Understanding challenging behaviour as a social construction: exploring the role of pupil-teacher discourse in the secondary classroom

Stower, Hayley Emma (2017) Understanding challenging behaviour as a social construction: exploring the role of pupil-teacher discourse in the secondary classroom. DAppEdPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Challenging behaviour continues to be portrayed by the media, politicians and educationalist as a cause for concerns in UK secondary schools (DfE 2015, NASUWT, 2014). In recent years, there has been a shift in thinking amongst some researchers (Graff, 2009, Pomerantz, 2005) about how to view challenging behaviour in the classroom, recognising its idiographic nature. By drawing upon other disciplines, alongside psychology, social constructionist thinking has emerged as a helpful position from which to view challenging behaviour. From this position, challenging behaviour is socially constructed through language and action in the classroom.

This study explored challenging verbal behaviour in the secondary classroom from a social constructionist perspective. A series of observations of three Key Stage 3 pupils and their teachers were completed. These observations were supported by audio-recording and qualitative observation records. To analyse the data, two approaches to Discourse Analysis, namely Conversation Analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis, were used to explore pupil-teacher interaction. This analysis focused on the ways micro and macro features of classroom talk created potential for the construction of challenging verbal behaviour.

The institutionally defined asymmetry in pupil-teacher roles impacted upon the range and use of linguistic devices used by teachers and pupils. Teachers used a broader range of sophisticated strategies to maintain their authority control of the discourse. Pupils would then seek to address this asymmetry through talk, sometimes impulsively, leading to the construction of situations related to behaviour. As such, challenging verbal behaviour emerged when there was conflict between the pupil and teacher roles in the interactional space in the classroom.

This study has several implications for the practice of Educational Psychologists and teachers. It highlighted the importance of considering the micro-level features of pupil-teacher talk in the classroom, recognising their idiographic nature. Dominant discourses, power and institutional talk can make certain things ‘thinkable’ and ‘sayable’ therefore highlighting the importance of reflexivity and criticality around the language that is used when talking about challenging behaviour. Finally, the potential value of Discourse Analysis and social constructionist thinking in understanding challenging behaviour was also identified as a possible way forward, both for the evidence base and for practice.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DAppEdPsy)
Supervisors: Lambert, Nathan
Atkinson, Sarah
Keywords: Pupil-teacher discourse; discourse analysis; secondary school
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1050 Educational psychology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Psychology
Item ID: 45371
Depositing User: Stower, Hayley
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2017 04:40
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 03:03
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/45371

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