04 SES 07 A, Rethinking Behaviour Mapping and Support in School from an Inclusive Perspective
A wide range of terminology, definitions and indeed questions (Williams et al., 2009) exist in the deliberations on Emotional Disturbance/Behavioural Disorder (EBD). However, Cooper and Jacobs (2011) state that it refers to “a group of children within an educational setting who present with disturbing and/or disruptive behaviour that interferes with social functioning and academic engagement…their behaviour may be termed ‘acting-out’ (disruptive) or ‘acting-in’ (showing withdrawal and/or avoidance) … emotional disturbance is often an associated feature of both ‘acting-in’ and ‘acting out’ types as either an underlying or outcome factor.” (p.8) EBD is associated with recurring patterns of functional impairment impacting on academic, social/communicative and vocational outcomes (Kaya et al., 2015). Anderson, Fisher and Marchant et al. (2006) acknowledge the importance of an inclusive school setting for successful implementation of interventions for students with EBD. This research paper focuses on an alternative school-based model of provision for students with EBD geared towards improving social-emotional wellbeing and academic outcomes for at-risk students. It involves the provision of additional teaching hours, rather than the allocation of para-professionals to engage with the student with EBD. The provision of additional support has the potential to enhance the education of students with EBD, however, literature attests that the presence of additional paraprofessionals does not automatically result in improved educational or social outcomes (Giangreco and Doyle, 2007). Factors have been identified in the literature that influence and contribute to the effectiveness of additional classroom support, including the creation of a collaborative working environment, effective management of support, training of support staff, and student involvement (Department of Education and Skills, 2011).
In the alternative school-based model of provision for students with EBD, second level schools were provided with resources, in the form of teaching hours, to support students with EBD and given autonomy in how they utilised these hours. The model was perceived as a way of resourcing second level schools to assist students with EBD in accessing the curriculum and engaging with it in a more inclusive manner. The rationale behind the alternative model was that students with EBD require additional teaching in self-management of behaviour from qualified teachers, rather than care support provided by paraprofessionals.
The research investigated whether an additional teaching allocation provided to the research schools for students with EBD was a more inclusive, proactive and holistic approach because it could address education and wellbeing needs, as opposed to an allocation of paraprofessional support. Therefore, the remit of the research was to review the alternative school-based model of provision for students with EBD with the aim of identifying its strengths, drawbacks and areas for development.
An interpretive paradigm guided this research. The central aim of the interpretive paradigm is to understand the subjective world of human experience (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2007). The interpretive paradigm uses qualitative methods that allows the researchers to get the personal views of the research interviewees. A key aspect of the interpretive paradigm, is that it doesn’t claim to represent all potential respondents, rather it holds that information gained from this approach can provide vital evidence (Reid, 1996).
Qualitative research is a systematic approach to understanding qualities or the essential nature of a phenomenon within a certain context (Brantlinger et al., 2005). It seeks to create an understanding of a concept from the perspective of the chosen population of the study (Kothari, 2004) and it is concerned with subjective assessment of opinions, social contexts, attitudes and behaviour through the use of research tools such as document analysis, and interviews.
A mixed methods approach was used, where primary data was collected through face to face semi-structured interviews with school stakeholders, as well as, external Department of Education and Skills personnel who engaged in tele-interviews. The use of semi-structured interviews was deemed as the most appropriate means of collecting the data. The interview is a useful method of exploring people’s perceptions, meanings, definitions of situations, and constructions of reality (Punch & Oancea, 2014). This was paramount in establishing the participants’ views in this study. The participants were able to discuss their perception of the strengths and benefits, drawbacks and areas for development of the project during the interview process. A review of Irish and international literature in the area of EBD was conducted to inform the content of the research instruments. Secondary data was collected through documentary analysis. This involved scrutiny of school documentation including policy documents, Individual Education Plans (IEPs), student attendance records and assessment data. Documents were evaluated and critiqued on four criteria: namely, authenticity (genuineness); credibility (accurate, free from bias and errors); representativeness (typical of its type), and meaning (clear and unambiguous) (Denscombe, 2004). The sample comprised of 13 schools involved in the alternative model of provision. The total number of interviewees across 13 schools was 107. Interviewees included school principals, students with EBD, parents / guardians, teachers and paraprofessionals. In addition, seven external personnel were interviewed. Analysis of the data was guided by the phases of thematic analysis as outlined by Braun and Clarke (2006). This involved the researchers familiarising themselves with the data from the interviews conducted and documents gathered, generating initial codes, searching for themes, reviewing themes, and defining and naming themes. The effectiveness of the process was ensured through the involvement of all four researchers independently coding all semi-structured interview transcripts (Creswell, 2007) and analysing the documentation received.
