Critical Analysis of Challenging Behaviour

Critical Analysis of Challenging Behaviour

EDFD604 Assessment 1

Critical analysis of challenging behaviour –  approaches of different theorists (2,750 words)

— Discuss an incident of challenging behaviour.

— Analyse possible motivation/ contributing factors for the student behaviour such as bullying, cyber-bullying and discrimination.

— Critique the teacher’s / school’s response analysing ideas/approaches theories informing their approach.

— Suggest at least two different possible theoretical approaches informed by research evidence. Outline the overall strategies two different theories/theorists/approaches and suggest, including specific strategies, how these approaches might advise a teacher to address the challenging behaviour. 

— Discuss possible strategies to support that might be best used to address the incident. Include possible adjustments to teaching programs relevant policies such as codes of ethics and conduct and legislative requirements regarding student wellbeing and safety, including strategies for involving students, parents and carers.

—Evaluate and make recommendations regarding effective ways to prevent and manage the incident and foster positive behaviour.

Critical Analysis of Challenging Behaviour Example 

Critical Analysis of Aggressive and Anti-social Behaviours


Behaviour in schools has continuously attracted public and political attention locally and internationally owing to the prevalent concerns about disorderly and uncontrollable students. In Australia, there is a new sense of social anxiety about students’ behaviour in schools. The media also illustrates unease in society by constantly reporting extensive political and public concerns over ostensibly undesirable and deteriorating behaviour among students. According to Cameron (2010), the problem for Australian public schools is a vacuum of culture that is filled by both disengaged and defensive parents and behaviorally challenged students. Challenging behaviour is one of the biggest obstacles teachers face when dealing with children in the classroom environment. Behaviour affects teaching, control, and disrupts the class’s productivity. Consequently, issues associated with student behaviour are increasingly a mutual concern, particularly since behaviour is one of the leading discourses in schools (Ball et al. 2012). In 2014, the study investigated the degree to which students’ unproductive behaviour is a concern for teachers in their classes by assessing the low-level disruptive, disengaged, and aggressive and anti-social behaviours (Sullivan et al. 2014). This paper presents a critical analysis of aggressive and anti-social behaviours by reviewing the approaches of different theorists.

Part One: Incident of Challenging Behavior (Violence)

Behaviours that could trigger physical harm to students and staff present challenges to the school communities in Australia. Examples of challenging behaviour in classrooms are aggressive and anti-social behaviours, including cases of extreme violence to teachers and other students. On October 28, 2019, the paramedics and police were called to Heatley State School at 11:30 am. A female teacher had been stabbed by an 11-year-old student at Townsville primary school (McNab & Foster, 2019). The incident occurred on the school grounds in the vicinity of the classroom. The teacher was treated in Townsville hospital with a stab puncture wound on her shoulder. The young female student was armed with a knife but was taken detained after been tasered by the police deployed during the incident. She was subdued by police officers and received medical treatment at the hospital.

According to Reid (2016), the incidents of violence against the teachers in South Australia, doubled from 231 to 469 between 2012 and 2014, spiking to 549 in 2015. The student-on-teacher violence had worsened than formerly thought when it was revealed that in the past three and a half years, a minimum of 105 educators needed medical triage (Reid, 2016). Furthermore, the total number of students excluded WA public schools due to aggressive attacks on staff members was five times greater than in 2016 and 2017 (Pilat, 2019). These figures demonstrate that violent attacks on the teachers are on the rise in nearly every Australian state. More than 50 per cent of wounded teachers required an ambulance, surgery, or hospitalisation to treat stab wounds, broken bones, and other injuries. Others were treated at the school medical centres for bites, cuts, and abrasions, while countless teachers are left bruised, scarred, sore, and emotionally traumatised after the violent encounters. The Australian Education Union revealed that a contributing factor to the surge in violent incidents is the presence of students having extreme behavioural issues and learning disabilities in mainstream schools. This has urged the teachers to seek additional resources and extra support staff to enhance their safety.

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Part Two: Contributing Factors for Extreme Violent Behaviour among Students

The World Health Organization has defined violence as the premeditated use of power, physical force, actual or threatened, against oneself, other persons, or against groups or the community, which results in injury, psychological harm, death, deprivation, or maldevelopment (Enyinnaya, 2015). From the WHO definition, school violence can be described as the physical attacks that occur either between students or students on staff, which occurs within the school premises, on the way to and from school, and school events. Students who display challenging behaviour do not ordinarily do so only because they want to. There is often a motive behind their violent behaviour, or it could be their only means of sharing that something is wrong. Moreover, all behaviour is a type of communication. There are varied contributing factors that lead to extremely violent behaviour among students in schools. As a result, it is essential to understand the factors that trigger challenging behaviour and devise strategies for dealing with extreme violence.

