Capturing the perspectives of students with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties on their schooling experiences.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This study explores the experiences of students with social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties (SEBD), both in mainstream schools and residential school settings. The subjects are 29 students attending a New Zealand residential special school for boys with SEBD. Through voicing their views on their schooling experiences and suggesting ideas for improvement, the boys provided educators and policymakers with a better understanding of ways in which the schooling experience of boys with SEBD can be more positive and successful.
A qualitative research design was utilised to gain the students’ insights into the salient features of their mainstream and residential schooling experiences. In order to highlight student voices in the research process and thesis writing, a phenomenological approach was utilised to shape the core methodology. Interviewing was chosen as the primary method of data collection for the analysis. In-depth, semi-structured interviews raised a number of salient features of the boys’ schooling experiences. The findings are summarised and merged into three main themes; the mainstream school experience, the residential school experience, and boys’ suggestions and recommendations for school improvement.
The findings suggest a considerable degree of consistency between the boys concerning the difficulties experienced in mainstream schools. They highlight the importance of cultivating strong, positive student-teacher relationships and relationships among peers; the need for more effective disciplinary practices; the need to recognise the learning needs of students with SEBD as a priority; and the need to address bullying issues more effectively.
The findings also provide valuable insights into some of the ways in which placement in a residential school for boys with SEBD are perceived to be effective for these students. The benefits of a residential school programme identified by the boys included improved learning and behaviour, improved relationships with others, and a greater capacity to deal with difficult feelings. The factors enabling these improvements were identified and included positive relationships with teachers, effective behavioural management based on fair sanctions and rewards, small classes, teachers’ instructions, the availability of academic support, better relationships with peers, and an effective anti-bullying policy.