Guidelines for primary school educators dealing with learner aggression associated with psychological trauma
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The purpose of this action research study was to collaborate with primary school educators to develop guidelines for use in the school context when dealing with learner aggression associated with psychological trauma. The intent was to develop these guidelines in a range of different quintile schools, in order to ensure that the guidelines are applicable to a wide range of schools and classrooms. For the study, the constructivist paradigm was used as point of departure for the research methodology, combined with the interpretivist and transformative paradigms. The aim of interpretivism is the description, understanding and interpretation of reality that is multiple, realistic and context-bound. Experts on the transformative paradigm explain that this paradigm leads to research that can be influenced by a variety of philosophies and theories with the common theme of emancipation and transformation of communities, through group action. In this instance, it included educators from various schools and circumstances to ensure that the study leads to empowerment and transformation that could be applicable to most primary school classrooms. Three primary schools in an education district in the North-West Province, from different quintiles, were asked to take part in the study. This allowed the researcher to gather information from various sources and socio-economic levels to provide a more holistic understanding of the phenomenon. Action research has been shown to empower teachers to sustain change in the workplace – here primary schools – to have a lasting impact on the lives of learners. Action research was therefore deemed appropriate for the study. Action research aims to democratise the process of knowledge creation, address inequality, limit social conflict and stress the importance that educators should be involved in actions that are intended to change or adapt the education system. In the study the action research process and all the cycles therein are discussed, providing a deeper explanation of action research or, in this case, more specifically participatory action learning and action research. Participatory action learning and action research indicates an endless learning cycle during which those involved generate new knowledge and draw from the newly generated knowledge to enable sustainable and relevant social change for the community. Educators realise that they have a collective responsibility to improve their own practice to the benefit of the entire community. The guidelines developed during this research on how to deal with learners demonstrating aggression based on traumatic experiences, are thus aimed to empower educators to provide the most effective support to learners in these situations. The findings have shown that most teachers feel that they do not have the knowledge they require in dealing with learners who behave in this manner, and they have come to the realisation that the way most of them have handled these learners in the past may have possibly done some damage. All of the participants indicated that they had come across such learners in their classrooms, experienced a wide array of aggressive symptoms associated with trauma. The participants furthermore also contributed richly on how such guidelines should be developed. From the study it was deduced that a substantial need exists to capacitate educators on how to handle learners demonstrating aggressive behaviour based on trauma – and it is the researcher’s hope that these guidelines will address this need.
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