Disruptive Behavior in Religious and Secular High Schools: Teachers’ and Students’ Attitudes

Author(s): Shlomo Romi

Source: Romi, Shlomo. 2004. “Disruptive Behavior in Religious and Secular High Schools: Teachers’ and Students’ Attitudes.” Research in Education 71:81-91.

Link: http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ751051

A disciplined learning environment is often touted as a positive attribute of religious schooling. Does this difference between religious and public schools lie in how teachers and students view discipline in each environment? According to a recent study, teachers and students view discipline problems more seriously in religious schools compared to public schools.

About the Study
The study was conducted in Israel where they operate two parallel public school systems, one religious and one secular. Teachers and students from one religious junior high school and one secular junior high school of similar socioeconomic status were asked to rate typical discipline problems in the classroom from least severe to most severe. The discipline problems were grouped into six categories: severe offences, light offences, eating and drinking in the classroom, disrupting the class, lateness and absence, and non-participation in class activities.

In comparing teachers and students from the two school contexts, Romi found that discipline problems in religious schools were rated more severely and considered more seriously than in public schools, and within the religious school, teachers perceived behavioral problems more seriously than the students. One finding of interest is in the perception of class disruption. While religious school teachers consider class disruption with greater seriousness than secular teachers, the attitudes are reversed among students. Students in secular schools view class disruption more seriously than do religious school students, suggesting that classroom disruption may be more of an issue in the public school.  

Limitations to Consider
There may be some conflation between how teachers and students view the individual offense with how much of a problem the offense is in the classroom. From the article, it is hard to determine exactly which of the two are being measured. While the two schools are of similar socioeconomic background, there may still be great differences in school context that affect this comparison. It would be helpful to have a baseline measure of discipline at each school that provided rates of incidences of discipline. Religious school environments may have fewer incidences which may in turn affect how teachers and students view behavior. Another important item to note would be differences in school context regarding how behavior is handled within the school and the consequences for infractions. It is also necessary to consider that this study included only two schools and one faith tradition, so further study is needed to determine how and in what contexts these findings may be generalized to other schools.

Keywords: behavior, discipline

Sector: Jewish,  Public

Outcomes: Academic

Date Posted: 2014-01-10