The alternative model of support facilitated the positive engagement of most students with EBD in the research schools, which resulted in academic success and attainment, the development of positive behaviour, and holistic gains. There were fewer instances of student removal from class, while the rate of detentions, suspensions decreased and school attendance and retention increased. In terms of academic success, most schools reported better academic results for the students with EBD who received support through the model. The ability to support the holistic needs of the student was testified as a particular strength of the model. Most schools testified to the increased independence, confidence and development of social skills of students with EBD. Responsibility taking and engagement in extracurricular activities were perceived as positive holistic gains for many students involved in the model. This enhanced the student’s relationships with their peers and teachers. There were significant variances between the 13 research schools regarding the operationalisation of the project, largely due to the autonomy given to schools by the DES with regard to the provision, and in part due to the varying cultures that existed within the schools. Constructive collaborative approaches between teachers through team teaching practices led to a sharing of responsibility for behaviour management and the advancement of learning of students with EBD. Where a team teaching culture did not exist in a school, there were difficulties in the planning and management for team teaching as well as matching skill sets and personalities of respective teachers. The alternative model of support requires continuing professional development (CPD) to ensure inclusive practices for all staff working with students with EBD. Whole school CPD would be beneficial in the areas of appropriate assessment, planning and evidence based interventions for EBD.
Anderson, D. H., Fisher, A., Marchant, M., Young, K. and Smith, J. A. (2006) The cool card intervention: a positive support strategy for managing anger. Beyond Behavior, 16 (1): 3–13. Brantlinger, E., Jimenez, R., Klinger, J., Pugach, M. and Richardson, V. (2005) Qualitative studies in special education. Exceptional Children, 71, pp 195-207. Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3: 77-101. Cohen, L. Manion, L. and Morrison K. (2011). Research Methods in Education. London: Routledge Falmer. Cooper, P. and Jacobs, B. (2011) Evidence of Best Practice Models and Outcomes in the Education of Children with Emotional Disturbance/ Behavioural Difficulties: An International Review. Meath: NCSE. National Council for Special Education Research Report No. 7. Creswell, J. W. (2007) Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing among Five Approaches. (2nd Edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Denscombe, M. (2004) The Good Research Guide for Small Scale Social Research Projects (2nd Edition). Open University Press: Berkshire. Department of Education and Skills (2011) The Special Needs Assistant Scheme: A Value for Money Review of Expenditure on the Special Needs Assistant Scheme 2007/8-2010. Dublin: The Stationery Office. Giangreco, M.F. and Doyle, M. B. (2007) Teacher Assistants in Inclusive Schools, In Florian, L. (ed) The Sage Handbook of Special Education, Thousand Oaks: Sage, pp. 429-439. Kaya, C., Blake, J. and Chan, F (2015) Peer-mediated interventions with elementary and secondary school students with emotional and behavioural disorders: A literature review. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 15(2) :120–129. Kothari, C. (2004) Research Methodology: Methods and Techniques. New Delhi: Wiley Eastern. Punch, K. F. & Oancea, A. (2014) Introduction to Research Methods in Education (2nd Edition). London: Sage Publishers. Reid, A. J. (1996) What we want: Qualitative research. Canadian Family Physician, 42, pp 387-389. Williams J., Greene, S., Doyle, E., Harris E., McDaid, R., Mc Nally, S., Merriman, B., Nixon, E., and Swords, L. (2009) Growing Up in Ireland – National Longitudinal Study of Children [collection], Maynooth: Irish Qualitative Data Archive.
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