Leoni, Julie (2005)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
This study investigated why boys were more likely to be excluded than girls. The main research site was an 11-16 comprehensive in a market town, although findings were triangulated through a project in a feeder junior school. The research evolved in two phases. Phase One involved 67 loosely structured, fifty minute interviews with pupils who had been excluded for a fixed term. Phase Two involved four action research projects which triangulated and developed the Phase One findings. The projects consisted of an Anger Management therapeutic group with some of the excluded boys interviewed in Phase One, two days of staff training in Transactional Analysis, a self-discovery club with junior school pupils at risk of exclusion and a year 7 drama curriculum which taught Transactional Analysis, conflict resolution, meditation, emotional literacy and self-awareness. Findings were analysed using Strauss and Glaser’s concepts of grounded theory, emergent themes and the constant comparative method. Transactional Analysis was used as a practical as well as an analytic tool. The practical research took place between 1999 and 2002. The study found that all of the children who had been excluded were either threatened with loss or had suffered or were suffering from losses which threatened their safety and/or security. The effects of these losses gave rise to the emotions of bereavement which included anger. Boys and some girls used the emotion of anger as a mask for other emotions such as sadness and fear. The masking of vulnerable emotions was part of the way in which the boys constructed their masculinites. The losses brought with them loss of attachment and low self-esteem which led to students being more influenced by their peer group than by the adults around them. It was found that it was possible to counter the effect of these losses and the negative effects of the anger. The action research methods proved to offer part of the answer to the research questions. Trust was central to the development of new attachments and teachers could develop this trust using Adult-Adult behaviours, from an ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’ life position. Positive strokes encouraged desired behaviour. However, central to the ability to use these techniques was the concept of self-awareness that could be accessed through talking and being listened to by some one who did not judge. Meditation also proved to be helpful in bringing awareness and minimising stress. The concept of the Drama Triangle proved invaluable in understanding what occurred during exclusion incidents. Techniques were found to work with staff, secondary and primary school pupils. The implications of the research are that it is possible for staff to minimise exclusion incidents directly and indirectly by modelling peaceful behaviours. The research shows that pupils get excluded when they are under stress and that it might be profitable to listen to them after an exclusion to elicit their feelings. The study recommends future research which develops these ideas in other settings and investigates what happens for the teachers during an exclusion incident.
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