A Way Back: Educator Perceptions of Restorative Practices and Its Effect on the Learning Environment

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Campbell, Casey Wade
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Middle Tennessee State University
Over the last decade, restorative practices have emerged as an alternate form of school discipline as a result of the negative effects of exclusionary discipline practices. Restorative practices seeks to limit exclusionary practices and keep more students in the classroom while focusing on student accountability and relationship building. The purpose of this qualitative instrumental case study was to explore the perceptions of school staff on the implementation of restorative practices and their effect on the learning environment in order to answer the following research questions: (1) How do teachers and administrators perceive and experience the discipline process in schools where restorative practices are emphasized? (2) How do teachers and administrators perceive the effect student behavior has on the learning environment in schools that emphasize restorative discipline practices? An urban Tennessee middle school that had been implementing restorative practices school-wide for four years, was chosen as the case for this study. Four school staff members were chosen utilizing purposeful sampling techniques to participate in individual semi-structured interviews. To provide context to interview data, the researcher also collected and examined four consecutive years of student achievement data, student discipline data, and student attendance data. Interview data was analyzed using first and second cycle coding methods. This study found mixed results for the utilization of restorative practices. All participants perceive restorative practices as having a positive effect on school culture and believed their use resulted in fewer behavior incidents. Positive effects reported included a focus on building relationships, more caring classroom communities, and conflict mediation strategies that helps to teach students how to successfully deal with conflict. However, participants still expressed reservations that the amount of time dedicated to the RP could take away from instructional time. Participants also reported serious concerns about how students who do not seem to respond positively to restorative strategies affect the learning environment.
Exclusionary practices, Restorative Justice, Restorative Practices, School Discipline, Education