A study of disruptive behaviour in secondary schools, with special reference to the effectiveness of behaviour modification and withdrawal units

Whitcomb, Alan Trevor (1983). A study of disruptive behaviour in secondary schools, with special reference to the effectiveness of behaviour modification and withdrawal units. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000de3b


This thesis is the result of four years' part-time study by a practising teacher. It represents an attempt to identify ways of dealing successfully with disruptive secondary school pupils.

A review of related literature, and some evidence adduced from previous research, provided the basis for a questionnaire. This was then used in six Essex comprehensive schools to ascertain teachers' opinions on:

a) determinants of disruptive behaviour;

b) effectiveness of methods used to deal with such behaviour.

Respondents were identified according to sex, school and experience.

Sub-sections of the questionnaire were cross tabulated and submitted to X2 tests of significance which revealed a trend suggesting that female teachers differ from male teachers in some of their opinions related to disruptive behaviour in schools. The survey also indicated that it is the upper-age range which causes most disturbance.

The two methods found to be currently held to be most effective were withdrawal units and behaviour modification. The former was investigated via a case study approach which compared two types of administration policy, and the effect of an on-site withdrawal unit on two disruptive pupils. Behaviour modification was evaluated experimentally to examine whether

a) it is practicable for class teachers

b) if the technique is effective with upper-secondary pupils.

Experimental and observational investigation revealed that in respect of this study behaviour modification was:

a) difficult for the teacher to apply in the normal classroom situation following accepted research criteria, although it was found to be more practicable in less formal circumstances within an on-site withdrawal unit.

b) a qualified success with this age group in that the improvements in behaviour as a result of this approach were found to be unenduring.

It was concluded that, in respect of upper-secondary school disruptive pupils, rather than attempt to deal with the child in the normal classroom, it is preferable to withdraw the problem pupil to an on-site unit, where the application of procedures to deal with disruption can be more successfully applied to the benefit of both the child and' the school. The thesis concludes with a suggested model for dealing with seriously disruptive pupils.

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