Indiscipline And Its Impact On The Learning Process

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Discipline within a classroom forms the basis, for a peaceful learning environment for both teachers and students. It is critical for effective learning to take place and as such discipline must be instilled in the classroom in order to get the best out of our students. Mbiti defines discipline as a system of arranging conditions for healthy learning and living. According to Gaustard (2005) there are two main objectives of school discipline. These include ensuring the safety of staff and students and creating an environment conducive to learning. Over the year’s school indiscipline has become a concern for many of the stake holders within the education system. Students have displayed acts of indiscipline through their outbreak of aggressiveness towards their peers, violence within teacher – student relationship and vandalism just to name a few. Indeed, it can be said that acts of defeat the goals of education. This paper will seek to critically analyse the issue of indiscipline within secondary schools, outline and examine the factors contributing to indiscipline as well as the impact of indiscipline. Additionally, recommendations will be made and discussed with respect to ways in which school personnel can successfully address the issue of indiscipline.

Researchers such as Postigieter, Visser, Vander, Bank, Mothata, and Squelch (1997) revealed that if discipline is not taken into consideration, the school environment will become very dangerous affecting the educational attainment of learners. In this regard, Levin and (1991) posit that disruptive behaviours can also affect the learner’s safety, readiness to learn, as well as future behaviors. Indeed, the problem of indiscipline can be described as a multifaceted phenomenon when it comes to how it is displayed as well as its causes. Timothy (2008) defines indiscipline as the unwillingness of students to respect the constituted authority, observe and obey school rules and regulations and to maintain high standard of behaviours conducive to the teaching-learning process and essential to the smooth running of the school.

Amado and Freire (2009) points out three levels of indiscipline the first being those incidents of “disruptive” nature whose “disturbance” affects the “good classroom functioning”. The incidents that might be framed in the second and third levels, are “conflicts among peers” and “conflicts within teacher-student relationship”, which might be taken on proportions of violence and even delinquency, the latter presents a minor frequency than the former (Amado, 2005).

Globally, student indiscipline is increasing rapidly and is of great concern among education administrators, teachers and stakeholders. Several acts of indiscipline permeate within secondary schools. In most countries student rebellion against authority hinges on the fact that today many schools have students coming from dysfunctional homes, poverty stricken backgrounds, single parents or teenage parents. Also worth noting is the fact that parental supervision is also declining day by day causing many students to develop low regard towards all forms of authority.

Zubaida (2009) identifies various forms of indiscipline among the secondary school students such as truancy, lateness to school, cultism, drug abuse, insulting/assaulting, stealing, rioting, and many other antisocial vices. According to Zubaida (2009) and Eyinade (1999), a number of these acts of indiscipline are directed against constituted authorities and established rules. A very common example of this in many schools is the refusal to wear the right school uniform. Additionally, the respect to teacher’s command among students has seriously deteriorated and some teachers have not done much to help the situation by their actions.

In 2003, the Ministers of Education of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) requested that research be conducted to investigate factors that lead to relatively high rates of indiscipline in school and suggest policy options. This request grew from rising concerns expressed by education system stakeholders in all OECS countries over issues of growing verbal and physical violence and disruptive classroom behaviour, all of which impair the capacity of the education system to effectively accomplish its main aims. Overall, the results confirm that discipline problems are both frequent and severe in the OECS school environment, with the vast majority of teachers, principals and students observing indiscipline, conflict and violence at least weekly. Most significantly, the results of the study point to the enormous contribution made to school indiscipline and violence by factors that are well within the control of school and education system management.

Nationally it is evident that indiscipline affects all schools irrespective of gender and school type though the degree and magnitude vary from school to school. Cases of violence though less common, occur more often outside than on school premises. In a news release dated 28th September 2018 and issued by the Minister of Education, The Honourable Mr. Anthony Garcia, the minister indicated that that there will no tolerance for any acts of violence and indiscipline in our nation’s schools. This statement came after a video began circulating on social media highlighting an altercation at the Princes Town West Secondary School. The Minister stated “The Ministry has worked tirelessly to reduce the instances of violence in our schools and we will be taking all measures to ensure that the minimal number is maintained. ” He further noted that the ministry recently met with the Commissioner of Police and reiterated plans to treat with incidents preemptively and as they arise. At my work place acts of indiscipline ranges from a lack of respect to teachers by students, uniform infringements, the excessive use of obscene language and the use of drugs. Many strategies have been used to reduce and alleviate these issues. Some successful and some to no avail. Teachers also exhibit signs of poor conduct in the work environment. Some teachers habitually attend classes late or at times leave the class before the assigned period is finished. This behaviour fosters many of the disruptive issues in the classroom. Additionally, a lack of preparation on the teachers part leads to a level of indiscipline in the classroom.

There are multiple causes of student indiscipline in secondary schools. Indeed, Griffiths (1997) and Sharma (2009) confirm that conceptual or theoretical understanding of the various causes of a phenomenon is enhanced by the models or theories that attempt to give possible explanations to it. A contextual analysis of the actions of indiscipline, reveals that such behaviours are not always offensive but also defensive since a student may portray certain images as a strategy of maintenance and survival towards physical, psychic and moral rhythms and constraints of school and of the classroom.

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Dreikurs’ social discipline suggests that man is recognized as a social being, his actions as purposive, directed toward a goal, and his personality as a unique and invisible entity. He posits that all behavior, including misbehaving is orderly, purposeful and directed towards achieving social approval. All human beings have a need to belong and be accepted. People do not act according to the reality that surrounds them but according to their own subjective assessment of it. Unfortunately, when situations are open to personal interpretations, individuals make unavoidable mistakes in perception. Dreikurs asserts that some behaviors are the result of a child’s mistaken assumption about how to find a place and gain access. Dreikurs identified the goals of gaining attention, power and control and revenge as motivating factors of students behaviour.

