Date of Submission

11-2017

Abstract

In recent decades, there has been a shift away from authoritarian, punitive discipline in school communities and a movement towards approaches that promote inclusion, respectful relationships, and understanding. This shift was due to growing concerns about the negative impact of bullying and victimisation that was not resolved using traditional punitive measures. Whole-school restorative practices is an approach that has been reported as successful, in not only addressing misbehaviour as it occurs, but also as a preventive measure that builds social and emotional skills for all those within the school community.

The aim of this research was to explore teachers’ and students’ personal experiences of restorative practices and the use of discipline in their school communities. A qualitative approach was undertaken to explore these aims using one-on-one interviews with teachers and focus groups with students. A qualitative approach was considered the most appropriate means to understand the participants’ lives and experiences and to gain depth of information. This allowed for exploration of culture and context through the lived experiences of the individuals. It was anticipated that the research could be used by other schools to create understanding regarding the implementation and sustainability of restorative practices.

Six schools participated in the study from government, Catholic and independent providers. One-on-one interviews were held with 14 teachers (three male and 11 female) from the six schools. Sixty students participated in focus groups (one group at each school). Students were recruited from either Year 6 (age 11–12 years old) or Year 9 (age 14–15 years old). School principals completed a basic demographic questionnaire.

This study found that there were discrepancies in teachers’ and students’ perceptions of the use of restorative practices. Teachers tended to resort to punitive approaches, whereas students expressed a desire for greater use of restorative practices to build social skills. Despite the discrepancies, both students and teachers described key benefits of restorative practices for the whole school community. This led the researcher to propose a user-friendly framework that draws together the themes described and were considered as supporting social skills: harmony, empathy, awareness and accountability, respect, and thinking of others (HEART). The aim of the HEART framework is to offer a simplified understanding on the benefits of restorative practices, which was considered time consuming and complex by teachers. The HEART framework sees a move towards restorative practices as a social-emotional learning program.

The findings highlighted the challenges faced when implementing and sustaining restorative practices. These challenges include those related to institutional factors (e.g. training) and those related to personal beliefs (e.g. the belief that a punitive discipline measure is more effective). A key recommendation is that prevention and early intervention programs, such as restorative practices in school communities, need ongoing support from federal and state governments. This is particularly important for programs that improve social-emotional learning outcomes for young people. Investing in the lives of young people is an investment in both their futures and the future health and wellbeing of communities throughout the world.

School/Institute

Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

Document Type

Thesis

Access Rights

Open Access

Extent

395 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Faculty

Faculty of Health Sciences

Share

 
COinS