In 2012, a study was conducted to investigate the perceptions of teachers on reasons for unproductive behaviour. Unproductive student behaviour was attributed to both individual student factors and out-of-school factors. More than half of all teachers revealed that that the reasons for the unproductive student behaviours may be attributed to a large extent to individual student factors like poor academic skills, boredom, diagnosed disabilities, violent disposition, negative attitudes, and lack of self-discipline, perseverance, and empathy (Sullivan et al., 2012). The out-of-school factors cited in the study included dysfunctional family structures, low parental expectations, poorly educated parents, along with neglect and abuse at home. On the other hand, more than half of the teachers in the investigation reported that most of the school factors are not contributing factors to unproductive behaviours. The school factors include poor-quality teachers, lower expectations of performance, unrealistic and high expectations of performance, alienating school culture, and poor amenities and buildings in schools (Sullivan et al., 2012). The findings propose that most teachers stated that unproductive behaviour is not accounted for by the school factors. Instead, the individual student and out-of-school factors are the main contributing factors to the behaviour.

In the second half of the 21st century, violent behaviour in schools has become a significant issue. Violence in the school environment comprises an extensive range of physical, psychological, and abusive behaviours that threaten the health of students, teachers, and other staff (Page et al. 2015). The irreversible depth and breadth of the representation violence are difficult for persons, families, and the whole society. There is no single factor that causes violence in schools on its own, and there is no particular apparent effect, which results from the violence perpetrated by the students. The different causes of violence include factors that make students elusive from their schools, including student density in classes, garrison architecture, lack of sports, unattractive education programs, non-applicability of lessons, and boring speeches. Besides, students with negative feelings towards their schools will have violent tendencies. The cases of social disorders that frequently affect students in schools located in deprived regions and distant towns include poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, divorces, and addiction among their parents (Ncontsa & Shumba, 2013). Lastly, social problems, family, and economic instabilities contribute to violent behaviour at school.

A recent study investigated the main factors that lead to extreme violence among students in schools from the perspective of teachers and principals. These factors are subdivided into two categories, namely external and internal causes toward the schools (Vali & Javad, 2018). The external factors include the effects of family, media, personal student characteristics, social factors, and victims of violence. Also, the internal factors comprise the teachers’ attributes, management of the school, existing policies, school structure, and educational facilities (Chen & Astor, 2011). Moreover, violence in schools is a multifaceted issue that occurs due to diverse factors, including psychological deficiencies and social, personal reasons. One of the reasons for the drugs and alcohol abuse since intoxicated students can lose control of their inhibitions and act irrationally. Thus, the effects of drugs and alcohol catalyse violence in schools. Personality problems such as shyness can cause students to feel out of place amongst peers, which influences one to be rebellious or attempt to get noticed by all means. This behaviour results in bullying, violence, and gang fights.

Additionally, school violence arises from the psychological deficiencies in dysfunctional homes where worry, anger, animosity, inferiority complex, and other negative emotions fuel violent behaviour. Also, parents, siblings, and guardians who display violent behaviour enable children to adopt violence to assert authority. Another factor contributing to school violence is the prevalence of violent media that desensitises violence (Enyinnaya, 2015). The adverse effects of violent video games and television programs are underestimated in contemporary society. Children emulate their favourite characters in action series and movies, resulting in learned violent behaviour in the schools. Finally, some governments permit the use of weapons as they are made easily accessible in homes. Thus, teenagers can access sharp objects, weapons, and arms, which could be taken to school and used to intimidate and harm the teachers and peers.

Part Three: School’s Response to Violence

Following the stabbing of the 56-year-old Townsville primary school’s teacher by an 11-year-old female student, the school undertook some measures to respond to the violent attack. The Queensland Department of Education disclosed a press statement it was aware of the violent incident at the school in which a student had injured a female teacher. Following the incident, the school administration initiated the lockdown procedure and instantly called the Queensland Police Service and Ambulance Service (McNab & Foster, 2019). Violence in any form cannot be tolerated within schools in the Queensland state. Thus, the incident was treated as a grave matter. The student attack was dealt with as a top priority, like all kinds of situations threatening the well-being and safety of students or other parties in the school community. Lastly, the girl appeared at a children’s court and was indicted with wounding, possession of a knife in a public place, and threatening violence.

Part Four: Theoretical Approaches

1.      Ecological Model

This analysis focuses on engagement as the core theoretical construct since evidence of past research has revealed that it has a direct influence on student behaviour. The main argument is that teachers ought to have an in-depth understanding of the wider ecology of the classroom to influence engagement and, ultimately, student behaviour (Sullivan et al., 2014). Drawing on the ecological theoretical model, one can explain and manage both productive and unproductive behaviour. The learning environment is viewed as an ecosystem that involves interactions between four main components. They are physical environment, characteristics of teachers, curriculum (inclusive of pedagogy and other resources), coupled with a multitude of student variables that influence the behaviour of students (Conway, 2012). Thus, the justifications of both productive and unproductive behaviours should consider the interactions of four constituents of the explicit learning ecosystem as well as the interactions between numerous settings in schools such as classrooms, gyms, playgrounds, and canteens.

