University Of Tasmania
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Social skilling through cooperative learning : a complementary approach to behaviour management

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posted on 2023-05-26, 20:52 authored by Jordan, DW
Hardly a day goes by without some media reference by teachers, parents and the general community at large, to disruptive behaviour in schools. This reported increase in disruptive behaviour has been attributed to a number of factors. The main one, it is argued, is a marked breakdown in student-teacher relationships in many western countries. Teachers have been de-skilled by social changes: ... so profound, so rapid, and so extensive [which] have taken place in education that we have a veritable education revolution in these times. Few people realise as well as our teachers the reason for the changes which all of us are experiencing in all phases of life. The teachers recognise they are due primarily to the transition from an autocratic to a democratic society (Dreikurs 1955, quoted by Balson, 1993, p. vi). According to Balson (1993), disruptive behaviour reflects the inability of teachers to adapt to this post-war transition. Traditionally the lines of authority between teachers and students were very clear. Students were punished, sometimes severely, for their inappropriate behaviour. School principals had, and in some cases still have, the legal authority to use corporal punishment towards their students. Balson suggests that the problem facing teachers is not of their own making. It reflects the loss of the traditional authoritarian status, which reaffirmed their right to control the behaviour of students. [This change] places the teachers of today in a dire predicament because the traditional methods, the only ones they know, no longer work and new ones are not known. This creates confusion in both children and adults (Balson, 1993, p. vii). Rationale and methodology: One of the key requirements for securing a classroom in which on-task learning can take place is an absence of misbehaviour, and a great deal of energy is expended in securing this state of affairs. During my early teaching experience, I had been able to secure a happy and productive relationship with my students without a specific discipline plan. When appointed as a senior teacher, I was expected to demonstrate competence in my own class as well as sharing responsibility for discipline throughout the school. The Assertive Discipline (AD) style [see Canter, 1976] adopted in the school conflicted with my teaching philosophy and prior experience. Moreover, it appeared to have only limited success in the school as a whole, suggesting that a behaviour control strategy might not be effective in the longer term. I subsequently transferred to a school with a more cooperative approach to behaviour management, more in keeping with my natural style. These experiences led me to seek explanations for my preferences by exploring the principles and relative effectiveness of different behaviour management models. I therefore conducted the literature review which follows. This stressed the importance of social skills, the necessity to structure the learning experience of students to take this into account and to examine the curriculum, ethos and teaching style within my classroom in this context. Group work was a common feature of my teaching, but the literature has alerted me to the need to structure this more formally to ensure that each individual achieves academic and social targets within the group, and is not simply allowed to 'coast' in the shade of his/her more able or more confident peers. I therefore implemented a short programme of structured social skilling and cooperative learning activities in my classroom, to examine the practical implications of social skilling in a cooperative learning environment. The assumption underlying this action research is that its value lies in the extent to which it supports my practical judgement and increases my capacity to reflect systematically upon the complex situations which I confront in my teaching life (Elliott, 1981). Chapter 2 of this paper examines some theories of student behaviour and three approaches to behaviour management: the interventionist, the non-interventionist and the interactionist models. The key elements and the implications of each approach for classroom teachers and the students in their care are considered in turn. Chapter 3 discusses social skills and the ways in which they may be developed and explores cooperative learning strategies which may be used in classrooms to enhance and develop social skills which have already been encountered by most of the students in their family and school relationships. Chapter 4 reports a case-study which seeks to explore the structured introduction of cooperative learning as part of a social skilling strategy with a Grade 5/6 class. Data were collected over a six-week period to illustrate the process that has been implemented. Chapter 5 concludes that, despite the brevity of the study, there was some evidence that students became more socially aware and more skilled, as demonstrated by collaboration between wider groups of students and more on-task behaviour. This may be partly due to the consistency between the cooperative learning activities and the interactionist classroom style.


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Copyright 1996 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Includes bibliographical references (leaves 62-64). Thesis (MEdSt)--University of Tasmania, 1996

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