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The most important questions to ask educators are "what are you doing?" and "why are you doing it?" These two questions have guided my thinking and research in the area of children's challenging behaviours. The focus of my research has been threefold including an investigation of the relationship between the difficult behaviours exhibited by children with attention problems and their academic engagement in literacy; consideration of the environment in which children learn and interact; and examination of what teachers do or can do to support learners with challenging behaviours to learn and interact positively in the education environment.
I have been able to investigate the link between attention problems and early literacy problems longitudinally with a data base which includes variables on children from school entry at 5 years of age and spanning their first three years in school. Follow-up data was collected five years later. In a series of studies we reported that difficult behaviour compromised the selection of boys exhibiting those behaviours into special programmes, i.e., Reading Recovery (Prochnow, Tunmer, Chapman, & Greaney, 2001); that only attention problems were significantly linked to early literacy problems (Chapman, Tunmer, & Prochnow, 2004); and that the remedial programmes available to the children in New Zealand did not appear to have lasting effects (Tunmer, Chapman, & Prochnow, 2004, 2006; Prochnow, 2004). Presently, our research has examined more deeply the link between early literacy acquisition and attention problems. This comprehensive examination of the current literature and our data seem to indicate that differences in early literacy acquisition begin to appear early and are related to the method of instruction in New Zealand which assumes preliteracy skills which are not universally shared by all of the children entering school (Prochnow, Tunmer, & Chapman, 2013). We are now beginning a training programme and experimental longitudinal study to examine early literacy development in children.
Consideration of the environment in which children learn and interact is multidimensional. Teachers generally feel unsupported and unprepared to work with learners with challenging behaviours in the classroom. Teacher resistance to inclusion and expectations of no support to work with difficult children have led to accusations of (differential) teacher expectations of minority learners and deficit theorizing characterizing New Zealand schools. Currently a colleague and myself are examiniing understandings of the ill-defined term "continual disobedience" applied to youth which can result in stand downs and suspension.
In my recent work with Angus Macfarlane, we have examined the cultural environment of our schools and teacher and learner responsiveness to cultural issues (Prochnow & Macfarlane, 2010). In addition to looking at the contribution of culture and cultural awareness to create a positive education experience, Macfarlane and I have discussed the interventions and procedures known as restorative practices (Prochnow, Macfarlane, & Glynn, 2011; Macfarlane & Prochnow, 2011). These practices challenge the structure of discipline and focus on repairing relationships damaged by difficult behaviours, disrespect, and noncompliance.
Health and Well-being
Field of research codes
Education (130000): Special Education and Disability (130312): Specialist Studies in Education (130300)