Developing and enacting humane behaviour policies and practices

Year: 2014

Author: Anna, Sullivan, Bruce, Johnson, Larry, Owens, Bob, Conway, Billl, Lucas, Mel, Baak

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Behaviour in schools continues to attract political and public attention internationally as concerns about uncontrollable and disorderly students prevail. In Australia, federal and state governments develop behaviour-polices and legal requirements to assist schools to provide safe and orderly learning environments. Additionally, education systems and other authorities develop policies, directives and procedures for schools to implement, or enact, to help control students. These polices can be complementary or contradictory as they attend to problems like truancy, child abuse, bullying and school defiance. Schools are left to make sense of this profusion of policies and enact them as particular programs and initiatives at the school level in ways to promote ‘good' behaviour. Little research has investigated the ways schools do this work, that is reconcile contrasting behaviour policies and approaches in order to support student behaviour. This study draws on policy enactment literature to help understand the complex work schools do to interpret, translate and enact behaviour related policies (Ball, et al., 2012). This view of policy enactment recognises that policy actors adopt different roles and that the context is very important in shaping this work. Furthermore, this study draws on insights from research on the micropolitics of schools to shed light on the strategies and tactics leaders use to influence policy development and enactment in their school. This research was guided by the following questions: How do schools interpret, reconcile and make decisions about what student behaviour research, legislation and advice to consider when developing local student behaviour policies? What micropolitical skills and understandings do they employ to do this work? In-depth case studies were conducted to investigate policy work related to student behaviour in five schools. Four kinds of data were collected: contextual information; policy texts; observations; and semi-structured and focus-group interviews with school leaders, teachers, and other staff. Following data analysis, the themes are summarised in a framework for developing and enacting humane behaviour policies and practices in schools. This paper presents an overview of these themes and their interrelatedness. This paper indicates that schools can enact various policies in a coherent way to support students. In particular, school leaders can interrupt dominant traditional discourses about school discipline, student conformity, and punitive responses to unproductive behaviour by developing a strong philosophy and associated practices that place children's wellbeing and engagement at the centre of their work.