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«Behavioral Dissonance and Contested Classroom Spaces: Teachers’ and Students’ Negotiations of Classroom Disciplinary Moments by Rebecca Neal A ...»

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however, in spite the harsh punishment of being removed from class, when interviewed, all parties, felt the outcome reasonable. This lack of understanding and compassion, contributes to the ongoing and seemingly unjust classroom disciplinary practices.

Bothersome is the harsh and prolonged removal from class. Similar to disciplinary practices of African American students attending public urban schools being harshly sanctioned (Gregory & Weinstein, 2008), teachers at IDA also employed this same practice. Unfortunately, for Jonathan, Byron, and Ms. Esther, short-term and extended removal from class was a common part of student’s school regimen.

Phases In any exchange, episode, or event, the same sequence of phases happened. In this study, teachers’ and students’ negotiations of classroom disciplinary moments involved six phases: a launching, interpretation of intentionality, coding, public recognition, sanction, and closure. The progression of negotiated classroom disciplinary moments is presented in Figure 12. Next to each phase are teachers’ and students’ conceptualizations of each other’s behaviors as classroom disciplinary moments progressed.

Figure 12. Progression of negotiated classroom disciplinary moments.

In Table 19, I also illustrate the complete progression of negotiated classroom disciplinary moments, by person; showcasing teachers’ and students’ conceptualizations during each phase. This level of detail is necessary for understanding how teachers’ and students’ understandings of classroom disciplinary moments become misaligned.

Combined both illustrations show not only the progression of disciplinary moments, but where breakdowns begin to occur.

Details of each phase specifying teachers’ and students’ individual conceptualizations are provided in Table 20 through Table 24. Providing this specificity enables a more comprehensive understanding of teachers’ and students’ interpretations and negotiations during the progression of classroom disciplinary moments. Prior to discussing each phase separately Table 19 Progression of Negotiated Classroom Disciplinary Moment, by Person

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Phases 1 and 2: Launching and interpretations of classroom disciplinary moments. The launching or initiating a classroom disciplinary moment of a classroom disciplinary moment began with a student exhibiting an observable behavior that came into question by Mr. Abrahm or Ms. Esther. During the interpretation phase of misbehavior, Mr. Abrahm, Ms. Esther, and students considered intentionality as an image of misbehavior (see Table 20). Students did not show an interpretive phase during their meaning making process of understanding classroom disciplinary moments. For specific examples of symbols and significations for externalized student behaviors refer to Tables 11, and for specific examples of symbols and significations for interpretations, see Table 12.

Table 20 Phases 1-2: Launching and Interpretation

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Phase 3: Coding of classroom disciplinary moments. During the coding phase of a classroom disciplinary moment, teachers and students blamed each other (see Table 21). Students believed teachers were the reason for their misbehavior being highlighted and teachers thought students were automatically culpable. For specific examples symbols and significations for coding, see Table 13.

Table 21 Phase 3: Coding

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Phase 4: Public recognition of classroom disciplinary moments. During the public recognition phase of the progression of classroom disciplinary moments teachers would do something that signaled to students that he/she was aware of their misbehavior (see Table 22). Students interpreted teacher signals to indicate trouble. Mr. Abrahm thought his public acknowledged signified a positive intervention. Ms. Esther acknowledged student misbehavior by confronting them in some type of way. For specific examples of symbols and significations of public recognition, see Table 14.

Table 22 Phase 4: Public Recognition

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Phase 5: Sanctions during classroom disciplinary moments. During the sanction phase, students thought they were being punished whereas, Mr. Abrahm and Ms.

Esther thought their responses were natural consequences to a students’ misbehavior (See table 23). For specific examples of symbols and significations of sanctions, see Table 14.

Table 23 Phase 5: Sanction

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Phase 6: Closure of classroom disciplinary moments. When a classroom disciplinary moment was ending, students and teachers alike had an immediate reaction (see table 24). Sometimes reactions were visible; and other times they were not. Students and teachers both would sometimes have emotional reactions. For specific examples of symbols and significations of immediate reactions, see Tables 16-17.

Table 24 Phase 6: Closure

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This chapter highlighted key conceptualizations and meaning making processing for understanding classroom misbehavior for two teachers and five students. Discussed in detail were teachers’ and students’ conceptualizations, constructions, interpretations, and negotiations of classroom misbehavior and classroom disciplinary moments. Brought to light was the complexity in understanding teachers’ and students’ meaning making processes for a situated understanding of misbehavior. Revealed was that misbehavior is a pervasive notion that is malleable and dependent on contextualization; and greatly influenced by intra and interpersonal interactions. The intricacies and sophistication of teachers’ and students’ interpretations of how they negotiate classroom disciplinary moments were also reported.





I first explained teachers’ and students’ interpretative processes for deriving meaning through interactions including the way they used context, prior experiences, personal beliefs and interactive processes. Following that discussion, an exposé of teachers’ and students’ conceptualizations of misbehavior was provided. Last, I further expound on the findings by describing an explaining the formation of classroom disciplinary moments. On the whole, the analyses showed that teachers and students developed their own logic as a way to organize their own thinking to make better sense of their environment and interactions with one another. In the next chapter, I discuss conclusions, implications, and recommendation that arose from the study.

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In this study I aimed to answer the question: How does one’s conceptualizations of misbehavior account for the way classroom disciplinary moments are constructed, interpreted and negotiated between teachers and students? What follows is a discussion of the findings as they build upon current scientific literature. In addition, the research findings are discussed in light of the theoretical framework (i.e., sociocultural theory and symbolic interactionism) that underpins the study. Limitations of the study along with providing theory-based recommendations for future efforts in the field of education, and with implications for studying classroom disciplinary moments are also included.

