Building peer support to aid student learning

Year: 2015

Author: MacDonald, Gail, Boon, Helen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This article reports on a qualitative investigation into support provided to children with a parent on overseas military deployment. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with teachers, parents and Defence School Transition Aides (DSTAs) who have supported children through a parental deployment. Defence School Transition Aides (DSTAs) work in partnership with teachers, parents and the school administration to assist children to address their emotional needs in order to maintain their academic focus and engagement.
Student support throughout parental deployment is a key feature of the Defence School Transition Aide (DSTA) program. Children demonstrate a range of individual responses to parental deployment influenced by their personal biography, their nature and their response to changes in their family environment brought about by the deployment. DSTAs work in partnership with teachers to respond to children’s unique needs on an individual basis when needed, matching the level and complexity of the intervention to the level of child need. Most children cope well when a parent is deployed with support from home and school. About one third of children require additional assistance to develop coping strategies to manage strong emotional responses to their parent’s absence and inappropriate behaviours.
Problematic child behaviour related to emotional responses can interfere with learning and place additional pressures on the teacher and the classroom environment. Meeting children’s and students’ emotional needs can in some circumstances be beyond the capacity of the classroom teacher working within the constraints of the classroom environment. About 1-2% of children/students benefit from a creative intervention specifically designed to meet their unique needs.
This article reports findings from four child cases studies whose learning access and engagement was enhanced by the facilitation of increased peer support. In each case the additional peer and teacher support generated by the intervention assisted the children to develop adaptive coping strategies to manage their overwhelming emotional responses to a parental deployment.