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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


LESSING, AC  and  WITT, MW de. Voices from the ranks of the South African teachers union on discipline. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2011, vol.51, n.3, pp.403-418. ISSN 2224-7912.

Undisciplined behaviour refers to learner behaviour that disturbs the orderly course of the teaching situation. It is low impact, undisciplined behaviour in particular, such as interruptive chatting in class, wandering about the classroom, and task avoidance, that cause the most frustration and stress in teachers. This article reflects teachers' views on the causes of undisciplined learner behaviour, as well as on the maintenance of discipline in the school. A mixed research method of investigation was used and a questionnaire was sent electronically to schools for teachers to complete, the results of which were analysed quantitatively and qualitatively. Information obtained from a pilot study was used to compile the questionnaire, which contained structured and unstructured questions, in order to collect information on teachers' views on undisciplined learner behaviour. The questionnaire that was developed was suitably tested and then sent electronically by the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU) (South African Teachers Union) to 335 schools in all nine the provinces in South Africa. Urban and rural multi-cultural English, Afrikaans, parallel medium and dual-medium high schools and primary schools were involved and the research included ordinary, special, extraordinary, technical and agricultural schools. Inclusive factors for participation in the research were the following: some of the staff members of the school had to be members of SAOU, teachers had to have a full command of the Afrikaans language and the school had to have the facilities necessary to download the questionnaire electronically and to return the completed questionnaire electronically. The questions in the questionnaire concerning teachers' views of the causes of disciplinary problems and the maintenance of discipline in schools were identified and analysed qualitatively using an interpretive phenomenological analysis method in order to identify categories and themes, and thefindings are reflected in this article. Descriptive statistics and narrative discussion are used in the presentation of the results. In addition, frequencies and qualitative information are provided on teachers' views of disciplinary problems and the maintenance of discipline in schools. The study found that many respondents experience a feeling of powerlessness with regard to the handling of undisciplined behaviour in schools and reactive discipline, such as detention, is generally in use. The permissive atmosphere at home and inadequate proof of parental authority were indicated by most respondents as the main causes of undisciplined learner behaviour. Participants were of the opinion that the decline in parental authority and the growing lack of values and norms as well as an undisciplined community have a negative influence on learners' attitudes towards authority and manifest in undisciplined behaviour. Ineffective punishment methods for repeated offences and inadequate disciplinary measures were also indicated as challenges that teachers have to deal with. Strict, consistent and fair discipline, and thorough lesson preparation that includes learner involvement, were regarded by nearly half of the participants as the most effective ways to maintain discipline. In addition to the principal and the parents, every learner in the school, as well as the community, is regarded as important role players in the maintenance of discipline. Respondents appeared to be satisfied with the support that they received from the principals and management bodies, but referred to inadequate support from parents and the various education departments. From the results of this research it is clear that maintaining discipline implies many role players, encompasses a large variety of aspects and is not an easy task. Codes of conduct can be a valuable aid in reflecting the ethos and culture of a school. Parents and teachers should decide together on the content of a code of conduct and be empowered not only to act as role models but also to purposefully guide learners to self-discipline. Learners should be supported to make choices and to accept the consequences of their choices. By consolidating and applying values, learners learn and grow, and self-discipline and responsible decision making and choices that are of value not only for the self but also for the whole school community, are promoted.

Keywords : behavioural problems; discipline; parent involvement; disciplinary code; punishment; detention; rights of children; value system; support system; pro active discipline.

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