1.1 Overview of the Topic
Middle school is a level of study that involves the transition of students from being children to teenagers, and such children are faced by both internal and external changes. Internally, they are facing the onset of hormonal changes occasioned by the onset of adolescence while externally they grapple with esteem issues and the need for freedom. Children in middle school present a complex disciplinary conundrum that requires tact and skill to manage effectively. This is in part due to idea of figuring out criteria for social interactions and in part due to minimal or lack of understanding on matters relating to respect (Eriwn, & Soodak, 2012).
Teacher and counselors across American middle schools are constantly solving respect related conflicts leading to confrontation within the school. Most infractions can be solved through arbitration and minor disciplinary measures such as detention after class. In other instances the cases amount to juvenile delinquency and may require the intervention of parents, teachers, counselors and the state.
1.2 Definition of the Problem
Middle school is the problem child of school disciplinary problems. Records from the last 10 years have shown that children in middle school display the most aggressive behavior. They also have the highest recorded incidence of bullying and indiscipline in the education system. These damning statistics have prevailed albeit with marginal improvement in some jurisdictions despite continued school initiated interventions. The main problem is the absence of a comprehensive broad-based solution in the face of traditional and emerging disciplinary issues in middle school
1.3 Organizational context
The American education system is categorized into 3 levels: elementary school, middle school and high school. Children enroll into elementary school as early as age 5 and are expected to be through with the high school by age 18. Education is funded by the federal, state and local governments. Locally elected school boards set the policies for the school district curriculum, funding and teaching programs. School districts enjoy budgetary autonomy which allows them to run their affairs independent of the local government.
Each state and, therefore, by extension each school district tackles indiscipline independently. Consequently, there as many approaches to discipline as there are school districts. Bullying is prevalent within American schools. Disrespect among young children breeds a host of infractions including bullying. Most schools use a school-wide approach. Teachers, students and school administrators play a proactive role in the solution of disciplinary problems. The responsibility of maintaining discipline and correcting errant students is vested entirely on the parties within the school system.
The school wide approach to discipline assumes that teachers and students are capable of solving deviant behavior since most infractions occur within the school setting. This theory ignores the contribution of the community in the correction of young children. Parents are particularly pivotal in the role of providing examples, instructions and correction to their children
1.4 Existing Research
In reviewing the existing research, the focus is on Watson’s arguments based on his book Learning to Trust: Transforming Difficult Elementary Classrooms through Developmental Discipline. It also includes references to systems theory, action science theory, and change theory.
According to Watson (2003) developing respect among middle school students is a critical element in child management. It is extremely essential for every student to develop respect, not only to satisfy their egos and reduce infractions to offices, but also to improve their interrelation with other members of the school and society. Additionally, respect is essential in promoting students’ relationship with their teachers and parents, as well as in providing grounds for his behavior and attitude towards all other members in society. Eriwn and Soodak (2012); Watson (2003) stresses that establishing respect among the middle school students is a foundation of their later stance on parental authority, law and police, the individuals with whom they will finally live and work, and for the community as a whole.
According to Eriwn and Soodak (2012), respect among middle school students must be sustained not only to ensure peaceful coexistence among the students, teachers, parents and the community, but also to ensure there is reduction of infractions cases as well as increased educational performance. Arguably, for a student to establish a positive personality and positive perception of the teachers there is need to establish respect among them. According to Bloch (2003), respect can be established among the students by showing exemplary behaviors, teaching them to be respectful, and the importance of being respectful.
According to the system theory, establishing respect among the middle school students to reduce the number of infractions should involve a holistic perspective. The holistic approach stresses the interaction between the students and other various elements in determining their respect establishment. A system from this perspective consists of frequently interacting or interrelating set of activities. Thus, according to this theory, establishing respect among students requires focusing on regular interrelating or interaction activities among students (Eriwn & Soodak, 2012).
According to action science theory, respect among middle school students can be established through enhancing their skills and confidence. Enhancing students’ skills and confidence enhances the formation appropriate organization among students as well as promoting long-term student and group efficiency. According to Argyris, Putnam and Smith (2005), the establishment of respect among middle schools students can be focused on by first identifying and resolving complex real life issues significant in changing their attitudes.
The change theory posits that the establishment of respect among the middle schools children can be done through three distinct and vital stages. The first stage is unfreezing, which refers to the process of identifying the best way of making students to let go of their disrespect in middle schools which has led to increased infractions in office. It is argued by Kritsonis (2005) that unfreezing is crucial in conquering the tensions of student opposition as well as group conformity. Unfreezing can be done by incorporating driving forces that lead student’s behavior to developing respect. The second stage is movement and comprises the process of change in attitudes, behavior, feeling, or thoughts in a more liberating manner. The third is refreezing stage, and involves establishing the developed respect as a new habit. Kritsonis (2005) has that without the refreezing stage, an individual can go back to the old habit easily.
