Teachers’ classroom management is essential in preventing school refusal

Trude Havik defended her PhD dissertation on the subject of “School role in school refusal”. She continuous to work on the same matter as a Post doctor in the CIESL project.

Teacher and student. CIESL investigates classroom interaction, also related to school refusal.

Findings from Havik’s study suggest that poor relationships with peers are an important risk factor for school refusal and a moderate risk factor for truancy. Moreover, teachers’ classroom management could play an indirect role in school refusal by preventing bullying and social exclusion by peers.

There is a direct relation between teachers’ classroom management and school refusal-related and truancy-related reasons among secondary school students. This suggests that poor support from teachers could increase the risk of school refusal and truancy.

The importance of teachers
Teachers play an important role in structuring social interactions in classroom. They establish good relations between teacher and students and between students themselves, which might prevent bullying. Findings indicate that bullying is strongly related to school refusal, in particular among primary school students.

Predictability is an important factor to prevent school refusal (clear rules and expectations according to school attendance). This lead to a feeling of greater safety and control among students. Furthermore, the relationship between teachers and students is direct related to school refusal.

- Supportive teacher-student relations might prevent stress and negative emotions, which can be protective factors for school refusal, says Havik.

Teachers` cooperation with parents is of utmost importance as well. The parental view on the subject was a part of Havik’s research, and several parents mentioned lack of teacher support, fear of unpredictable teachers and/or noisy, unpredictable classrooms as some of the risk factors for school refusal.

In total 17 parents, of children with school refusal, and 5465 students from grade 6 to 10 participated in Havik’s study. Results indicate that school refusal and truancy should be considered as two separate terms, and that the social aspect of school are closely related to school refusal.

- Findings indicate that teacher’s classroom management plays an essential role for school refusal and truancy, in terms of creating a safe and including learning environment without bullying and social exclusion, says Havik.

Further work in CIESL
In the analyses of the students’ questionnaire, teacher’s classroom management was looked at as an overall concept for emotional and academic support, predictability and teachers monitoring of school non-attendance.

- This is an interesting topic for further research. In CIESL we want to investigate the relations between different dimensions of teacher classroom management and school refusal, says Havik.

Previous research indicate that unclear and inconsistent rules and monitoring without emotional support in school might lead to drop out.

- Parents in the study claimed that school refusers need more control and predictability, in addition to more emotional support from teachers. They also mentioned that teachers, who care, respect and see each student, create a safer learning environment. That is why it is important to look closer at teachers’ classroom management through school refusal, says Havik.

Havik, T., Bru, E. & Ertesvåg, S.K (2015) School factors associated with school refusal- and truancy-related reasons for school non-attendance. Social Psychology of Education.

Havik, T., Bru, E. & Ertesvåg, S.K. (2014: online) Assessing reasons for school non-attendance. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research.

Havik, T., Bru, E. & Ertesvåg, S.K. (2013: online. 2014: Volume 19, Issue 2) Parental perspectives of the role of school factors in school refusal. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties.