Recently I have been reading extensively and discussing with staff, the subject of how children succeed and the distinction between a deficit model of “student behaviour management” and the concept of “student educational discipline”. There has been quite a degree of overlap in this very interesting area of research which has lead us to emphasise the good programs we already have in place and redefine some of our policies and practice.
The book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, by Paul Tough highlights that the key to student success lies more in their executive functioning than their cognitive. This means that the key to positive life outcomes and educational success lies not in a schooling with crowded curriculum, but students who can think about themselves, their actions, their relationships and maintain character traits of kindness, determination and curiosity. The research emphasised the power of nurturing home relationships and partnership with schools.
An interesting paper: Why discipline needs to be reclaimed as an educational concept by James MacAllistera The School of Education, The University of Stirling, Stirling, UK Published online: 25 Jun 2014; makes this essential point:
“Discipline can be genuinely educational when it is conceived of as a valuable personal quality whose possession indicates a capacity to set important goals for oneself and see them through even in the face of considerable difficulty. Furthermost, it is argued that genuinely educational discipline involves pupil agency where pupils actively shape, and direct their own learning and development.”
I find this both encouraging and inspiring, as it links well and supports much of what we are doing across the two campuses. We have distinctly structured MCC as a college that encourages student agency and student voice, in an increasing manner as they grow and mature. The “You Can Do It” program in the primary school emphasises on getting along with others, organisation, persistence, confidence and emotional resilience.
I spoke to students at our first full assembly in the secondary school this morning. Our vision for them is personal development over “management” and a deeply held respect for their thoughts and input in every level of college life. We regularly bring students into the educational and decision-making processes in the College. Our students’ characteristic optimism and consideration, I believe is developed in this atmosphere. There was also a consideration revolving around the story of the “Prodigal Son” bringing students to an understanding that it is their choices which entail their inherent consequences and that ultimately their life outcomes will not be something that they can blame on others, but will be the direct result of their own heart, character and the decisions that come from there.
With this in mind and with the help of students, we are redrafting our behaviour policy in the light of student development rather than manipulative management. This is an ongoing story.
Mr Rod McNeill