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Why do young people misbehave in school?

Section one: Literature review
Misbehaviour in a classroom setting is commonly referred to as behaviours that are
disruptive to classroom order including disrespecting the teacher, disobedience,
hindering other students learning, physical aggression, and verbal abuse (Koutrouba,
2013, p.1; Sun & Shek, 2011, p. 1). These behaviours are inappropriate in the
classroom, brake rules and violate explicit expectations. The reasons why students
misbehave, specifically adolescence can be analysed through Dr. George Engel’s
Biopsychosocial Approach (Engel, 1977, p. 126). The Biopsychosocial Approach
methodically considers biological, psychological and social factors and their interplay
with health and illness (Engel, 1977, p. 126). As students enter puberty significant
transformations occur in the young person’s body, the age they commence puberty
and the age they complete puberty varies. These factors have significant differing
effects on the psychological and social development of adolescents (Arnett, 2013,
p.60). Adolescents who develop earlier or later than their peers may experience
psychological problems and behaviour problems, though this may differ for males and
females (Marceau, Ram, Houts, Grimm, & Susman, 2011, p.3). This is a result of the
early maturation of males generally being viewed more as more favourable than
females.

These individuals are at a higher risk of psychological and behavioural problems as
they are not cognitively or emotionally ready for the major physiological, emotional,
social changes that come with puberty (Marceau et al., 2011, p.3). Therefore
adolescents may experience a higher chance of conflict with parents, mood

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disruptions and risky behaviours, including misbehaving in the classroom (Arnett,
2013, p.12). During adolescence friends become increasingly important, as they
become confidants as well as sources of emotional support and personal advice
(Arnett, 2013, p.252). This is time period where the amount of time with family
decreases and the time spent with friends increases and thus the influence of peers
may be a significant factor in student misbehaviour (Albert, Chein, & Steinberg,
2013, p. 114).

In addition to peer influence there are also various other reasons why students may
misbehave in the classroom, specifically adolescence. Research has expressed that a
positive teacher-student relationship may be the foundation of preventing
misbehaviour in the classroom as well as promoting engagement and achievement
(Greene, 2011, p.26; Koutrouba, 2013, p.2; Sun & Shek, 2011, p.7). Misbehaviour
may be a response to the teacher’s inability to satisfy the basic needs of students such
as belonging, love, self-worth, freedom, fun and survival (Sun & Shek, 2011, p.7).
Another contributing factor to the reasons students misbehave is the unfair treatment
teachers may give in placing higher expectations on higher achieving students and
inadequately catering to the various diverse needs of students, including individuals
that may obtain a leaning disability or behavioural disorder (Greene, 2011, p.26). The
expectations parents have on their children and the expectations students have on
themselves may also be a factor in the reasons why students choose to behave or
misbehave (Goard, See, & Davies, 2012, p.27-42).

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Section two: Main interview findings
During the interview process, all participants were given an information sheet and a
consent form and were given the opportunity to ask any questions or express any
concerns about any component of the interview process. All the participants consented
voluntarily and were informed that they could withdraw at any time. All participants
signed their consent form then engaged in the interviews.

There were six individuals who where interviewed for this assessment, which were
asked a series of questions based on why they think students misbehave. The
participants consisted of: Person A is a 24 year-old-female with a background in
health; Person B is a 31 year-old female who is a teacher and a mother; Person C is a
22 year-old male who is a pre-service teacher; Person D is a 17 year-old female who
is about to undertake the HSC; Person E is a 21 year-old father who is also a preservice teacher; Person F is a 17 year-old male who is about to undertake the HSC.

Half of these participants are male and the other half is female, two participants are
currently in high school, two are parents, two are pre-service teachers, one is a teacher
and another has a background in allied health. The participants were selected for the
diversity in their backgrounds and the valuable insight they bring to the research
being undertaken.

There was a consensus amongst all individuals that misbehaviour consisted of
behaviours that involved defiance, disrespecting the teacher and disrupting the
learning of other students. All individuals obtained similar views as to why students
misbehave and all believed that there were various reasons for this. Person A, B and C

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expressed that misbehaviour may result from physical, psychological and social
reasons including family dysfunction and not having their needs met as well as peer
pressure. Person E also believed that young people choose to misbehave and that it is
a result from underlying issues that students may not want to disclose with their
teacher. Persons D and F both currently in high school, did not acknowledge puberty
as a reason for misbehaviour, but rather obtaining a negative attitude toward school
and authority figures, with students holding the “I’m right” attitude. Other factors
included attention seeking, peer pressure and seeking “freedom” from the rules and
constrictions of the school. When participants were asked if there was a difference in
why male and female students misbehave, half of the participants expressed that
females are “expected” to behave whilst males are “expected” to misbehave. When
participants were asked how the school environment influences misbehaviour, there
was an emphasis on the rules and restrictions placed on students as well as students
living up to the expectations of the school. Thus relationships with teachers played a
significant role in shaping the environment of the school as person A expressed that
students may have concerns however may not feel safe voicing them in school and
thus may misbehave. When participants were asked how teachers influence
misbehaviour there was a consensus that teachers who where positive, provided
support and assistance and believed in their students promoted engagement and
achievement in the class. Conversely teachers who did not treat students equally, were
negative and boring, therefore promoting misbehaviour. Participants also expressed
that when they were in high school they were surrounded by likeminded peers with
five of six participants expressing that their friends had an influence on their
behaviour. It was also found that role models had an impact on the behaviour of
participants as expressed by four of the six participants. Of these participants three

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expressed that a teacher was a role model and three expressed that their parents were
role models.

Section three: Synthesis of findings
This research found positive student-teacher relationships to influence positive
student behaviour. This finding is consistent with current research, which states that
the student-teacher relationship is a powerful element in the learning environment and
can influence student behaviour as well as the achievement of academic outcomes
(Liberante, 2012, p. 2; Sun & Shek, 2011, p.7; Tsiplakides & Keramida, 2010, p.22).
In this research person B and F were the only two participants who expressed that
they misbehaved in the classroom and reported having a negative experience with at
least one teacher who was difficult to confide in and engage in class work. This is
contrasted to the experiences of persons A, C, and E who reported a positive studentteacher relationship with at least one teacher and reported valuing their learning
experiences and thus did not misbehave.These participants reported that these
teachers who had an impact on their learning experience were passionate, highly
supportive emotionally as well as academically and expressed care, warmth as well as
trust (Yunus, Osman, & Ishak, 2011, p.2637). Therefore it is of significance that
teachers build rapport with their students on initial contact, as mentioned by person D,
to create a positive learning environment, providing learning opportunity, motivation,
engagement and thus achievement (Yunus, Osman, & Ishak, 2011, p.2637).

Furthermore when participants were asked why they believed students misbehaved
they all agreed that there were various reasons including biological, psychological,

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social and factors associated with home life. Majority of the participants agreed that
peer influence was a factor in student misbehaviour. Albert et al., (2013, p. 114) found
adolescents to be sensitive to “peer-related stimuli” responding to the reward value of
risky behaviour and thus are susceptible to peer influence. In contrast, this research
found peer influence to shape behaviour in general as all participants stated,
“attracting” like-minded peers. Person A reported not only having like-minded friends
but also several friends who participated in risky behaviour. Person A stated that she
was not tempted to participate in risky behaviour due to her personality, her role
models and desire to achieve. Person D and E also reported their personality and role
models to shape their behaviour.

Five of the six participants reported having a teacher and/or parents as a role model.
Therefore teachers and parents obtain a role in the misbehaviour of students. The
behavioural and academic expectations of teachers have a strong impact on student
learning (Tsiplakides & Keramida, 2010, p.22). These expectations are communicated
to students as some teachers may subconsciously offer more learning opportunities to
excelling students and thus have a negative impact on some students and promote
misbehaviour (Tsiplakides & Keramida, 2010, p.22). Students who are not treated
equally are “very well attuned” to the behavioural cues from teachers, as these
students also experience a lack of warmth and support (Tsiplakides & Keramida,
2010, p.22). Students tend to be “reasonably accurate” in perceiving the extent
teachers favour students over others through the expectations communicated
(Hanover Research, 2012, p. 2).

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Furthermore when participants were asked if they believe there is a difference in why
males and females misbehave, four of the six participants expressed that males are
“expected” to misbehave more and females are “expected” to misbehave less.
Teachers who communicate this expectation are more likely to hinder the learning
opportunities and success of male students, as students are more likely to meet
expectations whether they are good or bad (Hanover Research, 2012, p.4).

Parents were also identified as role models for four of six participants. There was a
consensus that parents were respected and admired for various reasons including:
modeling working hard and perseverance, communicating high expectations and
providing emotional as well as social support. This is of significance as family
conflict and poor relationships with family members are associated with misbehaviour
(Elias & Noordin, 2011, p.426). Gorard, See and Davies (2012) also reported that
parental expectations are linked to the academic success of their children, with the
expectation of parents potentially framing their children’s expectations. As such, the
parents of the four participants appear to have framed the participants’ expectations in
valuing working hard, persevering and achieving. Furthermore all participants
understood that students misbehave for a variety of reasons and expressed patience
and understanding for such individuals.

Section four: Implications for Praxis
This research and current literature have identified that there are several reasons why
young people misbehave in school and therefore as a teacher it is important to view
misbehaviour through the eyes of the students. This highlights the significance of
obtaining the perspective of a male and female participant who are currently in high

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school. Therefore it essential is to provide a holistic approach in managing student
behaviour, enhancing student learning and development. The basic developmental
needs of “love, belongingness, self-worth, freedom, fun and survival” should be
identified and the classroom environment should be created to cater to those needs
(Sun & Shek, 2011, p.7). Similarly Greene (2011, p.26-27) found that implementing
the Collaborative Problem Solving model enabled teachers to view students who
misbehave through a different perspective: by identifying the factors causing their
difficulties and being more empathetic towards them (Greene, 2011, p.26-27). By
listening to and understanding students, teachers would be more able to clearly
identify the students’ needs and how to provide them. Therefore it may be beneficial
to solve issues collaboratively with students who misbehave. This research and
current literature have demonstrated the importance of a positive student-teacher
relationship in providing students with learning opportunities, engaging and
motivating them to achieve (Yunus et al., 2011, p.2637). According to this research
and current literature teachers may successfully build rapport with their students by
exhibiting warmth, a genuine interest in students, respect, care as well as cooperation.
Teachers should be approachable and provide emotional and academic support
(Yunuset al., 2011, p.2637). Teachers will also benefit from treating all students
equally by setting high standards for all students regardless of their ability, then
scaffolding work for individuals who require additional support. High standards
regarding behaviour should also be implemented to enable students to work towards
achieving positive goals. Setting high expectations on students is highly beneficial in
creating positive student- teacher relationships (Greene, 2011, p.26). Students are also
more likely to engage and participate in class work and less likely to misbehave.

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