Ecological Classroom Model (adapted: Conway, 2012)

The fundamental principle of the ecological model is that student behaviour cannot exist in seclusion but in the interactions between all elements of the learning ecosystem. The ecological theoretical approach to classroom management is a holistic approach that seeks to help students engage in learning and regulating their aggressive and anti-social behaviour. The holistic approach does not emphasise on only one area, like most teaching strategies, but attempts to address the whole student learning experience. The ecological model addresses the entire learning experience as it addresses the three main elements of classroom management. They are the design of the classroom, teaching strategies, as well as measures of behavioural prevention. Combined, the three strategies cover all the fundamentals of the learning environment.

Classroom Design: First, classroom design involves strategies for creating a physical environment that is highly conducive for learning. For example, the school can display the class rules that define behavioural expectations such as preparation, participation, and respect. The rules will define the minimal requirements for appropriate student behaviour. They should be placed on a front board frame in big and colourful letters with photos of students to maximise attention. With no specific rules, the students often behave according to their prior school and home experience and personalised regard for authority. More importantly, the school management should never assume that students have an understanding of appropriate behaviour. Thus, the rules should be discussed and rehearsed to shape awareness among students.

Behavioural Prevention: Development is dependent on the assignment of higher value to pro-social student behaviour. Teachers can strengthen the demonstration of favourable behavioural rules in classroom activities through praise, certificates, privileges, bonuses, and social activities. The current generation, irrespective of age or social background, is receptive to positive responses to mastery of class guidelines. The provision of personal attention is one of the powerful motivators due to the need for recognition and feedback. This includes displays of completed papers, individual assistance, and congratulation of effort are examples of reinforcers to encourage pro-social behaviour in the classroom. Educators can strive to develop ultimate self-control through the minimisation of tangible rewards continually. Finally, signed group contracts can define pro-social behaviour as they instil a sense of accountability and pride in groups. The signatures foster a commitment to observe class rules and track personal conduct since the progress can be recorded on visible charts for motivation.

Teaching Strategies: The teachers can apply multi-modality lessons with differentiated instruction for complementing management methods. For instance, chunk lessons can be subdivided into smaller components combined with technology and group assignments. The contemporary learner expects entertaining and tailored instruction in class. Having been educated using technology from preschool, the students expect teachers to utilise various methods to communicate learning information. The passive and teacher-directed instruction ought to be substituted by interactive learning activities to minimise disruption, apathy, or boredom. Also, teachers should refrain from conventional practices that depend on rote memory, question-answer responses, and recital of facts. In its place, teachers can employ visual aids, commercial learning software, internet resources, and manipulatives to address students’ distinctive learning skills. Critical thinking should also be encouraged to develop attention to tasks, compliance, and greater participation. Finally, consistent with the ecological model’s interventions, schools should offer cooperative learning opportunities to tap into varied skills and social and behavioural maturity by experimenting with teaching formats to match students’ changing needs.

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2.      Choice Theoretical Framework

The choice theory supports the creation of a classroom environment that exhibits productive behaviour conducive for learning by focusing on positive relationships between teachers and students. Before stepping into a classroom, it is imperative to realise the factors that motivate students to act out behaviorally and impact of the behaviour in the classroom environment. These motivations can be addressed through the choice of the theoretical framework. The choice theory is based on the premise that each individual only has the power of controlling themselves and possesses limited power of controlling others (Glasser & Glasser, 2017). The application of choice theory allows an individual to undertake responsibility for their life and simultaneously, withdraw from trying to direct the decisions and experiences of other people. The choice theory reduces the intensity and frequency of negative behaviours, strengthens relationships and increases satisfaction in life.

The choice theory is based on the notion that behaviours are one’s best attempts of satisfying current and future needs like survival needs, fun, belonging, freedom and power. In an educational context, the theory is mainly a preventative approach for classroom management that guides teachers to lead students by creating classrooms, and school environments aligned with the quality worlds of students. The underlying assumption of the choice theory is that the student’s behaviour is based on whatever offers the greatest satisfaction at any given time. Students are determined to attempt to be in full control over their lives to fulfil their needs; consequently, it is the teachers’ duty to teach, guide, and expose the students to positive behaviour that allows them to achieve greater self-control over their behaviours (Charles & Senter, 2011). The students should be offered opportunities for understanding that their behaviours can be only be chosen by themselves, and there are consequences of choices. They should understand that they are eligible for fair treatment and should raise concerns for unjust treatment for following the correct processes.

