04 SES 07 A, Rethinking Behaviour Mapping and Support in School from an Inclusive Perspective
In this paper, we focus on the notion of ‘disturbing behavior of young people in school’ to interrupt and discuss it. Disturbing behavior is said to be among the biggest challenges currently facing the education system as a whole (Carter, Stephenson, & Clayton, 2008; McKenna & Flower, 2014; Närhi, Kiiski, Peitso, & Savolainen, 2015; Shaughnessy, 2012). In the US, for instance, it has been argued that up to 50% of teachers’ and administrators’ time is spent on addressing issues related to problem behavior (McKenna & Flower, 2014). The response to this challenge globally has been to invent innumerable interventions (e.g. Nahgahgwon, Umbreit, Liaupsin, & Turton, 2010), methods (McKenna & Flower, 2014; Scarpaci, 2007), management strategies (Hester, Hendrickson, & Gable, 2009; Lewis, Romi, Qui, & Katz, 2005), implementation programs (Wheatley et al., 2009), tools (Fairbanks, Sugai, Guardino, & Lathrop, 2007; Haydon & Musti-Rao, 2011; Jeffrey, McCurdy, Ewing, & Polis, 2009), tips (Anguiano, 2001; Brainard, 2001), guidelines (Gordon, 2001) and prosocial curricula (see e.g. Lake, 2004). In short, addressing disturbing behavior has taken center stage in education.
At the same time, there is no clear or commonly agreed definition of what constitutes disturbing behavior, of how something becomes “disturbing,” or of what is disturbed. Although behavior as a concept seems straightforward and definable, several authors have called this into question (Hempel‐Jorgensen, 2009; Gillies 2011; Kauffman & Landrum, 2013; Koskela & Lanas, 2016; Laws, 2011; MacLure, Jones, Holmes, & MacRae, 2012; Millei & Petersen, 2015; OFSTED, 2005). Methods and strategies for addressing disturbing behavior encompass a wide range of issues, from severe gender-based violence to litter in the classroom. Studies of so-called disturbing behavior commonly focus on teachers’ and trainers’ perceptions, on causal attributions, or on identifying responsible actors (review in manuscript by authors). The existing literature commonly fails to interrogate the core notion of “behavior” itself or the conceptual baggage it carries (see also Millei & Petersen, 2015).
Naming “disturbing behavior” can be seen as a discursive practice that produces reality within the power relations inherent to it. Overall, use of the term “disturbing behavior” always implies some kind of power relation; the term is typically used when discussing someone who is under care. Children and youth are the groups most commonly addressed when discussing disturbing behavior (although the elderly or animals under care may also be mentioned). Notably, however, the term is not regularly applied when discussing adult men and women who are not under care. Simply to refer to an event as “disturbing behavior” with regard to children and young people has certain implications; it defines an event as a disturbance, it locates the disturbance in the child or young person, and it defines the event in terms of chosen acts (behavior). It has been argued that the norm of a well-behaving student is a particular cultural construction of studenthood that, for some, is almost impossible to perform (Grant, 1997, 101-102).
Although the concept of disturbing behavior does not refer to a clearly distinguishable or definable worldly phenomenon, it is understandable. In the discursive reality of education, “disturbing behavior of children and young people in education” is an idea that “makes sense” to the professionals in the field, within existing discursive practices. Here, we are interested in how it comes to make sense. The objective of this study was is to map the ideas, both in education and in wider societal and theoretical discourses, within which “disturbing behavior of young people in education” comes to be produced and to make sense in the everyday of education.
This theoretical study is informed by poststructural, critical, and discursive approaches. In this study, “disturbing behavior” is viewed as an assemblage of intersecting societal and theoretical power-based discourses that make claims, for example, about pupils, childhood, youth, school, teachers, education, or upbringing. The idea of disturbing behavior is seen to emerge within specific discursive frames that govern what we perceive as problematic and how we define, characterize, and approach the perceived problem. These frames that make sense of disturbing behavior are seen as discursive and not causal (MacLure et al., 2012, 450). They work to produce meaning in relation to an individual‘s conduct (Brunila, 2014, 2016), determining what becomes inscribed as (disturbing) behavior. In the study, we used theoretical tools to ‘map’ the ideas, both in education and in wider societal and theoretical discourses, within which “disturbing behavior of young people in education” comes to be produced and to make sense. We mapped the ideas that form the backdrop against which events are read and reacted to in practice – and against which disturbing behavior is an idea that makes sense. We worked back from these ideas to identify the broader discursive environments within which they, in turn, come to be produced and to make sense. We thus put the concept of disturbing behavior “under erasure” (Derrida, 2003; see also Brunila, 2009)—that is, we speak of disturbing behavior while simultaneously claiming that it does not exist as a static, nameable entity. We speak of it in order to unravel it. For present purposes “disturbing behavior” is defined as action, speech, or conduct that in some way disturbs existing understandings. As material for our study we have used existing studies and literature on disturbing behavior (and its synonyms), as well as theoretical accounts of educational practice. We have identified broader discourses reflected in the literature, and used poststructural theories for thinking about them.
