Punish them or engage them? Teachers' views on student behaviours around the school. Behaviour at school study technical report 2.

Anna Sullivan, Bruce Johnson, Laurence Owens, Robert Conway

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


    This report presents findings from an ARC Linkage Study, titled ‘Punish them or engage them? Identifying and encountering productive and unproductive student behaviours in South Australian schools’ (LP110100317), more commonly referred to as the Behaviour at School Study (BaSS). Research on student behaviour in schools has tended to focus on what happens in classrooms (Evertson & Weinstein, 2006), yet students spend considerable amounts of time outside of classrooms, often in the schoolyard. Large cohorts of students are supervised by a limited number of adults in schoolyard spaces, which means that the adults might observe overt behaviours, but covert behaviours are less likely to be noticed. The media claims that there is widespread public and political concern over allegedly negative and deteriorating student behaviour in Australian schools (Cameron, 2010; Donnelly, 2009). Yet, what is the nature and extent of problems related to student behaviour around the school? In this study, we intentionally focused on engagement as a central theoretical construct, as research has shown that it directly influences student behaviour. Drawing on a multi-layered model, we considered the external, school and classroom influences that affect student behaviour. External influences acknowledge the macro factors that impact on the ways things happen in schools. School influences take into consideration the factors specifically related to the school such as policies, the school architecture and the philosophy that guide the way in which staff and students behave. At the classroom level, factors such as the way the setting is structured and what pedagogical approaches are used all influence behaviour. We argue that these three levels influence students’ engagement in school and therefore their behaviour. We aimed to investigate the extent to which student behaviour is a concern for teachers. We used the Behaviour at School Study Teacher Survey (BaSS Teacher Survey) to investigate the views of teachers about student behaviour in South Australian schools. This report focuses on teachers’ views on student behaviour around the school. The pool of respondents comprised teachers who taught in primary (49%) and middle/secondary (51%) schools. Approximately two thirds of respondents were female (68%). The majority of teachers were employed full time (80%) and on a permanent basis (79%). Most respondents were employed as teachers (71%) and the remainder were employed at management levels: senior teacher (22%); or principal/deputy principal (7%). One per cent did not indicate their employment status. The teachers were employed in schools across all sectors in South Australia, which included metropolitan (66%), rural (24%) and remote (5%) locations (and other, 5%). The size of the schools varied from small enrolments of less than 100 students (5%) to very large enrolments of greater than 1000 students (18%). We organised 25 items related to unproductive behaviours around the school conceptually into four groups: (a) low-level disruptive, (b) school rule infringements, (c) anti-social behaviours, and (d) serious offences. We used descriptive statistics to quantify the nature and frequency of student behaviours reported by teachers. We used cross tabulations to analyse teachers’ reports of student behaviour according to teacher age, gender, location, type of school and school socioeconomic status. We conducted ANOVAs and post hoc analyses to investigate any differences in teachers’ responses to particular student behaviours and the attributions for those behaviours on the basis of teacher age, gender, location, level of schooling, level and type of position, teaching experience, and the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage status of the school.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationAdelaide
    PublisherUniversity of South Australia
    Number of pages65
    ISBN (Print)978-1-922046-12-3
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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