Last week, in an interview on 2UE, Kevin Donnelly made a simple point.
He believes it is important that the actions of disruptive students are not allowed to continually affect the learning of other kids in the class.
I think it’s very important that the classroom doesn’t suffer because of disruptive or badly behaved students
Dr Kevin Donnelly
Kevin’s point is backed by research.
John Hattie’s review of meta-analyses on the topic found that a teacher could increase students’ achievement by 13 percentile points simply by decreasing the level of disruptive behaviour in the classroom.
Teachers themselves understand the negative impact that disruptive students can have. Australian teachers participating the TALIS survey reported that having one (or more) unruly students in their class has more impact on their satisfaction with their job than any other factor.
A great deal of attention is given to how different behaviour management strategies affect the misbehaving student. This is a good thing, but it is not the full picture.
We also have to look at how behaviour management strategies help (or fail to help) the victims of some students’ misbehaviour – i.e. the other students and the teacher.
Why Isn’t This What You Have Been Reading In The Media?
There are three parts to that answer.
Firstly, the interviewer sucker-punched Kevin by turning a discussion about increased suspension rates in Australian schools into a conversation about corporal punishment. He asked Kevin:
“As you have been around for a long time, what would you describe as the best punishment you’ve come across, even if it’s one that’s now gone away. I’m not alluding to the strap here. I don’t think that you would ever resort to that. You would never advocate bring that back surely?”
Then, Kevin told a story from his own school days before stating that:
I’m not saying corporal punishment, obviously those days have gone
Kevin also highlighted the fact that some schools in Australia still use corporal punishment, and that with the support of their communities – this was their choice to make. He never advocated reintroducing corporal punishment across our schools.
Sadly, the media love controversy – and reported edited snippets of Kevin’s response, focusing on comments he made about corporal punishment. The topic of the interview and Kevin’s main point was too bland, so the story reported across the globe was about Kevin’s supposed support for corporal punishment.
Kevin Donnelly also has many academic enemies because he stood against the popular theories and untested fads that dominated teacher education for decades. Hence, these academics have launched a petition to have Kevin removed from overseeing the review of the Australian Curriculum.
These academics include Brian Cambourne (whose advocacy of whole language led a whole generation of teachers astray) and Andrew Riddle (whose solution to the high proportion of illiterate Aboriginal children is to stop teaching them English).
It is not surprising that these academic enemies seem to ignore some very basic facts. Firstly, Kevin is entitled to have an opinion that is different to theirs – it’s called academic freedom. Secondly, Kevin’s opinions on school discipline have nothing to do with the curriculum review. Finally, his opinions have been deliberately twisted to suit populist ends and academic payback.
You can read Kevin Donnelly’s own response and views here.
The Final Word
What gets lost in all of this? Kevin’s main point – Kid’s and teachers deserve not to have their learning and teaching impeded by unruly students.
I hope that after reading this, teachers (whether they be left-wing or right-wing) will look at the issue in an unbiased way.