Current Research Question Forum

Are we talking about caring relationships or compliant behaviour?

Following pilots in some classes and evaluations of research, we are seeking to remove rewards for behaviour. We would rather look at the question of behaviour in the classroom as essentially how can we, that is the classroom community, support all our members in forming consistently positive relationships.

Classrooms which operate as communities encourage children to take an active role in classroom governance. The authority structure of the classroom is an important determinant of students’ experience of community and of some of its observed effects. Comparison of two contrasting research programmes has shown that the style of governance makes a difference. In one school, where they followed a behaviourist model, positive student behaviour was more often defined as diligence, compliance and respect for authority. In the other school, which looked at developing community responsibility and collaborative support for learning behaviours, positive student behaviour was seen more as as interpersonal helpfulness, concern and understanding. It was clear that ten-year-olds’ interpersonal behaviour was more helpful and supportive in the latter. Through practices such as the class meeting to discuss issues of concern, pupils worked collaboratively with the teacher to develop solutions to discipline problems. Teachers avoided extrinsic incentives (rewards as well as punishments) so that children developed their own reasons for positive actions other than ‘what’s in it for me?’ In general the greater the sense of community among the students in such a class, the more favourable their outcomes on measures of prosocial values, helping, conflict resolution skill, responses to transgressions, motivation to help others learn, and intrinsic motivation.

Sense of classroom community is positively related to higher-level moral reasoning based on internalised values and norms, and negatively related to lower-level reasoning based on conformity to authority, social approval or disapproval, or reward and punishment.

Students in schools with a strong sense of community are more likely to act ethically and altruistically and to develop social and emotional competencies.

We will let you know how we get on!

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