School programs to reduce delinquent behaviour

Criminology Research Council grant ; (25/76)

This project was funded jointly by the Council and the Education Department of South Australia. A report of 116 pages was published by the Research Section of the Education Department of South Australia in January 1980 under the title Affective Education Project; A Preventative Program to Reduce Delinquency Through School Based Teacher Education.

The research was conducted in six South Australian secondary schools in 1977 and 1978 and has demonstrated success in reducing delinquency behaviours and its antecedents in the school setting. Three consultants conducted school-based sessions with small groups of volunteer teachers from three schools. A fourth person collected and collated data from teachers and students in these three schools and three comparison schools.

The project team subscribed to the belief that the interaction of educational and social factors influences learning. In teacher education sessions held each week with teachers in the three schools they attempted to convey to teachers ways of acknowledging students and ways of organising both the educational and social environments so that appropriate behaviours could be taught, modelled and used. In this situation it was thought likely that students would develop positive self-concepts, positive academic self-assessments and positive attitudes to school. It was assumed that attitudes in these three areas were related to behaviour.

The project team expected that bullying, nuisance behaviour, taking correction badly, truancy, vandalism and dishonesty in the school would be reduced, and they hoped for a reduction of delinquent behaviour outside the school setting. Student self-report questionnaires and teacher interviews were used to monitor changes.

As a result of school-based teacher education, teachers from the three experimental schools reported increased discussion of problem situations with other teachers and increased acting on students' suggestions. They also reported using more responses to student behaviour that were consistent with the aims of the project team. These increases were not shown by teachers in the three comparison schools. In addition, the self-concept, academic self-assessment, attitude to school and the behaviour of students in the three experimental schools showed improvement and the amount of delinquent behaviour also reduced.