From red to green: a mixed method study on perceptual and practical changes related to removing fear-based punishment in Ugandan schools

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Bennett, Katherine
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Education
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Education
Child maltreatment in the form of physical and emotional abuse or neglect remains a common occurrence globally, notably as a form of disciplinary action (Butchart & Mikton, 2014; WHO, 2019). However, research demonstrates negative effects on children when exposure to practices that eliminate emotionally and physically safe environments (Leeb, Lewis, & Zolotor, 2011; Vachon et al., 2015), notably in the context of schools (Gershoff et al., 2019; Orgando & Pells, 2015; Talwar et al., 2011). With this theory as an influential construct, the current study sought to explore the impact on teachers’ beliefs and practices when learning a safe approach to education, relative to their use of corporal punishment as one of other fear-based tactics. Ugandan schools culturally accept corporal punishment as a disciplinary method, and therefore became the platform for this study to occur. The Stoplight Approach was selected as the intervention because of its holistic approach, aligning with the strategic criteria for change proposed by WHO (2019). Additionally, it acknowledges the inadequacy of corporal punishment and other fear-based strategies, promoting safer methods. As the focus of this study was to investigate potential changes of teacher’s educational beliefs and practices when introduced to the SA, and understand why they may or may not have occurred, a mixed method approach was utilized. Data was collected in the form of surveys across three separate data points (Surveys A, B, and C) and concluded with selective participants undergoing semi structured interviews. The analysis of these findings was regarded as vital to the guidance of interventions to promote safe school environments. Though the quantitative data analysis showed no statistical significance due to limited data as a result of participant drop out, the exploration of the data through descriptive and statistical analysis revealed common themes in beliefs and practices of teachers following the intervention training and implementation that were not expressed prior to the study. Neuro-informed philosophies were articulated, and practices reportedly employed. Teachers claimed to be utilising safe practices in the classroom while also minimizing unsafe ones. The student-teacher relationship was described to be mutually respectful, involving shared conversations, encouragement, and explanations. Teachers also portrayed modified educational philosophies towards student learning that involved differentiated learning in the classroom, thus prioritizing student needs over lesson completion. To manage student behaviours, teachers identified the importance of developing connections with students while simultaneously removing the focus of invoking fear in students. Additionally, the elements that teachers believed to be effective and ineffective in promoting change in their understanding and implementation of the Stoplight Approach was explored through open-ended survey questions and the interview. It was discovered that aspects which were deemed motivational for change also were recognized as drawbacks. Elements including the innovativeness of the philosophy, the multi-stakeholder collaboration, and the personal applicability of the approach for both teachers and students that was provided by the Stoplight Approach were acknowledged by participants as having both pros and cons.
Stoplight Approach , Fear in students , Student discipline , Corporal punishment , Ugandan schools