This research sheds new insights into the situated nature of misbehaviors during teachers’ and students’ sense making of classroom disciplinary moments. Some of the findings support current literature while others provide evidence different from previously published studies. This research is also valuable by articulating results of disciplinary inequities contextualized within the lived school experiences of teachers and students while classroom disciplinary moments occurred.

A key finding of the current study is the disclosure of teachers’ and students’ meaning-making efforts during the constructed classroom misbehavior moments. I documented that teachers’ and students’ sense making of classroom disciplinary moments is sophisticated and deeply embedded within their personal understandings of misbehavior. In fact, personal understandings of perceived aspects of misbehavior were an integral part of teachers and students meaning-making processes during classroom disciplinary moments.

Baiyee (2013) noted there are essential differences between considering children in need of discipline, and seeing them as agents of their own lives possessing voices and viewpoints that must be heard. Knowing this is significant in light of a few facts: 1) teacher behavioral referrals take place in classrooms (Skiba et al., 2002); 2) some circumstances (i.e., safety, de-escalation, intervention) may require a student’s removal from the classroom (Losen, Hewitt, & Toldson, 2014); 3) African American (male and female) and Latino students are more likely than any other students to be suspended or expelled (CRDC, 2014; Carter, Fine, & Russell, 2014), and 4) Hispanic and African American students represent 56% of expulsions in school districts that report expulsions adhering to zero tolerance policies (CRDC, 2014).

The documented school experiences of African American and Hispanic students tell us that the organization and execution of school discipline is multifaceted and its topographies multidimensional. Current studies and reports (e.g., Civil Rights Data Collection, 2014; Toldson, 2011) typically provide very important statistical information such as number of students being suspended or expelled, the number of students expelled under zero-tolerance, suspension rates, and the like. These sources offer compelling evidence about which students are most likely to be represented in school’s exclusionary school disciplinary practices. Nevertheless, missing and yet to be understood are the precursors to these disparities; that is, teachers’ and students’ understanding of classroom disciplinary moments as they unfold.

This study also showed that during classroom disciplinary moments, teachers and students jointly employed personal interpretations of their own actions. Teachers and students also made sense of each other’s actions through interpretative processes.

Teachers and students alike, organized information according to their personal sensemaking parameters. The organization of teachers and students logic involved naming and grouping behaviors around constructs of personal cultural reference. Thus, for example, present in teachers and students ideas was the notion of attitudes. If students spoke to Ms.

Esther in a certain way she considered it having an attitude. Students, on the other hand, thought at times Ms. Esther’s looks suggested she had an attitude. With regard to Mr.

Abrahm, students interpreted him to always have an attitude or be in a “not so good mood.” Teachers’ and students’ notions, ideas, and beliefs contribute to a person’s social functioning within a setting. Situating disciplinary moments within the sociocultural context of the classroom creates opportunities for interactional patterns to be examined among teachers and students (Gee & Green, 1998). These types of approaches to understanding classroom disciplinary moments allow researchers to study negotiated social practices considering context (Vavrus & Cole, 2002).

Although the idea of classroom misbehavior seems to be somewhat of a fixed notion, results of this study indicate the opposite. Even though teachers and students articulated similar words to describe their conceptualizations of misbehavior, the nature of classroom disciplinary moments was highly contextualized. Teachers and students interpretations were dependent upon the sociocultural context in which the classroom disciplinary moments occurred (Vavrus & Cole, 2002).

How do Teachers and Students Conceptualize Misbehavior?

Teachers’ and students’ conceptualizations of misbehavior were highly contextualized and thought of as a singular verbal or non-verbal behavior that occurred during moment-to-moment interactions. During interviews teachers and students were able to articulate similar notions of misbehavior. They considered that misbehavior entailed talking, not doing work, walking around the classroom, being loud, among many other actions; however, teachers’ and students’ conceptualizations of misbehavior changed during moment-to-moment interactions. This is an important distinction with important implications for future research on discipline inequities. Many researchers rely on study participants’ reports on their conceptualizations about key constructs such as misbehavior gathered through interviews. This study suggests it is critical to document not only people’s conceptions of these notions, but also to collect evidence on the actual practices in which disciplinary moments emerge in everyday classroom life. That is, this study offers empirical support for a situated analysis of discipline inequities.

Meanings emerged not only from individual behaviors of teachers and students, but also as a product of coordinated processes of interaction (Goodwin, 1986).

Investigating what people do and say provides insight into how misbehavior becomes interactively constituted between teachers and students in the classroom. Teachers’ and students’ conceptualizations of misbehavior were a foundational aspect for understanding classroom disciplinary moments. As classroom disciplinary moments progressed, teachers and students made mental, emotional and physical shifts (i.e., movements).

These shifts were guided by teachers’ and student’s individual perceptions, but also influenced interpersonal interactions.

Teachers’ and students’ perspectives during interaction ultimately shaped one’s thinking that allowed behavior to seem the same or viewed as changed. Consistent with a symbolic interactionist perspective, these shifts showed how teachers’ and students’ perceptions mediated the meaning that was derived during their interpersonal interactions (Blumer, 1969). Moreover, a changed viewpoint, (e.g., Mr. Abrahm, Ms. Esther or students exhibiting a new behavioral response to one another) was often dependent upon and modified through interactions (Blumer, 1969).

The literature on school discipline published between 2000 and 2010 tended to focus on three main areas: perceptions, profiles, and school disciplinary sanction patterns (Dunbar & Villarruel, 2002; Kupchik & Ellis, 2008; Knoff & Ferron, 2002; Krezmien, Leone, & Achilles, 2006; Lewis et al, 2010; Payne & Welch, 2010; Rocque, 2010).



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