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Problems caused by punishing inside the classrooms

Against this background a research project was undertaken in which the types and causes of disruptive behaviour occurring most frequently in the Foundation Phase of schooling were problems caused by punishing inside the classrooms, with a view to providing strategies for teachers to manage behaviour of this kind.

A qualitative research approach was applied. Data collection was done by conducting interviews comprising semistructured questions with Foundation Phase teachers. Strategies purposely devised to deal specifically with the identified types and causes of disruptive behaviour are explained. Misbehaving learners and disciplinary problems are a disproportionate and intractable part of every teacher's experience of teaching. Teachers in South Africa are becoming increasingly distressed about disciplinary problems in schools, as corporal punishment has been outlawed by legislation, such as the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Republic of South Africa, 1996a and the South African Schools Act Republic of South Africa, 1996b.

Some sectors of society have reacted positively, claiming that the said legislation affirms human dignity, but others have expressed concern, contending that there are no viable alternatives to corporal punishment. In response to a public outcry, the government launched a national project on discipline in South African schools in 2000.

Many of the recommendations emanating from the project were published in a booklet entitled Alternatives to corporal punishment: The booklet containing guidelines on alternatives to corporal punishment was disseminated in an effort to combat the escalating disciplinary problems in schools. In spite of this support from the National Department of Education, the following headline appeared in the media Rademeyer, 2001: Rademeyer's comments focused renewed attention on the jaundiced view of discipline that became evident after corporal punishment was abolished.

Teachers who used to rely on reactive measures such as corporal punishment to address disruptive behaviour now have to develop alternative proactive measures to preempt disruptive behaviour. This leads to the research question: What types and causes of disruptive behavior can be identified in the Foundation Phase of schooling with a view to providing strategies that teachers can employ to prevent such behaviour?

Project outline In light of the above, a project was undertaken to achieve a threefold aim: The project focused on Foundation Phase learners, firstly because learners in this phase are in a developmental stage where they need to seriously master the laws of society and learn to abide by rules and behave in appropriate ways.

Secondly, this developmental stage coincides with the beginning of formal schooling when the learning environment is structured according to the rules applicable to formal schooling. Thirdly, this stage is also the appropriate time to focus on managing disruptive behaviour as a means of assisting learners to cultivate a self-disciplined lifestyle.

Before unpacking the empirical section of the research in detail, a brief outline is given of the theoretical foundation on which the research was based, to which end the literature on disruptive behaviour is revisited.

Systems theory approach This research is predicated on a general systems theory approach. A system is a group of interrelated, interdependent and problems caused by punishing inside the classrooms elements that form a coherent whole.

General systems theory emphasises that a system can only be understood as an integrated whole and not as a set of discrete elements, since elements do not necessarily behave individually as they would in a specific context. Therefore the complex of relationships between elements in a system is key to understanding the system.

Families, schools and society are regarded as social systems that interact with each other, are dependent on and influenced by each other Laszlo, 1972: A pattern of mutual dependency exists". Furthermore, context is a key concept within general systems theory.

The focus is on the interactive processes of which the individual is a part Gladwell, 1999 in Naong, 2007: Often the causes of disruptive behaviour are attributed entirely to the learner.

However this kind of assessment, which presumes a linear relationship between cause and effect, is simplistic, unlike systems theory, which provides an alternative theoretical framework for understanding and dealing with behaviour in a broader context consisting of the individual, family, school and society Plas, 1986: Thus "when a learner presents with disruptive behaviour, the teacher has to view the behaviour within the context of the learner's life and come to an understanding of the forces that shape the life of the learner" Naong, 2007: Note further that learners' lives play out in virtually endless permutations as they interact with and are shaped by forces within the individual internal system and outside of the individual external systems.

Yoon and Kuchinkie 2005: Whatever the case, the interaction between systems is a given and the impact of these relationships can be understood by analysing and investigating the elements of each system to determine why systems and interactions may be unhealthy.

Elements in particular systems, for example, would be learners' disruptive behaviour element in the system school and parents element in the system society.

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One of the dominant goals of a system, however, is that it is driven by a survival motive and a felt need for stability which ties in with the survival motive.

A system is designed to seek self-maintenance. In this process of self-maintenance a system generates creative forces within itself that enable it to alter circumstances and in any case the system cannot remain healthy if it precludes the possibility of change Cain, 1999: In the system under discussion the schoollearners' disruptive behaviour is a threat which seriously challenges the health, and ultimately the prospects for survival, of the system.

It is problems caused by punishing inside the classrooms important to examine the element 'disruptive behaviour' carefully with a view to devising strategies for the optimal survival of the system in the sense that it can function consistently to best advantage. Defining the concept of disruptive behaviour According to Gordon and Browne 2004: According to Mabeba and Prinsloo 2000: For the purposes of this research, concepts such as misconduct and misbehaviour are treated under the rubric of disruptive behaviour.

Brief outline of identified types of disruptive behaviour For Levin and Nolan 1996: Furthermore they classify disruptive behaviour into four basic categories: Levin and Nolan 1996: These common forms of disruptive behaviour exist to some extent in all classrooms. They are called surface behaviours because they are usually not the result of deep-seated personal problems, but normal developmental behaviour of children.

On the other hand, according to Rayment 2006: It is often a subset of revenge seeking and one in five boys will resort to violent physical conflict. Fighting is reputed among learners to be the best way of resolving their conflict situations.