Based on the study we argue that the discursive practices of medicalization, therapisation, managerialism, individualization shape the subject positions and actions available to young people (and educators) in school. In more specific: 1. The broader societal discourses of normal developmental course, medicalization, and the therapeutic ethos form a backdrop against which it makes sense to speak of education in terms of a normal developmental course and the management of students. Within such ideas, combined with societal power relations related to difference, the idea of “disturbing behavior” becomes shaped and formulated. 2. The discourse of disturbing behavior works to produce an ideal child in education, although the term is rarely used. Instead, educators tend to speak of “appropriate behavior,” - so creating the illusion of something that the young people in question can control. The idea of disturbing behavior perpetuates a deficit-approach to students. 3. Such processes construct an idea of “normal” and marginalize a minority of students in school. As Watson (2016) argues, even in the inclusive classroom, the discursively produced Other may remain separate and excluded. It is precisely by means of these processes that the “silent normal” sustains its position, in an “unrecognized and unaddressed fear of difference, which becomes constructed around a potential threat to the order (Watson, 2016, 27). 4. The idea of “disturbing behavior” conceals the societal power relations related to difference which actually determine what kind of behavior is considered preferable in school for which individuals. In school, the well-behaved child is one who, if not successfully representing the existing power hierarchies in the school and society, at least submits to them. Thus, representations of youth subcultures or home cultures in school may come to be seen as disturbing sociocultural-historical power relations and are therefore inscribed as disturbing behavior (Lanas, 2011; Youdell, 2003).
Grant, B. (1997). Disciplining students: The construction of student subjectivities. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 18(1), 101-114. doi:10.1080/0142569970180106 Gillies, V. (2011). Social and emotional pedagogies: Critiquing the new orthodoxy of emotion in classroom behaviour management. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 32(2), 185-202. doi:10.1080/01425692.2011.547305 Hempel‐Jorgensen, A. (2009). The construction of the ‘ideal pupil’ and pupils’ perceptions of ‘misbehaviour’ and discipline: Contrasting experiences from a low‐socio‐economic and a high‐socio‐economic primary school. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 30(4), 435-448. doi:10.1080/01425690902954612 Kauffman, J. M., & Landrum, T. J. (2013). Characteristics of emotional and behavioral disorders of children and youth (10. ed ed.). Boston Mass.: Pearson. Koskela, A., & Lanas, M. (2016). Fabricating expert knowledge of the behaviour of problematic students. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 24(3), 459-471. doi:10.1080/14681366.2016.1196232 Lanas, M., & Corbett, M. (2011). Disaggregating student resistances, analysing what students pursue with challenging agency . Young, the Scandinavian Journal of Youth Studies, 19(4), 415-432. Lanas, M. (2011). Smashing potatoes : Challenging student agency as utterances. Oulu: University of Oulu. Laws, C. (2011). Poststructuralism at work with marginalised children. [S.l.]: Bentham Science. MacLure, M., Jones, L., Holmes, R., & MacRae, C. (2012). Becoming a problem: Behaviour and reputation in the early years classroom. British Educational Research Journal, 38(3), 447-471. doi:10.1080/01411926.2011.552709 Millei, Z., & Petersen, E. B. (2015). Complicating ‘student behaviour’: Exploring the discursive constitution of ‘learner subjectivities’. Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties, 20(1), 20-34. doi:10.1080/13632752.2014.947097 OFSTED. (2005). A study of children and young people who present chalenging behaviour. Retrieved from http://www.scie-socialcareonline.org.uk/a-study-of-children-and-young-people-who-present-challenging-behaviour/r/a11G00000017tcxIAA Watson, K. (2016). 'Silences' in the 'inclusive' early childhood classroom: Sustaining a 'taboo'. In E. B. Petersen, & Z. Millei (Eds.), Interrupting the psy-disciplines in education (pp. 13-31). London & New York: Palgrave MacMillan. Youdell, D. (2003). Identity traps or how black students fail: The interactions between biographical, sub-cultural, and learner identities. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 24(1), 3-20. doi:10.1080/0142569032000043579
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