Home' Teacher : December 2009 Contents LEADERSHIP 55
Finding ways to resolve challenging
behaviours within the classroom is likely to
have better outcomes for students and staff.
Teachers know their students best and there
are advantages to dealing with issues when
and where they arise. School leaders can pro-
vide support for their teachers by spending
time in the classroom if requested. Allocating
time in staff meetings to discuss challeng-
ing situations, generate ideas and exchange
information with colleagues is important.
There are a number of evidence-based
approaches that seek to prevent the occur-
rence of challenging student behaviours.
These include programs that teach students
social, interpersonal and anger management
skills, as well as ways to resolve conflict. An
example is the Friendly Schools and Families
program. Following training, schools can
provide opportunities for students to prac-
tise their skills in a range of activities across
the entire curriculum.
For a number of years, Victorian schools
have adopted whole-school approaches
based on attachment and social-support
models. These seek to promote the health
and wellbeing of students and engage them
with learning. The Adolescent Health and
Social Environments program is based on
the pioneering work done in the Gatehouse
project. This stresses the importance of
reducing risk factors and enhancing pro-
tective factors in the school environment.
The strategy focuses on enhancing stu-
dents' sense of connectedness to school and
increasing individual skills and knowledge
for coping with life's ups and downs. Three
key areas of action are identified: building a
sense of security and trust, enhancing com-
munication and social connectedness, and
building a sense of positive regard though
valued participation in all aspects of school
If students are happy and secure in their
school environment and have positive rela-
tionships with their teachers, they're less
likely to develop behaviours that lead to
Another established, albeit under-
researched, approach is the use of restora-
tive justice practices implemented at the
whole-school level. These seek to include
the student engaging in challenging behav-
iour, those affected by the student's actions
and significant others in the community in
a shared process of problem-solving. The
focus is on maintaining relationships and
undoing the harm. This may be as straight-
for ward as a student taking responsibility
and giving an apology, or repairing the
damage done to property.
But what about that rotten apple?
Is there realdangerin retainingtroublemakers
at school? Research shows that pairing a
student with a challenging behaviour and a
student without that challenging behaviour
has merit. It offers positive outcomes for the
student with a challenging behaviour, with
no adverse effect on the other student.
Students can benefit from helping
those around them who are struggling.
Cooperative skills are important qualities
for young people to develop that can be
applied throughout their lives. Learning
to work alongside individuals with a wide
range of characteristics and capabilities
while managing their own work load is also
a useful ability.
The bottom line
If schools are to continue to develop and
apply alternative preventive approaches ,
appropriately-trained staff and adequate
resou rces are needed. Teachers with spe-
cific training in behaviour management are
better able to deal confidently with a range
of different situations in their classrooms.
While there are postgraduate courses to
support teachers in this area, undergradu-
ate course work in student management
is rarely adequate. Many who are new to
teaching are left to their own devices and
are dependent upon on-the-job training,
and the mentoring and guidance of more
experienced staff members. Unfortunately,
this often happens once they're already con-
fronted by issues in the classroom.
The good news is that recent changes in
policy should stimulate the fu rther develop-
ment of effective alternatives to suspension,
althoughthese needtobe evaluatedtobetter
understand their efficacy. We have an oppor-
tunity for change that requires broad sup-
port for school staff, and sufficient resou rces
and funding from governing bodies.
She ryl Hemphill is a se nior researcher at
the Centre for Adolesce nt Health at the
Royal Children's Hospital, Department
of Paediatrics, in association with the
University of Melbourne and the Murdoch
Children's Research Institute.
John Hargreaves is a freelance writer and
desktop publishe r with an interest in writ-
ing for and about young people. He has
worked on health promotion in schools
and the Gatehouse project for many years.
This article was made possible by funding
from The R.E. Ross Trust and the Collier
For more inform ation about the Friendly
Schools and Families program, visit
For more inform ation about the
Gatehouse project, visit www.rch.org.au/
For more inform ation about the
Inte rn ational Youth Development Study,
For more inform ation about the Youth
Pathways program , visit w ww.dest.gov.
au/sectors/career_de velopment/pro -
He mphill, S.A., Toumbourou, J.W.,
He rrenkohl, T.I., McMorris, B.J. &
Catalano. R.F. (2006). The effect of
school suspensions and arrests on subse -
quent adolescent antisocial behavior in
Australia and the United States. Jour n al
of Adolesc ent Health. 39(5): 736-744.
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