Lastly, teachers can build a positive learning environment. This is attained through the recognition and response to core responsibility of creation of a quality school, adoption of a lead manager, and sharing control over decision making on high quality learning, pedagogy and evaluation (Lyons et al. 2014). Psychologist Glasser’s Choice theoretical framework states that three strategies have proven to yield positive results in classroom management (Charles & Senter, 2011). The first strategy is the provision of a curriculum that is attractive to the students. Secondly, teachers can use non-coercive disciplinary approaches to help students in making responsible choices leading to personal success since motivation is the primary ingredient in learning. The last strategy is a strong emphasis on quality in all elements of learning and teaching.

Part Five: Strategies for Reduction of Violence in Schools

Several strategies involving controlling student behaviour can be applied to warrant their compliance. Rewards can be used in the promotion of compliant behaviour, whereas sanctions can be used to daunt students from engagement in aggressive and unproductive behaviour. Schools should use robust disciplinary measures that perpetrators face for failure to abide by the institutional rules and regulations. Some of the discipline strategies are rigid sanctions of increasing severity to address repetitive infringements on school rules (Millei et al. 2010). The use of escalating consequences, also known step systems can be implemented in schools. These steps typically entail an escalation of disciplinary responses like giving warnings, time-outs (in-class or out-of-class), referrals to leaders, suspension (in-school and out-of-school), and permanent exclusion (Millei et al. 2010). The educators can apply these step systems to be fair and logical, support students in making good choices, promote obedience, and exercise power.

Furthermore, the national development and roll-out of code of conduct to schools will act as a group of guidelines and recognised ethical norms and standards of acceptable behaviour to safeguard legal and institutional back-up. The code will include the unacceptability of verbal, physical, sexual, and psychological violence, abuse, harassment, and misconduct in schools. The code will cover the mechanisms for reporting any form of misconduct and suitable responses to students facing and witnessing violence, along with consequences of breaching the code (Ketterer et al. 2020). It applies to teachers and other staff and can be extended to parents and learners in the school. The code involves a transparent process for reporting violations and reviewing violent occurrences and allied due processes. Thus, the code of conduct offers guidance and support to practitioners by solving ethical dilemmas and stipulating professional rules for guiding teachers in their conduct.

Besides, the security measures should be updated in schools and other school events, to confirm that each student is properly searched and all weapons are seized before entry into the premises. The buildings and events should be well guarded to detect any likely violence threats rapidly. Moreover, there is a need to engage both teachers and students in continuous awareness campaigns along with counselling and enlightening on anger-management, resolution of conflicts, character development and other topics for dealing with psychological issues that trigger school violence (Enyinnaya, 2015). Furthermore, both parents and guardians have a pivotal role to play in ensuring that the home environment is violent-free. The adults as carers should consider that teenagers are vulnerable and can readily adopt behavioural standards accessible in their homes. The use of effective communication between a parent and their children aids in the reduction of perceived pressures that trigger violent behaviour. For instance, the parents should seek professional advice concerning video games and programs exposed to their children. Finally, the whole community should make rigorous efforts to reach out to the youth to appropriately address the issues of alcohol and drug abuse, social anxiety, and other kinds of mental disorders. The government can aid in updating statistical data on violence in schools to enlighten the public about the menace as it has a colossal ripple effect and triggers numerous undesirable outcomes.

Part Six: Recommendations 

The Behavior at School Study offers the framework for the development and enactment of humane behaviour practices and policies in schools. The framework provides four primary recommendations that can eradicate violent incidences in schools: Staffing as a collective philosophy, prioritisation of place and space, engaged and helpful school community, and humane behaviour policies (Sullivan et al. 2014). The philosophy of the framework rejects deficit understandings of students and families, ensures that the students are central to all actions and decision making to promote a robust school culture with administrative principles based on the core values. First, there is a need to demonstrate authentic ethics of care for students, teachers, and families to nurture and maintain emotional and social well-being and educative relationships. The second recommendation is to adopt robust and visible leadership approaches to assume collective responsibility for both students and staff. This will promote learner engagement and build a staff profile that embraces a humane behaviour philosophy.

Another recommendation is the allocation and prioritisation of resources to ensure that spaces support the implementation of the school philosophy. This is achieved by designing and arranging the physical environment to encourage collaboration through the engagement of pedagogies. A sense of independence can be promoted to create flexible and tranquil learning spaces and ensure an appealing physical environment to gain belonging and build connections. Communal space should be provided for community gatherings and technologies for cooperative teaching and learning. The final recommendation is to nurture an engaged and supportive school community to develop a higher sense of belonging, value diversity, connectedness, and form and sustain healthy relationships. This can be achieved using varied positive and respectful strategies, common languages for communication of best practices, and a positive school profile.


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