Decision-making processes used by teachers and its impact on practice

Year: 1998

Author: McCallum, Faye, Johnson, Bruce

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teachers report most cases of suspected child abuse and neglect (Angus and Wilkinson, 1993) but recent research in South Australia (Johnson, 1995) and overseas (Elliot, 1996) suggests that up to 40% of teachers who suspect child abuse do not report their suspicions to welfare agencies. Many varied reasons have been suggested for under-reporting with mandated professionals other than teachers. The identified factors, although included in the current training program for mandated notifiers in South Australia, have implications for children in the care of professionals.

Little has been written about teachers and the under-reporting that exists and little is known about the decision-making processes used by professionals when they consider cases of suspected child abuse and neglect. Because of this lack of knowledge, a qualitative study was undertaken to investigate the decision-making strategies used by teachers. The research revealed that there was a mismatch between training approaches in the area of mandatory reporting and the demands of the actual decision-making in the field. The training approach being largely rational and information based and the decision-making being intuitive and emotion charged.

This research is significant, it counts, and it impacts upon the educational practice and well-being of children. It provides a sound foundation to influence educational policy and practice, and research into both the decision-making of other professionals and the development of appropriate professional development programs for teachers.