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Student challenging behaviour and its impact on classroom culture: An investigation into how challenging behaviour can affect the learning culture in New Zealand primary schools

Managing challenging behaviour in the classroom is a problem faced by all teachers. Challenging behaviour is any form of behaviour that interferes with children's learning or normal development; is harmful to the child, other children or adults; or puts a child in a high risk category for later social problems or school failure. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the link between undesirable behaviours of students and their effect on classroom learning culture, as one of the key factors in behaviour management is in understanding why challenging behaviour occurs. The qualitative nature of this research allowed for the exploration of both teacher and student narratives by learning from their experiences regarding challenging behaviour and its effect on a classroom learning culture. The literature review revealed that it is important, that teachers have a personal definition of challenging behaviour and reflect on their own personal beliefs and the beliefs of others regarding the understanding of challenging behaviours. Research, reviewed in Chapter 2 has indicated that challenging behaviour is strongly context dependent as seen particularly in the impact of different cultural contexts on that behaviour, that learning and behaviour are socially and culturally acquired and that academic learning and social learning are interconnected. It is the teachers' responsibility to initiate a classroom culture that recognises the connections between learning and behaviour, especially when there are a number of cultures represented. This type of classroom culture must be acceptable to, and shared by both students and teachers, must recognise and respond to cultural difference, and must avoid deficit thinking about minoritized cultures. To achieve this, teachers need to be the ones that change the most as they are the ones who hold the power to do so. Successful teachers need to place a high value on forming mutually respectful, trusting and positive relationships with their students which will create classrooms and schools that are safe and caring and allow a stronger focus on realising potential and encourage learning. The most effective way of forming such relationships is to learn to listen to and respect student voice. The outcomes of this study confirm findings in literature by demonstrating, that a close, positive and supportive relationship between teacher and students are essential for developing learning potential and for responding appropriately to challenging behaviour. Recognition of student voice is central to achieving these aims. Teachers also need to be aware of cultural difference and be prepared to make shifts in their thinking so that their own culture does not totally dominate in the classroom. In this study, the student and teacher participants were representative of both Māori and European ethnicity and the findings suggest that their assertions regarding how challenging behaviours affects learning were noticeably similar. This suggests perhaps that the participants in this study felt they were in a culturally safe environment where the teachers' culture did not always dominate.
Type of thesis
Langley, D. J. (2009). Student challenging behaviour and its impact on classroom culture: An investigation into how challenging behaviour can affect the learning culture in New Zealand primary schools (Thesis, Master of Educational Leadership (MEdLeadership)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2796
The University of Waikato
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