Classroom Management Strategies for Teacher-Caused Student Misbehavior

According to Rayment 2006: Another example of serious disruptive behaviour that negatively affects problems caused by punishing inside the classrooms the emotional and physical experiences of learners in the school is bullying, defined for the South African context by Neser, Ovens, Van der Merwe, Morad and Ladikos in Booyens, 2003: According to these authors, bullying exists in the classrooms and on the playgrounds of all schools around the world.

As a teacher, Bott 2004: The next most frequent forms of bullying included physical blows administered to, or threats uttered against, chosen victims, and the spreading of malicious rumours. Other forms of bullying such as dispossessing fellow learners of their belongings were less frequent. Typically studies of the incidence of bullying have shown that more boys are involved in bullying than girls Smit, 2003: General causes of disruptive behaviour The literature presents an array of factors that may cause or be conducive to disruptive behavior Steward, 2004: An emerging tendency in research into this topic is the identification of risk factors that could be conducive to disruptive behaviour.

These factors or variables can be inherent in the individual internal systembut also in the broader social context or external systems in which the individual operates. The presence of such factors is associated with disruptive behaviour, thus the presence of the factor is associated with an increased risk of antisocial behaviour.

Shaw and Tshiwula in Maree, 2003: The more risk factors present in the different system contexts, the greater the chances of disruptive behaviour.

For the purposes of the research under review, the risk factors, to which Foundation Phase learners are exposed, are discussed as factors emanating from internal and external systems. Factors related to internal systems Internal system factors, categorized as learner-related factors, include the following: According to Erikson's stage theory, the Foundation Phase learner is typically in the fourth stage of development, for which the defining characteristic is stated as industry versus inferiority 6-12 years.

The major theme for development in this stage is attaining mastery of life, primarily by conforming to the laws imposed by society laws, rules, relationships and by the physical characteristics of the world in which they have to live.

If learners have to struggle inwardly with a sense of guilt and feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy and inferiority, it is most likely that their behaviour will not conform to what is expected by society or required for purely practical reasons; in other words, their behaviour will tend to be maladaptive. Furthermore, Foundation Phase learners are still learning about their world by touching and doing.

This explains why it is so difficult for them to sit still, which is regarded as a tendency to misbehave.

What Every Teacher Should Know About…Punishment Techniques and Student Behavior Plans

Reviewing notes on children's developmental stages can help refresh teachers' memories and assist problems caused by punishing inside the classrooms in making age-appropriate rules. It cannot be expected that young learners who come from divergent circumstances will automatically know and understand what Payne in Tilestone, 2004: These hidden rules are mostly based on middle-class ideals and values.

It is important for teachers to teach learners that there is a set of behaviours and communication standards that work in situations where they come from and that there is another set of behaviours and speech patterns that will make them successful at school. When learners come from disadvantaged environments such as living in squatter camps, on the streets or in abusive family scenarios, where language is coarse and loud and where stealing is a way of surviving, they need to be taught what is expected of them in the classroom.

Making rules clear and explaining with the aid of concrete examples can help relieve their ignorance Gootman, 1997: For example, a young learner who is asked to open a book at a certain page may be tempted to first flip through the book before doing so.

This may happen more often if the learner comes from a poor socioeconomic background where books are normally not freely available. He insists that these perceptions are derived from mainstream society's invalidation of African culture.

The report includes details of incidents of racism and the prevalence of racism in schools. The challenge to the South African teacher is therefore to become knowledgeable about and sensitive to the needs of learners from a variety of cultures and family structures, and to accept all learners equally. A huge problem in desegregated schools is the disparity between the English proficiency of black learners and the proficiency required problems caused by punishing inside the classrooms them in order to master all the learning areas through the medium of English.

When placed in classes where the ability to communicate fluently in idiomatic English is often assumed, these learners find themselves at risk of underachievement.

In this regard Lund 1996: Research further claims that poor parental discipline and lack of parental warmth, sensitivity and attention due to factors such as divorce or job commitments have been responsible for the occurrence of persistent misbehaviour during middle childhood and adolescence Pienaar, 2003: Ironically these are often children who either come from families where the children are powerless, or from families where the children are in control in which case they may also feel powerless, for example, because they feel abandoned and overwhelmed Gootman, 1997: Furthermore, learners learn a lot by copying behaviour they observe around them.

What to Consider Before Using Punishment Techniques.

Watching television, as well as playing computer and videogames, influences young people to be heroes and stresses the need for power, control and aggressive behaviour. The media therefore inspire learners to emulate what they see. Some learners create disciplinary problems by indulging in violent behaviour because they are angry and resentful and are not mentally and emotionally equipped to handle their strong feelings or express their anger constructively.

They lash out blindly without thinking. Recent learner integration in classrooms aggravates the situation. For example, in a community where there has been a long history of racial intolerance, there could be a great deal of unresolved anger Fourie, 2008: This is all the more reason for teachers to be well-acquainted with the culture of learners attending their classes and with any unresolved anger they may be harbouring.

Factors related to external systems External system-related factors can be categorised as factors related to the family, school and society: Lack of parental guidance and dysfunctional families are continually emphasised as risk factors. It stands to reason that if children are exposed to aggressive displays between the adult partners who are their role models at home, they will carry these experiences with them into the school.

Wolhuter and Oosthuizen 2003: