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Student misbehaviour refers to all forms of inappropriate disruption by students within the

classroom – for instance, this includes but is not limited to: talking out of turn, distracting or

hindering other peers from learning, and/or refusal to engage in given work. Within this

research report, the causation for student misbehaviour will be critically researched, analysed

and utilised to inform praxis.

Section-One: Literature-Synthesis

Student misbehaviour has been linked to a variety of influences within research – such as

biological, social, and cognitive. Hence, a multi-faceted approach to understanding literature

on student misbehaviour must be undertaken.

In terms of a biological understanding, students’ changing sleep patterns can be a major factor.

According to Lin & Yi (2015) during puberty, adolescents may not attain an adequate amount

of sleep, which in turn, may lead “impaired cognitive ability”. This involves students having a

poor attention span and/or a defiant attitude - – two of the major “risk factors” for misbehaviour

in schools (Lin & Yi, 2015,p.442). In fact, the study highlighted that students achieving less

than six hours of sleep per night were more likely to have recurring misconduct problems (Lin

& Yi, 2015,p.442).

In terms of a social understanding of student misbehaviour, Elias, Mahyuddin & Noordin

(2009) highlight family problems and peer influence as significant. In terms of family

problems, parental-neglect often submits students to a poor understanding of effective

discipline, and therefore, a poor understanding of authority – hence, students socialised into

this upbringing can have more difficulty in listening to teachers (Elias et al., 2009,p.138). In

terms of peer influence, the findings suggest that the need for social acceptance and recognition

is at its peak during adolescence. Effectively, students may act-out to gain the attention of

fellow peers, or may imitate negative behaviours of others to ‘fit in’ (Elias et al., 2009,p.140).

In terms of a cognitive understanding, De Jong (2005) argues that student misbehaviour can be

tied to the “quality of the learning experience” (p.358). A relevant, stimulating and quality

curriculum can increase student engagement and diminish deviancy. Thus, when content is

irrelevant, non-stimulating or does not peak students’ interests, this can lead them to become

bored, and find stimulation elsewhere (such as through distracting other peers).

Moreover, the quality of students’ learning experience can also be linked to teachers’

expectations of students, and the overall student-teacher relationship. Demanet & Van Houtte

(2012) effectively argue a correlation between teachers’ negative perceptions of students’ and

students’ misbehaviour. Their findings highlight that irrespective of prior academic

achievement, students with teachers who have low-expectations, have a greater chance of

disengaging (Demanet & Van Houtte 2012,p.866). This is because students feel as if they have

no power to influence their own educational achievements, and this feeling of “futility” leads

to their disengagement (Demanet & Van Houtte 2012). Hence, it appears that the relationship

teachers have with their students is a fundamental factor when it comes to appropriate

behaviour. In fact, McGrath’s & Van Bergen’s (2015) findings suggest that when teachers have

a positive relationship with their students, this works as a protective and predictive factor – as

students who feel supported in their schooling are more likely to engage appropriately in class.

In contrast, when students feel disconnected from teachers, these negative feelings work to

craft school as a negative climate – leading students to retaliate and act-out (McGrath & Van

Bergen, 2015).

Section-Two:-Interview Findings

It was fundamental that the interview process followed ethical protocols. Hence, participants

were required to sign consent forms, and were informed that they were able to change their

minds about participating at any time. Interviews were conducted one-on-one at a local library.

Participants were simply asked why they thought young people misbehaved in schools, and

their answers were navigated accordingly.

Below is information on participants’ gender, age and occupations. It was important to have

diversity, hence the youngest is twenty and the oldest is forty-five, with both male and female

participants utilised, and cultural differences included where necessary.

After all of the interviews were completed, recurring ideas throughout responses were

highlighted. Where responses were similar, these were grouped together as major-themes.

These major-themes included: social (family and peer influence), cognitive (difficult or

disengaging content) and student-teacher relationships.

In terms of the social influence on misbehaviour, only one out of the six participants believed

family problems contributed to misbehaviour, with Participant F1 emphasising that “where you

start can predict where you’ll end up”. On the other side of social influence, in terms of peers,

five out of the six participants emphasised the importance of peer groups. M1 highlighted that

peer groups in his classrooms exhibited imitative behaviour, with “those students in the middle

of the pack most at risk”. This coincides with F3’s and F4’s responses, in which they stated

that the opinions of peers also affected their behaviour– often leading them to dismiss class

work to “gain attention” and appear “cool”.

Furthermore, all six participants explicitly detailed cognitive factors – such as difficult or non-

stimulating content – as major contributors to students’ misbehaviour. F4 highlighted that she

found Mathematics in school difficult. She stated that the cognitive-strain of the material led

her to “give up” and instead engage with the students around her. On the other-hand, F3 detailed

frequently “zoning-out” during classes whenever the teacher would assign “boring textbook

work”; emphasising that it wasn’t “cognitively stimulating”.

In terms of student-teacher relationships, four out of the six participants highlighted the

importance of positive interactions, mutual-respect and appropriate-care between students and

teachers. F2 explicitly detailed that “disrespecting, controlling and overpowering students”

instead of mutually-respectful relationships “led to misbehaviour”. With her experience as a

teacher, she stated that students naturally reacted aggressively and defensively to such

treatment, as “negative interactions equal negative outcomes”. F4’s response coincides with

such statement, emphasising that as a student, having teachers who had high-expectations and

showed genuine belief in her abilities, allowed her to feel more comfortable engaging with

material – in turn, “distracting” her from “misbehaviour”. On the flipside, teachers who had

low-expectations, were domineering and showed no genuine interest, made her feel “annoyed”,

“unmotivated”, and more likely to “act-out”.

Section-Three: Synthesising-Findings

In terms of social influences on students’ misbehaviour, the research findings appear to differ

when it comes to family and peer group influence. For instance, the literature suggested that

families have a significant impact on the foundation of students’ discipline (Elias et al., 2009).

Yet, only one participant (F1) stated this was a contributing factor. A possible reason for this

could be the contextual factor of the participant – F1 admitted that English was her second-

language, and that her household growing up was traditionally Greek with a big focus on

family. Perhaps these cultural values of F1 influenced her response. Yet, the literature’s

findings on peer influence on student misbehaviour for social acceptance (Elias et al., 2009)

was explicitly revealed in participants responses. Participants answers ranged from imitating

other peers’ misbehaviours to ‘fit in’, and attention-seeking for social recognition (Elias et al.,

2009). Overall, what is clear is through both the literature and research conducted is that peer-

groups are a major factor in student misbehaviour, and should be considered for praxis.

It is important to note that biological influences on student misbehaviour were barely

mentioned; in fact, only two participants (F3 and F4) highlighted it as a slightly contributing

factor. F3 and F4 were two of the youngest participants, and they both similarly stated that

during puberty, their sleeping patterns were irregular and that this may have influenced their

behaviour in class – feeling too “sluggish” to engage in work. This links with Lin & Yi, (2015)

who argue that students who do not get enough sleep can have poor attention span (p.442). Yet,

a possible reason for other participants not mentioning this factor is age. It is possible that older

participants may not remember this aspect of puberty; similarly, the generational difference

may have espoused different external factors during their upbringing, as the literature analysed

was a recent study. What is clear, however, is that the disparity between the results and the

literature suggest biological influences may not be as fundamental to misbehaviour in the

classroom as other factors.

In terms of cognitive influences on students’ misbehaviour, the literature by De Jong (2005)

reflected key aspects of participants’ responses. De Jong (2005) states that the implementation

of relevant, stimulating and quality curriculums can increase student engagement and therefore

diminish behavioural issues; which is exactly what participants stated within their responses.

Therefore, it logically follows that this is a key aspect of students’ behavioural problems that

must be considered in praxis.

In terms of student-teacher relationships, the benefits highlighted within Demanet & Van

Houtte (2012) and McGrath’s & Van Bergen (2015) were also explicitly detailed within female

participants’ responses. As previously highlighted, F2, F3 and F4 all mentioned that without a

student-teacher relationship – that involved mutual-respect, support and high-expectations –

they felt engaging with material was futile, unnecessary, and tended to act-out instead. What is

interesting however, is that male participants of the study did not mention the importance of

student-teacher relationships. A possible reason for this gender divide, is that male teachers

(M1) and students (M2) have gender constraints that limit their desire to build this sort of

relationship. Crosnoe, Johnson & Elder (2004) highlight that “teacher-bonding” occurs more

often with female students, as females are generally “more sensitive to quality of relationships”

and “draw support from personal ties” (p.62). Overall, it is clear that student-teacher

relationships in both the literature and in the research conducted were fundamental factors of

student deviancy, and therefore must be considered for praxis.

Section-Four: Praxis

Choice theory within education is a preventative approach to classroom-management which

encourages teachers to lead students (rather than control) by producing classroom and whole-

school settings that match students “quality worlds” (De Nobile, Lyons, Arthur-Kelly,

2017,p.224). Quality worlds refers to students’ own “ideal” version of reality which satisfies

their needs. The pursuit of satisfying such needs in schools and classrooms is what drives

student’s behaviours.

As the literature and research highlighted, adolescents seek connectedness and mutual-respect

with both peers and adults around them. Hence, students disrupting class-time to gain the

attention of peers, and/or to ‘fit in’ with the actions of others, may not be doing so to be

purposefully bad. Having this awareness of students’ need for “belonging” (as choice theory

demands) can therefore inform a teachers’ professional practice (De Nobile, Lyons, Arthur-

Kelly, 2017,p.225). For instance, the teacher could begin to build this relationship with their

students by simply making sure to greet students daily, ask how they are, and discuss material

that specifically interests them. Furthermore, students could be informed at the beginning of

lessons the high-expectations required of all of them; such as listening to instruction, being on

task and not hindering others learning through distraction. In this way, students will all know

what is expected of them, they will know that they are capable of following such actions, and

feel personally recognised by the teacher. This form of belonging, however, would take time

and consistent use to effectively work. To ensure this is long-term, enacting this as part of a

whole-school process would be beneficial. This could be done by recognising students for their

numerous behavioural achievements in diverse ways; not just certificates for academic

achievements. A simple example could be that schools praise students for participating, joining

and sharing in class through encouragement and/or an award. This in turn, could create a

school-climate based on high-expectations for all students that helps build positive student-

teacher relationships.

Furthermore, the literature and research highlighted that when students are not interested, or

do not understand content, they may disengage with the material and disrupt other peers to

fulfil this need of stimulation. Having this awareness of students’ need for stimulating, relevant

and quality content, also relates to students’ “quality world” needs of “power” and “fun” in the

classroom (De Nobile, Lyons, Arthur-Kelly, 2017,p.225). Empowering students could involve

the teacher ensuring content is relevant to students’ prior knowledge, and highlighting to

students at the beginning of lessons that they are more than capable of engaging with the

material and why. Furthermore, simply asking students what interests them, and letting them

have a say in what they learn (e.g. picking a text to study in English) could allow students to

feel as if their opinions are valued and respected. This leads into fun, as students can choose

engaging, creative and diverse content that caters to their interests. This however, may also be

time-consuming to implement, and material may not always be able to cater to the interests of

each individual student. Yet, a whole-school approach could benefit the consistent

empowerment of students and their ideas for engaging content. This could be done by allowing

students to have a say about the school, and what they are learning. For example, implementing

a suggestion box in each of the different faculties and head office, could allow students to feel

as if they are having a say in their own learning.

To conclude, the causation for student misbehaviour has been critically researched, analysed

and utilised to inform praxis. Through this, student-teacher relationships, peer group influence

and quality content have been elucidated as fundamental throughout both literature and

localised research when it comes to preventing student misbehaviour.


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