting to meet individual school needs. To view all school interview responses once more (see appendix 5).

Looking at the interview responses provided from within the school it is illustrated there is some evidence of consistency with the interviewees views to the implications that a large number of students with challenging behaviour could have if placed in one class and voiced strong views to the variations in T.A. training. The school is using a form of assessment and individual admission reviews in order to ensure they can provide the appropriate environment to meet the individual needs of students coming into the school and ensures that all TA's receive the teaching assistant training in order for them to become qualified. Additional training is done through whole school approaches and relies on individual TA's to manage their Continued Professional Development (CPD).

Inclusion Manager Interview

The interview with the Inclusion Manager had indicated similar implications and classroom issues to that of other staff members within the school. Her initial response to the opening question was explicit. However she had emphasised that it was down to the school to decide on whether they were able to meet the individual needs of students. Her opinion to the limited number of students placed within one class, when applied to mainstream, schools highlighted that being an inclusive borough to apply a number would not be inclusive. Research and classroom experience identified from staff would suggest that large numbers of students that present challenging behaviour is not always inclusive. She shared that, 'all children have the right to attend their preferred or chosen school.' She concluded by indicating that the borough did not have a SEN policy as it had been replaced by the Inclusion policy.

Her comments towards the questions were positive and supportive that had identified that some schools may find it difficult to teach effectively but it would differ from school to school.

Overall, the interview with the Inclusion Manager revealed that there was no systematic approach to placing students with exceptional needs or challenging behaviour. This was one aspect that was identified in the literature review as being crucial to the implications that may occur when a large number of children with exceptional needs are placed within one class. With a policy in place it would ease the implications and difficulties throughout the school as mentioned earlier by the HT.

The Questionnaire Responses

The questionnaire conducted within the school was designed to gather information from teaching staff on the impact of students learning, additional staff and support status. The adults could respond to the questionnaire in relation to their current or previous classroom experience. If they had never experienced working with a student with exceptional needs or challenging behaviour they did not have to take part.

In conclusion of the analysis of the questionnaire results clearly shows that students that display challenging behaviour or whom have EN's did not always meet the Learning Objectives without additional support. Similar concerns were voiced for the variation of training that support staff have including the implications a large number of students placed in one class with EN's or challenging behaviour would have on whole class teaching and learning.

Responses highlighted on the questionnaire indicated that students without additional support did not always meet the learning object or indeed stay focused but not all. Other implications noted were additional time spent on differentiated planning and additional meetings. These are all implications that can affect whole class teaching. Many implications have been identified that may affect whole class learning and teaching that range across the school. This is the strength of the school for creating a new inclusion policy that is best suited for the admission of students with ERP funding, EN's or challenging behaviour. By moving towards a limited number and providing sufficient training it will lesson the additional pressures that staff endures. The findings show that there is a need to create a new inclusion policy that indicates a limited or maximum number of students and works towards providing specialist TA's.

Conclusion of the Research Findings

The evidence found from the interview and questionnaires indicated that there is a shared view of concern about the varied support staff and appropriate training. Also the implications that a large number of challenging behaviour/EN students would have if placed in one class. Although this may seem as though the evidence is conclusive it is not, as interviews revealed that some staff members did find it difficult to teach effectively when there were a large number of exceptional needs or challenging behaviour students placed in one class but not all staff found it difficult. There was an equal view that the school should have a policy that relates to issues such as the number of students the school can provide for appropriately, i.e. meeting their needs so as to be fully included. Although the interview with the Inclusion Manager did not fully support the need to provide a limited or maximum number of students per class she had indicated that it was understandable. The inclusion manager also indicated that the variation of training related to additional support staff had made a significant difference that impacted upon students learning.

Conclusion

In conclusion the impact that additional staff have when faced with challenging behaviour/EN determines how this affects learning and teaching. This small-scale assignment has contemplated the expert's recent perspectives on inclusion and how it impacts on mainstream schools. Issues identified were mainly due to organisation, training and placement. The wide variation of support staff training, policy and practice being a major issue. The questionnaire conducted revealed some evidence that students displaying challenging behaviour did not meet the learning objective without highly trained staff and this behaviour disrupted the learning of their peers. This was mainly due to not having adequate resources, highly trained staff and policies that reflect practice. Another issue identified by staff was additional time spent using differentiated strategies, and techniques to meet individual needs. Both, Teachers and SMT expressed that issues identified had caused implications with whole class learning and teaching during some point of their teaching experience. The criteria for admitting students with EN's, statements in receipt of ERP funding or identified as having challenging behaviour are in need of a review and should highlight any implications that may affect a whole class. The Medias response to Warnock's interview on the 8th June (2005) suggests that, inclusion may come from 'hearts in the right place' but describes its implementation as a 'disastrous legacy' supported by The Independent, 9th June (2005).

The importance of inclusion for students with behaviour difficulties is clearly recognised. However, as stated in the findings the number of students that present challenging behaviour in a class can affect learning and teaching.

Overall, comparing the information gathered from research undertaken and the research of the expert's vision on inclusion it's clear that there is a need for further review on placing large numbers of students with EN's or challenging behaviour within mainstream schools. Schools should devise an inclusion policy that indicates the number of students with exceptional needs/challenging behaviour that they are able to place within one class. This would provide an environment that meets their individual needs enabling them to endure a full and balanced curriculum and would enable other students to be provided with the same.

The LA is an inclusive borough, but there are still controversial issues around inclusion that need to be considered. Inclusion, in theory is something that would work in an ideal world; however each student is an individual and should be treated as such by respecting their needs and the needs of others around them. Hornby (1999) states that,

'The levels of inclusion...should be decided on the needs of each individual child and the exigencies of each situation.'

Government policies attempt to incorporate all students, but the awareness that inclusion does 'not fit all' Hornby (1999) still needs to be taken into account. Schools need to take control over the number of places available for students with EN/challenging behaviour placed in each class to provide a high level of inclusion. Until this procedure takes place, providing adequate provision for students with EN will be unachievable.

The nature of this assignment suggests there is a limitation to the findings especially the impact that support staff has on learning when dealing with challenging behaviour students placed within one class. Before implementing any of the above strategies in their inclusion policy, further research needs to be carried out on a larger scale.

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