Application of choice theory in managing and influencing challenging learner behaviour in schools in the Ngaka Modiri Molema District
Bechuke, Andre Leke-ateh
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It is generally known that school discipline is gradually collapsing in South African schools. Learners seem uncontrollable thus posing a challenge to effective teaching and learning. To address the situation, educators use diverse punitive strategies instead of considering individual situations. Against this backdrop, this study is moved by the idea that schools must rethink their disciplinary policies and seek new ways to address today’s unprecedented learner behaviour problems. Putting theory to practice, this study set out to explore how Choice Theory can be applied in managing and influencing learner behaviours in schools in the Ngaka Modiri Molema District. The study and its findings are of significance to all stakeholders in the South African school system. Because of its novelty, the study adds more depth to existing knowledge on managing school discipline without relying solely on punishment and unnecessary rewards. This study was undertaken from a qualitative research approach. This gave room for the researcher to study the key issues without being constrained by pre-determined categories of analysis. The theoretical framework of the research was based on Choice Theory, Critical Emancipatory Theory and Management Theories. Considering the qualitative depth of the study, a case study strategy was deemed necessary since the quality of the study is oriented to the richness of the information obtained. The general population of the study is educators and learners of secondary and high schools within the Ngaka Modiri Molema District (NMMD). A common characteristic of this population is their involvement in learner discipline. Using a simple random sampling approach, five schools, (two secondary, two high and one combined schools) in the NMMD were selected from a total number of 510 schools in the district. One school was selected from each of the five Areas Offices in the district. Using the purposive sampling approach, five learners and five educators with five years teaching experience and membership to the disciplinary committee were chosen from each school to participate in the study. This made a total of ten participants from each school and a grand total of fifty participants for the entire study. Data was collected through literature study, document analysis, observation and field notes, and interviews. Collected data was analysed through the open coding strategy. The process involved multiple levels of analysis in a linear, hierarchical approach building from bottom to top. Truthfulness, fairness and honesty were established through internal and external validation. Based on the data from the empirical research and literature reviewed, the result of the study revealed that educators and learners are not knowledgeable about Choice Theory and its use in managing learner behaviour. As such, the embodiment of the theory is not practiced in South African schools although there are clear avenues for its application in managing learners’ behaviour. The study also revealed that punishment is executed in schools without follow-up strategies to influence modification of learners’ behaviour. The nature and structure of disciplinary policies in most schools is just to ensure that challenging learner behaviour stops in an occasion. No tools have been established to check if the behaviour has ceased temporarily, or has changed environment and not stopped. The study further revealed that educators punish misbehaving learners partly with the intention to inflict pain although not physically, so that for fear of pain the learner will change the behaviour. In this context, punishment involves the intent to hurt the learner who displayed the behaviour. Above all these, educators punish learners and not their misbehaviour, and at times both the learner and the misbehaviour with the excuse that it is impossible to separate the two. From these findings, the study therefore suggests a model for applying Choice Theory in managing and influencing learners’ behaviour in South African schools in order to address the emergent problems identified in the findings of the study. Moreover, the study recommends that programs for quality education must meet students’ needs by providing an engaging curriculum and influencing students to make good choices about learning and responsible conduct without using coercion. Finally, since the research design was explorative and qualitative in nature, the researcher recommends that further research be conducted using both qualitative and quantitative research paradigms to ensure that the weaknesses inherent in one approach are strengthened by the strong points that characterise the other.
- Education