BackgroundThis study is part of the pilot project “Disorder in Schools”, a comparative study of disruptive behavior in schools between the USA and Norway. Professor Liv Duesund leads the project, and this is the second pilot study. It is an observational study where we will be observing one pupil in a Junior High School in Berkeley, USA. The aim is to identify and characterize the disruptive behavior of the pupil in a school context. The behavior that is emphasized in this study is by far the most common type of, and the highest frequently behavior problem at all grades in school. Based on our data material we found it important to elaborate on risk factors in the classroom environment that may affect and influence the pupil’s behavior.
Research ProblemThe intension of this study is to identify the different ways disruptive behavior of one pupil occurs in the classroom, and to see if there is a possible relation between the disruptive behavior and the environmental risk factors. Based on this, our main research problem is:
What characterizes the observational disruptive behavior of one pupil in Junior High School, and the context in which the behavior occurs?
In order to explore and answer our main research problem, we have developed the following research questions: - What kinds of disruptive behavior may be observed?- When and in which situations is the pupil behaving disruptively?- What characterizes the contexts in which the disruptive behavior occurs?
MethodologyThe project “Disorders in Schools” has a set of guidelines, such as a qualitative research and a pre-structured observation guide. We conducted five observations of one informant. In the analysis we have included four observations. We conducted an inductive analysis of our collected data, where the categories, patterns, and themes appeared along the way. Our findings were categorized on the basis of our observations, in order to analyze and interpret our results.
Results and Conclusions Our results indicate that the Informant’s behavior was mainly characterized by an off-task behavior that was disruptive to himself, other peers, and/or the teaching. The off-task behavior that only disrupted himself consisted of playing with items, drawing, apparently daydreaming, and resting on his desk. The off-task behavior that was disruptive to both his peers and to himself consisted of talking to himself, other peers or the teacher, and singing. Considering all observations as a whole, the Informant showed an on-task behavior to a lesser extent than an off-task behavior.
Concerning when and in which situations the Informant’s disruptive behavior occurred, we chose to focus on four different types of situations. Regarding the transitions between periods and activities in class, we found these to be inappropriate to the Informant, as this led to him showing a disruptive off-task behavior. We found that the Informant had trouble focusing on the teaching, and was easily distracted. He seemed unfocused both when the activities were teacher-led, and when he was working independently. Even while showing an on-task behavior, we found that the Informant was disruptive to other peers and/or the teaching. During these situations, the Informant was verbally disruptive, but physically calm in his seat. He disrupted his peers by talking to himself while working, asking for help with the tasks, and he interfered the teaching by asking and answering questions without permission.
The way the learning activities and seating arrangement were organized seemed to influence the Informant’s disruptive behavior. The pupils were arranged in a group setting. We found this placement to be unfavorable to the Informant, as he had an easier access to talk to his peers. Moreover, in order to see the teacher he had to sit sideways in his seat, or turn around. This often led to him showing a disruptive behavior. The teacher’s behavior was also a factor we consider to have affected the Informant’s behavior. In general, the teacher gave him little feedback, both negative and positive. We found a possible relation between the expectations communicated from the teacher towards the Informant and his behavior. In situations where the teacher did not clearly communicate her expectations, the Informant continued showing an off-task behavior. However, in the situations where the teacher gave him thoroughly instructions, and clearly communicated her expectations, he started showing an on-task behavior. The Informant hardly received any consequences to his disruptive behavior or rule-violations. This often led to him continuing his disruptive behavior. The teacher’s rather inconsistent rule enforcement might have had a relation to the Informant’s disruptiveness.