2.1 Alternative intervention
The best intervention should involve the students, parents, teachers and the community in the development process. The adolescents have the need for social approval and acceptance. By being involved in the initial process, the children will be willing to enforce the rules since they endorsed them. Teachers should participate by becoming strong role models to their students. At home, parents should provide a continuum for the disciplinary process by incorporating identical disciplinary measures at home. Finally, the new intervention should teach students that actions have consequences which may be positive or negative. Discipline will be rewarded with praise while indiscipline will be met by appropriate punishment. Finally, this new approach will recognize the differences that are inherent in each student by acknowledging that some children are vulnerable to indiscipline due to their physical, economic and social backgrounds.
This approach is justified by the failure of previous interventions which had various structural weaknesses. The School- wide (SW) approach to Student discipline did not factor in the importance of parent participation in student discipline. The first role model for the child is the parent. When they cannot provide this much needed direction, no amount of teacher intervention can fill this gap. The improved version of the SW concept introduced positive behavioral support (SW- PBS). This new approach uses both the school centered prevention system together with individualized support for at risk children. This approach has been highly effective in promoting respect and discipline within schools. SW-PBS has been implemented across 34 states with a total of 2900 elementary and middle school levels implementing it.
The proposed action plan should be more effective since it will provide preventive, curative and deterrent approaches to student discipline. Teachers will have fewer disciplinary cases since students will be more willing to obey the rules they helped create. In the absence of teachers, parents and guardians will take the mantle of disciplining and setting a good example for the children. The Children will have motivation in the form of public praise and deterrence through appropriate punishment. This approach will be the first all rounded approach to discipline and promotion of respect within the education system.
2.2 Purpose of the study
The study will develop new strategies that will address the challenges of indiscipline in middle school by combining successful interventions with the solutions of their weaknesses. The new intervention will be a combination of tried and tested procedures together with the lessons learnt from their shortcomings. The purpose of the study is to determine the best combination of these factors to create a theoretically sound model of discipline for schools. This model should be effective in reducing disrespect and student infractions in schools.
2.3 Research Questions
The research questions will be used to identify common cause of disrespect among middle school children by understanding the nature of the reported cases. The questions will seek to determine the effectiveness of existing interventions in solving the problem of indiscipline. Teachers will be asked to identify repeated offenders thereby providing a numerical basis for determining the effectiveness of existing interventions. Finally, the questions will require respondents to identify the failures of existing interventions and suggest possible solutions.
- What are the common cases of disrespect reported among middle school children?
- What are the causes of these cases?
- Identify available interventions for such cases.
- How many repeat cases occur after the use of existing interventions?
- What failures have you observed in the existing interventions
- Suggest possible adjustments to existing interventions to make them more effective.
2.4 Need for the Study
This study will establish a comprehensive framework for tackling indiscipline in all middle schools regardless of the prevalent socio-economic environment. The new intervention will tackle indiscipline from the basic level of the child’s value creation by promoting good examples and positive reinforcement at home and in school.
2.5. Role of the researcher
I will Endeavour to be as objective as possible during the study. I will tackle my belief in the ‘silver bullet’ ability of the alternative intervention by examining other similar approaches that could have failed and presenting these facts without prejudice. From the foregoing, it is important to acknowledge that behavioral issues rarely have model solutions that fit all situations. The alternative intervention may work for majority of the situations but certainly not in all.
Methodology: Design of the Action Plan
3.1. Action Plan: Intervention
The major aim of this plan is to provide a plan to guide positive actions that students can emulate to establish respect amongst themselves and as well, as minimize the number of infractions to the office. Interventions presented in this plan have the capacity of improving the cultures and attitudes of students to create a friendly zone in different student initiatives. On matters regarding to respect, students must learn how to respect themselves, respect others, and respect belongings. Respecting oneself will increase self-esteem and helping a student to attain self-respect can be achieved through goal-setting and goal-realization (Bloch, 2003). Respecting others involves teaching a student to treat others in the same manner s/he will expect to be treated. Respecting belongings entails teaching a student to value and appreciate things around them.
The intervention process will involve a number of activities that students will perform within the Kennedy Alternative School. These activities will include:
- Conducting training sessions on respect to equip students with skills for exercising respect.
- Watching a video on Respect: Students will watch the video Big Changes Big Choices: Respecting Others by Michael Pritchard and afterwards made to discuss the influence of the video on their character and attitudes.
- Goal Setting: Teachers must ensure that each student identifies a set of goals that must be achieved each year. Students should check these goals after ensuring that they have accomplished. Importantly, these goals should atleast include respect for oneself, respect for others, and respect to belongings.
