Teachers' perceptions of resistant behaviour of children in the middle childhood developmental phase
Richardson, Nicola Taryn
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Resistant behaviour is a serious reality in South African primary schools. South Africa’s teachers strive to be agents of positive change amidst the multiple challenges they and their learners encounter, yet they admittedly experience daily frustration at addressing resistant behaviour. Considering the harsh external realities which many learners encounter, resistant behaviour cannot be expected to disappear at the introduction of specific techniques. The research consequently aimed to examine and describe Grade 5 teachers’ perceptions of resistance with the objective of improving teacher-learner relationships. A phenomenological paradigm structured this qualitative study to determine how grade 5 teachers perceive resistance through their direct experiences. The research involved focus group discussions and interviews. Fourteen teachers participated, representing three private and three public schools in Gauteng. Selection criteria included: a recognised teaching qualification, teaching experience of minimum two years, currently teaching Grade 5 learners, a commitment to teach demonstrated through course attendance and enhancement of the school’s curriculum, and the ability to speak English. During each focus group discussion, one introductory question was asked: “Please share your perceptions of resistant behaviour shown by children in your Grade 5 classes”. Additional funnelling and probing questions were utilized. Prior to data gathering, one participant per school was requested to volunteer to participate in an individual interview, in addition to the focus group discussion. During the interview, two introductory questions were asked: “How did you experience the focus group discussion pertaining to teacher perceptions of the resistant behaviour displayed by children in Grade 5?” and “What is your view of the conclusion/s reached during the discussion?” These questions were followed by funnelling questions. Content analysis was used with Interpretative phenomenological analysis to understand meanings ascribed to coded texts. Emerging findings were depicted visually to identify data patterns as part of thematic analysis until themes crystallised. Amongst findings understood from a causal, contextual and developmental perspective, unique findings emerged revealing that a relationship exists between teachers’ perceptions of resistant behaviour and the school ethos, that resistance can reveal creativity and divergent thinking processes, and that considering resistant behaviour from a future-minded perspective can enable teachers to see resistant behaviour as indicative of underlying skills needed by society, if developed as strengths. The findings support international research with one marked exception: that the examples provided in the literature affect the resistant learner personally, whereas the examples provided by the participants affect the other learners, teachers and the school itself. The findings contribute meaningfully to the debate regarding how to manage school resistance. The researcher recommends further studies be carried out to determine if the findings are reflective of most Grade 5 teachers. If so, it is advised that the findings be shared so that teachers become aware of alternate ways to interpret resistance and possibly to enhance their professional development by reformulating their current thought processes around resistance. The researcher recommends that the relationship between school ethos and resistant behaviour be explored to assist teachers in contextualising their management of resistance.
- Humanities