FROM EXCLUSION AND PUNISHMENT TO COLLABORATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING IN SCHOOL DISCIPLINARY SYSTEMS

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Date
2022-01-25
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Publisher
Johns Hopkins University
Abstract
Student “misbehavior” can be a form of communication; when met with punishment instead of support, this situation can create a consistent cohort of students chronically involved in disciplinary action. This qualitative exploratory study investigated teacher and staff response to the fundamental shift from punishment to support in behavior management policy in an urban Midwestern middle school and its effect on student-teacher relationships. A sample of teachers and staff replaced traditional punitive approaches to student misbehavior with ideas and strategies drawn from collaborative problem solving and restorative discipline in the virtual learning environment. The school replaced its in-school suspension room with a supportive space staffed by two instructional assistants, both of whom participated in this study. Participants used scripts, interview guides, and graphic organizers to redirect conversations with students and record notes for creating replacement behaviors and coping skills for students. Thematic analysis was conducted of responses to three iterative semi-structured interviews to understand if teachers and staff perceived replacing punishment with support in dealing with student misbehavior as effective and if the process affected student-teacher relationships. Participants perceived the intervention as an effective, non-punitive approach to managing student behavior, positively affecting student-teacher relationships by changing the dynamics of the relationship during crises. Thematic analysis revealed shifts in participant beliefs, relationships, and practices from command and control to cooperation and communication. Rates and extents of change varied by participant. Key to the collaborative problem-solving process, participants needed to build strong relationships before having conversations with students in the virtual learning environment.
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Keywords
behavior, communication, discipline, exclusion, punishment, support
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