This thesis is part of the research project “Disruptive Behavior in School”, led by Professor Liv Duesund at University in Oslo. The research project is a comparative study of elementary and middle schools between the United States of America and Norway. This thesis is a qualitative case study of one student displaying disruptive behavior in a middle school in the United States of America. The student is defined as gifted and his behavior is discussed in light of the theory of the Skill Model with focus on involvement, and theories regarding giftedness.
I have developed two research questions for this study.
1: What kind of disruptive behavior is displayed?
2: How can the Skill Model relate to disruptive behavior and giftedness?
The first research question is a necessity to be able to distinguish between different types of disruptive behavior, and to include this thesis in the larger research project “Disruptive Behavior in School”. The second research question puts the disruptive behavior into the context of the Skill Model and binds the behavior together with giftedness.
As this thesis is part of the research project “Disruptive Behavior in School”, there were some pre requirements in regards of methodology. I was required to use qualitative observation as a method, and to use a pre structured observational form for recording my notes. I conducted five observations in total, on four different days. All observations except the last one was conducted in the second period of the day. The duration of the first observation was a full hour of the class as total, and I had a specific focus on my informant. The second, third and fourth observation were 15 minutes each and with focus on my informant, but they were conducted in different time frames during the second period. The fifth observation was conducted during the recess following the fourth observation.
The student displayed three different types of disruptive behavior, the first type only disruptive to himself, and the second and third type were disruptive to fellow students and the teacher as well. In the first type, the student (referred to as NN) was resting or sleeping with his head on the desk. In the second type, NN was talking with a fellow student about non-school related matter. In the third type, NN was hitting another student in a playful manner. When NN displayed all of these types of disruptive behavior he did not get involved in the assignments he was supposed to be working on.
The Skill Model describes that emotional involvement is needed to reach absorbed coping in a task, and I asked myself initially if students displaying disruptive behavior lacked this involvement, and were therefore not able to achieve absorbed coping in the learning activity. When NN displayed disruptive behavior, he was not involved in the learning activity, and he also interrupted the involvement of other students when he displayed the second and third type of disruptive behavior. NN’s lack of involvement may be caused by different aspects of himself, of the teacher or of the learning environment. NN is described as highly intellectual, and is in this study defined as gifted. Gifted students may become bored at school as a result of not getting the academic challenges they need, and this boredom may lead to a lack of involvement. NN displayed signs of low academic self-confidence, and his self-confidence may stand in the way of him getting involved. NN is also described as an underachiever as his grades are significantly lower then what his cognitive abilities would suggest. An underachiever may refuse getting involved, as he does not want to risk the possibility of failure. And this might also be a contributing factor to NN’s lack of involvement.
When NN displayed disruptive behavior (in particular the first type), he was often ignored by the teacher and the assistant. Being ignored when displaying disruptive behavior may worsen the behavior, and it might not be a successful tactic for getting the student involved in the learning activity. In my observations I saw no signs that this strategy of ignoring NN’s behavior was beneficial for NN.
This thesis does not make any definite conclusions as to what contributed to NN’s lack of involvement, but the fact that he was not involved when he displayed disruptive behavior was clear.