Preventing aggression in the classroom
Hein, Katherine Darby
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Specific teacher skills for effective prevention of student aggressive behavior and effective intervention when such behavior occurs remain largely undefined. The purpose of this case study is to describe the strategies used by school teachers identified as extraordinary at preventing aggressive behavior in the classroom. The research questions are: how do extraordinary teachers describe aggression?, how do extraordinary teachers prevent aggression?, how do extraordinary teachers intervene between students if aggressive behavior does happen?, and in their efforts to reduce aggressive behavior, how do extraordinary teachers account for cultural differences? Two middle school teachers, who were identified by three independent professionals as “very good” at preventing and managing aggressive behavior, were observed for entire school days for a total of 14 observations each over a period of 2½ months. An in-depth semistructured initial interview and 14 informal interviews were conducted during this same period of time. A majority of students at the school were low socio-economic and minority. Data analyses began with the initial interview and continued as data collection continued. The teachers differed in teaching style and personality, but both were very effective at preventing student aggressive behavior and used similar strategies. A positive classroom climate was the strongest indicator for the prevention of aggression. Eight strategies used by the teachers to create a positive classroom climate are described. These eight strategies are the use of positive classroom management methods, challenging students academically and having high academic expectations of students, high expectations for student behavior, trust of students, allowing students to meet needs in the classroom, providing supplies, respect of students, and not tolerating student disrespect. The teachers also used culturally relevant teaching strategies to prevent aggressive behavior. When aggressive behaviors did happen, intervention was swift and solution-focused. Finally, the teachers believed that the strategies they used can be learned by other teachers. Limitations and recommendations for further study are discussed.