An investigation into the perceptions and practices of teachers with regard to classroom discipline.
The purpose of this study is to understand the dynamics of power experienced by teachers with multiple stakeholders namely the learners, parents, the school management team and the Department of Education in the management of learner discipline. The study also investigated teachers’ knowledge of legislation and policy regarding discipline and the perceptions of their authority and power in relationship to learner discipline. The study on teachers’ experience and perceptions of learner (in)discipline was conducted in an hitherto overlooked setting, namely the primary school. Media reports and international surveys on discipline, violence and school safety pinpoint the need for further research on this burning issue that is affecting our society. In this study, all ten senior primary teachers participated. A qualitative approach was used. Data was collected through classroom observation, interviews, written accounts and document analysis. The participants were chosen by purposive sampling. The collection, presentation and analysis of data were guided by the research questions, and by the following concepts: French and Raven’s five bases of power (legitimate, coercive, expert, reward and referent), structural power and the concepts of power over, power with, power to and power from within, all through the lens of education for social justice. The process of social justice requires an outlook of power with rather than power over. Power with is a jointly developed power, that is, the power we achieve by working cooperatively with all concerned. The findings indicate that teachers’ knowledge of legislation on discipline covers the banning of corporal punishment but is vague and divided about the corrective measures and the alternatives to corporal punishment. Teachers’ perceptions of their power to control misbehaviour is one of powerlessness. This is caused by, among other factors, the demands of macro structural forces and external factors beyond their control. Teachers resort to negotiation and bargaining with learners to engage them in learning. In this struggle to manage indiscipline, teachers stand alone deprived of support from parents, school administration and the Department of Education. Hence the dynamics of power experienced by teachers with other stakeholders in the management of discipline is not a transformational form of power or a social justice version of power with.