- Complimenting each other: Teachers can designate a special activity dubbed the “respect week” where students must keep a weekly journal account regarding complimenting the behavior of their fellow students. Entries in such journal can include information they entered about a particular student and as well, the reaction of the student after the compliment.
- Task on Respect: Students can be made to collect information regarding on respect from magazines, newspapers, pictorial representations, and other literary materials and paste them on the schools notice board. Thereafter, they must provide their views and opinions on how such information relates to respect.
- Character education: This activity involves all stakeholders in the school community and must be aimed at permeating the school culture and enabling students to develop respect in all situations (Character Education Partnership, 2010).
- Rule-setting and Rule-Enforcement: The school should adopt an approach that utilizes all behavior management aspects such as rule-enforcement and rule-setting to foster student’s character to understand and commit themselves to core values regarding to respect.
Students will be evaluated based on the duration of the activity. For instance, weekly journals on compliments will be evaluated on a weekly basis. Goal setting is a continuous activity that can last up to one year. Equally, tasks on respect and watching videos will be evaluated at the end of the activity.
3.2. Data collection
Interviews will be used to collect factual information about the students. In addition the interview questions will also seek to retrieve information meanings, perspective, opinions, and attitudes of the students with regards to the activities on respect. The manner in which the questions will be structured is such that the students will be able to provide information to the best of their knowledge without any feeling of coercion. Oral interviews are preferred in this study because they help solicit high response (Silverman, 2011). At the same time oral interviews are most preferred among middles school students; completing complex questionnaires by the students may not be yield much response as compared to oral interviews. The interviews are appropriate for this research because of a number of reasons. The informants or the respondents can use the opportunity to raise new issues and challenge the researcher’s agenda (Silverman, 2011). The researcher also gets the opportunity to ascertain the motives, intentions, and behaviors of the respondent with regards to discipline in school. Oral interviews are also preferred because they allow the students some time to give their response and provide long answers (Silverman, 2011).
Observation is one of the data collection methods used in education research to collect qualitative data (DeWalt & DeWalt, 2002). Since the action implementing the action plan requires one to first collect qualitative data for assessment, observation method will also be employed by the researcher. Similarly, observation is important tool for data collection in action research studies (DeWalt & DeWalt, 2002). Observation used in this case will also rely on recording the behaviors of the students in addition to making direct observation by the researcher. Recording will require capturing motion pictures, still pictures, and voice records of the participants. This is especially aimed at gathering information without the consciousness of the participants. Learners only need to act normal as they proceed with their day to day activities while the researcher makes observations and records some of the activities (Silverman, 2011).
Test scores can be used to assess the effectiveness of the action plan once it is implemented and put in force. This will require continuous assessment because of the need to establish the effectiveness of the action plan. For instance, the performance of students on tasks such as weekly journals and their ability to answer questions after watching videos will be assessed using test scores.
3.3. Data analysis
The type of data to be collected is mainly qualitative data. Both observations and oral interviews used for data collection will gather qualitative data which will require a process to analyze. The first step in the data analysis process is to understand the nature of data collected. This will require that the researcher reads the texts given in response by the participants and also listens to the recordings in order to effectively understand the nature of data. The essence of this step is to ascertain the quality of the data collected (DeWalt & DeWalt, 2002).
The second step in the process focuses on the analysis. The researcher will review the purpose of the assessment and confirm the exact results intended to achieve the goals and objectives of the research (Seidel, 1998). The approach to be used in the analysis will focus on a topic, or a question. The researcher will then look through all the responses given by the students to identify differences and consistencies. The next step will be categorizing the information from the identified themes and patterns. The information will be categorized coherently in a manner that brings meaning to the text and also summarizes the text. Finally, after following all the previous steps, the researcher will then develop interpretation from the data analyzed. The themes and patterns identified from the data will be used to support the explanation of the findings. This step will require the researcher to simply attach meaning to the analyzed data.
3.4. Site permission
The assistant principle at Kennedy Alternative School serves the role of observing and keeping records of the referrals. The assistant principle is also entitled to provide permission to use the site. The site has an Institutional review board that approves behavioral research conducted using students. Through the board, risk benefit analysis is conducted to establish the need for doing a research using students. According to the board, there are categories upon which the research studies needed are approved. For instance, research conducted in normal and accepted educational settings using normal practices in education are approved. The research study in this proposal meets the criterion for its approval by the IRB. In order to obtain the permission for accessing the data source, one needs to subscribe to the site by providing certain information about the interest in the data source, stakeholder, or population. The subscription request is then approved by the assistant principle before one can begin accessing the data source.
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Character Education Partnership, (2010). A Framework for School Success: 11 Principles of effective character education. Character Education Partnership
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