“Schoolwork” And “Teachers”: Disaffected Boys Talk About The Problems With School

Year: 2015

Author: Graham, Linda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports research that draws on the formative experiences and perspectives of boys enrolled in special schools for severely disruptive behaviour in Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales. The objective of the research was to examine these boys’ reasons for disliking school to learn what specific features could be changed to make mainstream schools more accommodating to them. This research draws on a disability studies/inclusive education framework to critically examine the ecology of the mainstream school from the perspective of those who have been excluded from it.
Thirty-three boys, aged between 9 and 16 years of age (average 13.5 years), each participated in a nine-part semi-structured interview. Individual responses to six structured questions, including “Do you like school?” “When did you begin to dislike school?” “What happened to make you start disliking school?” “What do you like least about school?” “What do you get in trouble for at school?” “Was there anything that your previous school could have done differently?” were coded using inductive content analysis (Berg, 2001) and are presented using descriptive statistics. Open-ended prompts were issued to encourage participants to voice their perspectives and to further examine issues that were raised by the participants themselves.
Thirty-three boys, aged between 9 and 16 years of age, each participated in a nine-part semi-structured interview that opened with the question “Do you like school?” Not surprisingly, almost 90 percent responded negatively. These boys were then asked to describe when they first began to dislike school, what had triggered their dislike, what they liked least about school, what they tended to get in trouble for, and whether their previous (mainstream) school/s could have done anything differently. The main themes to emerge from these boys’ responses indicate that:
• The majority (65%) first began experiencing difficulties in the early years of school (K-4)
• Their main problems with school are “schoolwork” (44%) and “teachers” (30%)
• In the main, they do not enjoy academic work (66%)
• Academic task avoidance is the main reason they get in trouble at school (77%)
Responses suggest that a perceived lack of care, understanding and support from teachers negatively affects these students’ perceptions of teachers and their classroom behaviour, but also, that schools can make a difference by paying more attention, being less biased and providing boys who begin to experience difficulties in school and with learning with more understanding and help.