There are many other theories that can be used to shed light on a particular aspect of discipline and or indiscipline. Psychologists from a behaviourist background study human behaviour in an attempt to understand the processes that will induce change in behaviour. B. F. Skinners model of behaviourism hinges on the belief that behaviour that is rewarded tends to be repeated, while behaviour that receives no rewards tends to be eliminated. He believed that consequences shape an individual’s behaviour and as such he focused his approach on reinforcement and reward. The underlying assumption of Skinner’s model is that behaviour is learnt and reinforcements contribute towards achieving good behaviour when reinforcement procedures are used to shape a learners behaviour in a desired direction. Educators can endorse desired behaviour by rewarding these behaviours with praise and other prizes while undesirable behaviour can be penalized by withholding all rewards. It is of utmost importance that educators who make use of these behaviour modifications pay attention to their own behaviour and how their own behaviours can be used to reinforce good behaviour in the classroom environment.

The cognitivism approach utilises overt behaviour as a clue for deducing what goes on in the mind. In the field of education cognitive theorist study the various types of behavioural problems that require different kinds of student cognition. They suggest that once there is an understanding of how successful and unsuccessful learners think about different problems, one can teach them to think in better ways. The goal is therefore to promote problem solving, transfer of learning, and to encourage cognitive processing of information for better and more effective decision making in students. The disparity between behaviourists and cognitivists is simply that cognitivists place special emphasis on the thinking processes of the learner. Cognitivists consider the learner’s active participation not just in responding to circumstances, but also as organisers and reorganisers of incoming information in processes of thinking and problem solving. Constructivists such as Dewey and Vygotsky posits that an educator assumes the role of co-constructor of social understanding that is the educator is the one who facilitates and guides. The constructivism approach assumes that individuals know and understand in unique ways and create their own knowledge. Acts of indiscipline if allowed to incubate under current favourable conditions by education providers and consumers could hatch a monster that will be difficult to exterminate. Educators must remember that one of the main goals of education is to develop responsible citizens. This goal cannot be achieved in schools where acts of indiscipline are prevalent. Sociologists Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, and Robert Merton have put forward the functionalist perspective. According to these theorists, society is a system of interconnected parts that work together in harmony to maintain a state of balance and social equilibrium for the whole. This theory focuses on the way in which each part influences and is influenced by other parts. The stake holders of the education system which includes ministry officials, administrators, teachers, staff members, students, parents, families, community members, local business leaders and school board members just to name a few must realise the important role they all play in the education system. The Ministry of Education should ensure that the school’s curriculum facilitates the teaching of social, emotional and behaviour competencies as well as provide opportunities for students to apply the skills and competencies learned. Additionally, parents should avoid the hands-off mindset on matters concerning discipline of their children at school and at home. Both teachers and parents have a critical duty to ensure that children grow up into responsible members of the society. Mtsweni (2008) states that parents, teachers and students share the responsibility of promoting value and standard discipline which helps to establish sound behavioural codes for life and the successful running of schools.

Oft times we forget that students are also stakeholders of a school, today, student councils are prevalent in many schools. A Student Council is a representative structure through which students of a school can become involved in the affairs of the school by working in collaboration with school management and staff for the benefit of the school and its students. Despite the role the student body can play many of our school administration exclude student councils from key decision making areas such as curriculum implementation, school budget, formulation of school rules, and discipline of students including deciding on the nature of punishments. In many cases the reason for this exclusion is the lack of expertise of the students’ councils. A study conducted by Gyan et al. (2015) indicated that both teachers and students agreed that involvement of student councils in decision making could lead to increased communication, better learning environment in schools, increased discipline levels, promote effective school administration, and enhances team work as well as improve self-esteem and peer relations among the students.

Literature shows that many researchers hold the view that teachers sometimes perpetuate indiscipline by their approach. According to DeVries & Zan (1994) the teacher’s attitude can create an environment that encourages either positive or negative behaviour. It is believed that inappropriate adult expectations especially those that are in conflict with family culture may encourage behavioural problems. Fields & Fields (2006) purports that teacher-child relationships are a critical part of teaching. Teachers need to build positive relationships with students in order to influence their behaviour and thoughts. Researchers also claim that this creates harmonious classrooms that are conducive to learning, as self-esteem, confidence and feelings of security are encouraged. Mendler Curwin & Mendler (2008) states that the best way to prevent behavioural problems is to engage students with lessons that are interesting and entertaining. It is suggested that when planning their lessons teachers must take into consideration the multiple intelligences and learning styles of student in their classroom, teach with energy and enthusiasm, make their objectives clear from the outset, use informed grouping tactics and incorporate games into the lessons. Additionally, research findings demonstrate that children learn how to treat one another from the way they are treated by their teachers and parents.

Fields & Fields (2006) notes that sometimes the cause of inappropriate behaviour is that children have learned from inappropriate role models. These researchers’ claim that teacher and parental examples are productive methods of guidance and discipline. The role of the teacher must include modelling the behaviours of positive self-concepts, and respect for others and to establish the importance of academic achievement.

In light of the above staff developmental programs and teacher professional development is of utmost importance. Teachers should be equipped with a variety of strategies to motivate and actively engage students in every lesson. All teachers should undergo anger management training which can assist them in dealing with their own emotions as well as enable them to be able to convey those strategies to the students. Additionally, conflict management, critical thinking skills and decision making skills should also be included in professional development programs.

While the disciplinary process might be considered by many as time consuming and may seem as an uphill task for school administrators and teachers it is something that must be done. By being proactive schools can reduce the occurrence of misbehaviours.

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